07.06.1940 No 150 Squadron Battle I L5288 F/O. Vernon DFC
Operation: Enemy Column
Date: 07th June 1940 (Friday)
Unit: No. 150 Squadron (71 Wing - Advanced Air Striking Force)
Type: Fairey Battle I
Base: Houssay, France
Location: Near Vergies, France
Pilot: F/O. James Edward Vernon DFC. 36145 RAF Age 24. Killed
Obs: Sgt. George William Clawley 533480 RAF Age 25. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Jack Frederick Atkins 751819 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Just 10 days previously F/O. Vernon was flying Fairey Battle I L5489 out of Povan. Instructed to attack the Luftwaffe headquarters at Château De Roumont. After the attack they were fired on by fighters and forced to land. He helped his wounded crew from the aircraft then set it alight.
The two injured crew, Fl/Sgt. G. Busby 581267 the observer and his air gunner LAC A.W. Rutland 755000 were captured and made PoW at Stalag Kopernikus. F/O. Vernon managed to evade capture and return to his unit.
LAC. A.W. Rutland PoW No: 18162 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus.
Fl/Sgt. G. Busby PoW No: 38248 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus.
Taking off from the Advanced Landing Ground Echemines with 5 others to attack German convoys between Poix and Abbeville the aircraft was hit and crashed at around 19:15 hrs near the village of Vergies - killing all the crew.
The daughter of the Observer of this crew, Mrs Geraldine Lamb (née Clawley) visited the graves and also met the chap who, as a 17 year old helped the removal of the crews bodies from the aircraft and bury them. Monsieur Durand also assisted in the recovery of the crew remains three months later and rebury them in the village cemetery. For years he has tended to the pro where they are buried.
Above left: Friends at the village showing Geraldine 3rd from left with Monsieur Durand on her left. Right: Geraldine at her fathers grave.
There are just four CWGC graves within this cemetery. As well as the three crew members 34 year old, Pte. Robert Marsden Rigby 12484 of the 02nd Battalion Scots Guards killed during the First World War on the 27th October 1916.
F/O. James Edward Vernon DFC. Vergies Communal Cemetery. Row 1. Grave 21. Born on 21 August 1915, at Roxburgh, Central Otago, the son of George Mathew and Margaret Jamima Vernon, of Glenorchy, Otago, New Zealand.
Sgt. George William Clawley. Vergies Communal Cemetery. Row 1. Joint grave 19-20. Born on the 14th August 1915 at Wrexham, Denbighshire, Wales. Son of Mrs. Chorley of Yew Tree Cottage, Prees Green, Shropshire, England. Husband of E. Horabin and father of Geraldine. Attended Wem grammar school - now known as Thomas Adams School. His only daughter was born the day before the crash. It’s unlikely he knew about her.
Sgt. Jack Frederick Atkins. Vergies Communal Cemetery. Row 1. Joint grave 19-20. Son of Frederick William and Ellen Edith Maud Atkins, of Reading, Berkshire, England. Grave inscription reads: "Treasured Memories Of A Dear Son. Always In The Thoughts Of His Loving Mum & Dad".
Pte. Robert Marsden Rigby. Vergies Communal Cemetery. Row I. Grave 22. Son of Robert Marsden Rigby and Elizabeth Rigby, of Freckleton and husband of Bertha Rigby, of 73, Kirkham Road, Freckleton, Kirkham, Preston, Lancashire, England. Grave inscription reads: "Peace Perfect Peace And Rest".
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to the research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland War Memorial Museum, Weekly News of New Zealand, with thanks to John and Veronica Dixon - relative of Sgt. Clawley, other sources as quoted below: