28/29.07.1944 625 Squadron Lancaster I LL962 CF-U F/O. Harry Humphrey Tuck DFC
Date: 28/29 July 1944 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: 625 Squadron - Motto: We Avenge
Squadron Badge: Within a circular chain of seven links, a Lancaster rose; The Lancaster rose stands for the aircraft used, the seven links the number of personnel in one such aircraft
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Kelstern, Lincolnshire
Location: Between Rauwiller (Bas Rhin) and Schalbach (Moselle) in North East France.
Pilot: F/O. Harry Humphrey Tuck DFC 176410 RAFVR Age 21 - Killed (1)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Frederick Bert Dean 1852388 RAFVR Age 19 - died 12 August 1944 from his injuries.
Nav: F/O. Alan Joseph Hewetson 139712 RAFVR Age 34 - Killed (3)
Air/Bmr: F/O. Robert Gardiner Morrison 151973 RAFVR Age 22 - PoW No. 5180 Camp: Barth, Western Pomerania, Germany L1 (4)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Patrick Laurence Dowling 1716350 RAFVR Age 22 - PoW No. 512 Camp: Bankau, Silesia, Germany (now Bąków, Opole Voivodeship, Poland -L7 (5)
Air/Gnr (MU): Fl/Sgt. Allan William Maxwell R206220 RCAF Age 21 - PoW No. 471 Camp: Bankau, Silesia, Germany (now Bąków, Opole Voivodeship, Poland -L7 (5) (6)
Air/Gnr (R): Sgt. Clifford Frank Allen 1604285 RAFVR Age 21 - Killed (7)
We appeal to anyone with further information and/or photographs to please contact us via our Helpdesk
Canadian Air Gunner Jack Innes had been in the UK for just over a week when he was posted to 28 Operational Training Unit at RAF Wymeswold in Leicestershire where he was invited to join the crew of Sergeant Pilot Harry Tuck for night bomber training on Wellingtons. The rest of the crew comprised navigator, Sgt. John Charles Pollard, air bomber, WO. Robert Timperley and wireless operator, Sgt. James Edward Cheadle.
Having completed Course 17 on 28 August 1943 the crew went off, on what was presumably a most welcome and enjoyable 18 days leave, after which, on 18 September, they reconvened at 1656 Conversion Unit at RAF Lindholme in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Here they acquired a flight engineer Sgt. Kenneth Launcelot Summerscale and rear gunner Sgt. Ronald Peter Gerelli thus bringing the crew up to the required complement of 7 required to fly the Lancaster.
On 23 November, now deemed ready for operations Harry and his crew were posted to 12 Squadron at RAF Wickenby in Lincolnshire.
They flew their first operation on 20/21 December 1943, a raid on Mannheim, undertaken with a substitute wireless operator and mid upper gunner.
Further operations followed regularly, each one with the full crew. 29/30 December was Berlin, 5/6 January 1944 was Stettin and on 14/15 January Brunswick all without incident However on 20/21 January it was back to Berlin and the ORB records that a problem gaining height was solved by jettisoning the 4000 lb Cookie over the North Sea en route before dropping the rest of the bomb load over Berlin.
Detailed for a raid on Magdeburg the following night, the ORB starkly records that '"V" JB718. F/Sgt. Tuck "pranged" on take off which resulted in "Cat B" damage, i.e. beyond repair on site, but repairable at a Maintenance Unit or at a contractor’s works.
The crew were not detailed again until 15/16 February when another trip to the Big City was on the cards. Having bombed the target the crew returned safely to base.
