11.08.1944 No. 51 Squadron Halifax III LW588 MH-O W/O. Robert A. Garrett
Operation: Somain (Railway Yards)
Date: 11th August 1944
Unit: No. 51 Squadron
Type: Halifax III
Base: RAF Snaith, Yorkshire
Pilot: W/O. Robert Anthony Garrett 1031817 RAFVR Age? Killed (1)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Thomas Shaftsbury Cumbor 1591862 RAFVR Age? Killed
Nav: Fl/Sgt. Ernest William Royal 1531800 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Clifford Oliver Victor Hunt 1586187 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Eric Ahmed Osman 1602493 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Henry Brawn 1601100 RAFVR Age 20. Killed (2)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Albert Henry Leame 1295928 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Any further information that you are able to supply will, with your permission, be passed to the historians of 51 Squadron.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 13:46 hrs. from Snaith to attack rail facilities at Somain. Part of a force of 459 aircraft (270 Lancasters, 169 Halifaxes and 20 Mosquitoes). The only aircraft lost was this Halifax LW588. The cause of the crash has not been established but it was suspected that the aircraft was struck by a bomb or bombs released from another aircraft flying above. This was not an uncommon occurrence during the bombing campaign.
Above, rear : Fl/Sgt. Hugh Brenton Jones, Fl/Sgt. Clifford Oliver Victor Hunt, Fl/Sgt. Ernest William Royal, front: Sgt. Eric Ahmed Osman, WO. Robert Anthony Garrett, Sgt. Albert Henry Leame.
Above L to R: WO. Robert Anthony Garrett, Flt.Sgt. Henry Brawn, Sgt. Thomas Cumbor
Training photograph - AC2 (WO) Garrett is on the front row first on the right. WO Garrett was a pilot so it is probable that this photograph taken during a ground element of his training (i.e. it appears that the four airmen in the middle of the photograph were instructors, L to R: Cpl. non-aircrew, Sgt. Air Gunner, the next two are probably physical training instructors, by dearth of their singlets instead of shirt and tie). Note that the airman kneeling on the left is holding a pickaxe handle (helve) which was issued to recruits who were detailed for guard duty. (Courtesy of Jane Fox).
51 Sqn aircrew photograph. Flt.Sgt. Garrett is on the third row from the front, second from the right. The two airmen seated on the left appear to be Fleet Air Arm (FAA) pilots and the aircraft appears to be a Blackburn Skua (B-24), an FAA aircraft. This photograph may have been taken between May and October 1942 during which time the Sqn was transferred to Coastal Command and flew out of a base in Devon with the Whitley Mk V on anti-submarine patrols (Courtesy of Jane Fox).
(1) After the end of the war WO Garrett’s family visited Douai and met with the gendarme, and his family, who was responsible for the local cemetery where the crew were initially buried. They were told that the local people were very grateful that the village was missed and that they had rushed to the field to help any survivors before the Germans arrived. The villagers believed that it was WO Garrett that steered the aircraft away from the village.
There were other unsubstantiated stories about the deaths of the crew but what is known was that the entire crew were buried by the villagers in the local cemetery. The Germans ordered that the headstones be removed, however, after the war the Germans were made to replace the headstones. There is no record to be found as to when the crew were reinterred at the Valenciennes (St. Roch) Communal cemetery although from the Graves Registration Report the reinterment was prior to the 12th January 1957.
WO Garrett had completed his tour and was not detailed to fly this mission but volunteered as a replacement because the detailed pilot was ill.
(2) One of the usual air gunners, Fl/Sgt. Hugh Brenton Jones was in hospital on the day this crew were lost hence his survival and had been replaced by Fl/Sgt. Henry Brawn. Fl/Sgt. Jones was sadly killed on a later operation on the 18th December 1944 whilst on operation to Duisberg in NP934 MH-J.
Fl/Sgt. Brawn was the brother of Sgt Leonard Thomas Brawn who was with 76 Squadron. His brother amazingly survived 2 crashes - Halifax DK174 MP-W on 3rd July 1943 during a crash landing at Hartford Bridge, Hampshire after being hit by flak over the target and again with 76 Squadron flying a Halifax DK175 MP-T on the 13th July 1943 operation to Aachen - crashed immediately after take off. He was killed on 22nd October whilst on operation to Kassel LK664 MP-U.
(Left: Courtesy of Jane Fox) WO Robert Anthony Garrett. Valenciennes (St. Roch) Communal Cemetery Plot 1, Row A. Grave 11. Son to George and Ellen Garrett and the eldest of of four siblings. No further details as yet, are you able to assist?
Sgt. Thomas Shaftesbury Cumbor. Valenciennes (St. Roch) Communal Cemetery Plot 1, Row A, Grave 13. No further details as yet, are you able to assist?
Fl/Sgt. Ernest William Royal. Valenciennes (St. Roch) Communal Cemetery Plot 4, Row AB, Grave 3. Son of Ernest and Mary Elizabeth Royal, of Sunderland, Co. Durham, husband of Margaret Royal, of Sunderland, England.
(Right: Courtesy of Jane Fox) Flt.Sgt. Clifford Oliver Victor Hunt. Valenciennes (St. Roch) Communal Cemetery, Plot 4, Row AB, Grave 1. Son of William James Hunt and Annie Mary Hunt, of Twickenham, Middlesex, England.
Sgt. Eric Ahmed Osman. Valenciennes (St. Roch) Communal Cemetery, Plot 1, Row A, Grave 14. Son of Ahmed and Dorothy Evelyn Osman.
Fl/Sgt. Henry Brawn. Valenciennes (St. Roch) Communal Cemetery, Plot 4, Row AB, Grave 2. Son of Alfred Charles and Emily Brawn, of Walthamstow, Essex, England. His brother, Leonard Thomas Brawn, also died on service, as described above.
Sgt. Albert Henry Lame. Valenciennes (St. Roch) Communal Cemetery, Plot 1, Row A, Grave 12. Son of Henry and Lily S. Leame, of Nottingham, England.
Researched by Peter Lord for Aircrew Remembered - further sources as quoted below. With thanks to the niece of Fl/Sgt. Royal Kathryn Rowe neé Royal, for the correction of names in crew photograph. Thanks to Jane Fox, the niece of WO Robert A. Garrett, for the additional information and photographs.