07/08.07.1944 No. 57 Squadron Lancaster I ME868 DX-K F/O. Max Rose
Operation: St. Leu (Flying Bomb storage site)
Date: 07/08th July 1944 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: 57 Squadron
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF East Kirkby, Lincolnshire
Location: Between Fresnay-le-Long and St-Maclou-de-Folleville, France
Pilot: F/O. Max Rose AUS/418179 RAAF Age 21. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Thomas Sharples 1759051 RAFVR Age ? Evaded (note)
Nav: W/O 2. ‘Bill’ Herbert William Richards R/150920 RCAF Age ? PoW No: 407 Camp: L7
Air/Bmr: Sgt. W.D. Charteris 156842 RAFVR Age ? Evaded (note)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Frank Edwin Fricker Bale 976784 RAFVR Age 27. Injured (1)
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Charles Louis Carpenter 1395962 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Jeremiah Healy 1892821 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 22:19 hrs from RAF East Kirkby to bomb the V1 flying bomb stores. Part of a 208 strong Lancaster force and a further 13 mosquitos at St-Leu-d' Esserent (30 km North of Paris). 31 Lancasters were lost on this raid with fierce fighting with the German night fighter squadrons.
Thought to have been some of the crew, those identified are the pilot, Sgt. Max Rose - 4th from left and W/O. Bill Richards - extreme right. (courtesy Richards family archive)
'Possible' claim by Ofw. Robert Lüddecke of 5./NJG2 at 01:35 hrs north east Rouen, France.
Ofw. Robert Lüddecke standing in front of his Ju88 after a forced landing earlier in the war (courtesy Kracker archives)
Sgt. Sharples later reported: “The aircraft was homebound when attacked over Dieppe by enemy fighters. The aircraft received several hits. The bomb bay and starboard inner engine were on fire and the fuselage filled with smoke. The Captain was taking evasive action and ordered abandon at about 1,200 feet. I was second to jump from the front hatch along with the Navigator and the air bomber. I saw the aircraft burning as it went down, followed by the enemy aircraft.”
The squadron lost 3 aircraft during the nights operations, the others:
Lancaster III JB370 DX-O Flown by P/O. N.T. Owen RAFVR who evaded capture along with 3 other crew, 3 taken PoW.
Lancaster III LM522 DX-G Flown by 29 year old, P/O. Stanley Findley 176090 RAFVR - killed with all other 6 crew members.
Note: No details available regarding their evasion but it seems they were back in the UK fairly quickly in September 1944.
(1) Sgt. Frank Bale was injured during the attack and taken PoW. However died following an operation and was buried at Durnbach War Cemetery.
(2) Ofw. Robert Lüddecke survived the war with 12 claims.
Above left the then Sgt. Bill Richards with right with his brother Stanley Leigh Richards J/12835 RCAF, who flew with 408 Squadron RCAF on Lancasters out of Linton-On-Ouse (courtesy Richards family archive)
Capture Report by W/O. Bill Richards (kindly supplied by Richards family archive):
"On July 8/1944, I was picked up by the German (Luftwaffe) near a little village in northern France. A young member of the Luftwaffe happened to come out of a small building in time to see me limping by in the woods. He took me in and I was searched and my ankle bandaged.
Next morning I was roused at about 5 AM and taken in a car to a hospital about 5 miles away. There, another prisoner, whose left leg was shot up and I were placed in an open truck and bounced around the countryside. A number of American prisoners were picked up and and near Auffay and by about 6 PM, we were placed in a little prison near Amiens.
On July 13th, a number of us were loaded into a bus and taken to prison at Beauvais. We were glad to leave the joint next morning. More Yanks were picked up there.
We were taken to Paris on Bastille Day and loaded on a train, bound for Germany.
In Paris, when on our way by the station, one rear tire burst and was mistaken for a hand-grenade. The little guy in charge frantically attempted to keep a crowd from gathering while the tyre was being changed. Everybody there wore little bunches of red, white and blue flowers and several groups of children were carrying Tricolours. We saw in a number of back-yards, red, white and blue panties dangling from clothes-lines.
The night of July 14-15 was spent about 50 miles NE of Paris. Everybody was a little nervous. Perhaps this was due to the fact that there were remains of trains in every station through which we passed.
The climax was reached about 01:00 a.m. when a number of planes were heard very plainly. At the door of our compartment stood a guard who professed not to be able to understand English. He nearly threw a fit when someone mentioned seeing some sort of marker going down.
On the 15th we passed through Chalons-sur-Mer and Marsy.
We changed trains at Metz and Frankfurt, where the civil population didn't seem any too friendly. A remark was overheard to the effect that we should be shot. From the looks of them, we expected them to carry this out.
On the trip we were given a loaf of bread or something, each, some butter and something they called woorsht (some kind of sausage), although what we called it didn't resemble this at all.