Operations ordered on each of the next three nights were all cancelled but on the night of 19/20 February the Tuck crew were one of 13 detailed for a raid on Leipzig. There were four early returns, one of which was ND441 flown by Harry Tuck. The entry in the ORB reads:
'Up 2337 down 0258 Load 1 x 4000 HC, 56 x 30 1170, x 4 and 90 x 4 "x" 5319N 0715E 0140hrs 23000 feet Navigation instruments U/S. 9/10 St. Cu. 0140 hrs. 23000 ft. 127° M. 180 MPH. IAS. Ident. by H2S. No markers seen. H2S weak. Gee U/S on outward journey. Route - enemy coast in possibly Bochum - Emden - 5319N 0715E - Enemy coast out probably Texel
We got thoroughly lost. Fighter flares all around us, so we decided it was better to come back, J.H.J.'
It was the last time the crew would fly together!
The Squadron Summary of Events for February 1944 records that '1128020 Sgt. Cheadle, J.E. (WOP/AIR), 1387977 Sgt. Gerelli, R.P. (AIR GUNNER), 1425043 Sgt. Pollard, J.C. (Nav). - Posted to ACDU Chessington, wef. 25.2.44.'
Further information available via our helpdesk
And in March 1944
'1439831 W/O. Tuck H.H. - Posted to 11 Base wef 16.3.44.'
Harry Tuck was promoted to Flight Sergeant in December 1943 and to Warrant Officer on 15 February 1944.
Kenneth Summerscale, Robert Timperley and Jack McInnes joined the crew of Fl/Lt Alistair J. Cook. All three were killed, as was the rest of the crew, when Lancaster ND562 crashed on 30/31 March 1944 during a raid on Nuremberg. All are buried at Rheinberg War Cemetery. To read the story of this loss click here
It seems that Harry Tuck inherited a crew at 1656 Conversion Unit previously captained by Wing Commander Robert Vivian Lansdell Pattison who had been appointed CO of 100 Squadron on 3 March 1944. This was the crew with which Harry Tuck joined 625 Squadron at RAF Kelstern with effect from 22 April 1944.
Two days after turning 21, Harry Tuck and his new found crew were posted to RAF Kelstern to begin his second and their first stint of operational flying. Six members of the crew were aged from 19 to 22, odd man out being 34 year old navigator Alan Hewetson who, having been a peacetime schoolteacher, must have been very much in his element among the much younger lads.
A mixed bunch geographically, they were led by Lancashire Lad Harry Tuck, whilst flight engineer Frederick Dean was from Dorset and Alan Hewetson, originally from Lincolnshire, had more lately resided with his wife at Halwell near Totness in Devon. Scotsman and air bomber Robert Morrison hailed from Hamilton some 12 miles south of Glasgow whilst Dublin born Patrick Dowling was the wireless op., Canadian Allan Maxwell, the mid-upper, was from Ontario and rear gunner Clifford Allen, Nuneaton born but had later moved with his parents and siblings to Tamworth in Staffordshire.
The crew were soon in action when on 3 May the crew was detailed for a raid on Mailly le Camp , as it turned out, a particularly costly raid. Of the 346 Lancasters and 14 Mosquitoes despatched 42 Lancaster failed to return. On learning that 625 Squadron had lost 3 of the 15 Lancasters sent out on this raid, the required 30 ops to complete his tour must have seemed a very, very long way away to Harry Tuck who was on just 8, let alone the other six members of his crew who had just completed their first.
For a comprehensive report of the raid on Mailly le Camp and the loss of 625 Squadron Lancaster ME697 of 625 Squadron click here
On 7 May Harry Tuck and his full crew were detailed for what turned out be an easier raid on Bruz in France and two days later the Squadron Commander, Wing Commander D.D. Haigh DFC led 11 625 Squadron crews including Harry Tuck and his, on a raid to Merville and on 10 May they were one of 10 crews detailed for an attack on a coastal battery at Dieppe. All 625 Squadron aircraft returned safely from these three raids.
The Tuck crew were not ordered for another raid until 24 May when they were one of 17 crews to attack Le Clipon. On 27 May it was Merville again and on 2 June Berneval. On each of these raids they flew with spare bods as flight engineers and again 625 Squadron suffered no losses.
