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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.


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144 Squadron crest
09/19.07.1941 No. 144 Squadron Hampden I AD924 P/O. Basil J. Rennie MC

Operation: Aachen, Belgium

Date: 09/10 July 1941 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit: No. 144 Squadron

Type: Hampden I

Serial: AD924

Code: PL-?

Base: RAF Hemswell, Yorkshire

Location: Dilsen, Belgium

Pilot: P/O. Basil John Allan Rennie MC. 87414 RAFVR Age 26. Evaded (1)

Pilot 2: Sgt. Gordon F. Bottomley 647964 RAFVR PoW No: 39281 Camp: 357 - Stalag Thorn (2)

Obs: Sgt. Edward Roy Berkey R/57931 RCAF Age 32. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Thomas Henry Marquiss 988208 RAFVR Age 28. Killed

REASON FOR LOSS:

Taking off from RAF Helmswell late in the evening of Wednesday 9th July joining 81 other aircraft on the first large bombing operation to Aachen of the war.

The crew lost on Hampden AD924 - L-R: P/O. Rennie, Sgt. Bottomley, Sgt. Marquiss and Sgt Berkey (courtesy Margaret Robertson)

The attack was a general one on the area with 91 commercial premises hit, 19 of them destroyed. 1,698 housing units destroyed or seriously damaged (probably apartment blocks) Sadly the cathedral, town hall and hospitals were also among the seriously damaged properties. 60 people are reported to have been killed with 85 civilians and 21 air-raid workers injured. 3,450 people lost their homes.

144 Squadron Hampdens over Hemswell (courtesy IWM)

The allies lost just 2 aircraft on this operation, the other:
77 Squadron Whitley V Z6743 - Flown by 25 year old Sgt. Peter John McLean 988136 RAFVR from Billingham, Co. Durham, killed with all 3 other crew.

Hampden AD924 was intercepted and shot down by Oblt. Heinrich Griese (3) of 1./NJG1 at 01.05 hrs some 500 metres South East of Dilsen. (see Kracker Archive on this site)

It seems that the after the Hampden was attacked, some of the crew baled out. Sgt. Marquiss was killed, possibly by debris from the stricken Hampden, the parachute of Sgt. Berkey failed to deploy and he lost his life. The Observer, Sgt. Bottomley was captured shortly after landing. The pilot, P/O. Rennie (1) landed in telegraph wires but managed to evade capture with the assistance from the local Belgian people (receiving the Military Cross for this action) to eventually arrive back in England on the 5th September 1941. Joining later 14 OTU as a pilot instructor.

Another version on the loss of the two aircrew is that they also both baled out but were shot by the German pilot whilst descending. We are unable to confirm either version.

Pictured during training L-R: LAC Berkey of Port Coquitlam, instructor - Cpl. McClellan, LAC D.B. Babineau of Saskatoon, LAC W.A. Casey (4) of Ridgetown, Ontario, Canada. (courtesy Barbara Kinsella)

Left: Anson the type as flown by P/O. Rennie shortly before he lost his life.


(1) Tragically P/O. Basil Rennie MC was killed just a few months later. Flying Anson I R3310 on a training exercise with 14 Operational Training Unit (OTU). Taking off from RAF Cottesmore on a night navigation exercise he encountered severe weather and was forced to abandon the aircraft at 23.20 hrs. The aircraft crashed a mile West of Sutton St. James. Although he had baled out, it seems that he may have been seriously injured, for some 16 days later he is recorded as losing his battle for life. We welcome contact from relatives who may well be able to provide further details of this.


Right: P/O. Basil John Allan Rennie MC (courtesy Michel Beckers)
His MC was awarded on the 11th June 1942, citation reads:

‘This officer was shot down by night fighters and, escaping by parachute, landed on some telephone wires in Belgium. After overcoming almost unsurmountable difficulties, during the course of which he severely handled a disloyal Belgian, who tried to hand him over to the enemy, and killed a sentry who was about to arrest him, he reached this country and reported for full flying duties. Flying Officer Rennie brought back a considerable amount of valuable information. Throughout his experience he showed the greatest skill, courage and daring.’

(2) Gordon Bottomley passed away in 2012. Stalag Thorn PoW camp (357) was situated in German occupied Poland.
(3) This was his 5th abschüsse, for Oblt. Heinrich Griese, making him an ‘ace’. He was credited for a total of 13 kills, before being shot down and wounded by a 239 squadron Mosquito, flown by F/O. Breithaupt and F/O. Kennedy, on 12/13th September 1944, at Annweiller near Landau. No further details known if he survived the war.
(4) Killed on the 17th August 1941 with 99 Squadron. 24 year old P/O. William Aloysius Casey J/3270 RCAF (Son of John D. and Helen McNally Casey, of Ridgetown, Ontario, Canada) flying with 26 year old P/O. Geoffrey Lloyd Wells AUS/40477 RAAF (Son of Henry Leslie and Elsie Irene Wells, of Auchenflower, Queensland, Australia) as pilot, when their Wellington IC X9700 LB-B was shot down by a night fighter over Holland. 5 crew members killed, 1 taken PoW.


Original crew graves, on the left that of Sgt. Thomas Marquis, right: Sgt. Edward Berkey (courtesy Barbara Kinsella)

Burial details:

P/O. Basil John Allan Rennie MC. Cottesmore Churchyard, Rutland, England. Compt. 16. Grave 16. Further information: Son of George and Margaret Eleanor Rennie, of Parktown Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa. After school at Aberdeen he worked for awhile at the London Stock Exchange, later with his father in Johannesburg prior to joining the RAF.

Right: Sgt. Edward R. Berkey (courtesy Barbara Kinsella)

Sgt. Edward Roy Berkey. Dilsen Churchyard, Belgium. Grave 2. Row 14. Further information: Born on November 14th 1908. Son of Eli (died 1937) and Emma Elizabeth (née Bixler) Berkey (died 1949), brother of George, Paul, Wilbur, Glen, Myrl, Hettie, Oma and Cleo of Herbert, Saskatchewan, Canada. Prior to enlisting he was a teacher at Fox Valley and Neidpath. Moved with his family to Coquitlam in 1939. Edwards nephew was killed in April 1944

Sgt. Thomas Henry Marquiss. Dilsen Churchyard, Belgium. Grave 1. Row 14. Son of the late John Thomas Marquiss (died 30th May 1944), and of Hannah S. Marquiss, of Heighington, Co. Durham, England. Further information supplied by Margaret Robertson: When war was declared my grandma (Hannah S. Marquiss) went to stay with her eldest daughter Mrs. Sarah Ellen Thompson in Heighington nr. Darlington Co. Durham for the duration of the war. The family are from Barnard Castle, County Durham and her other children were away. Tom's twin sister Charlotte had died age 9 in 1923. His younger brother John, my father, was serving in France with Royal Army Service Corps whilst his youngest sister Margaret was a state registered nurse.

Researched for Margaret Robertson, niece of Sgt. Marquiss, and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Michel Beckers, Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol's. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vol's. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries’ (Updated 2014 version) Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Tom Kracker - 'Kracker Luftwaffe Archives'. Aircrew Remembered own Archives. Oliver Clutton-Brock 'RAF Evaders’ and 'Footprints On The Sands Of Time'.

Sgt. Thomas Henry Marquiss shown 2nd from right. The chap with the pipe at rear of photograph has been identified as that of Sgt. Edward Roy Berkey - it is thought that Sgt. Gordon Bottomley is standing fourth from left, next to Sgt. Marquis.(courtesy Margaret Robertson)

Acknowledgements: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives and Fred Paradie - Paradie Archive (both on this site), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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