27/28.08.1943 102 Squadron Halifax II JB835 DY-X Sgt. Sproat
Operation: Nürnberg Germany
Date: 27/28th August 1943 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: 102 Squadron
Type: Halifax Mk II
Base: RAF Pocklington, Yorkshire
Location: Auvelais (Namur) on the Sambre, 15 Km WSW of Namur, Belgium.
Pilot: Sgt. Gordon Sproat 1219801 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Flt.Eng: Sgt. Leonard Rees 1316649 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
Nav: Sgt. Frank Hustler Gould 645547 RAF Age 29. Killed
Air Bmr: Sgt. Charles Frederick Painter 1314628 RAFVR Killed
WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Dennis William Firth 1330260 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Air Gnr: Sgt. Reginald W. Horten 1314104 RAF PoW No.222606 Stalag Muhlberg (Elbe 4B)
Air Gnr: Sgt. Norman Richard Gauntlett 1316475 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
UPDATE October 2017: we would very much like to contact relatives of this crew, in particular of Sgt. Reginald W. Horten as we have been contacted by our friends in Belgium with new information that would be of interest!
Update December 2017: Relatives of Sgt. Horten now made contact.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 21:12 hrs from RAF Pocklington, Yorkshire, 674 aircraft – 349 Lancasters, 221 Halifaxes and 104 Stirlings. 11 of each type were lost on the raid: 4.9% of the force. The marking of this raid was based mainly on H2S.
Above: area of loss with insert of the young pilot, Sgt. Gordon Sproat.
In addition the Allies sent four PPF Mosquitoes to make a harassing raid on Duisberg. This was timed badly as the Mosquitoes dropped their bombs some two hours before the main force attacked. Most of the bombers that did not return were attacked during the run in and five were lost on the return trip. Ten German night fighters were shot down during a fierce battle over the bombing area which lasted over thirty minutes.
47 of the Pathfinders H2S aircraft were ordered to check their equipment by dropping a 1000 lb bomb on Heilbronn while flying to Nuremburg. 28 Pathfinder aircraft were able to carry out this order. Heilbronn reports that several bombs did drop in the north of the town soon after midnight. The local officials assumed that the bombs were aimed at the industrial zone, several bombs did fall around the factory area and other bombs fell further away. No industrial buildings were hit, one house was destroyed but there were no casualties.
Above L-R: Sgt. Gordon Sproat, Sgt. Leonard Rees, Sgt. Reginald Horten, Sgt. Dennis Firth, Sgt. Charles Painter, Sgt. Norman Gauntlett, Sgt. Frank Hustler Gould.
Nuremburg was found to be free from cloud but it was very dark. The initial Pathfinder markers were accurate but a creepback quickly developed which could not be stopped because so many Pathfinder aircraft had difficulties with their H2S sets.
The Master Bomber (whose name is not recorded) could do little to persuade the Main Force to move their bombing forward, only a quarter of the crews could hear his broadcasts. Bomber Command estimated that most of the bombing fell in open country SSW of the city but the local reports say that bombs were scattered across the SE and eastern suburbs.
The only location mentioned by name is the Zoo, which was hit by several bombs. 65 people were killed.
Halifax JB835 was Intercepted and shot down over Belgium at just after 04:00 hrs. by German Luftwaffe Me110 Nightfighter Ace, Oblt. Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer and his crew from 12./NJG1. (see Kracker Luftwaffe Archive on this site)
Schnaufer was the Luftwaffe's Top Scoring Night Fighter Ace of WW2 and this aircraft was his 23rd victory from a final total of 121 kills.
He was famously known as 'The Night Ghost of St Truiden'. He survived the war taking over his family wine business, but was killed in a car accident, France, on 13th July 1950.
The following is the personal account of Vranken J.Paul who was an 11 year old on the night in question:
"On Saturday 28th August 1943, I was 11 of age and was suddenly awakened at 4 am in the morning by my parents. A large ball of fire which was big bomber aircraft in flames was flying very low over our Jemeppe home. It crashed in a large field around a half a mile from our home. We could not reach the burning site because of exploding ammunition.
At around 6 am the door bell rang and a bunch of people, maybe a dozen or so presented us with a RAF airman who had parachuted from the burning plane and had wandered around for 2 hours. He had arrived at the local railway station which was filled with workers waiting a train and eventually ended up at our our home. The airman explained to Mrs Dereux, who had just arrived, that he wished to surrender to German Luftwaffe rather than the Wehrmacht. So the whole company proceeded to the borough main office, where we waited until the arrival of the Luftwaffe team at around 8 am.
My father was well known in the city and translated in french/german during the interrogation while Mrs Dereux helped in french/english translation, a trilingual interrogation. This was a very strange and weird situation for me as an 11 years old. Our friend Reginald (Sgt. Horton) was refusing to give anymore than his name, rank and number. The German officer began to get really angry and repeated the questions asking him where he had been that night, which town, etc. He was totally enraged at the airman. Suddenly our gallant Reg Horten spelled in just a few sweet words; "over Nurnberg, with with 700 planes". The Luftwaffe officer was absolutely white faced and I told my father that I would always remember this.
Sgt Horten came back in 1945, He only weighed 70 pounds (32 kgs) but still living and joyful.
The 6 poor airmen where buried, 2 days after in our Jemeppe cemetery with full honours by the Luftwaffe with and loads of flowers, with the whole village attending."
Initially buried at the nearby cemetery in Jemeppe - reinterred after the end of the war.
Sgt. Gordon Sproat. Heverlee War Cemetery, Belgium. Grave: 6.C.15. Son of Henry and Druscilla Peel Sproat, of Claughton-cum-Grange, Birkenhead, Merseyside, England. Epitaph: 'Died For King And Country Ever Remembered By Mother, Father And Sisters.'
Sgt. Leonard Rees. Heverlee War Cemetery, Belgium. Grave: 6.C.17. Son of Sydney and Elizabeth Jane Rees, of Tumble, Carmarthenshire, Wales. 'Peace Perfect Peace'. 'The Peace Of God Which Passeth All Understanding.'
Sgt. Frank Hustler Gould. Heverlee War Cemetery, Belgium. Grave: 6.C.16. Son of Edward Gould, and of Marion Gould, of Frizinghall, Bradford, Yorkshire, England. Epitaph: 'Safe In God's Hands.'
Sgt. Charles Frederick Painter. Heverlee War Cemetery, Belgium. Grave: 6.C.13. Next of kin details not available - are you able to assist? No epitaph.
Sgt. Dennis William Firth. Heverlee War Cemetery, Belgium. Grave: 6.C.14. Son of Willie and Emily Julia Firth, of Sudbury Hill, Middlesex, England. Epitaph: “Thoughts Go Back To Happy Days Life Goes On But Memory Stays.”
Sgt. Norman Richard Gauntlett. Heverlee War Cemetery, Belgium. Grave: 6.C.18. Son of Albert Edward and Ellen Rosina Gauntlett, of North End, Portsmouth, England. Epitaph: “In Loving Memory Of Our Affectionate Son Norman Richard.” “Peace.”
Researcher - Michel Beckers for Aircrew Remembered - February 2017. With thanks to Marcel Rosvelds, other photographs the Michel Beckers collection. Thanks to Vranken J.Paul for his personal account. Other sources as shown below.