28.03.1942 No. 1 OADU Wellington IC DV503 Sgt. Smithson
Operation: Delivery flight
Date: 28th March 1942 (Saturday)
Unit: No. 1 OADU (Overseas Aircraft Delivery Unit - 215 Squadron)
Type: Wellington 1C
Code: Not issued
Base: RAF Portreath
Location: North Atlantic Ocean - see map
Pilot: Sgt. Maurice John Smithson 1187084 RAFVR Injured - Interned (1)
Pilot: Sgt. H. Smith 1377225 RAFVR Interned
Obs: W/O. John Donald McClaren 530507 RAFVR Injured - Interned (2)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Raymond Eric Dixon 1381568 RAFVR Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt Eric Heinrich Giersch AUS/402594 RAAF Age 28. Interned (3)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. William Cansick 1383183 RAFVR Age 33. Missing - believed killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from RAF Portreath on an aircraft delivery flight to India via Gibraltar.
Shortly before 11:30 hrs one of the two engines failed, then at 11:34 hrs they were forced to ditch when the final engine failed. Some 15 miles from Cape Espichel with the aircraft sinking within seconds. 4 of the crew were rescued as was the body of Sgt Dixon by a Portuguese fishing vessel, but sadly the body of Sgt. Cranswick is thought to have gone down with the aircraft and has no known grave.
The rescued crew were interned by the authorities (Portugal being a neutral nation) but were then released as the Portuguese authorities described the survivors as "Sailors in distress" so, a few days later on the 04th April 3 of the crew were released to return to England. Sgt. Smithson, the final member released on the 13th May.
It is understood that the crew that made it through this operation also survived the war.
(1) Sgt. Maurice John Smithson - Later DFM whilst with 70 Squadron. Commissioned Service number: 173138.
(2) W/O. John Donald McClaren - Later commissioned. Service number: 54344. DFC whilst with 298 Squadron.
(3) Sgt Eric Heinrich Giersch - Later commissioned and awarded DFC whist with 463 Squadron RAAF.
Above L-R: 463 Squadron Lancaster Crew, Fl/Sgt. Edwin John Holden AUS/410061 RAAF, F/O. Robert William Board AUS/20610 RAAF, Fl/Lt. Eric Heinrich Giersch AUS/402594 RAAF, Sgt. W. Sinclair RAF, John William Muddle AUS/403418 RAAF, Fl/Lt. Bruce Alexander Buckham DFC AUS/420437 RAAF, Fl/Sgt. Lionel James Manning AUS/420973 RAAF. (courtesy Australian National Archives)
Above: Sgt. Dixon and his grave at Lisbon British Churchyard (St. George).
Sgt. Raymond Eric Dixon. Lisbon British Churchyard (St. George) Plot G1. Front Row. Grave 20. Believed to be from Tolworth, Surrey, England.
Sgt. William Cansick. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 79. Son of Patrick and Elizabeth Cansick and husband of Daisy Rosina Cansick, of Ramsgate, Kent, England
For detailed information we have to thank our friend, Carlos Guerreiro and his great research.
For further details our thanks to the following sources: