15/16.09.1943 428 (Ghost) Sqn RCAF Halifax V LK913 NA:N Wg.Cdr. Donald W.M. Smith
Operation: Dunlop rubber factory - Montlucon, France
Date: 15/16th September 1943 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: 428 (Ghost) Squadron, RCAF
Type: Halifax V
Base: RAF Middleton St. George
Location: Tronçais Forest near Cérilly, France
Pilot: Wg.Cdr. Donald William McKay Smith DFC, MiD. 41483 RAFVR PoW No: 2541 * (1)
Pilot 2: Plt.Off. Edward Norman Bell J2458 RCAF PoW No: 3341 * (2)
Flt.Eng: Sgt. Charles Heyworth 976348 RAF Evaded capture (3)
Nav: Flt.Lt. Edgar Bohun Mason J7777 RCAF Evaded capture (4)
Air Bmr: Fg.Off. Harry Dereniuk J16840 RCAF PoW No: 2524 * (5)
WOp/Air Gnr: Plt.Off. Richard O. "Dick" Malins 53558 RAFVR PoW No: 558 ** (6)
Air Gnr (Mid.Upp): WO J.M. Nelmes R92464 RCAF Evaded capture. (7)
Air Gnr (Rear): Flt.Lt. John Murray Forman DFC J15236 RCAF Injured - Evaded capture (8)
* Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).
** Stalag 357 (Stalag 11b), Fallingbostal, Lower Saxony, Germany
An early image of the original Wg.Cdr. Smith's crew. (Courtesy Lynn (née Mason) Tarzwell)
Rear left to right: Plt.Off. Dereniuk, Flt.Lt. Forman, Wg.Cdr. Smith, Plt.Off. Snow. Front left to right: Sgt. Heyworth, Sgt. Malins.
Navigator Plt.Off. Snow was replaced by Flt.Lt. Mason and Plt.Off. Bell (not depicted) was assigned as 2nd "Dicky".
Plt.Off. Morley Vivian Snow J16804 RCAF was killed in the loss of 431 (Iroquois) Squadron, Halifax LK898
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from RAF Middleton St. George at 19:58 hrs joining some 368 aircraft from 3, 4, 6 and 8 Groups made up from 209 Halifaxes, 120 Stirlings, 40 Lancasters with 5 USAAF B-17’s also taking part.
The weather was good the night of 15th with 6/10 cloud at height of 9,000/10,000 ft over the target area and all debriefing reports confirmed a successful operation, with little enemy opposition.
The target was indicated with marker flares previously dropped by Pathfinders. Bomber crews debriefing reports state that crews observed markers through gap in clouds and bombed through this gap. Observed large and well concentrated fire in the shape of a factory building. Reports state that all buildings within the factory were hit with a large fire also started.
Four aircraft were lost during this operation, the others:
10 Squadron Halifax II HR920 ZA:L Flown by 22 year old Sgt. James Miller Dunlop from Glasgow, Scotland - killed 3 other crew, 2 PoW, with 1 other evading capture.
15 Squadron Stirling III BF569 LS:V Flown by 30 year old WO. Alexander William Niall from New Zealand - killed with all other 6 crew.
427 Squadron Halifax V DK253 ZL:M Flown by 22 year old Sgt. Alexander Chibanoff from Alberta, Canada - killed with all 6 other crew
It is understood that after dropping their bomb load, LK913 was over the target when it was hit by incendiary bombs dropped by a Stirling flying above them. Two of the crew, Flt.Lt. Mason and Plt.Off. Malins escaped by parachute the others remained in the aircraft which the pilot, Wg.Cdr. Smith managed to crash-land the Halifax V onto a then young tree plantation in the forest of Tronçais near Sérilly, France.
With the assistance from the French Resistance all but 4 of the crew managed to evade capture and return to England.
Left: Memorial to the crew (courtesy Claude Virlogeux)
Locals, with the valuable assistance of researchers René Chambareau and Claude Grimaud, erected a fine memorial to the lucky crew at the chapel of St. Mayeul which was unveiled on the 15th September 2001. Further details of this can be read on the website of Claude Virlogeux.
Above: It is not believed the man next to Heyworth is Murray Forman, though, Murray was quite tall and his hair was different. An interesting note on this photo is that it includes the famous Peter Dmytruk, aka Pierre le Canadien. He was a valued Maquisard and was executed in December '43 not long after this photo was taken. (courtesy Lynn Tarzwell (née Mason)
(1) Wg.Cdr. Smith DFC, MiD was a Canadian in the RAF. Awarded the DFC whilst with 428 Sqn, gazetted on the 11th June 1943. MiD gazetted on the 1st January 1943. Born Sackville, New Brunswick on the 26th June 1917, he was the son of the late Mortimer Henry and Elizabeth MacKay Smith. He grew up in Preston, Ontario, Canada and was a graduate of Galt Collegiate. Commissioned Pilot Officer 1938. Served on 218 Squadron from March 1940 to 20th May 1941. Deceased Easton, Maryland, 12 April 2001.
(2) Plt.Off. Bell was from Vancouver, British Columbia. Plt.Off. Bell lost his brother 25 year old, Plt.Off. David Gordon Bell J88695 RCAF whilst serving with 432 Squadron as an Air Gunner he was killed during a training exercise when the Halifax LW614 stalled and crashed near Langdale, Yorkshire, England.
