29/30.06.1941 No 7 Squadron Stirling I N6001 MG-? Sqn/Ldr. William Terrance Chambers Seale
Date: 29/30 June 1941 (Sunday/Monday)
Unit: No. 7 Squadron - Motto: "Per diem per noctem" ("By day and by night")
Badge: On a hurt (a roundel azure) seven mullets (stars) of six points forming a representation of the constellation Ursa Major. The constellation Ursa Major has formed part of a device used by the squadron since 1926. The introduction of stars in the form of a constellation in which seven of these appear is appropriate to the squadron bearing this number.
Type: Short Stirling I
Base: RAF Oakington, Cambridgeshire
Location: Stemmermühlen bei Beverstedt, near Bremmerhaven, Germany
Pilot: Sqn/Ldr. William Terrance Chambers Seale 37694 RAF - Killed (1)
2nd Pilot: Sgt. Richard Lyndon Barrett Aus/407071 RAAF Age 23 - Killed (2)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Maurice George Brown 567245 RAF Age 22 - Killed (3)
Obs: F/Sgt. Bernard William Grocock 581015 RAF Age 22 - Killed (4)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Roland Ernest Walls 551317 RAF Age 21 - Killed (5)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Laurence Whittle 628887 RAF Age 21 - Killed (6)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Harold Thorpe Archer 747939 RAFVR - Killed (7)
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In 1934/35 Terry Seale, then aged 18, was in his final year at Portadown College and playing in the 1st XV and nurturing the will to become a pilot in the RAF.
On 23 March 1936, William Terrance Chambers Seale was granted a short service commission as an Acting Pilot Officer in the RAF and on 11 October 1936, joined 38 Sqn at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk.
On 15 March 1937 he was posted to the newly reformed 75 Squadron based at RAF Driffield in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Terry was one of the seven members of "A" Flight whilst "B" Flight had 8 members. The Squadron was equipped with 7 Ansons and 4 Vickers Virginias but by 24 August the Virginias were taken away into storage and the Squadron re-armed completely with Ansons but in September these too began to be withdrawn and replaced by the Handley Page Harrow heavy bomber.
In August 1938 the Squadron relocated to RAF Honington in Suffolk and on 1 March 1939 'Function of the Squadron changed; becoming Group Pool Squadron to undertake training up to operational standard of inexperienced pilots ex Flying Training School and pilots of the Volunteer Reserve. One Flight re-equipped with 6 IE [Initial Establishment] and 2 IR [Immediate Reserve] Anson aircraft. Surplus Harrows transferred to stored reserve.'
On 4 July 1939 the Squadron began to re-equip once again, this time with Vickers Wellingtons and on 16 July re-located 20 miles south west to RAF Stradishall and following the outbreak of war, to RAF Harwell in Oxfordshire, this final move being completed by 14 September 1939.
Between 12 and 16 September 'extensive training was undertaken to qualify instructors as 1st Pilot (Night) on Wellington aircraft'.
By 2 October 1939 the Squadron was fully equipped with Wellingtons.
On 10 January 1940, while performing a training mission, Wellington L4371 of 75 Squadron, missed the approach at RAF Hanwell and overshooting, finally came to rest beyond the runway.
Whilst Flying Officer W. T. C. Seale was uninjured, Pilot Officer W. L. Rodgers and Pilot Officer F. A. G. F. De Labouchere-Sparling both suffered injuries in the accident.
Strangely, the accident seems to have gone unrecorded in 75 Squadron Operations Record Book.
Three months later, on 4 April 1940, 75 Squadron ceased to exist at Harwell with the New Zealand Squadron assuming the name of 75 Squadron.
A/F/Lt. W.T.C. Seale is recorded as being one of 15 Officers of the old 75 Squadron which together with those of 148 Squadron was to form 15 Operational Training Unit at RAF Harwell on 8 April 1940.
Terry Seale was to remain as an instructor at 15 OTU for a year, being posted to 7 Squadron at RAF Oakington in Cambridgeshire on 30 March 1941 and now with the rank of Squadron Leader.
7 Squadron was reformed for the third time in its history on 1 August 1940 at RAF Leeming in the North Riding of Yorkshire. On 3 August it was proposed that the Squadron should have a complement of eight four-engine Stirling I heavy bombers; but on 5 September 'Confirmation was received of the intention to allot 8 additional aircraft for the formation of the second flight.'
