07/08.03.1945 No. 214 (Federated Malay States) Squadron Fortress III KJ106 BU-G F/O. George Stewart
Operation: Harburg, Germany (Bomber Support)
Date: 07/08 March 1945 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: No. 214 (Federated Malay States) Squadron - Motto: "Ultor in umbris" ("Avenging in the shadows")
In September 1941 the squadron was honoured by being adopted by the British Malayan Federation and had "Federated Malay States" officially incorporated in its title.
Badge: A nightjar volant affrontée. The nightjar was chosen because it is a bird which is active at night and is indicative of the role of the squadron. Authority: King George VI, March 1938.
Type: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
Base: RAF Oulton, Norfolk
Location: Pippensen, Hamburg, Germany
Pilot: F/O. George Stewart NZ/421849 RNZAF Age 22 - Killed (1)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. William Peter Mulhall 2210752 Age 20 PoW - Camp: Wetzlar (2)
Nav: F/Sgt. Hugh McClure McClymont 1681945 RAFVR Age 23 (3) - Killed
Air/Bmr: P/O John William Winstone NZ/429389 RNZAF Age 25 - Killed (4)
Special Operator: F/O. Nicholas Peters J/45525 previously R/209349 RCAF Age 30 - Killed (5)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: F/Sgt. John Vincent Mathews Aus/428980 RAAF PoW - Camp: Stalag Moosburg - 7a (this was his 31st mission) (6)
Air/Gnr: (Port Waist) Sgt. Alan J. Goldson 1256575 PoW - Camp: Wetzlar (7)
Air/Gnr (Starboard Waist) Sgt. Kenneth C. Phelan 2223309 Age 22 - PoW - Hospitalised at Stalag X-B (8)
Air/Gnr (Top) W/O. J. Henderson 1699586 PoW - Camp: Stalag Moosburg - 7a (9)
Air/Gnr (Rear) P/O. Harry Leonard Henderson J/95282 previously R/211939 RCAF Age 19 - Killed (10)
We appeal to anyone with further information and/or photographs to please contact us via our HELPDESK
After a quiet start to the war 214 Squadron commenced operations on 14 June 1940. Equipped with Wellingtons the squadron served with No. 3 Group, flying missions against naval and industrial targets in Europe as well as participating in mine-laying operations. In the early part of 1942 the squadron converted to Stirlings until January 1944 when the squadron transferred to 100 (Bomber Support) Group.
Re-equipped with the Boeing B17 Flying Fortress the squadron was employed on Radio Counter Measures or RMC operations i.e. the detection and jamming of enemy radio and radar equipment. Code named Jostle such operations involved the use of a 2.5kW airborne jamming transmitter carried in the sealed bomb bays of Flying Fortresses and developed by the Telecommunications Research Establishment.
Jostle was first used operationally by Fortresses of 214 Squadron on 4/5 July 1944. It had been hoped to employ it on or before D-Day, however other priorities intervened.
The Jostle hardware was impressive for its day; the transmitter being built into a high-pressure cylinder weighing 600+ pounds and carried in the bomb-bay. The pressurisation was needed to prevent electrical arcing at high altitudes.
It was employed primarily against H.F. and V.H.F. transmissions, employing both spot-jamming against specific enemy emitters on V.H.F. and broad-band jamming on H.F. (From War in the Ether, a typescript issued by Signals Branch, Bomber Command October 1945)
Jostle operations involved the use of a 2.5kW airborne jamming transmitter carried in the sealed bomb bays of Flying Fortresses and developed by the Telecommunications Research Establishment.
The crew of aircraft equipped with Jostle included a Specialist Operator of the equipment.
REASON FOR LOSS
At 18.14 hours on 7 March 1945 with Flying Officer George Stewart easing back on the stick Fortress KJ106 of 214 Squadron left the runway at RAF Oulton and heading almost due east swiftly covered the 20 miles or so to the coast en route for Northern Germany. Operating as Bomber Support the aircraft's sole function was to jam the enemy radar thus enabling the attacking bomber force to deliver its bombs with the minimum of interference from enemy fighters and flak. On board the Fortress was Canadian Flying Officer Nicholas Peters the Specialist Operator of the jamming equipment.
