28/29.01.1944 150 Squadron Wellington X JA470 Fl/Sgt. David Harold Susman
Operation: Verona (Brenner Pass) Marshalling Yards
Date: 28/29 January 1944 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: 150 Squadron - Motto: Αιει Φθανομεν (Greek for 'Always Ahead')
Squadron Badge: In front of a cross voided, two arrows in saltire, the points uppermost. The cross is adopted in reference to the arms of Greece. Authorised by King George VI - March 1939.
Type: Vickers Wellington X
Call sign: Not known
Base: Cerignola No.3 (Italy)
Pilot: Fl/Sgt. David Harold Susman Aus/417129 RAAF Age 20. PoW No. 1083 Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug - L6 (1)
Nav: P/O. Thomas Alfred Stanton 136369 RAFVR Age 21 PoW No. 3459 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria - L3 (2)
Air/Bmr: P/O. James Jeff Millar Taylor 139723 RAFVR Age 32. PoW No. 3618. Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria - L3 (3)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Stanley Jeacocke Aus/425310 RAAF Age 30. - Evaded and returned to unit safely (4)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. William Alexander MacGuffie 2209020 RAFVR Age 37. - Evaded and returned to unit safely (5)
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Formed in June 1943 at 21 Operational Training Unit at Moreton in Marsh Gloucestershire the crew was later posted to 311 Ferry Flight Training Unit based at the same station on 30 September. Transferred to 30 Aircraft Delivery Unit on 8 October they flew to Tunisia where they joined 150 Squadron at Kairouan West airfield on 23 October.
It was almost three weeks later on the night of 11/12 November before the crew was detailed for its first operation as one of eleven aircraft that were to attack the Marshalling Yards at Prato just north of Florence. The raid was a success and all aircraft returned safely.
The following night they were one of ten crews detailed to attack the Pontassieve Marshalling Yards in the same area as Prato. Another successful raid with all crews returning safely.
Following a move to Oudna II in Tunisia on 15 November the Squadron was not involved in further operations until the night of 22/23 November when 11 crews including that of David Susman were detailed for a raid on Ciampino Railway Junction about 10 miles south of Rome. Another successful operation from which all aircraft returned safely.
Although the Squadron was involved in several more raids in November, the Susman crew were not called upon again until the night of 2/3 December when they one part eight despatched for a raid on the marshalling yards at Arezzo, 40 miles south east of Florence. For this raid William MacGuffie was replaced by spare bod Fl/Sgt. Jelly.
All returned safely although one ran out of fuel and landed away.
Apart from three aircraft engaged on special operations at the end of the month bad weather prevented further operations in December and on 20/21 December the Squadron moved to Cerignola No. 3 airfield, part of the Foggia airfield complex located within a 25 mile radius of Foggia some 50 miles north of Bari.
The bad weather continued into the early days of 1944 preventing further operations until 12 January after which they followed thick and fast, but for some reason not involving the Susman crew.
As the month progressed Thomas Stanton was probably preoccupied with counting the days to his 21st birthday on 28 January and thoughts of how he might celebrate it so far from his home and family. He need not have worried; with impeccable timing fate and the RAF had plans for a day he would never forget.
On Friday 28 January, long before 21st birthday celebrations had time to get out of hand, David Susman and his crew learned that they were one of seven crew ordered for a raid on the Verona Marshalling Yards that night.
The seven crews detailed for the 8 hour plus round trip to Verona included an illuminator, the rest were to deliver incendiaries onto the, hopefully, well lit target.
REASON FOR LOSS
The designated Illuminator, F/O. M. E. Thompson in LN353 took off first at 1640 carrying 52 flares. Ten minutes later at 1650, David Susman in JA470 along with LN668 piloted by Fl/Sgt. E. J. Mattingley followed, loaded with 6 and 9 SBCs respectively, each containing 4lb incendiary bombs.
When one of the next pair of Wellingtons, suffered a broken propeller HZ809 took off alone at 1700 hours followed at 1730 by the final pair HF527 and JA525.
The Squadron Operations Record Book tells the story of the raid.
'The weather consisted of slight cloud over the mountains en route. There was no cloud over the target but plenty of haze.
The defences comprised 20 to 30 searchlights to NW and W of target. These were operating in cones of 16 - 18 without much effect. Up to 12 H/FF [Heavy Freight Flak] were firing into these cones and they were situated roughly in the same place as the searchlights. There was no light flak and no enemy fighters were reported.
Illumination was good but too high. Sticks of incendiaries were dropped across the yards but pinpointing of the bomb bursts was difficult owing to haze which also hindered proper identification of the target. The bombing was well concentrated 4.8 tons were dropped (4lb incendiaries) between 2030 and 2041 from 7000 to 9000 feet.
