23/24.09.1944 N0. 617 Squadron Lancaster I NF923 KC-M Fl/Lt. Geoffrey S. Stout DFC
Date: 23/24th September 1944 (Saturday/Sunday)
Unit: No. 617 Squadron
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Woodhall Spa
Location: Vordensebinnenweg, Lochem, Holland
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Geoffrey Stevenson Stout DFC. 145510 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
Fl/Eng: P/O. Alan William Benting 182038 RAFVR Age 22. Injured (1)
Nav: F/O. Clyde Euan Miles Graham MiD. 159937 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
Air/Bmr: F/O. W.A. Rupert J/27691 RCAF - Evaded capture - liberated by Grenadier Guards 31st March 1945
W/Op/Air/Gnr: F/O. R.J. Allen DFC. 52101 RAFVR PoW No: 6165 Camp: Stalag Luft Barth Vogelsang (L1)
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Peter Linn Whittaker DFM. 1587036 RAFVR PoW No further details, but liberated by British Army 31st March 1945. (3)
Air/Gnr: F/O. Reginald Herbert Petch DFC. 50189 RAFVR Evaded capture - Interviewed by MI9 in UK April 1945.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 19:18 hrs to breach the Dortmund-Ems canal north of Münster. Selected for the fact that the water level at this point was significantly higher than the surrounding land, 136 Lancasters and 5 Mosquitos from No. 5 group RAF Bomber Command attacked this target. Despite the rather heavy and low clouds, the dyke was successfully breached, resulting in the draining of the Nazis’ important waterway over a length of 9 km. An important element of this attack was the two direct hits by Tallboy-bombs delivered by 617 Squadron.
This aircraft NF923 was also armed with the "Tallboy" Barnes Wallis bomb. Failed to see the target to drop the bomb and under instructions to return with it if that happened.
On the homeward bound flight, the aircraft was attacked by a night fighter, 3 engines were knocked out, also a fire started in the bomb bay. The pilot instructed the crew to bail out whilst he held the aircraft steady. 6 of the crew did so, one crew member did not survive the jump, P/O. Benting died of his injuries some two days later in Enschede Hospital. The pilot died in the aircraft when it crashed near Lochem.
It is "probable" that this Lancaster was the victim of Hptm. Heinz Wolfgang Schnaufer (2) who intercepted at 23:15 hrs over Vreden-Borken at 3,900mts. (shown right)
MI9 Debrief statement from Fl/Sgt. Peter Whittaker DFM:
'I touched down safely and then realised I too had been hit, in the right elbow, and I could not bend my arm, also in the head. I decided to make for the South-West (Arnhem direction) and after about an hour's journey came to a farm, at which I sought help. It was 2300 hours by my watch. The door was opened by a young girl. My reception seemed a bit odd, but I was invited to come into the living room, where there were some people. I was in my battle dress and A.G. insignia was clearly visible, also I said "Englander". Whilst I was applying my field dressing to my elbow, I noticed one of the men leave the room. It seemed to me that he might be off to fetch the Germans and I got up to leave too. The other man in the room got between me and the door and held me up with a pistol. I got him to look over his shoulder and at that moment kicked him hard in the stomach - whilst he was on the ground I grabbed his pistol and bolted. I ran and walked for a time still heading SW, when a car came along heading for the farm I had left. From what I gathered later, the farm in question was owned by noted N.S.B. people, and quite probably the car contained Germans fetched by the man who had left the house. I understand the family were "taken care of" by the Underground Movement.
After a short time I came to another farm where I hid in some straw. I lay up until the following evening, keeping the place under observation. It seemed alright-no sign of troops, and so in the evening I ventured in and received a very friendly welcome. I was given food and my wounds were dressed, although at the same time a doctor was sent for. He did something to my arm - seemed to break something, there was a crack, and it was freed from the stiff fixed position, so that the doctor could strap it up half bent. I gather a shrapnel had hit the elbow, also the doctor pulled a piece of splinter from my head. I received the greatness kindness from all and was then put to bed. They took my battle-dress away, but I insisted upon it's return. During the next few days I received a note from Rupert [the crew's Bomb-Aimer] who asked whether I would like to join him. I said yes, and on the 8th day of my stay I was taken by bicycle and in civilian clothes to where Rupert was hiding. This was a barn in the grounds of a large farm. I wore my RAF clothes underneath my civilian clothes.
The farm where Rupert and I were sheltering was a large one - a successful drop of arms was made from about 500 feet. Here I stayed another 14 days, during which time the following joined us: Lt. Guthrie ( 1 Para. Div), Capt. James M.C. (1 Para Div), Sgts. Warren and Horne (both escapers from Stalag IVB), Pte. Granat (Polish Tank Div.).
On about the 15th day we were given bikes and went off in a convoy of some 80-90 Dutchmen (on the run from the Germans) and cycled to a marsh in the middle of which was a little island where some sort of camp had been prepared. Only some of the Dutchmen of the convoy remained with us, the others went on to a destination unknown to me. This camp was a kind of arsenal to which supplies were brought daily.