The target was the oil refinery at Harburg, a suburb of Hamburg, Germany, the bomber force despatched consisting of 234 Lancasters and 7 Mosquitoes of 5 Group. The force carried out an accurate attack damaging the oil refinery and seriously damaging a rubber factory. A total of 422 people were killed including 44 who died in the rubber factory air raid shelter. There were 99 fires, 37 of them classified as large. 14 Lancasters were lost.
The following account of the fate of Fortress KJ106 and its crew has been compiled from letters and other accounts written by crew members, reports of investigations made by the RAF Missing Research and Enquiry Service and by 2731 Squadron, RAF Regiment.
Sgt. Alan Goldson, the port waist gunner recalls the events leading up to the crash:
"We had completed our mission and was just turning out from the target area when I sighted a Ju.88. It was flying on a reciprocal course when first sighted it on the Port beam. I informed the Captain of the aircraft F/O. Stewart of New Zealand. The rear gunner, W/O. Henderson of Canada, and W/O. Henderson, top gunner from Blyth, Northumberland took up the reports also Sgt. Phelan, Starboard Waist Gunner.
The Ju.88 had then turned up to Starboard Quarter to make an attack.
The respective gunners gave the order to corkscrew starboard, and opened fire on the enemy who broke off his attack. It was very dark and we lost sight of him but continued to corkscrew, and search for him.
When the next thing we knew, [a] burst of machine gun and cannon fire was hitting us setting the inner port engine on fire and the bomb bay, wireless cabin, it appeared to be coming from close up underneath us.
The aircraft appeared to be getting out of control and Pilot gave us bailing out orders.
I put on my parachute and made for the door unfastened the latch, pulled the emergency wire but the door would not budge. In the meantime Sgt. Phelan had come to my aid and also F/O. Peters, Special W/O. and F/Sgt. Mathews. But the door would not come off.
We were finally overcome owing to the aircraft been in a dive though I did not loose [sic] my senses we were all four of us lying in a heap on the floor of the aircraft unable to get out when there was a terrific flash. I thought at first we had struck the ground, and began to roll over and over when the next thing I knew I was falling through the air and I pulled my rip cord and landed safely in a field barring for a few gashes here and there".
Australian Wireless Operator John Mathews was able to elaborate on events.
"Fires in both port engines, equipment in bomb bays and wireless compartment and unable to be extinguished order given by Pilot to bail out. No member of the crew known at that time to be injured. Waist Escape Hatch did not jettison and on kneeling down to detach wire holding the door on the aircraft gave a violent lurch to starboard causing me to be flung through the escape hatch taking the door with me. Shortly afterwards aircraft appeared to explode and port wing fall off. F/O. Peters, Special W/Op and Sgts Goldson and Phelan, waist gunners, were still in aircraft at my time of leaving. Aircraft appeared to crash straight into ground [a] short while later just outside village of Buxtehude".
The aircraft reportedly crashed between 22.17 hours and 22.30 hours in the village of Pippensen some 3km from Buxtehude
On landing Alan Goldson heard Sgt.Phelan screaming and calling his name and after collecting up his parachute made for Sgt. Phelan.
"On going through a hedge I bumped not only into Sgt. Phelan but also four German Home Guard over him. At first they did not notice me so I tried to get away after seeing that there was not much I could do for Sgt. Phelan as he had no boots on and appeared to be rather badly injured, but I had not got very far when I was spotted and very soon over-taken owing to all my flying kit and also an injured knee".
Ken Phelan was indeed badly injured, John Matthews noted that both his legs appeared broken and he also had a possible fractured jaw. He had in fact been blown out of the aircraft in the explosion and hit the tail-plane thus breaking his left leg, fracturing his jaw and dislocating his shoulder.
Despite having sustained a badly cut head and a bruised leg John Mathews initially avoided capture but his escape was short-lived and he soon had cause to wish he had been apprehended by the military. "While walking through field, attacked by 6 women with pitch forks from whom I was rescued by local ???"
