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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.


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617 Squadron
13.02.1944 No. 617 Squadron Lancaster 1 DV382 KO-J Sq/Ldr. Suggitt DFC

Operation: In Transit

Date: 13th February 1944 (Saturday)

Unit: No. 617 (RAF) Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: DV382

Code: KC-J

Base: RAF Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire

Location: 10 miles N.E. Chichester, Sussex

Pilot: Sq/Ldr. William Reid Suggitt. DFC J/15131. RCAF Age 24. Inj. (1)

Fl/Eng: Fl/Sgt. John Pulford. DFM 652403. RAF Age 24. Killed (2)

Nav: F/O. John Irvine Gordon. DFC 412218. RAAF Age 31. Killed (3)

Air/Bmr: F/O. Norman James Davidson. J/22514. RCAF Age 23. Killed (4)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: F/O. Stanley George Hall. 411775. RAAF Age 23. Killed (5)

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. John Paul Riches. 1390921. RAFVR Age 22. Killed (6)

Air/Gnr: F/O. John McBride Dempster. DFM J/17206. RCAF Age 20. Killed (7)

Passenger: Sq/Ldr. Thomas Williams Lloyd. DSO 84133 RAFVR Age 52. (8)

REASON FOR LOSS:

Returning from an operation on the Antheor Viaduct, Southern France the aircraft landed at RAF Ford, West Sussex to refuel. It took off at 08:20hrs in low cloud and poor visibility to return to its home base at Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire. At 08.:30hrs the aircraft crashed into a hillside near Duncton, 10 miles NE of Chichester.

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Left: 2nd left Fl/Sgt. Pulford DFM Entering the aircraft of W/C Gibson DSO DFM. Right: Debriefing of Wing Commander Guy Gibson's crew after the Dam's operation on the night of the 16/17th May 1943. Fl/Sgt. Pulford is partly hidden on the right of the picture. (both pictures courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

Left: Fl/Sgt Stanley George Hall and 3rd on the left is Fl/Sgt. John Irvine Gordon two of the crew of a Lancaster bomber of 467 Squadron on the 6th May 1943. Right: Sgt. John Gordon on the right, Staffordshire, England 1942. (Both pictures courtesy of the Australian War Museum)

Accident report (courtesy LAC Ottawa via David Champion)


The lake in Canada named after Sq/Ldr. William (Bill) Reid Suggitt. DFC

Fl/Sgt. John Pulford DFM was buried at Hull Northern Cemetery, Yorkshire on the 18th February 1944. F/O. John McBride Dempster, F/O. Norman James Davidson and P/O. John Irvine Gordon were all buried at Coningsby Cemetery, Lincolnshire on the 19th February 1944. A full complement of Officers and airmen represented the Squadron. Relatives of P/O. Gordon and F/O. Davidson attended the funeral

Left to right: Sq/Ldr. Suggitt DFC, Fl/Sgt. Pulford DFM, F/O. Gordon DFC, F/O. Hall, F/O. Dempster DFM

Burial details:

Sq/Ldr. William (Bill) Reid Suggitt. DFC Chichester Cemetery, Sussex. Square 159. C. of E. Plot. Grave 2
Sq/Ldr. Suggitt was injured and admitted to St. Richard's Hospital, Chichester where he died of his injuries two days later on the 15th February 1944 at the age of 24