(3) Sgt Heyworth - returned to UK - 16th November 1943 promoted to Plt.Off. 157454, with effect from 20th August 1943 - died 25th November 1943.
(4) Flt.Lt. Mason - returned to UK - 20th September 1944 (Squadron Navigation leader). Born on 14th August 1914. Died in 2002. Flt.Lt. Mason escaped from an earlier crash with a 405 Squadron Halifax II BB216 LQ:D on the 1st September 1942.
(5) Fg.Off. Dereniuk was from Wimmer, Saskatchewan.
(6) Plt.Off. Malins was born Poplar, London on the 14th September 1920; deceased Wanneroo, WA, Australia.
(7) WO. Nelmes - returned to UK - 20th September 1944, Born Chilliwack, British Columbia 17th February 1917. Postwar, he would work for the Province of British Columbia. Deceased Chilliwack 7th April 1991.
(8) Flt.Lt. Forman - returned to UK - 16th November 1943 - DFC Awarded on 17th July 1945 (Squadron Gunnery leader). Interviewed by MI9 upon his return to the UK he gave the following statement on 16th November 1943:
"I was a member of the crew of a Halifax aircraft which took off from Middleton St.George on 15th September 1943 about 21:00 hours to bomb the Dunlop factory at Montlucon. Over the target we were hit in the cockpit by incendiary bombs from above, which destroyed the flying instruments and the two starboard motors. The intercom was out of order, and it is probable that the wireless operator and the navigator heard only the last part of the order to “stand by to abandon aircraft”. They baled out at once. The pilot carried on for about eight minutes, but lost height so rapidly that we crashed about midnight on a hillside at the south end of the Forest of Troncais (France 1:250,000, Sheet 22, Square B7). I was badly shaken up and bruised. I twisted a knee in getting out of the aircraft, and a French doctor who examined me later thought it possible that I had broken two vertebrae in the spine. No one else was injured except the pilot, who had a cut knee.
The aircraft caught fire immediately it crashed, and we buried all our parachutes and flying equipment. Frenchmen later recovered anything that was unburned, including the navigator’s log, which had been blown out when the aircraft crashed. The six of us immediately started walking north, our hope being to reach Paris and make some contacts with an organisation. After we had gone about two miles we decided to separate. I went with Plt.Off. Bell, the second pilot, while the other four split into two pairs.
Bell and I continued north and went to sleep in the forest just south of St. Bonnet-Troncais (Square g6) about 04:00 hours (16th September). We stayed in the forest till 15:00 hours. I was then in considerable pain and decided to find some help. Bell decided that he would remain in the wood. I could not walk alone, and he supported me to the edge of a road. I remained here till a peasant came along with a log of wood on a wagon. I told him who I was and he put me on the wagon beside the log. He took me along the road through St. Bonnet for about three miles. We then met a man on a bicycle, to whom the peasant apparently explained who I was. This man hid me behind a hedge, where I remained for about two hours. About dusk I was picked up, and shortly afterwards was in touch with the organisation which arranged the rest of my journey."
DFC citation: "This officer has proved himself a brilliant and inspiring leader. As a flight commander he has trained his crews to an exceptional degree of efficiency and keenness. On one occasion he was shot down over enemy territory but successfully evaded capture and returned to this country. His courageous leadership has always set an inspiring example to all other air gunners. "
CdeG citation: "Wing Commander Forman was shot down in Northern France. During the period he was evading capture he joined the French Forces of the Interior and engaged in special intelligence work. He assisted allied nationals to evade capture and return to countries not under the domination of the Germans. At great personal risk he aided in several sabotage schemes."
Born Listowel, Ontario 20th March 1913. Enlisted in the RCAF at Toronto 2nd July 1940. Promoted Wing Commander 1st October 1944. Invested with DFC at Government House 7 November 1949. Postwar worked for the Canadian Pension Commission. Deceased Ottawa 23rd February 2004.
Flt.Lt. Edgar Mason shown here (3rd from right) with the crew of 405 Squadron Halifax II BB216 LQ:D (courtesy Lynn Tarzwell (née) Mason)
Although all the crew survived this operation, tragically Sgt Heyworth died less than two weeks later after his return to the UK - on the 25th November 1943 of, we understand, pneumonia.
Sgt. Charles Heyworth. Brighton (Woodpile) Crematorium. Son of Pte. Charles Heyworth, King's Own Royal Lancaster Regt. (Killed in action in France, 23rd March, 1918), and Margaret Elizabeth Heyworth, of St. Annes-on-Sea, Lancashire, husband of Vera Elsie Heyworth, of St. Annes-on-Sea, England.
Left: Wall inscription to Plt.Off. Heyworth at Brighton (Woodpile) Crematorium
Researched by Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Dave Champion for extensive crew information.Claude Virlogeux and Lynn Tarzwell (née Mason) daughter of Flt.Lt. Mason. Thanks also to Lynn Tarzwell for the correction to the narrative and the image depicting the the Maquis in France. (Dec 2020). Other corrections by Aircrew Remembered (Dec 2020). Thanks to Lynn (née Mason) Tarzwell for the image of Wg.Cdr. Smith's crew. (Jan 2021). Other updates by Aircrew Remembered. (Jan 2021).