Saint-Martin-de-Varreville on 5 June with the full crew was followed by Vire on 6 June with a spare bod air bomber as was Forêt de Cerisy the day after and again quite miraculously 625 suffered no losses on any of the three raids.
The Tuck crew had now completed 10 operations on which 625 Squadron had lost not a single aircraft or crew. But in a dramatic change of fortune on 10 June 3 Lancasters (ND742, LM139 and LL897 out of 18 despatched to Achères failed to return and two days later another was lost on a raid to Gelsenkirchen (ED938).
Le Havre on 14 June was followed by Domléger on 16 June both without loss.
Harry Tuck did not fly on ops again for almost 2 weeks but on 24 June his entire crew, captained by the Squadron CO, Wing Commander D.D. Haig were detailed for a trip to Les Hayons from which they were lucky to return in one piece. A second air bomber Fl/Lt. J. C. Maxwell DFC also accompanied them.
The entry in the Operations Record Book reads:
'Target bombed at 17.37 from a height of 9000 feet at position 5002N/0116E after eventful encounter with heavy flak causing port inner engine to be feathered. Port outer engine also throttled back and propeller feathered, and although smoking was run at reduced speed, height being lost to 2000 ft. SOS sent as it was thought necessary to ditch. Violent vibration ensued as P/I engine burnt and metal fell from cowling. Nursing was necessitated and successful landing made at Manston, port engine feathered on landing.'
All 625 machines returned safely although two were forced to land away.
On 29 June the crew, with Harry Tuck back in charge, flew on an operation to Siracourt and the following day they were one of 19 detailed for an operation to Vierzon from which 3 (JB743, ND459 and PB126), failed to return
July 4 saw the crew attacking Orléans: two days later it was Forêt du Croc and the following day Caen all without loss of any 625 Lancasters.
They were not detailed again until 18 July when it was another trip to Gelsenkirchen again without loss.
On 20 July the crew were surely a little apprehensive as they learned they were detailed to fly once more under the captaincy of W/C. Haigh. The target this time was Wizernes but they need not have worried, it went without a hitch and all 625 aircraft returned safely.
On 23 July they were back with Harry Tuck attacking Kiel a raid from which one of the Squadron aircraft (LM174) failed to return.
Having had his fair share of problems whilst with 12 Squadron, Harry Tuck had enjoyed a relatively trouble free time at Kelstern and now had a career total of 29 operational sorties under his belt. Needing just one more to complete his tour, screening beckoned.
The rest of his crew of course were still a few behind him so Harry may well have been considering staying on with his crew until they all reached the magic number. In the event, if he did nurture any such thoughts he had a few days to consider his options.
The Battle Order for Friday 28 July detailed 17 crews for that night's operation with Harry and his crew second on the list; but if they were expecting a milk run, they were sadly disappointed - the target was Stuttgart.
Stuttgart was one of the most heavily defended areas in Germany. By 1944, the city was defended by 11 heavy (88 mm) and 38 light (20 mm to 40 mm) anti-aircraft gun batteries and at least one Flak Tower (Flaktürme). There was also a Luftwaffe fighter base south of the city at Echterdingen.
Since the Berlin raid of 27/28 January 1944 No. 1 Group had provided additional Supporters to the target markers of the Pathfinder Force: the Group's most experienced pilots being chosen to fulfil the role.
It is not known how many Supporters were provided for this raid, but a faint note on the loss card for Lancaster LL962 records that the Tuck crew was detailed as a 'PFF Supporter'.