He had been lucky to escape with nothing more than a few small abrasions from the pitch forks, it might have been far worse!
Alan Goldson says that he was taken to an army hut where he met John Mathews and later on that night they were moved to a naval station and put into cells. The next day they brought in the Top Gunner, W/O. Henderson and the Engineer Sgt. Mulhall. He continues:
"After three days in solitary confinement we moved to another camp unknown to us. We carried Phelan on a stretcher. We were once more placed in solitary confinement but never questioned. After the fourth day they moved us once again with twenty four members of aircrew, leaving Sgt. Phelan behind".
In his report Ken Phelan said, not surprisingly, that he had a "Temporary loss of memory at the time the crash aircraft exploded and was unconscious for 11 days. Came to in Stalag 10 hospital".
Alan Goldson continued "They took us down to Frankfurt and marched us from Frankfurt station to Oberassel [Dulag Luft]. Once more they put us into solitary confinement, the following day they questioned us but on getting no satisfaction put us back in solitary confinement once again. This went on for several days after threatening us, also threatening to shoot us, finally having to move us owing to our troops moving up.
From there they marched us to We[t]zlar outside Frankfurt [a city about 45 miles north of Frankfurt and the location of a transit/satellite camp of Dulag Luft]
Two days later John Mathews and W/O. Henderson along with 300 other men were marched from Wetzlar towards Nuremberg".
Left behind were about 160 men including Sgt. Godson and Sgt. Mulhall who "managed to convince the German doctors that our leg injuries were worse than what they were so we were left behind"
"Two days after the deperture of the above mentioned transport we were ordered to parade at 4 o'clock a.m. as the American Army were within 15 miles. They moved another 80 men from the camp though Sgt. Mulhall and myself managed to be left behind. Two days later we were liberated by the American Army. Four days later we were flying back to England from Gesurn [Giessen?] Aerodrome".
According to John Mathews, he and Top Gunner W/O. Henderson arrived at Stalag 7a Moosburg in southern Bavaria on April 12th. Here they were housed in very poor conditions in huts with straw on the floors, no lighting or heating with space enough only to lie down. Full of lice and with no cooking facilities they were fed very small rations of poor quality bread and soup. Fortunately their misery was short lived when on 29 April the camp was liberated by the Combat Command A of the 14th Armored Division of the American Army. By early May they were back in the UK.
Ken Phelan was still in the hospital at Stalag X-B near Sandbostel, Lower Saxony when the camp was liberated on 29 April 1945 by British Armed Forces of XXX Corps. He was flown home and taken to an RAF hospital for treatment for his injuries and recuperation.
But what of the other five?
Alan Godson tells us that he had learned from W/O. Henderson the top gunner whilst at Wetzlar that he had seen F/O. Stewart and F/Sgt. McClymont bale out as he had followed them but he knew nothing of F/O. Peters, W/O. Henderson the rear gunner or P/O. Winstone.
F/O. C.B. Bullough of 2731 Squadron, RAF Regiment was detailed to conduct an enquiry into the fate of the missing crew members. In his report dated 20 October 1945 he reported that on the previous day he had visited the German civil police at Buxtehude who told him that on 7 March 1945 at about 23.00 hours, a British aircraft crashed in the village of Pippensen. He was then told by the Burgomaster of Pippensen, Wilhelm Peters that on 8 March 1945 on the orders of a German NCO of a searchlight detachment stationed nearby he had buried an Allied airman in the cemetery at Moisburg. He had been given no information regarding the identity of the airman and as he did not see the body could give no information regarding uniform, rank or any nationality flashes.
He also interviewed the Burgomaster of the village of Moisburg who told him that "he knew nothing of the burial of an Allied airman in the village cemetery after Oct. 1944 and in addition did not possess or know of any grave registers". In the cemetery F/O Bullough "saw three graves of Allied airmen, one buried in May 1944 and one in October 1944. The third grave no-one in the village knew anything about except a young girl Fraulein Gerda Uiegars, who lived in a farm overlooking the cemetery. She says that, about the first week in March 1945 she saw a burial party in the cemetery and being curious asked for details. Burgomaster Peters told her it was the body of an Allied airman. German soldiers carried out the burial".