At about 6 AM on July 16th, we arrived at the Interrogation Centre at OberUrsel. There we were searched, then put in our own little cells. The furniture consisted of one cot with a hard straw tick and one chair. One blanket was provided. Also a bowl, cup and spoon.
The window was locked. The glass was the sort that let the light through, but couldn't itself be seen through. Next room to me was the guard's room, where there was a continual pounding of big feet and from where hoarse voices and bellowing issued forth.
At about 10 o'clock an officer came in and sat down. After getting my name, rank and number, which he already had, he asked me concerning the length of time I was free in France. The reply was not satisfactory and an argument arose as to whether or not I would talk. He warned me of the folly of my doings, saying I would stay in solitary for a month, if necessary. To this I replied that I didn't give a damn if they kept me there a year. He bristled up, then coolly informed me that he was merely the registering officer, not the interrogation officer and that that person would be around later.
At noon we each received a big bowl of a sort of gruel or something. This I forced down to prevent leaving waste which could be fed to the pigs.
About 3 PM, a guard took me out and said I was going to another camp. We were taken to the end of the corridor. Some of us had to be taken to the other end of the building to be photographed and fingerprinted. We were instructed to find our own way back after finishing. I was waylaid by a guard on my return and pushed back in my old cell. The guards couldn't speak English or were just typically bull-headed. Anyway I couldn't get them to understand the situation so I had to wait another half-hour for them to send for me again. We were given our nail-files, lighters, etc and taken across the back to another compound.
Here we shaved and washed: the first for a long time. Later in the evening we were fed and then they let us have a hot shower.
Next morning, July 17th, we marched down to the station and loaded on the train for Dulag Luft, a transit camp near Wetzlar, about 40 miles away. Arriving in the afternoon we were searched, photographed and fingerprinted and given clothes. Then we had a hot shower and turned loose in the camp.
Here the rations were very good, our first decent grub in some time. Our time was spent doing odd jobs, such as gardening or building a path around the yard. There was also a bit of coal-heaving, which, thank Christ, I was fortunate enough to escape. All work was sort of voluntary, so we made a good pretence of doing it.
July 22nd we were given rations and piled on a train, heading east and on July 26th came to our permanent camp - Stalag Luft VII, Bankau. Here the grub is good - thanks to the Red Cross.
There is no work required, except fatigues about one day in twelve. This consists of peeling spuds and hauling water.
Sports consist of softball, cricket and football. So far, I haven't gotten into this.
This morning, Aug 2nd, they took names for various classes they hoped to teach. I signed up for shorthand and languages, even though I haven't much hope of success.
Several days after our arrival we began to hear distant rumbles at night. These seemed to be in the east. Must be “Uncle Joe” (sic: Russians). On Sunday, Aug 6th, these rumbles could be heard during the day. About 11 or 12 o'clock, we had two air-raid warnings, so we had to stay in our billets. Two guys wandered out to relieve themselves, but changed their minds when shots were fired over their heads. So they returned to their huts. The following Tuesday about 7 PM there was a loud blast and a column of smoke rose in the east, about 15 miles away.
Obituary page to ‘Bill’ Herbert William Richards
The last few days we noticed the guards were watching the east with their field glasses, as if expecting someone. It has been rumoured to-day that the guards who fired the shots last Sunday were locked up in the clink. Probably because they missed.
On the morning of Sept 5th, as I was leaving the hut, up steps Edwin O’Farrell. He had arrived the previous night and set to work to find me. He says he heard before he left England that I was a PoW so he figured I’d be in this camp. I was watching the new boys arriving that particular night but hadn’t noticed him. Naturally, considerable time was spent gassing.
On Sept 7th, the Germans discovered several tunnels being dug in garbage pits in front of the guards’ boxes. One had the sign up: - ‘Private Property. This is my tunnel.’ Naturally a very dim view was taken by the authorities. All the garbage pits are filled in now and steps are being taken to see that the practice does not continue. It has been rumoured that three guards have been placed in the cooler for not noticing the digging. At nights now, there are dogs going around the camp leading guards. And under certain conditions they may even get tough.
Our rations have now been cut down. We still get our potatoes and stuff from the Germans but the Red Cross parcels are now coming at the rate of one every two weeks per person instead of one every week. It’s something to do with Allied activity so the parcels aren’t getting through to Geneva. The worst of it is that the cigarette supply, none too plentiful at any time, has also been cut in half.
The rumbles mentioned previously were probably not from Uncle Joe’s boys as they aren’t close enough. In all probability, there is an artillery range somewhere to the east of us.
On Friday, Oct 13th, we moved down into the new camp, which is just south of the old one. Here we are in barrack blocks. Most rooms hold 14 men. We are in a room for 8. There are 4 double beds, which in some cases are more comfortable than sleeping on the floor, as was done in the old camp.