On 1 November 1940 the Squadron located to RAF Oakington in Cambridgeshire and on 30 November the Squadron ORB recorded that 'Equipment consisted of 5 A/C'
Further new aircraft eventually trickled through and despite being hampered by teething troubles with the machines themselves compounded by the inclement winter weather, training continued until early February 1941 when the Squadron, if not actually ready for operations, was at least, deemed to be so.
10 February 1941 'The Squadron carried out its maiden Operational trip. Three aircraft successfully bombed the target area at Rotterdam. All returned safely. 46 x 500lb bombs were dropped'
A total of 43 aircraft, including just 3 Stirling were despatched to bomb oil storage tanks - all returned safely. This was the first operational use of Short Stirlings after the RAF came under great pressure to bring the aircraft into use.
The Squadron made another 5 sorties on two operations in February. During March, 14 crews were recorded as being involved in 9 minor operation. Among those involved was Sgt. Bernard Grocock, the Observer who flew three ops in March with the crew of Fl/LT E.V. Best.
It is perhaps interesting to note that the Squadron ORB had recorded on 19 January 1941 that 'Sgt. Grocock proceeded to Manby on a Bomber Leader course'
On 11 April the ORB recorded that 'Fl/Lt. Best left for 15 Squadron. Wyton'.
Bernard Grocock next flew on ops on 5/6 May as a member of Terry Seale's crew.
23 Sorties were flown in April on 12 operations, no more than three Stirlings being involved in any one op.
On 3 April two crews carried out raids on Rotterdam, among them were Sgt. Walls and Sgt. Whittle with the crew of Fl/Lt. Cruikshank and Engineer Sgt. Brown with the crew of F/O. Sach. Their dates of joining the Squadron are unknown but this was the first operation on which they flew. The following day, F/O. Barrett flew his first operation as 2nd Pilot with the crew of Fl/Lt. Cox, one of two crews involved in a raid on Kiel.
Following his arrival, the next mention in the ORB of Terry Seale was on 20 April 1941
'W/Cmdr. Graham, S/Ldr Seale, P/O. Coote, F/O. Stock and crews flew No. 3655 to Hatfield where a circus was staged for visiting notables. All [the] latest types of aircraft were shown but the Stirling was reported to have "stolen the show". Prince Bernhart of Holland was among those present'.
The night of 3/4 May 1942 Terry Seale and crew were one of three detailed for a raid on Brest together with 29 Wellingtons and 1 Manchester.
Flying N3665, his crew consisted of Australian, Richard Barrett, 2nd Pilot, aged 23; Yorkshiremen, Maurice Brown, Flight Engineer aged 22; Observer, Bernard Grocock (mentioned earlier)also 22 and from Nottingham, Laurance Whittle, a 21 year old Wireless Operator from County Durham and Air Gunner Harold Archer aged 26 from Northamptonshire. Completing the crew, but for only this op, was Wireless Operator/ Air Gunner, Sgt. A. Donaldson. There were no losses.
Two nights later four of the Squadron Stirlings were part of a force of 141 aircraft despatched against Mannheim. Terry Seale's crew in N6007 saw Sgt. Donaldson replaced by Roland Walls who thereafter became an ever present member of the crew. Again no losses were sustained by the attacking force.
Operations were to follow on a regular basis as follows:
8/9 May. Flying N6019. 1 of 2 for raid on Berlin - crashed on take off.
'Both outer engines cut when taking off and pilot S/Ldr WTC Seale could not maintain height.'
11/12 May. Flying N6007 for a raid on Hamburg. Sgt F G Taylor for Sgt. Brown.
1 of 2 in a force of 188. 1 Stirling and 91 Wellingtons - 3 Wellingtons lost
'S/Ldr. W.T.C. Seale left on operations to Hamburg but could not maintain height and consequently dropped his bombs at Emden.'
15/16 May. Flying N6007 for a raid on Berlin. Sgt. A Hay for Whittle. 4 Stirlings in a force of only 14 Manchesters and Stirlings to Berlin - 1 Manchester lost
'S/Ldr W.T.C. Seale and F/Lt. A.L.T. Naish experienced difficulties and dropped their loads on alternative targets.'