F/O. Bullough then interview the village pastor "who was extremely uncooperative and stated flatly that he was unaware of any burial in his cemetery and could not produce a grave register although admitting that he had sole control over use of the ground. There was no cross on the grave indicating name, nationality or date".
F/O. Bullough next went to the cemetery at Elsdorf [Elstorf] where he "saw two graves of Allied airmen each containing two bodies. The gravediggers wife produced the grave register in which were recorded the names of three of the airmen. These were J.45525 Peters, Off., 421849 Stewart, Off., 1681954 McClymont; the fourth was not named. She then produced three identity discs corresponding to the names mentioned that had been forwarded to her two days after the burial by the Burgomaster of Eyendorf but no identification details regarding the fourth airman were received".
The gravedigger himself was not available.
The Burgomaster of Eyendorf confirmed what the gravedigger's wife had said and that the burials had taken place on 9 March 1945 but was unable to provide any evidence of the identity of the fourth airman "except that all four were found at approximately the same location. He also stated that a fifth airman was buried at Moisburg and understood from the Wehrmacht who gave him orders for the burials that the fifth was from the same aircraft as the four he had personally buries. He remembered vaguely a conversation with a German NCO to the effect that although the bodies were searched for identity discs, none was discovered, except as above".
The Burgomaster was unable to provide any details of the searchlight detachment stationed at Pippensen except that the headquarters of the unit were at a barracks at Fishbeck now being used by the British Army.
On 17 May 1946 Fl/Lt. W.J. Taylor of No 15 Section of the No. 4 Missing Research and Enquiry Unit RAF (Germany) reported that he had visited Moisburg Cemetery and
"On exhuming the body I found it to be that of a Canadian Air Gunner. He had Canada badges on his tunic also the rank of a F/Sgt. His brevet was one of a Canadian Air Gunner. As there was only one Canadian NCO* in the crew these remains are in all probability those of F/Sgt. H.L. Henderson R.211939 as this body was recovered from the only aircraft which crashed in this vicinity on that date.
Granting that F/Sgt. Henderson is buried at Moisburg there is one member of the crew unaccounted for namely P/O. Winstone. As there is only one member of this crew buried as unknown in the Elstorf it is reasonable to presume that this is P/O. Winstone".
The bodies were concentrated at Becklingen War Cemetery at Lüneburg Heath, Lower Saxony on 5 September 1946.
* Since Harry Henderson's promotion to Warrant Officer was only 9 days before being shot down and his promotion to Pilot Officer was on 6 March 1945, RAF records still recorded him as a Flight Sergeant.
Comprising 2 New Zealanders, 1 Australian, 2 Canadians (one of them Russian born) 1 Scotsman, 2 Englishmen and 2 probable UK the diverse national origins of the members of this crew epitomised the united spirit and mutual objectives of Allied aircrews during World War Two.
(1) F/O. George Stewart was born c1922 the son of Robert James Stewart and Annie Elizabeth Stewart, of Pukehiki Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand.
(2) Sgt. W.P Mulhall was born on 14 April 1925 at Preston. Lancshire the son of William J. Mulhall. a Civil Servant and Dorothy P. Mulhall nee Walker. He had two sisters;mary P. Mulhall born 1921 and Joan D. Mulhall born 1926. In 1939 the family lived at 19 Carlisle Avenue, Preston.
After his liberation he was admitted to RAF Hospital, Cosford.
In 1951 he married Joan Dewhurst (marriage registered in the Amounderness District, Lanacshire). They had three children: William N. Mulhall born 1956, Simon J. Mulhall born 1959 and Caroline J. Mulhall born 1963.
William Peter Mulhall died in 1996 his death being registered at Preston and South Ribble District. (Details kindly provided by researcher John Jones)
(3) F/Sgt. Hugh McClure McClymont was born in 1921 at Rankinston, Ayrshire, Scotland the son of David McClure McClymont and Helen McClymont nee Lorimer. He had two known bothers Findlay Lorimer McClymont (1923 - 2009) and David McClymont (1926-1979). Flight Sergeant Hugh Mcclure McClymont is commemorated on the Scottish National War Memorial, Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
(4) P/O John William Winstone was born c1919 the son of Herbert John Marriner Winstone and Agnes Essy Edith Winstone nee Thacker, of Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand.
