31/01.08.1942 No. 24 OTU Whitley V Z9512 Fl/Lt. Anthony Thompson
Date: 31st July/1st August 1942 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: No. 24 OTU (Operational Training Unit)
Type: Whitley V
Base: RAF Honeybourne, Worcestershire
Location: Exact location not known, thought to be in target area.
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Anthony William Thompson MiD. 109488 RAFVR Age 31. PoW (1)
Obs: P/O. Charles Leonard Szumlinski J/9916 RCAF Age 25. Killed
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Walter Vernard Donahue R/84823 RCAF Age 20. Killed (3)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Eric Leonard Styles 761201 RAFVR Age 33. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Edward James Jones R/95236 RCAF Age 20. Killed (2)
Update: Further details added on Fl/Sgt. Walter Vernard Donahue by Sarah King - January 2018
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 23:20 hrs from base RAF Honeybourne in Worcestershire to bomb Düsseldorf. The raid in which 630 aircraft took part. ( 113 Lancasters, 70 Halifaxes, 61 Stirlings, 54 Hampdens and 24 Whitleys) The units used for this operation were from the training sections and was the first raid on which over 100 Lancasters were used.
900 tons of bombs were dropped - 453 buildings in Düsseldorf were destroyed, 15,000 damaged, 954 fires were started and 279 people were killed on the ground and a further 1,018 were injured. 12,053 lost their homes.
The raid cost the RAF dearly with 29 aircraft lost with 92 group (OTU) losing 11 of its 105 aircraft on this single raid.
Whitley Z9512 is thought to have been shot down by flak and crashed over the target area.
(1) Joined the RAF as W.A. Bispham in 1940, then went absent without leave due to not obtaining his wings and rejoined under the name A.W. Thompson (his mother's maiden name) and passed the training and obtained his wings. He was taken prisoner after Whitley Z9512 was shot down and sent to Stalag Luft III, then after insulting the Reich and assaulting an NCO, went to Dresden. He was then sentenced again for disobeying orders to Graudenz Military Prison. He escaped early July 1944, however recaptured and shot in a firing squad for insubordination on July 5th, 1944, at the age of 31. The chaplain sent a letter stating that he was buried with full military honours on July 8th, 1944.
(2) Jones Point on Rosenberry Lake was named after Sgt. Edward James Jones in 1995.
Malbork Commonwealth War Cemetery and right: Reichswald Forest War Cemetery
Fl/Lt. Anthony William Thompson MiD. Malbork Commonwealth War Cemetery 3.A.14. Son of Hannah Thompson, of Hammersmith, London, England. Grave inscription reads: "At The Going Down Of The Sun And In The Morning We Will Remember Them".
P/O. Charles Leonard Szumlinski. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery 9.G.2. Son of Kazimierz and Stella Szumlinski (nee Walczek), of Hamilton, Sherman Avenue, Ontario, Canada. Parents were Polish immigrants. Born in Hamilton, Ontario on 10th April 1917. Grave inscription reads: "To Our Dear Son And Brother. Till We Meet Again".
Fl/Sgt. Walter Vernard Donahue. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery 9.G.1. N.o.K details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information? From McAdam, New Brunswick, Canada.
Sarah King submitted this information to Aircrew Remembered - the University of New Brunswick honour him with a scholarship presented every year to a student from York County:
"Walter Vernard Donahue was born on February 8, 1915 in Edmundston, New Brunswick. He lived most of his life in McAdam, New Brunswick, attending McAdam Public School and McAdam High School, graduating from Grade 11 in 1932. From 1932 to 1933, he attended Normal School at the corner of Queen and York Streets in Fredericton where he received his First Class Teaching License, before enrolling at the University of New Brunswick in 1934. He spent two years here at UNB, taking courses in the Faculty of Arts. In 1936, Walter left UNB and returned home to McAdam where he was a teacher at McAdam school for a year, and later took a job as a freight clerk with the Canadian Pacific Railway, before joining the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Walter’s military service didn’t begin with the RCAF, however. While at UNB, he enlisted in the militia, in the Canadian Officer Training Corps. His attestation papers for that program indicate that he was living at 449 Needham Street, Fredericton, and by all accounts he was an upstanding young man. His attestation papers tell us that he was five feet, nine inches tall, weighed one hundred and fifty-nine pounds, with blue eyes and brown hair. In 1937, after he moved away from Fredericton, Donahue joined the Carleton-York Regiment, and did two weeks of training in Sussex, NB. He continued to serve and take training courses with the militia until 1941, when he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
The enlistment process for the RCAF was long and detailed, but the information in his enlistment forms tells us a lot about the type of man Donahue was. He lists his hobbies as hunting, fishing, athletics, and reading. He is listed as single, of Irish origin, and his religion is listed as Roman Catholic. He lists his employment as school teacher (though other forms tell us he was working for CP Railways at this time) and indicates that he intends to pursue a career in civil service after the war. Between his enlistment in the militia and his RCAF enlistment, his father, Thomas Donahue, died and his mother, Agnes Donahue is listed as his next of kin on all his RCAF documentation. His high school principal, who wrote him a letter of reference, said his “character is beyond reproach”, and another letter of reference, from an inspector with Canadian Immigration in McAdam said he was “industrious, sober, honest, and trustworthy”.