27 May. 7 Stirlings of 7 Sqn, including N6003 were part of a force of 52 Wellingtons and 12 Stirlings that 'Left on search for the Hipper cruiser Prince Eugen which had parted company with the crippled Bismark. Not found, bombs brought back' Full crew
7 June. Flying N6003 - 7 Stirlings of 7 Squadron despatched as part of a larger force to bomb the Prinz Eugen at Brest. There were no losses.
10 June Flying N6003 (Sgt. Speakman for Sgt. Archer) 1 of 2 Stirlings of 7 Squadron despatched to bomb Emden in a daylight sortie. The two Stirlings were the total force for this operation.
'Cloud cover failed both a/c turned back and returned safely.'
18 June Flying N6032 part of a force of 57 Wellingtons and 8 Stirlings despatched to attack the Scharnhorst at Brest. There were no losses
20 June Flying N6032 on a raid to bomb Kiel
6 Stirlings of 7 Squadron were part of a mixed force of 115 aircraft despatched - 2 Wellingtons were lost
26 June Flying N6032 on another raid to bomb Kiel
9 Stirlings of 7 Squadron were part of a mixed force of 41 aircraft of which 2 Manchesters were lost.
'S/Ldr. W.T.C. Seale's undercarriage failed to fully come down on return to base and the aircraft crash landed; nobody was hurt and the aircraft not much damaged.'
On 12 June 1941 the Squadron ORB recorded that:
' S/Ldr. W.T.C. Seale went to Belfast to give a "pep" talk, a fortunate selection as he is an Irishman, and the visit was most successful.'
Sadly it would be the last time that Terry Seale was to see home.
29 June 1941
'Six aircraft left to bomb Hamburg. A huge fire was seen on arrival which was visible for 200 miles. Considerable concentrations of flak were encountered and two of our aircraft captained by S/Ldr. Seale and F/O. V.R. Hartwright (DFM) failed to return.'
REASON FOR LOSS
28 aircraft comprising 13 Stirlings, 7 Wellingtons 6 Manchesters and 2 Halifaxes were despatched to bomb Hamburg. 4 Stirlings and 2 Wellingtons failed to return.
Reports from Hamburg were that much damage had been inflicted killing 8 people and injuring 115. 465 persons were reported to have been 'bombed out' whilst a store containing 650 tons of rice and 200 tons of animal feed was destroyed by fire possible started as a result of a crashing bomber.
Stirling N6001 took off at 22:57 hours on the evening of Sunday 29 June 1941. At 02:10 hours the aircraft crashed at Stemmermühlen bei Beverstedt (25 miles north of Bremen) in the fields of farmer Herr Heinrich Rosebrock who also witnessed the crash. According to the witness, the aircraft was flying very low, apparently hedge hopping to avoid flak and the engines appeared to be running perfectly. The aircraft then sank, hit the ground and exploded violently.
Scale: 1" = 10 miles
The following information is taken from the Missing Research and Enquiry Unit report and subsequent related correspondence.
The first official on the scene was German policeman Kunow, Meister der Gendarmerie at Basdahl. He reported that five bodies were found but they were so badly shattered that though there may have been more than five in the aircraft: they estimated this number as comprising the crew and divided the remains as best as possible into five.
The remains were despatched to the Navy Hospital at Wesermünde. The policeman, Kunow, collected what he termed 'secret documents' and Log books from the crash site and handed them over to the airfield commander at Wesermünde. The RAF investigator had been unable to trace the airfield commander or the supposed documents. The cemetery keeper at Wesermunde and the keeper of the Navel Burial Records however informed the investigator that they had gathered from the documents that there were six in the crew.
The only body identified at the time of the crash was that of H.T. Archer and he was buried separately from the others at Geestemünde Cemetery, Wesermünde.
Exhumation of the bodies from Stirling N6001 was carried out on 3 September 1946 and after further examination of the remains those of Sqn/Ldr. Seale were identified. Unfortunately, whilst being transported in the same lorry to the Becklingen War Cemetery at Soltau the five unidentified crew members of N6001 became mixed up with those of four other unidentified bodies recovered from Wellington T2806. This aircraft had crashed on a moor, east of Desdesdorf* on 29 June 1941 with none of the six man crew being identifiable. Subsequently, all the remains of the 11 unidentifiable crew members had to be buried in the same communal grave.