Son of Thomas and Grace Reid Suggitt of Toronto, Canada (1) Thomas was born on 2 December 1920 in Toronto, Ontario and lived there prior to the war. William attended the Danforth Park School from 1927 to 1934 before graduating from the East York Collegiate in 1939 with a senior matriculation. After school he took a job with the Robert Simpson Company as an invoice office clerk until 15 October 1940 hen William Suggitt joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in Toronto and was posted to No.1 Initial Training School, Toronto. On graduation, 8 December 1940 he was selected for pilot training, promoted to Leading Aircraftman and posted to No.9 Elementary Flying Training School in St. Chatharines, Ontario and then to No.10 Elementary Flying Training School at Mount Hope, Ontario on 23 January 1941. On 28 January 1941 he graduated and was posted to No.5 Service Flying Training School in Brantford, Ontario where he graduated on 7 April 1941. On graduation he was awarded his pilot wings and promoted to Sergeant by Group Captain B.F. Johnson. Sgt Suggitt went overseas arriving in England on 19 May 1941 and was ken on strength to No.22 Operational Training Unit for bomber crew training on Wellington bombers. After completing operational training, Sgt Suggitt was posted to 405 City of Vancouver Squadron. He was promoted to Flight Sergeant on 1 November 1941 and a month later transferred to 104 (RAF) Squadron. While flying with 104 Squadron he was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on 5 January 1942. A month later he was transferred to 158 (RAF) Squadron where he finished a tour of operations. P/O Suggitt was posted to No.26 Operational Training Unit where he trained a new crew on Wellington bombers and while there was promoted to Flying Officer on 1 October 1942. On 9 December 1942 he was promoted to Flight Lieutenant and posted to 428 Ghost Squadron, part of Bomber Command flying Wellington aircraft. He soon rose to the rank of Squadron Leader on 11 March 1943. From May to June 1943 he was attached to 1659 Heavy Conversion Unit in Topcliffe. While with 428 Squadron, Squadron Leader Suggitt was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross as per London Gazette dated 9 July 1943. His citation reads as follows: “This officer has a fine operational record which has included sorties to all the most heavily defended centers in Germany and enemy occupied territory. He has recently taken part in raids on the Ruhr Valley including Essen and Duisburg and on the U-Boat bases of North-West Germany and France. Despite intense anti-aircraft opposition, even when the bomber has been hit by shrapnel from very close shell bursts, he has always pressed home his attacks with the utmost determination. He is an ideal operational captain whose example has been an inspiration to all other pilots in the squadron.” He flew a total of eight raids on Hamburg, bombed the Krupp armament works at Essen six times, raided Cologne five times as well as Turin, Bremen, Paris, St. Nazaire, Lorient, Wilhelmshaven and Duisburg. On 26 October 1943 S/L Suggitt was transferred to 617 (RAF) Squadron, the famous Dambusters as a flight commander. They flew special bombing missions on extremely difficult targets. S/L Suggitt flew against such targets as the docks of Pas de Calais, Liege Armaments Factory and Flexecourt. After completing two operational tours he was due to be transferred out of an operational unit but choice to stay with his crew. (Courtesy of Mark Suggitt (not related) for the above information)

Fl/Sgt. John Pulford. DFM Hull Northern Cemetery, Yorkshire. Compt. 263. Grave 77
Son of George William and Ada Elizabeth Pulford of Hull
(2) John was awarded the DFM. in 1943 while serving with 617 Squadron. Supplement to the London Gazette 28th May 1943, John went to London on the 16th November 1943 for the Investiture. Fl/Sgt. John Pulford DFM also served as flight engineer for Guy Gibson in Lancaster ED932 AJ-G on the Dambuster Raid 16/17th May 1943 (Operation Chastise) W/C. Gibson's aircraft and four other crews bombed the Mohne Dam and breached it despite intense fire from Flak

F/O. John Irvine Gordon. DFC Coningsby Cemetery, Lincolnshire. Row 64. Grave 1252
Son of David Irvine Gordon and Mildred Gordon of Cessnock, New South Wales, Australia. Husband of Mary V. S. Gordon of London, England. BA, Dip. Ed.
(3) John was born on the 26th February 1912 in Cessnock, New South Wales and enlisted in Sydney. Awarded the DFC in 1943 while serving with No. 467 Squadron as per Supplement to the London Gazette 10th December 1943. Sgt. John I Gordon (later F/O) was awarded the DFC after 30 operations with No. 467 Squadron. He bacame a navigator with 617th (Special Duties) Squadron, RAF known as the "Dambusters" (Picture courtesy of the Australian War Mmorial)


