22/23.06.1943 No. 429 Squadron Wellington X HF457 AL-H P/O. William A. Sneath
Date: 22/23rd June 1943 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
Unit: No. 429 Squadron
Type: Wellington X
Base: RAF East Moore, Yorkshire
Location: Houthalen, Belgium
Pilot: P/O. William Alfred Sneath J/17777 RCAF Age 30. Killed
Nav: P/O. Roger G Clarke J/21825 RCAF PoW No: 1491 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria (L4)
Air/Bmr: P/O. Athol Bury Drummond-Hay J/21465 RCAF PoW No: 1493 Camp: Sagan and Belaria (L3)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. James Theodore Hindley 1058762 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. James Oliver Hills R/176395 RCAF Age 22. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 23.338 hrs from RAF East Moore in Yorkshire to bomb the German city of Mülheim - a bomber force made up with 242 Lancasters, 155 Halifaxes, 93 Stirlings, 55 Wellingtons and 12 Mosquitoes - 557 aircraft in total.
Top two left, pilot P/O. William Sneath, right, Sgt. James Hindley (courtesy Lois Ann Cox Garlitz and Alan Wilson)
The city was seriously damaged, the bombing (between 01.18 hrs - 02.09 hrs) had cut all communications with Oberhausen, with which Mülheim was linked for air-raid purposes. No one could get through, not even cyclists, the only possible way in which they could communicate was with foot messengers. The total damage was reported as 578 people killed on the ground, - 1,174 injured. 1,135 houses were destroyed with a further 12,637 damaged. Various other buildings were hit including 41 public buildings, 27 schools, 17 churches and 6 hospitals. It has been reported that 64% of the town was destroyed.
P/O. Athol Bury Drummond-Hay J/21465 RCAF (courtesy Astrid Van Erp)
This came at a huge loss to the Allies with 35 aircraft being lost. 202 aircrew killed, 34 being made Prisoners of War with 3 aircrew evading capture.
Another 429 Squadron Wellington was also lost:
Wellington X HZ312 Flown by 22 year old W/Cdr. Joseph Logan Savard DFC, the youngest commanding officer to be killed on operations during 1943. W/Cdr. Savard from the Montreal Province of Quebec, Canada was killed with all four other crew.
Wellington HF457 was shot down by Oblt. Hans Autenreith of II./NJG1 on detachment to 6./NJG4 with the aircraft crashing at 02.10 hrs. at Houthalen Belgium.
(1) Oblt. Hans Autenrieth (shown above
) already an ace at this time with 13 kills, went on to make a total of 22 kills, before he was shot down on the 4th August 1944 and taken prisoner. He did manage to evade capture for 2 days before being caught by the French resistance. Understood to have survived the war - no further details.
Memorial to this and other crews (courtesy J.P. Jegers)
Crew graves (courtesy Michel Beckers)
Crew members were initially buried on the 25th June at St-Truiden - reinterred after the end of the war at Heverlee.
P/O. William Alfred Sneath. Heverlee War Cemetery. Grave 8.K.6. Son of Charles Alexander Sneath and Lois Rebecca Sneath, of Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada.
Sgt. James Theodore Hindley. Heverlee War Cemetery. Grave 8.K.7. Son of the Revd. James Hindley and Louise Hindley, of Buxton, Derbyshire, England.
Fl/Sgt. James Oliver Hills. Heverlee War Cemetery. Grave 8.K.5. Son of Ross F. and Minnie B. Hills, of Dilke, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Researched by Michel Beckers for Aircrew Remembered, November 2014. With thanks to Mrs. Lois Ann Cox Garlitz for photos of P/O. William Sneath, Astrid Van Erp for photos of P/O. Athol Drummond-Hay and newspaper, Alan Wilson for photo of Sgt. James Hindley, finally to J.P. Jegers for the photo of the memorial to the crew.