There are quite a few cases of jaundice around the camp. Ken Wallace, one of the inmates in our room, has been taken to hospital. They suspect, but are not certain, that he has it.
I took on the job of taking care of the mail in our division. I collect and distribute the letter-forms and postcards every fortnight and distribute the mail, if any, that comes in. The mugs around here seem to think it’s my fault if there is no mail, so I have to try to placate them, or to ignore them altogether.
On Jan 17 we got word to be packed and ready to march in an hour. Joe had been advancing fast. We got ready but didn’t move off till 7:00 AM on the 19th and marched to Goldberg – 220 or more kilometres. Slept mostly in barns, once in a brick factory.
From Goldberg we were put on trains and arrived on Feb 9th at Luckenwalde - Stalag III-A. On the march we received about 2 loaves of bread, ½ block of margarine and about ½ lb meat. Also about a cup of barley or oatmeal stew a day from the field kitchens.
Our leisure (?) hours were spent discussing delicious menus and favourite dishes and longing for mama’s cooking.
We were given a few spuds occasionally. Found a bit of wheat, frozen sugar-beets, barley (with hulls) and a bit of ground field peas to supplement our rations. Also traded soap for bread and fags.
Some of the places we went through: - Kruetsburg (Kreuzberg?), Bankau (kries Strahlin), Strahlin, Prausnitz (3 days’ wait for transport), Goldberg. On train through Sagan to Luckenwalde.
We spent a night in Sagan. There is an officers’ laager there with plenty of Red Cross parcels. Pete Thompson, our Laagerfuhrer, sent an urgent message up in hopes of getting some parcels sent down, but received no answer.
Here at III-A, we received coffee at 8 or 9, soup at 11, spuds about 12 or 1, bread in the afternoon with marg, or dripping and sugar. Then coffee again at five or 6.
On Feb 20th comes a cut in the soup ration. It’s now about a cupful. The total ration is now: - tea (mint) at 7:00; soup and spuds at noon, bread (1/5 small loaf) and marg and sugar; tea at 16:30 hrs (usually). The M.D., according to rumour, has figured out we get enough starches, but not enough proteins, for a guy lying down all day. That was before the cut in soup.
Mar 4. Soup is now back to normal now - in quantity only but it’s usually thin as hell.
On Sat. March 3rd we got a quarter of an American parcel each with possibility of getting another issue on Wed. the 7th. Also rumour of another issue next Sat. As the parcel was divided, I woofed my choc (1/4 bar), sweets (1/4 pkt), some of my prunes and sugar (10 tablets). Also a large quantity of my cheese and jam.
During the night someone lost a whole parcel with exception of salmon and vitamin pills. The box was found in the porch the following morning.
April 21st - Jerries gone.
April 22nd - Russkis came.
May 20 - Taken in Russki trucks to Elbe, loaded in American Trucks and taken to aerodrome at Halle.
May 25 - Flown in Dakotas to Brussels. Flew over Cologne and Dusseldorf - didn’t see them. Spent night in Brussels. Camp run by Canadian Soldiers.
May 26 - Flown in Lancs to Ford Aerodrome, near Southampton. Had NAAFI Tea and Biscuits. Loaded in trucks for Bournemouth. Stopped about 7 times. Went into 5 pubs. Arrived in Bournemouth about midnight. Had supper in East Beach Café - fried eggs, bacon and all the rest. Waited on by a Fl/Lt. and a Sq/Ldr. (padres) and a number of WAAFS. Went through Red Cross Store and were waited on by two Canadian Red Cross dames.
And then hit the hay."
H.W. “Bill” Richards
Church and graves photographed during a visit by our Kate Tame in 2013 - anyone who would like a higher resolution of the graves are invited to contact us.
F/O. Max Rose. St. Maclou-De-Folleville Churchyard. Grave 9. Son of Mayer and Jane Rose, of 59A Robe Street, St. Kilda, Victoria, Australia. Born 31st March 1923.
Sgt. Frank Edwin Fricker Bale. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 6.C.19. Son of Henry Augustus and Eileen Margaret Bale, of Gabalfa, Cardiff, Wales.
Fl/Sgt. Charles Louis Carpenter. St. Maclou-De-Folleville Churchyard. Grave 11. Son of William Henry and May Leonine Carpenter, of Sutton-at-Hone, Kent, England. Give inscription reads: ‘Gone From Us But Not Forgotten. Never Shall Your Memory Fade. All At Home.’
Sgt. Jeremiah Healy. St. Maclou-De-Folleville Churchyard. Grave 10. Give inscription reads: ‘In Loving Memory Of Our Dearly Beloved Son And Brother.’
With thanks to the Richards family archive who forwarded much of the information to us (March 2016). Other sources as quoted below.