F/O. Norman James Davidson. Coningsby Cemetery, Lincolnshire. Row 64. Grave 1253. Son of James and Henrietta Elizabeth Davidson of Toronto, Ontario, Canada (4) Born on the 11th June 1920 (shown right - courtesy LAC Ottawa via David Champion)

F/O. Stanley George Hall. Wickham Market Cemetery, Suffolk. Row Q. Grave 31. Son of Edith Hall of Wickham Market, Woodbridge, Suffolk
(5) Stanley was born on the 21st June 1920 in Saxtead, England and enlisted in Sydney on the 25th May 1941. (formally from Richmond New South Wales) He served with 467 Squadron and completed 27 operations. P/O. S. G. Hall was posted to No 617 Squadron from 1668 Conversion Unit on the 9th November 1943 and while with 617 Squadron he completed 9 operations. Stanley was commissioned on the 10th July 1943 (Courtesy of Australian National Archives)

Right: Fl/Sgt. John Paul Riches. (courtesy of Special Forces Roll of Honour)

Fl/Sgt. John Paul Riches. Lingfield (SS. Peter and Paul) Churchyard Extension, Surrey. Grave Ref. East Part (Family grave) Son of John Harvey Riches and Alice May Riches of Lingfield. Husband of Lily Riches
(6) John had been a member of Sq/Ldr. Suggitt's crew since 1943

F/O. John McBride Dempster. DFM Coningsby Cemetery, Lincolnshire. Row 64. Grave 1254
Son of John Gass Dempster and Margaret Dempster of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
(7) John was awarded the DFM while serving with No. 57 Squadron as Flt. Sgt. As air gunner this airman has participated in numerous sorties, including an attack on Milan. One night in December 1942 during the flight to Duisburg, Flt. Sgt. Dempster shot down an enemy fighter which attempted to attack his aircraft. One night in January 1943 he took part in an attack on Essen. During the return flight his aircraft was attacked by an enemy fighter, but Flt. Sgt. Dempster drove it off with devastating fire, which caused it to fall towards the ground with one of its engines alight. (As per Flight Magazine April 1st 1943) Posted to No 617 Squadron on the 9th November 1943 from 1485 Bomber and Gunner Flight

Sq/Ldr. Thomas (Tommy) Williams Lloyd. DSO Cheltenham Crematorium, Gloucestershire. Panel 1
Son of Walter Edmund and Annie Lloyd Lloyd. Husband of Alice Joan Lloyd. (8) At the time of his death, Thomas's address was given as 46 Lowndes Square, London (8) Sq/Ldr. Thomas (Tommy) William Lloyd. DSO was the Intelligence Officer for the squadron and after de-briefing the crew after their mission he was offered a lift back to his home base at Woodhall Spa. Thomas William Lloyd served with the 4th Battalion, King's Liverpool Regiment in WW1 and was wounded in 1915 while serving in France. He was awarded the DSO for distinguished services during the Great War. London Gazette 3rd June 1918. MiD 1st January 1943 and 8th June 1944. At the age of 52 Sq/Ldr Thomas William Lloyd DFC was the oldest officer to be killed in Bomber Command in 1944

Please also see: The memorial plaque for Lancaster DV382 placed at the site of the crash (courtesy of Traces of War.com)

Researched by: Kate Tame for all the relatives of the crew. With special thanks to: Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Mark Suggitt, W. R. Chorley - Bomber Command Losses 1944, Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - Bomber Command War Diaries, Find a Grave, The Chichester Observer, The Australian War Memorial, Steve Sale Gravestone Photographic Resources, Imperial War Museum, Tobin Jones - transcript of No 617 Squadron Operational Record Book, Aircrew Remembered Archive, Special Forces Roll of Honour. Also to LAC Ottawa and David Champion for additional information.

Acknowledgements: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives and Fred Paradie - Paradie Archive (both on this site), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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