24/25.11.1943 No. 142 Squadron Wellington X LN566 QT-D F/Sgt. Reginald Charles Tyas
Date: 24/25 November 1943 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: No. 142 Squadron Motto: "Determination."
Badge: A winged sphinx. The badge commemorates the squadron's association with Egypt. Authority: King George VI, June 1937.
Type: Wellington X
Code: QT-D (Affectionately known as Cuty or Cutie - i.e. QT)
Base: Oudna Airfield, Tunisia
Location: Pareto, Province of Alessandria, Piedmont, Italy
Pilot: F/Sgt. Reginald Charles Tyas Aus/411617 RAAF Age 26 - Killed (1)
2nd Pilot: F/Sgt. Alan Duncan Johann Smith Aus/420634 Age 20 - Killed (2)
Nav/Air/Bmr: F/Sgt. Frank Eric Summers 1335486 RAFVR Age 21 - Killed (3)
Air/Bmr: Sgt. William Robson Knight 659065 RAFVR Age 28 - Killed (4)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Horace Alfred Clark 1295124 RAFVR Age 23 - Killed (5)
Air/Gnr: F/Sgt. John Anthony (Johnny) Leboldus R/155568 RCAF Age 21 - Killed (6)
We appeal to anyone with further information and/or photographs to please contact us via our HELPDESK
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off from RAF Oudna in Tunisia at 16:39. Nothing further was heard from the crew of the aircraft.
A force comprising 76 Wellingtons of 205 Group was despatched from Oudna and Djedeida, Tunisia on this operation to bomb the ball bearing factory at Villar Perosa near Turin in Italy. From Djedeida 14 aircraft of 37 Squadron and 13 aircraft of 70 Squadron were sent whilst from Oudna 40 squadron sent 14 aircraft, 104 Squadron sent 11, 142 Squadron sent 14 and 150 Squadron sent 10. Facing a round trip of at least 1300 miles the aircraft would be operating at the extreme limit of their fuel range thus leaving little margin for error.
Recommended Route out: Base - St. Point - Comino - Cape Corse - Portofino - DR4435N 0903E - Asti -Target
Route back: DR4403N 0812E - Cape Corse - Comino - St. Point - Base
The recommended route took the aircraft almost due north from Tunis, skirting the eastern coasts of Sardinia and Corsica and across the Gulf of Genoa to the Italian fishing village of Portofino situated 20 km east of Genoa. Here they were to turn north-west to Asti and then turn almost due west to the target at Villar Perosa some 40km south west of Turin.
The weather forecast was favourable and for the first 500 miles lived up to expectations but north of Corsica into the Gulf of Genoa there was a dramatic and serious decline. 142 Squadron ORB records that "The weather was fair up to Corsica then deteriorated rapidly with 10/10 medium from 2-5000 then another layer of 10/10 from 6000 to over 11000. Rain and icing were encountered above 7000". And in his history of No. 40 Squadron, 'Sweeping the Skies', David Gunby adds that 'An unexpectedly strong westerly wind also hampered navigation...'
This unexpected change in the weather was to have disastrous consequences for the attacking bombers. 17 aircraft representing 22% of the total force were lost, predominantly if not totally, due to the atrocious weather conditions: a mere 9 aircraft would reach the target and of those 3 were unable to identify the target and therefore did not bomb.
If the loss of 17 aircraft was not bad enough the loss of life among the crews was devastating. Only two crews baled out successfully (both from 37 Squadron) and one crew was saved having been forced to ditch near Corsica when an engine cut out (HZ305 of 142 Squadron). Apart from these three crews only one other man survived, P/O. Vernon A. Murray RCAF the rear gunner of LN336 of 70 Squadron that crashed near Montcarne, Sicily. Four of the crews lost each had a second pilot so the total number of men killed was a staggering 73.
No. 142 Squadron lost 5 aircraft of the 14 sent and 21 crew members. This equalled its worst loss of the war (5 aircraft also failed to return from the Kassel raid of 27/28 August 1942). Only 2 of the squadron's aircraft made it to Turin but failed to identify the target due to the cloud cover and therefore did not bomb. One of those that reached Turin was HZ305 QT-M Captained by Fl/Sgt. S. Bryant and after failing to locate the target bombed the coast road to Genoa. After an engine cut out on the return flight they ditched near Bastia, Corsica and were later picked up.