Five landed safely between 2240 and 2330. One is missing.'
The fate of the crew of Wellington JA470 is revealed in David Susman's Liberation Statement of 11 June 1945.
'When crossing the front line at Pescara the aircraft was struck by flak and burst into flames and being unable to control [the] machine [I] baled out and [before] leaving aircraft saw that all other members of crew were out ok.
Machine hit at 10000 ft and baled out of spinning kite at heights from 4000 ft and believed aircraft hit ground in the region of Chieti'
The History of the Mediterranean Air War Vol. 4 by Christopher Shores lists the time of the German Flak claim for Wellington JA470 at 19:03 hrs.
Having sustained a broken leg or ankle David Susman stats that he was taken prisoner the same night at Pescara before being treated for 3 days at a casualty clearing station at Monte Cassino.
He was then taken to Dulag Luft near Frankfurt where he endured 8 days of interrogation before being sent to Stalag Luft VI Heydekrug, Memelland (now Šilutė in Lithuania). With the approach of the Red Army in June 1944 the prisoners were transferred briefly to Stalag 357 at Thorn in Poland before the whole camp was moved to the site of the former Stalag XI-D at Fallingbostel in Lower Saxony, in north-western Germany during August and September.
In early April he was one of 12000 prisoners marched out of the camp in the face of the Allied advance.
After 10 days they arrived at Gresse, east of the Elbe. There they were issued with Red Cross parcels, but were then heart-breakingly strafed by British Typhoon fighter-bombers, mistaking them for German troops. Sixty POW were killed and many more wounded.
Shortly afterwards the prisoners were released by elements of the British Army.
Birthday boy Thomas Stanton and James Taylor were both similarly taken prisoner and sent to Stalag Luft 3. Further details are not known but they were eventually released by advancing Allied forces in April 1945.
Stanley Jeacocke and William MacGuffie both abandoned the aircraft at 9000 feet and after landing safely, managed to avoid capture for twenty days during which time they made their way back to the safety despite on one occasion being 'right amongst some Nazi troops for two and a half hours without being spotted.'
MacGuffie and Jeacocke returned to Unit 19 February.
The Squadron ORB Summary for February 1944 includes the following:
'22 February 1944 F/Sgt. Jeacocke and Sgt. MacGuffie have now returned to the Unit after evading capture. They were in F/Sgt. Sussman's [sic] crew formerly reported missing. After baling out over enemy occupied territory these two managed to reach the front and crossed it under the noses of the Germans.'
For Stan Jeacocke however, freedom would be short lived, but fortunately his luck did not desert him. On 25/26 June 1944 he was the sole survivor of the crew of Wellington LN811 shot down during a raid on Budapest. He spent the rest of the war as a PoW. To read the story of his second miraculous escape click here
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW
(1) WO. David Harold Susman was born on 28 February 1923 at Ballarat, Victoria, Australia the son of Lt. Col. Harold Susman 107 Alexander Avenue Toorak Gardens South Australia
Lt. Col. Susman was the Commandant of Wayville Military Camp, Adelaide, SA.
David Susman was educated at St Peter's College, Adelaide from 1933 to 1940 and afterwards became a First Year Fellowship Student at the Mechanical and Electrical Engineering School of Mines and University, Northern Territories.
When he enlisted at Adelaide on 6 December 1941 he was 5' 7½" tall weighing 136 lbs with a medium complexion, brown eyes and brown hair.
After training at 4 Initial Training School at RAAF Victor Harbour, South Australia and 1 Elementary Flying Training School at RAAF Parafield also in South Australia he embarked at Melbourne for Canada on 29 July. Disembarking on 19 August he was posted to 3 Manning Depot at RCAF Edmonton, Alberta on 19 August and to 3 Service Flying Training School at RCAF Calgary, Alberta on 13 September where he was awarded his Flying Badge and promoted to Sergeant on 30 December 1942.
On 25 January 1943 he embarked for the UK. On arrival he was posted to 11 Personnel andReception Centre at Brighton on 5 February. From 16 March to 14 April he attended a Senior NCO's Course at RAF Whitley, Northumberland. He was posted to 15 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit at RAF Grove in Berkshire on 3 May and on 22 June to 21 Operational Training Unit at RAF Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire. He was promoted to Flight Sergeant on 30 June 1943.
His movements after OTU until joining 150 Squadron are documented in the Introduction above.
He was promoted to Warrant Officer on 30 June 1944 whilst a prisoner of war.
After his liberation and return to the UK in 1945 he arrived at 11 PDRC at Brighton on 7 May and was eventually repatriated to Australia, disembarking at Sidney on 29 July 1945. He was discharged on demobilisation on 29 October 1945.