I fell ill, was running a high temperature, and was taken by bike to Laren where I received medical attention. Unfortunately after two days the Gestapo were reported to be in the vicinity, and I was transferred to another farm. My companion and I cycled past a number of SS troops but were not molested. Here I joined up with Thorne and Granat.
We slept in a chicken run in a nearby wood with some Dutchmen, and life was uneventful for three weeks. During the fourth week, about 04:00 hours one morning, one of the family at the farm knocked at our hide-out and told us the Landwacht were around. Luckily, prompted by some nervous urge, I had buried quite a lot of incriminating evidence of our stay - including a military W.T. which had been acquired and some car plates from a Gestapo car which the Underground had blown up.
We all made for the fields and scattered. I went with Thorne and Granat followed us. We found we were surrounded - whenever we reached a hedge the Germans seemed to be there, so we took refuge in a ditch and here we remained for a time. Some of the patrolling Germans stopped at the very spot we lay hidden, and after a while one looked down and saw us. We were ordered out at the point of a rifle - on the way out I dropped my pistol, and Thorne trod it into the soil. I was wearing an overall but had a civvie jacket over it.'
After being searched and marched to Laren, and then Deventer HQ, Whittaker and 23 others ended up on an 18 x 8 and half feet cell with limited rations in the Landwacht Headquarters. Three days interrogation followed at the hands of the Gruenepolizei before the prisoners were taken to Oxerhof and passed over to the Sicherheitsdienst. After a three week stay here they were driven to Doetingham, 'Food was even scantier and we all began to feel pretty weak, especially when we had a ten day cold spell of minus 10 degrees with no heating or extra clothes.'
The decision was taken to move the prisoners again, this time via train to Hamburg, and during the journey a group including Whittaker managed to fashion their escape out of the cattle truck they were in and indeed off the moving train. He decided at this juncture to proceed alone in the general direction of Arnhem and once again laid low in a friendly farm, awaiting the Arnhem Airborne landing, 'I was very cordially received and spent about seven weeks being fed like a "fighting cock"....... On 31.3.1945 I heard the sound of an approaching battle, and in the evening went off to meet the troops. It was a bit rough as I was under two fires, however I was able to give the British Troops of 43 Div. the location of a German 88 mm. which was giving them trouble. From the forward troops I was passed down to IS9.
(1) P/O. Alan William Benting was a former pupil of Moseley Grammar school
(Now secondary/grammar school. We are working very closely with the school's historians to remember all the ex pupils who died whilst serving with the RAF and recorded on the school memorial.
(2) Hptm. Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer of Stab IV./NJG1, already an ace at this time with an incredible 97 abschüsse, survived the war, but was killed in a car accident in France in 1945. (Total of 121 night kills)
(3) DFM Citation, London Gazette 7th December 1945:
‘Fl/Sgt. Whittaker was shot down on the 23rd September, 1944, on his 37th sortie. He was a mid-upper gunner and has completed a most successful tour of operations and had volunteered to continue operating for a second tour with a Special Duties squadron. Flight Sergeant Whittaker was most keen and enthusiastic for operational flying and at all times he showed the greatest courage, determination, and devotion to duty. He operated against heavily defended targets in Germany and occupied territory, and on occasions fighter opposition was experienced. On his last sortie Flight Sergeant Whittaker showed exceptional gallantry and fortitude. His aircraft was intercepted by a night fighter and was hit by cannon shells, which knocked out three engines and set on fire the bomb-bay. This N.C.O. made every effort to extinguish the flames but without success. The Navigator of the aircraft had been very badly wounded and was groping amid the smoke and flames for his parachute. When Flight Sergeant Whittaker and the Air Bomber were about to abandon the aircraft, they found the Navigator collapsed on the forward escape hatch. They pulled him to one side, freed the hatch and, after fixing a parachute to him, they pulled the rip-cord and pushed him out of the aircraft. Then Flight Sergeant Whittaker made every effort to assist the pilot who was sitting in his seat apparently wounded. The pilot was groping for his parachute and this NCO went back in the fuselage to find one for him. He heard a shout from the pilot and, thinking he had found his parachute, Flight Sergeant Whittaker then abandoned the aircraft. The details of his exploits are contained in an M.I.9 Report, Ref. I.S.9/WEA/2/1054/2448. By his courageous action and praiseworthy disregard for danger, this NCO showed gallantry of the highest order. He is strongly recommended for the non-immediate award of the Distinguished Flying Medal.’
Fl/Lt. Geoffrey Stevenson Stout DFC Lochem New General Cemetery Row 1. Grave 2. Son of Jacob Stevenson Stout and Emma Stout, of Whitehaven, Cumberland, England. BA (Cantab.).
P/O. Alan William Benting. Enchede Eastern General Cemetery. Joint grave 200-201. Son of William and Elizabeth Benting, of Acocks Green, Birmingham, England.
F/O. Clyde Euan Miles Graham Mentioned in Despatches, Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery Grave 4.C.13. Son of Major-General Sir Miles Graham, KBE, CB, MC, and of Lady Evelyn Graham (née King), husband of Daphne Marion Graham, of Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, England.
Researched by Webmaster. With thanks to the following: Keith Townsend historian of Moseley Secondary/Grammar school memorial records, other sources as quoted below.