(5) F/O. Nicholas (Nicholai) Peters was born on 8 April 1915 at Bergthal Estate, Schoenfeld, South Russia (now Ukraine) the son of Isaac Franzev Peters (a Farmer) and Elizabeth Peters (nee Riediger). He had seven brothers and five sisters. In 1925 when Nicholas was 10 the family fled Russia in the wake of the Russian Revolution and emigrated to Canada where they settled at Grande Pointe, Manitoba and were naturalised on 7 May 1931.
Nicholas attended Riel School at Grande Pointe from 1926 to 1929. In 1935 he went to work in the coal mines of East Coulee, Alberta and later the Pioneer Gold Mines in British Columbia. After taking a correspondence course he attended the University of Manitoba for a year studying Agriculture. Prior to enlisting he worked as a Bench Fitter and Aircraft Inspector at the De Havilland Aircraft Company in Toronto. On 10 May 1942 he married Emma Marguerite Tustian and lived at 26 Roseneath Gardens, Toronto.
He enlisted at Toronto on 2 December 1942 when he was described as 5'8" weighing 164 lbs with a fair complexion, hazel eyes and fair hair and enjoyed Bowling.
After attending No. 23 Pre-Aircrew Educational Detachment (PAED) at RCAF Toronto Nicholas Peters was trained at No. 1 Initial Training School, RCAF Toronto before being posted to No. 1 Air Observer School, RCAF Malton, Ontario on 2 January 1944 where he was awarded his Navigators Badge on 19 May 1944 and commissioned as a Pilot Officer.
On 3 June 1944 he was posted to No. 1 Aircrew Graduates Training School, RCAF Maitland, Nova Scotia for six weeks on a pseudo army commando course intended to train airmen in survival/escape techniques useful to them if shot down over enemy territory.
On 11 July he embarked at Halifax and on arrival was posted to No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre at RAF Bournemouth on 19 July He was posted to No. 1657 Conversion Unit at RAF Shepherds Grove Suffolk on 5 September and to No. 214 Squadron on 20 September. He was promoted to Flying Officer on 19 November 1944.
Nicholas Peters wrote a book of poetry entitled "Another Morn" which was published by his wife in 1947 and an example of his poetry taken from the book can be found at http://www.fredsakademiet.dk/abase/digte/digt46.ht...
The memory of Flying Officer Nicholas Peters was honoured by the Province of Manitoba with the naming of Peters Rapids in the North Knife River, Manitoba.
(6) W/O. John Vincent Mathews was born on 20 September 1923 at Hornsby, a suburb of Sydney Australia the son of Eric John Mathews of 16 Mildred Avenue, Hornsby. He was educated at North Sydney Junior High School (1935-1938), North Sydney Boys High School (1938-1940).
After leaving school he worked as a Clerk for the Hornsby Shire Council. On enlistment at Sydney on 22 October 1942 he was described as being 5'6" tall weighing 125lbs with a medium complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair and he listed sports played as Tennis, Squash, Swimming and weight Lifting. He trained at RAAF Tocumal NSW, No. 2 Initial Training School Bradfield Park, Sydney, No. 3 Wireless and Gunnery School Maryborough, Queensland, No. 1 Bombing and Gunnery School Evans Head, NSW, where on 16 September 1943 he was awarded his Air Gunners Badge and promoted to Sergeant. On 27 September 1943 he embarked at Melbourne for the UK disembarking on 9 November and posted to 11 Personnel Despatch and reception Centre at RAF Padgate, Cheshire. After Air Navigation and Bombing School he was posted to No. 3 (Observer) Advanced Flying Unit at RAF South Cerney, Gloucestershire where he received his Wireless Operator (Air) Badge on 11 March 1944. On 16 March 1944 he was promoted to Flight Sergeant.