(2) Fl/Lt. Thomas Alfred Stanton was born on 28 January 1923 at Devonport, Devon the son of Thomas R Stanton (a Day Labourer) and Lilian M. Stanton. He had 2 siblings: Mabel Stanton born 19220 and Edgar F Stanton born 1921.
In 1939 the family lived at 20 Hotham Place Plymouth Devon at which tome Thomas Alfred Stanton was an Electrical Fitter's Apprentice at HM Dockyard.
1338670 LAC Thomas Alfred Stanton was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) RAFVR on 18 December 1942 (London Gazette 2 March 1943, promoted to Flying Officer on probation (war subs) on 18 June 1943 (London Gazette 18 June 1943) and to Flight Lieutenant (war subs) on 18 December 1944 (London Gazette 5 January 1945)
On 15 May 1947 he was commissioned as a Flying Officer in the RAF with extended service of 4 years on active list, seniority of 18 December 1944 and transfer to the Aircraft Control Branch (London Gazette 19 August 1947). Promoted to Flight Lieutenant on 18 December 1947 (London Gazette 22 June 1948) this appointment being made permanent on 23 October 1948 (London Gazette 19 April 1949).
On 10 July 1951 he transferred to General Duties Branch with seniority of 25 March 1949 (London Gazette 23 September 1952)
His retirement from the RAF on 28 January 1966 was promulgated in the London Gazette of 8 February 1966.
He died on 10 August 2003 at Redhill, Surrey aged 80
(3) Fl/Lt. James Jeff Millar Taylor was born on 12 July 1911 at Hamilton, Scotland.
His mother, Mrs T. Taylor lived at School House, Mowhaugh, Kylso, Roxburghshire Scotland
1053434 LAC James Jeff Millar Taylor was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 6 March 1943 (London Gazette 1 June 1943), promoted to Flying Officer on probation (war subs) on 6 September 1943 (London Gazette 24 September 1943) and promoted to Flight Lieutenant (war subs) on 6 March 1945 (London Gazette 30 March 1945)
He relinquished his commission under the provisions of the Navy, Army and Air Force Reserves Act, 1954, and was granted permission to retain his rank, with effect from 12 June 1956 (London Gazette 16 October 1956)
He died at Cheltenham Gloucestershire in 1991 aged 80
(4) F/O. Stanley Jeacocke was born on 9 August 1913 at Rubyvale, Queensland, Australia the son of James Henry Jeacocke and Elizabeth Sarah Jeacocke nee Keller.
He had 8 siblings: James Henry Jeacocke (1900-1953), Robert William Jeacocke (1903-1957), Isabel May Jeacocke (1904-1994), Eleanor Jeacocke (1907-1993), Florence Elizabeth Jeacocke (1908-1992), Leslie George Jeacocke (1911-1986), Elsie Sarah Jeacocke (1918-1994) and Sylvia Maud Jeacocke (1923-1944).
He married Hazel Inez Jeacocke nee Bell and they lived at 11 Garden St Maryborough Queensland. They had one child Kevin Stanley Jeacocke (died 1999).
He enlisted on 1 February 1942 and embarked for the UK on 15 January 1943
He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer wef 8 June 1944, confirmed in this appointment and promoted to Flying Officer 8 December 1944
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal on 29 December 1944 as promulgated in the London Gazette.
Stanley Jeacocke died on 4 February 1990 at Biloela, Queensland aged 76 and was buried at Biloela Lawn Cemetery, Biloela, Banana Shire, Queensland, - Section BB, Plot No. 40
(5) Sgt. William Alexander MacGuffie was born on 10 April 1906 at Egremot, Cumberland the son of John Ross Coulthart MacGuffie (a Farm Labourer) and Sarah Elizabeth MacGuffie nee Jackson. He had 5 siblings John Ross Coulthart MacGuffie (1902-1996), Elsie Mary MacGuffie (1904-1974), Florence May MacGuffie (1908-1912), Margaret Hannah MacGuffie (1912-2005) and Hilda Annie MacGuffie (1915-1987). In 1911 the family lived at Buck's Cottage, Haile, Whitehaven
On 29 April 1933 William married Violet Eleanor Payne at Holy Trinity Church, Carlisle Cumberland.
In 1939 William and Violet lived at 40 Church Street, Whitehaven at which time William was a Plasterer.
He died on 19 June 1992 at West Cumberland Hospital Whitehaven aged 86. His address at the time of his death was 51 Calder Avenue Whitehaven
BURIAL DETAILS, MEMORIALS AND EPITAPHS
None - all the crew survived.
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - June 2020
With thanks to the sources quoted below.