The other losses from No. 142 Squadron were:
Wellington HE929 QT-V Captained by Fl/Sgt. Stanley Joseph Ouellette R/124429 RCAF Age 21, crashed at Fornovolasco, Vergemoli, Lucca Province, Tuscany, Italy. All the crew were killed and are buried at Florence War Cemetery.
Wellington HF694 QT-F Captained by Sgt. Douglas Henry Betts 1318481 RAFVR Age 21, crashed at Polverara north of La Spezia, Italy. All the crew were killed and buried locally. They were later re-interred in the Staglieno Cemetery, Genoa.
Wellington LN466 QT-P Captained by Fl/Sgt. James Gordon Wade Aus/413050 RAAF Age 26, crashed into a mountain (Monte Voghel) near Issime in the Lys Valley, Italian Alps. All the crew were killed and are buried at Milan War Cemetery, Italy.
The fate of Wellington LN566 QT-D was to remain unknown until 1946. In January 1946 Mr John Leboldus (father of Johnny Leboldus the rear gunner of the crew) received the following letter from RCAF Casualty Department, Ottawa.
"We have now received from the Air Ministry in London the report of a Graves Registration Unit in Italy concerning the last resting place of your son Flight Sergeant John Anthony Leboldus and the members of his crew and the fate of their aircraft.
According to local Italians the aircraft was flying low over mountainous country in the early hours of the night of the raid on Turin in North Western Italy. There was very thick fog on the mountains and it appears that the plane crashed on a hillside due to bad visibility. The wreckage of the aircraft was not found until seven days later by Italian civilians. The local German troops were notified and the six bodies of the members of the crew were brought down to Propato* village where they were buried.
The six members of the crew, including your son, have now been reburied in Graves Nos. 15 to 20, Row C in the Military Plot, Staglieno Civil Cemetery in Genoa, Italy. It was not possible for the Graves Registration Unit to separately identify the members but photographs and documents belonging to the navigator Sergeant F. E. Summers of the Royal Air Force, were received from Italian civilians who had recovered them at the scene of the crash and preserved them until the recent arrival of the Graves Registration personnel.
I know this information can be of little comfort in your many sorrows of a terrible war and can only hope that in days to come you may see the fulfilment of those ideals for which your gallant sons have sacrificed their lives.
May I again offer my sincere sympathy to their mother, your family and yourself."
* No village of this name has been found in the area. However there is Pareto, a commune in the Province of Alessandria in the Italian region Piedmont, located about 80 kilometres southeast of Turin and about 50 kilometres southwest of Alessandria. Because of its location in the mountains and proximity to both Turin and Genoa (it is about 45 km northwest of Genoa) this seems the most likely village to which the remains of the crew were brought and buried.
A HINT OF BITTERNESS AND PERHAPS A PREMONITION?
Less than 7 weeks after Mr Leboldus wrote this letter a third son, Martin Leboldus, was indeed killed in action.
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW
(1) F/Sgt. Reginald Charles Tyas was born 5 June 1917 at Sydney, New South Wales, Australia the son of Reginald and Lillian Tyas of 7 Epping Road, Eastwood, Sydney and later of 42 Newton Road, Strathfield, Sydney. He was educated at Eastwood Public School (1929-1930) Sydney Technical School (1930-1934) and Sydney Technical College (1934-1939) where he passed the Lower and Higher Electrical Trades Examinations. After leaving school he worked as a Patternmaker for 18 months before commencing a five year apprenticeship as an Electrician. Including this apprenticeship he worked as an Electrician for the Metropolitan Water Sewerage & Drainage Board for a total of six and a half years prior to enlisting at Sydney on 24 May 1941. On enlistment he was described as 5' 6" tall weighing 9st 12llbs with blond hair, grey eyes and a fair complexion. He stated that he played Competitive Tennis.
After initial training he was posted to no. 8 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) at RAAF Station Narrandera NSW and later to No. 2 Service Flying Training School (SFTS) at RAAF Station Forest Hill near Wagga Wagga NSW after which he was posted to No 1 SFTS at RAAF Point Cook where he received his Flying Badge on 27 May 1942.
He embarked at Sydney on 17 October and after arriving in the UK was posted to 11 PDRC on 16 December 1942. After further training at No. 3 Pilot (Advanced Flying Unit) and 16 Operational Training Unit he was posted to No. 142 Squadron on 7 September 1943.
On 2 September 1943 he married Lily Hilda Doris Mason at Banbury. Lily Tyas lived at 15 Gorse Rise, Tooting, London SW17.