* This was the village of Dedesdorf, now part of Loxstedt about 10 miles south of Bremerhaven.
There was some confusion as to whether a member of the crew of Wellington T2806 had in fact been identified but it was ultimately determined that none of that crew were able to be identified and they are buried with remains of the five members of the crew of Stirling N6001 who were unidentifiable in one collective grave.
Courtesy National Archives of Australia
(Above) The communal grave of the eleven crew members at Becklingen War Cemetery. Taken in 1951 the photograph show the temporary grave marker for the five men from N6001. Although the marker gives the impression that it had been possible to separate the remains of the two crews this was not the case; two markers having been placed merely to distinguish between the two crews buried there.
It was later determined that Stirling N6001 had in fact been shot down by night fighter pilot Oberleutnant (later Oberst) Helmut Lent and his gunner Uffz. Walter Kubisch. of 6./NG1. Helmut Lent timed the attack at 01:40 (see biography No. 8 below).
No. 7 squadron lost another aircraft that night. Stirling N3664 MG-Z piloted by 26 year old Flying Officer Valentine Ronald Hartwright D.F.M. was also shot down by Oberleutnent Lent and crashed at Zeven near Bremen. All seven crew members were killed.
Stirlings N3664 and N6001 were victories numbers 11 and 12 respectively of a career total of 110 scored by the German night fighter ace.
Left: Oberst. Helmut Lent pictured in 1943
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW
(1) Sqn/Ldr. William Terrance Chambers Seale was born in 1917 (birth registered in Belfast) the son of William Pilkington Seale and Dorothy Margaret Seale nee Chambers. He had one sibling: Theophilus John Seale born 1921.
A pupil of Portadown College Squadron Leader W. Terry Seale was a member of the 1st XV 1934/35 whilst his brother Theophilus John (a Lieutenant in the Royal Irish Fusiliers KIA 1 June 1944) was captain of the 1st XV in 1937/38. In the college three house system, Seale House is named after the two brothers.
Terry Seale was granted a short service commission as an Acting Pilot Officer in the RAF with effect from and seniority of 23 March 1936 (Flight Global 16 April 1936) and posted to No.38 (B) Squadron at RAF Mildenhall with effect from 11 October 1936 (Flight Global 5 November 1936). He was promoted to Flying Officer with effect from 27 October 1938 as announced in the London Gazette of 1 November 1938 and to Flight Lieutenant with effect from 3 September 1940 as announced in the London Gazette of 5 November 1940. In the London Gazette of 1 January 1941 it was announced that Acting Flight Lieutenant W.T.C. Seale whilst serving with 15 OTU had been Mentioned in Dispatches. He was posted to No. 7 Squadron on 30 March 1941.
William Terrance Chambers Seale and Theophilus John Seale are both commemorated on the Portadown War Memorial and St. Mark's Church War Memorial, Portadown, County Armagh.
(2) Sgt. Richard Lyndon Barrett was born at 138 Fisher Street, Malvern, Adelaide, South Australia on 7 October 1917 the son of Darrell Pearson Barrett and Alice Maud Barrett. He worked as a Bank Clerk prior to enlisting in the RAAF at Adelaide. His father was recorded as his next of kin of Liberal Club Building, North Terrace, Adelaide, Australia.
(3) Sgt. Maurice George Brown was born in 1918 at Ripon, North Riding of Yorkshire the son of Robert George Brown and Jeannie S. Brown nee Hubbert.
(4) F/Sgt. Bernard William Grocock was born in 1918 at Basford Nottinghamshire the son of William Henry Grocock (a Poultry Farmer) and Ursula Grocock nee Holmes: husband of Barbara Helen Grocock nee Reader of Bushey, Hertfordshire. Entered Nottingham High School age 11 in 1930 and left in 1935. He is commemorated on Nottingham High School War Memorial. (Details courtesy of Nottingham High School Archives).
(5) Sgt. Roland Ernest Walls was probably born at Hull in 1920 the son of Albert Ernest Walls and Elsie Ellen Walls nee Kelf.
