08/09.03.1943 No 7 Squadron Stirling I R9270 MG-Q Fl/Lt. John P. Trench DSO
Date: 08/09th March 1943 (Monday/Tuesday)
Unit: No. 7 Squadron
Type: Stirling I
Code: MG-Q (1)
Base: RAF Oakington, Cambridgeshire
Location: Les Souhesmes, France
Pilot: Fl/Lt. 'Pat' John Patrick Trench DSO. VM. 68742 RAFVR Age 25. Killed
Fl/Eng: Fl/Sgt. Frank William Richard Cole DFM. 616283 RAF Age 23. Killed
Nav: Fl/Lt. Crofton Lustleigh Selman DFC. 109922 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
Air/Bmr: P/O. Lee Gordon Gosper DFC. AUS/402985 RAAF Age 29. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: P/O. Henry Harwood DFM. 142910 RAFVR Age 26. Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. William Peel Hudson DFM. 1378108 RAFVR Age 36. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Eric Thomas Beney 1277051 RAFVR Age 29. Killed
September 2015: We would like to make contact with the relatives of P/O. Harwood (or others) who we know visited the grave in 2013, on the anniversary of the loss. A French local, who’s father attended the crash shortly afterwards, recovered a piece of the Aircrafts first aid box. His father went on to join the French Airforce and retired as a test pilot on the Mirage jet. This relative has kept that piece and would like to return it to him.
Update April 2016: Relatives of P/O. Lee Gosper DFC are meeting with André later this year.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Nuremberg the chosen target for this nights operations - 335 mixed aircraft taking part (170 Lancasters, 103 Halifaxes, 62 Stirlings). Stirling R9270 taking off at 19:08 hrs from RAF Oakington, in Cambridgeshire.
For various reasons only 294 actually bombed and much of that scattered due to industrial haze over the target area. Despite that 600 buildings were destroyed with a further 1,400 damaged including the MAN and Siemen-Schuckert factories.
Claimed to have been shot down by Oblt. Hans Autenrieth (2) in a Me110 of 6./NJG4 at 21:45 hrs. Eye witness to this states that he returned afterwards in a Fieseler Storch to take a look at his night's work (so often done) and after landing, overturned the aircraft in a ditch!
Also lost from 7 Squadron during this operation:
Stirling I BK610 MG-V Flown by 23 year old, P/O. Lionel Louis Victor Toupin J/17295 RCAF from Fabre, Quebec, Canada - abandoned east of Dungeness, Kent during home bound trip. The pilot had ordered the crew to bale out after placing it on auto pilot, which they did except one of the Air Gunners, Sgt. Derek Richard Spanton 1323191 RAFVR who failed to hear the order. He realised when over England he was the only person left on board so he too baled out of the Stirling. He survived, the remainder were lost over the English Channel. 3 with no known grave. The aircraft came down in the Thames Estuary. Sadly, 21 year old Sgt. Spanton from Copnor, Hampshire was lost after a further 12 operations just 3 months later on the 25th June 1943. The pilot, 26 year old Sq/Ldr. John Ronald Savage AUS/402882 RAAF from Tullibegerri, NSW, Australia and all the crew on Stirling III EF392 from 7 Squadron were lost during an operation to Wuppertal.
On the 28th March 1947 the No. 1 Section of MREU (Missing Research and Enquiry Unit) led by F/O. T. Neal reported that they visited the cemetery at Les Souhesmes and found a grave marked with a French Cross inscribed ‘A la memoire de l’equipage allie tomb a Souhesmes le Mars 1943 (In memory of a crew placed in a combined grave in March 1943)
Right: Pilot, Fl/Lt. John Patrick Trench DSO (courtesy Evelyn Empson - see credits)
The grave was described as in beautiful condition and also marked by a plaque in the form of a red ensign with the inscription ‘For the liberation of France here lies the crew of an allied airplane’. It appears that the locals gathered the remains and buried them in this communal grave. The priest, L’Abbe Watrin took F/O. Neal to the crash site and showed him a granite monument he had erected behind the huge water filled crater left by the exploding aircraft. He submitted a report to confirm that the graves are that of the crew of R9270, closing the case.
Note: We understand that Pat Trench had also been awarded the Polish VM. (with swords) but we are still unable to confirm this. Further research continues.
Left: Sgt. Eric Beney (courtesy Fred Rich)
(1) Some publications have this aircraft as MG-T - this was his usual aircraft but on this operation he was flying MG-Q (Information via Fred Rich, the half brother of Sgt. Eric Beney)
(2) This was the 9th abschüsse for the Luftwaffe ace, Oblt. Hans Autenrieth. He went on to make a total of 22 kills, before he was shot down on the 4th August 1944 then taken prisoner. He did manage to evade capture for 2 days, before being caught by the French resistance. Served the remainder of the war as a PoW. Died from cancer on the 8th June 1996, age 75.
Fl/Lt. ‘Pat’ John Patrick Trench DSO. VM. Les Souhesmes Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 6-7. Son of D. P. Trench Esq. Born in Burma on 02nd December 1918, family understood to be living Hampshire, England, but went to school at Gresham’s Boarding School in Holt, North Norfolk, England. Also commemorated on the War Memorial within the school (shown below) and in Lyndhurst, Hampshire, England. John Patrick Trench, known as ‘Pat’, was in Howson’s boarding house, he was a School prefect, vice-captain of the hockey team, and served as a chapel warden. His headmaster, J.R. Eccles described him as a ‘hard worker, though not a high flier, and an excellent fellow … he was a first-class Henry V in this year’s play … will probably be in the Rugger Team as Three Quarter, is already in the Hockey Team, and nearly broke my front teeth two days ago in Fives.’ Commissioned as a pilot in May 1941. (see credits)
Gresham’s School - World War Two Memorial (courtesy of the school)
Fl/Sgt. Frank William Richard Cole DFM. Les Souhesmes Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 6-7. Son of William and Maud Cole, husband of Barbara Edith Cole, of Maida Hill, London, England.
Fl/Lt. Crofton Lustleigh Selman DFC. Les Souhesmes Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 6-7. Son of Leonard and Alfreda Florence Selman, husband of Betty Selman, of Ferndown, Dorset, England.
P/O. Lee Gordon Gosper DFC. Les Souhesmes Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 6-7. Son of Cecil George and Hildred Blanche Gosper, of Lower Portland, New South Wales, Australia. Born 09th October 1913 in Sydney NSW. Prior to service worked as a farmer. Joined Squadron on the 7th October 1942.
P/O. Henry Harwood DFM. Les Souhesmes Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 6-7. Son of Henry and Ellen Harwood, husband of Frances Eleanor Harwood, of Denmark Hill, London, England.
Fl/Sgt. William Peel Hudson DFM. Les Souhesmes Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 6-7. Son of Mr. and Mrs. Harris Peel Hudson, of Yeadon, Yorkshire, stepson of Nellie Peel Hudson, of Yeadon, Leeds, Yorkshire, England.
Sgt. Eric Thomas Beney. Les Souhesmes Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 6-7. Born 18th December 1913 in Lewes, Sussex. Son of Mr. John Beney and Mary Louisa Charlotte Rich, late Beney, formerly Lawrance from Sussex, England.
For further details our thanks to Andre Odinot the relative of the eye witness, also to Evelyn Empson, Liz Larby - school archivist of Gresham’s School, Cromer Road, Holt, Norfolk. National Archives of Australia, also to the half brother of Eric Beney, Mr. Fred Rich, plus the sources shown below.