He is commemorated on the Australian War Memorial, Canberra - Panel 131 and on the MWS&DB Honour Roll.
(2) F/Sgt. Alan Duncan Johann Smith was born 19 October 1923 at Kabakoul, Rabaul, New Guinea the son of Major Campbell Mills Smith and Fredericka Josephine Smith, of Broadway, New South Wales, Australia. Before enlisting in the RAAF at Sydney he was a Student and lived at 9 Findlay Avenue, Roseville, New South Wales.
He is commemorated on the Roseville New South Wales War Memorial and on the Australian War Memorial, Canberra - Panel 13O
(3) F/Sgt. Frank Eric Summers was born in 1922 at St. George Hanover Square, London the Son of Cyril Thomas William Summers and Ellen Amelia Summers nee Boon later of Barnes, Surrey. He had brothers Ian C.A. Summers born 1915 and Geoffrey T. Summers born 1920
He was awarded the Certificate of the College of Masons, 1938 and the City and Guilds of London 1st Class Certificate 1940.
(4) Sgt. William Robson Knight married Audrey Minnie Knight nee Mason at Brentford, Middlesex in 1939 and live at Hounslow West, Middlesex. No known children.
(5) Sgt. Horace Alfred Clark was born c1920 the son of Alfred and Gladys Clark, of New Southgate, Middlesex.
(6) Fl/Sgt. John Anthony Leboldus was born on 22 October 1922 born in Yakima, Washington, USA where his mother was visiting his aunt. He was the 11th of 12 children born to John Leboldus and Regina Leboldus nee Weisbeg.
John Leboldus senior was a Hardware and Implement dealer; he and his wife Regina had been born in Russia and were Naturalised Canadian. John Anthony, known as Johnny attended Public School and High School at Vibank from 1928 until 1940 and then studied Arts at St.Peter's College Muenster,Saskatchewan until 1941. He worked as a Clerk in his father's business for a short time until he joined the RCAF at Regina on 17 February 1942. Standing 5'7" tall and weighing 145 lbs he had a dark complexion, blue eyes and black hair. John played Hockey extensively and was also a guitarist and singer.
After training at RCAF Stations Regina, Brandon and MacDonald he embarked at New York on 4 May 1943 arriving in the UK on the 11th. From 3 PRC he was posted to No. 16 Operational Training Unit at RAF Upper Heyford, Oxfordshire on 25 May 1943 until 15 August 1943 after which he was posted to No. 142 Squadron.
Two of John's brothers were also killed in action with the RCAF. Flying Officer Peter John Leboldus J/15034 was killed on 13 February 1944 whilst flying as Navigator of Boston AL766 of 418 Squadron RCAF and Captained by F/Sgt R.R. Jackson (see http://aircrewremembered.com/jackson-robert.html ) and Sergeant Martin Benedict Leboldus R/613333 was killed on 20 February 1944 whilst flying as the Flight Engineer of Halifax JD114 of No. 419 squadron and Captained by P/O. Douglas Kenneth MacLeod (see http://aircrewremembered.com/macleod-douglas.html )
In 1955 their mother, Regina Leboldus, was selected by the Royal Canadian Legion as that year's National Memorial (Silver) Cross Mother. On 11 November at the National Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa she laid a wreath at the National War Memorial on behalf of all mothers who have lost a children in the service of their country.
The memory of the three Leboldus brothers was honoured by the Province of Saskatchewan with the naming of Leboldus Channel, adjoining lake, and islands in the lake. Leboldus Channel named after John Anthony Leboldus connects Leboldus Lake , named after Peter John Leboldus with Frobisher Lake in north western Saskatchewan. The Leboldus Islands in the lake are named after Martin Benedict Leboldus.
BURIAL DETAILS AND EPITAPHS
The crew members were all reburied at Staglieno Cemetery Genoa in Collective Grave III C 15-12
(1) F/Sgt. Reginald Charles Tyas
Hath no man but this
That he lay down his life
(2) F/Sgt. Alan Duncan Johann Smith
(3) F/Sgt. Frank Eric Summers
That I have left you,
Feel only glad
That I have done my duty
(4) Sgt. William Robson Knight
God takes our loved ones
From our homes
But never from our hearts
(5) Sgt. Horace Alfred Clark
A voice we love is stilled,
A place is vacant
At our hearth
Which never can be filled
(6) F/Sgt. John Anthony Leboldus
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - August 2016
With thanks to the sources quoted below.