H hour was set for 0145 but Pathfinders and Supporters were to bomb at H-6
PFF Supporter as recorded on the Loss Card for Lancaster LL962
Loss Card - Lancaster LL962 with PFF Supporter highlighted in red
REASON FOR LOSS
It looked like the 17 Lancasters had got off to an inauspicious start when the third in line swung on take off but the other 16 were all successfully airborne inside 40 minutes. Harry Tuck's Lancaster, LL962, was fifth to go, its four roaring Merlin 24s generating 6500 horse power to haul the heavily laden bomber off the tarmac and into the approaching twilight. With a bomb load of 1 x 4000 HC and 10 x 500 MC bombs plus more than 2100 gallons of fuel the all up weight of Harry Tuck's aircraft was over 29 tons.
The briefed route to Stuttgart was about 850 miles and after forming up the time to the target was expected to be about 3 hours 20 minutes.
Heading south to Reading they continued southwards for a further 250 miles before turning south east, then east passing south east of Orléans where they then turned almost due east. Continuing a further 200 miles they were to turn north east until just north of Strasbourg before heading directly east to the target.
Base - Reading - 48°20N 00°20W - 47°30N 02°10E - 47°40N 06°00E - 48°50N 07°30E - 48°54N 09°30E - Target
Of the 494 Lancaster and 2 Mosquitoes despatched on the raid, 461 reported bombing the target and 5 the alternative target. 30 aircraft aborted and 39 failed to return representing 7.9% of the total force.
About 200 fighters were active against the outward force which was first intercepted near Orléans and then continuously from Karlsruhe to the target. Little trouble was met on the return route.
'Flak was at first mainly in the form of the predictor control unseen, but this soon gave way to a moderate barrage to 16-18000 feet. No searchlights exposed, and there was little light flak.'
With the attack opening at 0148 and the last bombs falling at 0230, the Squadron ORB reported that:
'17 aircraft were detailed for this operation, the target again being Stuttgart, A fairly heavy bomb load was carried and many explosions and fires occurred in the target area. A fair amount of flak was encountered over the target.'
Having turned for home Lancaster LL962 had flown about 100 miles when it crashed near the villages of Rauwiller and Schalbach in France. Robert Morrison later reported that 'All the crew got out safe I think, which is something to be thankful for, I'm not injured at all.'
Bob Morrison, Pat Dowling and Allan Maxwell landed safely and became prisoners of war.
Bert Dean was badly injured and died almost two weeks later on 12 August in hospital at Strasbourg. He lies in Cronenbourg French National Cemetery,
Harry Tuck, Alan Hewetson and Cliff Allen were all killed. Tuck and Allen were initially buried at Rauwiller and re-interred after the war at Choloy War Cemetery. Alan Hewetson was buried at Schalbach Roman Catholic Cemetery where his grave remains today alongside those of six members of the crew of Lancaster ND454 GT-L which crashed near Schalbach on the night of 24/25 February 1944.
The Squadron ORB recorded
'...two of our aircraft failed to return from this Operation. One of the aircraft's Captains - P/O. (A/F/O) Tuck was on his last operational sortie of his first tour, and his loss was greatly felt by all the Squadron.'
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW
(1) F/O. Harry Humphrey Tuck DFC was born on 20 April 1923 at Chorlton, Lancashire the son of Arthur E. Tuck (a Road Constructor) and Patience Tuck nee Littler. He had three siblings: Jessie M. Tuck (1915 - 1919), Frederick V. Tuck born 1920 and Nancy Tuck born 1931.
In 1939 the family lived at 44B Goulden Road Manchester at which time Harry Tuck was a Gear and Motor Study Clerk.
1439831 Acting Warrant Officer Harry Humphrey Tuck was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 7 May 1944 (London Gazette 27 June 1944) Promoted to Acting Flying Officer 26 June 1944
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross wef 28 July 1944 (London Gazette 3 April 1945)
(2) Sgt. Frederick Bert Dean was born on 23 February 1925 at Marnhull, Sturminster, Dorsetshire the only child of Frederick William Dean (a Chauffeur Domestic) and Beatrice Ada Dean nee Atkins
In 1939 the family lived at Cotton Mead Cottages, Sturminster, Frederick Dean was a schoolboy at that time.
