21.03.1942 No. 24 Squadron SAAF Boston III Z2225 Capt. Jacobus Pieter (Jimmy) Verster
Operation: Barce, Libya
Date: 21 March 1942 (Saturday)
Unit: No. 24 Squadron SAAF - Motto: "Per Noctem Per Diem" ("Through Night, Through Day")
Type: Douglas A20 Boston III
Code: Not known
Base: Landing Ground 140, Bir el Baheira No 1, near Kambut, Libya
Location: 35 miles south west of Bir el Hakeim, Libya
Pilot: Capt. Jacobus Pieter (Jimmy) Verster 102681 SAAF - Safe and uninjured (1)
Obs: 2nd. Lt. J.D.P. Bester 103555 SAAF - Safe and uninjured (2)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Mervyn (Froggie) Lefroy 406145 RAAF - Safe and uninjured (3)
Air/Gnr: Air/Sgt. Frederick Hendrik Jacobus Bender 205468 SAAF - Killed (4)
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REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 05:15 hours from Landing Ground 140 flying number 3 in a formation of three aircraft led by Lt. Col. A.J.M. Mossop SAAF piloting Boston AL733 and detailed to bomb the city of Barce in north east Libya. The formation made its attack at low level and on the return flight whilst flying at 100 feet was attacked by 2 Messerschmitt Bf 109Fs flown by Lt. Friedrich Körner and Lt. Karl von Lieres und Wilkau of 2/JG 27. The crews of the Bostons had not expected the fighter to attack them whilst flying at such a low level and even then they expected just the one pass. However, the Messerschmitts continued to pursue them maintaining a long low level chase and Boston Z2225 had its starboard engine destroyed in the first attack. When in the second attack the port engine was hit, Captain Verster had no alternative but to make a high speed crash landing 35 miles south west of Bir el Hakeim. Whilst the crew were climbing out of the aircraft the enemy fighter ground strafed them and set the aircraft on fire. Air Sergeant Bender had been killed during the aerial combat and his body was burnt out with the aircraft.
The remainder of the crew then set out to walk on a compass course and after walking for 40 hours without water, were picked up by a Free French Army Patrol and returned to base.
Lt. Friedrich Körner (5) and Lt. Karl von Lieres und Wilkau (6) each claimed a Boston the other one shot down being AL733 piloted by Lt. Col. A.J.M. Mossop SAAF. Lt. Körner's victory was timed at 08:55 hours whilst Lt. Lieres u Wilkau's was time at 08:56 hours.
Scale 1" = 45 Miles
(1) Capt. Jacobus Pieter (Jimmy) Verster was born on 22 May 1919 at Boksburg, South Africa. He was educated at Pretoria University and joined the Air Force in 1936 as a student pilot. He arrived in Egypt on 10 March 1942 and this was his first operational sortie. After promotion to Major he was again shot down on 17 August 1942 whilst piloting Boston Z2294 in an operation attacking boats in Mersa Matruh harbour. After belly landing in a German camp he and his crew became prisoners of war. Given PoW number 631 he was sent to Stalag Luft III. After the war he continued his career in the South African Air Force and from 1953 to 1962 served as Aide-de-Camp to the Governor General and the State President. Having risen to the rank of Lieutenant-General he was Chief of the South African Air Force from 1967 to 1975. He died at Pretoria on 31 August 1981 aged 62 and was buried at the New Military Cemetery, Voortrekkerhoogte (renamed Thaba Tshwane in 1998)
He was awarded the Star of South Africa (1952) on 28 June 1974 Southern Cross Medal (1952) date not known
(2) 2nd. Lt. J.D.P. Bester - This was his first fully operational sortie but he had also been in Boston Z2175 that was shot down on take off on 27 February whilst undertaking a relocation flight. Nothing further known, if you have any further information please contact our Helpdesk
(3) Sgt. John Mervyn (Froggie) Lefroy was born on 8 October 1917 at Carnarvon, Western Australia the son of John Roydon Gerald Lefroy and Lelia Maria Lefroy; the Grandson of Mrs. Evelyn Maria Locke. His father was the owner of Ella Valla Station at Carnarvon where the family lived.
He attended Guildford Grammar School, Western Australia from 1927 until 1934 when he passed the Junior Certificate in English, History and Book-keeping. He played Football, Cricket, Tennis and Swimming. When he joined the RAAF on 15 August 1940 he gave his occupation as Station Hand/Dairy Farmer. He was 6'0½" tall weighing 10st. 1lb. with light brown hair, brown eyes and a fair complexion. After training in Australia he embarked at Fremantle on 5 July 1941 for Egypt where he disembarked on 31 July and on 26 September was posted to No. 223 Squadron on an Operational Training Course lasting 6 weeks. After returning to SAAF Reception Depot he was eventually posted to No. 24 Squadron in February/March 1942.
He was killed on 29 May 1942 when Boston Z2176 failed to return from an operation to bomb shipping in Derna harbour, Libya. All the crew members are commemorated on the Alamein Memorial, John Mervyn Lefroy on column 266.
(4) Air/Sgt Frederick Hendrik Jacobus Bender - Nothing else known, if you have further information please contact our Helpdesk
(5) Leutnant Friedrich Körner was born on 24 January 1921 at Scherte, Ruhrgebiet, Germany. He enlisted in the Lufwaffe on 15 November 1939 and after completion of fighter training was assigned to 2./JG27 in North Africa arriving on 4 July 1941. He was credited with 36 victories and flew 250 missions all in North Africa. He was awarded the Eisernes Kreuz (Iron Cross 1st and 2nd class), the Deutsche Kreuz (German Cross) in Gold and the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes (Knights Cross of the Iron Cross). He was a prisoner of war in Canada from 1942 until 1947.
In 1956 he joined the Bundesluftwaffe from which he retired with the rank of Generalmajor on 30 June 1979. After retirement he live with hiswife inParis where he died on 3 September 1998 at the age of 77.
(6) Leutnant (later Oberleutnant) Karl von Lieres und Wilkau was born on 10 June 1922. He was credited with 31 victories before being killed in action on 11 June 1943.
He was awarded the Ehrenokal (Honour Goblet of the Luftwaffe) on 19 April 1942 and the Deutsche Kreuz (German Cross) in Gold posthumously on 13 July 1943.
BURIAL DETAILS AND EPITAPHS
Air/Sgt. Frederick Hendrik Jacobus Bender - Having no known grave he is commemorated on the Alamein Memorial Panel No. 268
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - May 2016
With thanks to the sources quoted below:
A History of the Mediterranean Air War, 1940-1945: Volume 2: North African Desert, February 1942 - March 1943
by Christopher Shores and Giovanni Massimello
Royal Air Force Bomber Losses in the Middle East and Mediterranean Volume 1 - David Gunby and Pelham Temple.