15/16.06.1944 No 7 Squadron Lancaster III JB455 MG-N P/O. Thomson
Date: 15/16th June 1944 (Thursday/Friday)
Unit: No. 7 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Oakington, Cambridgeshire
Location: Anzegem, Belgium
Pilot: P/O. Hugh Wallace Thomson 175967 RAFVR Age ? Survived - evaded (1)
Fl/Eng: W/O. John Devlin 627399 RAF Age 23. Killed
Nav: P/O. Douglas Reginald Cooles 177978 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Cyril Nicolson 1134746 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Cyril John Weston 1437390 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. James Edward Watts 1163515 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Stewart Donald Muir NZ/16967 RNZAF Age 22. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Four operations mounted by Bomber Command during this night:
The first two raids to Fouillard and Chatellerault were hardly opposed by night fighters, one Lancaster crashed at Chatellerault, probably a victim to flak. 31 year old, P/O. Edmond Jack Goodyer NZ424451 RNZAF from Nelson, New Zealand, flying Lancaster I ME783 QR-E from 61 Squadron - killed with all 6 other crew.
110 aircraft bombing Valenciennes railway yards - some 5 aircraft lost. 29 aircrew killed, 3 PoW with 3 others evading capture.
107 to Lens railway yards - 6 aircraft lost. 36 aircrew killed, 1 PoW with 5 evading capture.
Lancaster JB455 was intercepted and shot down by Hptm. Hermann Greiner of 11/.NJG1 (2) - his 33rd victory of the war. Combat taking place at 2.000 metres 00:54hrs
The pilot was thrown clear from the aircraft and managed to evade capture with the help of the De Bosschere family, he then sheltered near Tournai until liberated. He returned to his unit on the 12th September 1944.
Above crew photographs (courtesy Tony Bowden) Top L-R: Fl/Lt. Hugh Thomson, Fl/Sgt. James Watts, Fl/Sgt. Cyril Nicolson. Below: P/O. Douglas Cooles, Fl/Sgt. Cyril Weston, W/O. John Devlin and Fl/Sgt. Stewart Muir.
W/O. John Devlin. Anzegem Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 14-18. Son of Mary Elizebeth Devlin, of Blyth, Northumberland, England. Epitaph reads: “Heart Of Jesus, Once In Agony, Pity The Dying. RIP" .
Right: In June 2014 a memorial was erected to the crew lost, Jef Bogaert, Dirk Decuypere, Johan Durnez and Filip Santens being the people who organised this.
P/O. Douglas Reginald Cooles. Anzegem Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 14-18. Son of Reginald Henry and Mabel Alice Cooles and husband of Florence Alice Cooles, of Morden, Surrey, England. Epitaph reads: “Into The Mosaic Of Victory Was Laid This Precious Piece. RIP.”
Fl/Sgt. Cyril Nicolson. Anzegem Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 14-18. Son of William and Alice H. Nicolson, of Staveley, Derbyshire, England. Epitaph reads: “At Rest But Not Forgotten.”
Fl/Sgt. Cyril John Weston. Anzegem Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 14-18. Son of Ben Weston, and of Florence Ann Weston, of Knighton, Leicester, England. Epitaph reads: “He Did His Best And Then Left Us To Remember RIP.”
Fl/Sgt. James Edward Watts. Anzegem Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 14-18. Son of Frederick and Elizabeth Watts, of Camberley, Surrey, England. Epitaph reads: “Deuteronomy. Chapter 31. Verse 6.”
Fl/Sgt. Stewart Donald Muir. Anzegem Communal Cemetery. Grave 13. Son of William Thornton Muir and Lily Ellen Muir, of Lyttleton, Canterbury, New Zealand.
Researched with great information and photographs from Tony Bowden - September 2017 also to Jef Bogert and the team who honoured the crew lost, page dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to sources shown below.
(1) Awarded the MC for evasion and then the DFC for number of operations completed. Sadly, during the Berlin Airlift on the 19th September 1948 Fl/Lt. Hugh Wallace Thomson was killed. During take off from RAF Wunstorf the Avro York CI MW288 suffered engine failure (later air crash investigators revealed that eight incorrect spark plug caps failed, damaging the flame traps) the pilot tried to maintain control of the aircraft to avoid buildings. However at 300 ft the aircraft banked left and stalled, crashing in a huge explosion - killing all the 5 crew members. (With thanks to Dr. C.D.E Morris for correcting the correct Wunstorf - December 2017)
The other crew members:
Fl/Lt. Geoffrey Kell 166759 - co-pilot. Laurence Edward Hope Gilbert 1604758 - navigator, Sidney Mark Lewis Towersey 1577861 - signaller, Ernest William Watson 1881703 - Flight Engineer.
(2) Hptm. Georg Hermann Greiner survived the war with 47 claims. Following the conclusion of the War, Greiner and close friend Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer were arrested illegally crossing the German-Swiss border attempting an escape to Argentina. Both Greiner and Schnaufer were detained in an Allied prisoner of war camp and released in 1947. Greiner went on to study law and returned to service in the West German Luftwaffe in 1957, retiring with the rank of Oberstleutnant in 1972. He died on the 22nd September 2014.
With thanks to Tony Bowden for the photographs and also to Jef Bogaert, Dirk Decuypere, Johan Durnez and Filip Santens for the organisation of the memorial. Also to Dr. C.D.E Morris for correction of York crash. Other sources as quoted below.