H. Wensley, the RCAF flying officer who interviewed him at the time of his enlistment called him “well-educated” and “able to give valuable snap judgments”, and commented on his “tasteful, conservative, but neat and clean dress”, his “confident, mature, pleasant” personality, and his “quick, deliberate, organised, accurate” intelligence and manner. In his report, he wrote that Walter was a “fine type of youth – well educated, intelligent, well-mannered, appears to have all qualifications required for Pilot. Anxious to fly as Pilot, but ready for any duties. Officer caliber”. Walter’s enlistment in the RCAF was formalised on February 26, 1941.
Though Walter may have left UNB in 1936 without completing his degree, he certainly continued his education through the RCAF. Walter’s training in the RCAF progressed very quickly. He spent time in Toronto and in Victoriaville, Quebec for training and was chosen for additional training as an air observer at the Air Observer School in Chatham, New Brunswick. He also received training at the Bombing and Gunnery School in Belleville, Ontario. Reports from his Air and Ground Training indicate that he was a skilled signaller, receiving 98% on his signals examination. He received 77% on his Mathematics exam – a good mark for an Arts student! – and 85% on Hygiene and Sanitation. He was ranked 19th in his class, and his Commanding Officer noted that he was “Commission Material”, “intelligent and quick”, “Mature” and with a “deep sense of responsibility”.
His Air Observer School Report places him 18th in his class, receiving a 64.4% overall. His Chief Instructor notes that Walter “is a bit on the dumb side, but knows it”, and says he is a “just get by type” with “mediocre ability”. Maybe another couple of years at UNB would have been a good idea! Despite these remarks, he graduated from his training as an Air Observer and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant on January 17, 1942.
On March 13, 1942, Walter proceeded overseas, where he completed a two month training period at the Advanced Flying School in Wales. He was transferred to No. 24 Operational Training Unit Honeybourne and was based in England as of 17 July 1942, when he was promoted to the rank of Flight Sergeant.
On July 31, 1942, Walter was serving as Air Bomber on a Whitley V aircraft, along with 4 other men, when they took off at 11:20PM from base RAF Honeybourne to bomb Düsseldorf. 630 aircraft took part in this raid. 900 tons of bombs were dropped on Düsseldorf, destroying 453 buildings and damaging 15,000 others. 279 civilians were killed on the ground and a further 1018 were injured. 12, 053 Germans lost their homes in the raid. The RAF lost 29 planes during this attack, including Walter’s. Their aircraft was hit by flak and crashed in the target zone. Walter, Anthony William Thompson (an English pilot), Charles Leonard Szumlinski (from Hamilton, Ontario, born to Polish immigrants), Eric Leonard Styles (from Devon, England), and Edward James Jones (from Vancouver, BC) were aboard when the plane crashed. All of the men were missing and assumed killed. However, later information uncovered that pilot Anthony William Thompson was taken as a PoW and interred in Stalag Luft III before being transferred to military prison for “insulting the Reich and assaulting an NCO”. He was killed by firing squad on July 5th, 1944. The rest of the men are listed as Killed in Action, including Walter Vernard Donahue.
Walter is buried in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery in Kleve, Germany, near the Dutch border, along with 7500 other Commonwealth War Dead, many of whom are airmen like Walter. In 1946, Agnes Donahue was sent Walter’s Operational Wings and Certificate. In the letter to his mother, the records officer wrote “I realised there is little which may be said or done to lessen your sorrow, but it is my hope that these “Wings”, indicative of operations against the enemy, will be a reassured memento of a young life offered on the altar of freedom in defence of his Home and Country”. Walter’s life and impact continue to be commemorated at UNB. Participants on the Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society’s Teachers Tour in the Netherlands visit the cemetery where he is buried, and after his death, his mother started a scholarship in his name at the University of New Brunswick. The Walter V. Donahue Memorial Scholarship is still given each year to a student from York County".
Fl/Sgt. Eric Leonard Styles. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery 9.G.3. Son of Sydney and Sarah Styles, husband of F. M. Styles, of South Zeal, Devon, England. Grave inscription reads: "You Left Us, Dear, Your Thoughts Untold But You Left A Memory We Are Proud To Hold".
Sgt. Edward James Jones. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery 9.F.18. Son of Edward and Eleanor M. Jones, of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Grave inscription reads: "Ever Remembered By Mother, Dad And Family".
Researched for relatives of the crew with information supplied by Hank Welting, Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol's. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission. With additional details from Aircrew Remembered own archives. Also, a great many thanks to Sarah King for detailed information on Fl/Sgt. Donahue - added January 2018.