(6) Sgt. Laurence Whittle was born on 17 October 1919 at Craghead, County Durham the son of John Whittle and Florence Edith Whittle nee Plummer. He had one sibling: Irene Whittle born 18 September 1923.
John Whittle was a Coal Mine Overman (Underground Official) and during the second world war served as a Special Constable. The family lived at Shaftoe Terrace and later at 1 Railway Street, Craghead
Laurence attended the nearby Alderman Wood Grammar School at Tanfield County Durham where he met May Colledge who he would later marry.
Shortly after his 18th birthday he enlisted in the Royal Air Force and was posted to No. 2 School of Recruits at RAF Cardington, Bedfordshire where he became a member of 94 Sqd. In 1939 after completing his training at Cardington he was posted to RAF Yatesbury in Wiltshire where he completed his training as a wireless operator.
The exact date of his posting to 9 Squadron at RAF Honington in Suffolk is not known but is thought to have been in January/February 1940. The first mention of Laurence in the Operations Record Book (ORB) of 9 Squadron is on 24 February 1940 when he was a member of the crew of F/O. Turner (probably F/O. R.W. Turner) flying Wellington N2942 on a Special Sweep. Henceforth he is recorded as flying operations with the same crew on a regular basis until 31 May when individual names of crew members cease to be mentioned in the Squadron ORB. The date of his posting to No. 7 Squadron is not known but it is believed to have been shortly after his marriage to childhood sweetheart May Colledge in April 1941. (Details provided by Ethan Siou)
(7) Sgt. Harold Thorpe Archer was born on 6th April 1915 in Brixworth, Northamptonshire the son of Horace Archer and Alice Naomi Archer nee Porter. He had four siblings: John Thomas Archer (1912-1929), Albert W. Archer born 1913, Arthur W. Archer (1913-1914) and Cynthia J. Archer born 1921.
In 1939 the family lived at 21 Wheatfield Road Northampton at which time he was employed as a Storekeeper's Assistant.
He joined the RAFVR in May 1939 as a u/t Wireless Operator/Air Gunner under training. He was called up on 1 September 1939. After completing his training he joined 23 Squadron at RAF Ford in Sussex on 1 October 1940.
He is commemorated on the Battle of Britain Monument in London.
(8) Oberst Helmut Johannes Siegfried Lent was born 13 June 1918 at Pyrehne near Landsberg, Brandenburg, Germany the son of a Lutheran minister. He came from a devoutly religious family and against his father's wishes he joined the Luftwaffe in 1936. During his career he shot down a total of 110 aircraft, 102 of them at night. He was the first night fighter pilot to claim 100 night victories which earned him the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds on 31 July 1944. On 5 October 1944, he flew a Junkers Ju 88 on a routine transit flight from Stade to Nordborchen, 5km south of Paderborn. On approaching Paderborn Airfield his aircraft suffered engine failure and collided with power lines. All four members of the crew were mortally injured. Three of the crew died shortly after the crash and Helmut Lent succumbed to his injuries two days later on 7 October 1944.
Photographs of headstones by BobB - Courtesy Find A Grave
(1) Sqn/Ldr. William Terrance Chambers Seale - Buried Becklingen War Cemetery - Grave No. XII.D.1
(2) Sgt. Richard Lyndon Barrett - Buried Becklingen War Cemetery - Coll. Grave No. XII.D.5-11
Of Darrell and Maud
Of Adelaide S.A.
In God's care
(3) Sgt. Maurice George Brown - Buried Becklingen War Cemetery - Coll. Grave No. XII.D.5-11
(4) F/Sgt. Bernard William Grocock - Buried Becklingen War Cemetery - Coll. Grave No. XII.D.5-11
Son and brother
Macte nova virtute (Go forth with new strength)
Sic itur ad astra (Thus you shall go to the stars)
(5) Sgt. Roland Ernest Walls - Buried Becklingen War Cemetery- Coll. Grave No. XII.D.5-11
(6) Sgt. Laurence Whittle - Buried Becklingen War Cemetery - Coll. Grave No. XII.D.2
"In heavenly love abiding"
He died that we might live
(7) Sgt. Harold Thorpe Archer - Buried Becklingen War Cemetery - Coll. Grave No. XII.D.5-11
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for Nottingham High School and all relatives and friends of the members of this crew - January 2016