There followed three months night bomber training on Wellingtons at 26 Operational Training Unit, RAF Wing, Buckinghamshire and after a further six weeks at 1657 Conversion Unit at RAF Stradishall, Suffolk for conversion training on heavies he was posted to 214 Squadron at RAF Oulton on 19 September 1944. He was promoted to Warrant Officer on 16 March 1945 whilst a prisoner of war.
(7) Sgt. A J. Goldson - probably born Newmarket, Suffolk in 1922 the son of Frank Goldson and Ellen Thomson Goldson nee Hardie.
(8) Sgt. Kenneth C. Phelan - probably Kenneth Chiasson Phelan born in 1923 at Sheffield, West Riding of Yorkshire the son of George Phelan and Annie Phelan nee Morton. Probably married Daphne T. Harrison in 1945 at Southend, Essex in 1945 and died at Canterbury, Kent in 2002 aged 79.
(9) W/O. J. Henderson - nothing further known, if you can assist please contact our HELPDESK.
(10) P/O. Harry Leonard Henderson was born 11 July 1925 at Vulcan Alberta Canada the son of John Valentine Henderson (A Farmer born at Kintore, Aberdeen, Scotland) and Lavina Henderson nee Patchett (born in Manchester, England). He had an older brother Frank Alexander Henderson born 1923 and younger brother Basil Desmond Henderson born 1929. The family later moved to Innisfail, Alberta where Harry attended Innisfail Public School (1938-39) and Innisfail High School (1939-42). after leaving school he worked at Bowden Airport as an Aircraft Mechanic helping his brother from July to October 1942 and then on his father's farm until enlisting at Calgary on 4 February 1943. He was described as 5'4½" weighing 121lbs with medium complexion, blue eyes and brown hair. He enjoyed skating, basketball and badminton.
He trained at No. 4 Service Flying Training School at RCAF Saskatoon, No. 4 Wireless School at RCAF Guelph, Ontario, No. 2 Air Gunners Ground Training School at RCAF Trenton and No. 3 Bombing and Gunnery School at RCAF MacDonald, Manitoba where he was awarded his Air Gunners Badge on 26 November 1943 and promoted to Sergeant. After six weeks at 1Y Depot Halifax he was posted to the newly opened No. 4 Aircrew Graduate Training School at Valleyfield, Quebec on a four week pseudo army commando course intended to train airmen in survival/escape techniques useful to them if shot down over enemy territory. After returning to 1Y depot he embarked for the UK on 5 March 1944 and on arrival was posted to No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre at RAF Bournemouth on 15 March. Posted to 26 Operational Training Unit at RAF Wing Buckinghamshire on 21 March 1944 and 3 Group Air Gunnery School on 28 July 1944 before being posted to 214 Squadron at RAF Oulton on 30 September 1944. He was promoted to Flight Sergeant on 26 August 1944, Warrant Officer 2nd Class on 26 February 1944 and commissioned as a Pilot Officer on 6 March 1945.
BURIAL DETAILS AND EPITAPHS
(1) F/O. George Stewart was originally buried at Elstorf and re-interred at Becklingen War Cemetery on 5 September 1946 - Plot XIV Row D Grave 11
(3) F/Sgt. Hugh McClure McClymont was originally buried at Elstorf and re-interred at Becklingen War Cemetery on 5 September 1946 - Plot XIV Row D Grave 13
(4) P/O John William Winstone was originally buried at Elstorf and re-interred at Becklingen War Cemetery on 5 September 1946 - Plot XIV Row D Grave 12
(5) F/O. Nicholas Peters was originally buried at Elstorf and re-interred at Becklingen War Cemetery on 5 September 1946 - Plot XIV Row D Grave 14
His epitaph reads:
"Show us your light, O God,
That we may fight
For peace with peace
And not with war"
(10) P/O. Harry Leonard Henderson was originally buried at Moisburg and re-interred at Becklingen War Cemetery on 5 September 1946 - Plot XIV Row C Grave 14
His epitaph reads
The Lord gave,
And the Lord hath taken away;
Blessed be the name
Of the Lord. Job I.21
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - November 2016
With thanks to the sources quoted below.