(3) F/O. Alan Joseph Hewetson was born on 30 December 1910 at Grammar School House, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire the son of James Hewetson (a Grammar School Headmaster) and Maud Mary Rebecca Hewetson nee Boness
In 1911 the family lived at Gainsborough Grammar School
Alan Hewetson had two siblings: Winifred Maud Hewetson born 1900, and Edward James Henry Hewetson born 1905
Alan Hewetson was a student at Oxford University.
On 21 August he was granted a commission in Class A.A. (ii) as a Pilot Officer on probation in the Reserve of Air Force Officers - General Duties Branch (London Gazette 2 September 1930) - terminated on cessation of duty 28 September 1930 (London Gazette 28 October 1930)
Married Anne Kerswell, of Buxton, Derbyshire at Totness Devon in 1944
Alan's Address at Probate in 1945 School House, Halwell near Totness Devon
1264991 LAC Alan Joseph Hewetson was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 6 March 1943 (London Gazette 11 May 1943), confirmed in this appointment and promoted to Flying Officer on probation (war subs) on 6 September 1943 (London Gazette 10 September 1943)
(4) F/O. Robert Gardiner Morrison born was in 1921 at Hamilton, Lanarkshire, Scotland
644579 LAC Robert Gardner [sic] Morrison was commissioned as a Pilot officer on probation (emergency) on 30 April 1943 (London Gazette 3 August 1943). He was confirmed in this appointment and promoted to Flying Officer on probation (war subs) on 30 October 1943 (London Gazette 5 November 1943) and further promoted to Flight Lieutenant on 30 April 1945 (London Gazette 4 May 1945)
(5) Sgt. Patrick Laurence Dowling was born 9 August 1921 at Dublin, Ireland the son of Patrick Dowling and Mary Dowling. He had 7 siblings - further details unknown
He married Joyce Violet Richards at Romford Essex in 1950
Patrick Laurence Dowling died on 3 January 1999 at Watford, Hertfordshire aged 77.
(6) Fl/Sgt. Allan William Maxwell born c 1921 and of Caledon, Ontario, Canada.
Died November 7th. 1992.
(7) Sgt. Clifford Frank Allen was born in 1922 at Nuneaton, Warwickshire, the son of
William Henry Allen (an Assurance Superintendent) and Jessie Elizabeth Allen.
Clifford had at least 5 siblings: Elliot Gordon Allen born 1905, Sidney William Allen born 1907, Florence M. Allen born 1912, Dorothy W. Allen born 1914 and Robert R. Allen born 1918.
In 1939 the family lived at 17 Wigginton Road, Tamworth, Staffordshire.
BURIAL DETAILS, MEMORIALS AND EPITAPHS
(1) F/O. Harry Humphrey Tuck DFC was originally buried at Rauwiller Churchyard, Bas-Rhin, France, was re-interred on 30 June 1950 at Choloy War Cemetery, Meurthe-et-Moselle, France. Grave ref: Plot 2A. Row A. Joint grave 22-23
His epitaph reads:
Give unto him, O Lord;
And let perpetual light
Shine upon him
(2) Sgt. Frederick Bert Dean died 12 August 1944 and was buried at Cronenbourg French National Cemetery, Bas-Rhin, France - Grave ref: Plot L. Row 10. Grave 9.
His epitaph reads:
Gone but not forgotten
(3) F/O. Alan Joseph Hewetson was buried at Schalbach Roman Catholic Cemetery, Moselle, France. Grave 3.
(7) Sgt. Clifford Frank Allen was originally buried at Rauwiller Churchyard, Bas Rhin, France, was re-interred on 30 June 1950 at Choloy War Cemetery, Meurthe-et-Moselle, France. Grave ref: Plot 2A. Row A. Joint grave 22-23
His epitaph reads:
Time may pass
But memories stay
As near and dear
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - July 2020
With thanks to the sources quoted below.