17.05.1940 No. 82 Squadron Blenheim IV P4904 UX-B Sgt. Watkins
Operation: Gembloux Belgium
Date: 17th May 1940 (Friday)
Unit: No. 82 Squadron
Type: Blenheim MkIV
Base: RAF Watton, Norfolk
Location: between Merval and Lappion, south-east of Laon France
Pilot: Sgt Thomas John Watkins 44735 RAF evaded capture and returned (later awarded the DSO)
Obs: Sgt. David John Lees 565583 RAF Age 25. Killed
Air/Gnr: LAC. Kenneth Gordon Reed 552567 RAF Age 19. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Leaving RAF Watton in Norfolk at 04:50 hrs along with 11 other Blenheims from the Squadron to attack German armour units infiltrating the Gembloux gap. Crews uneasy as in previous operations the Blenheim Squadrons had suffered enormous losses.
They were to have an escort of Hurricanes but they were attacked before they made the rendezvous!
Later their fears were justified in that some 36 crew members would not return home. The losses:
Blenheim IV L8830 UX-T Flown by F/O. McConnell - 2 crew PoW, I evaded. Blenheim IV L8856 UX-W Flown by Sgt. Morrison Crew escaped after heavy landing on return. Blenheim IV L9210 Flown by P/O. Greirson killed with 2 other crew, Blenheim IV L9213 Flown by Fl/Lt. Watson killed with 2 other crew, Blenheim IV P4838 Flown by F/O. Gofton killed with 2 other crew, Blenheim IV P4851 Flown by F/O. Fordham safe, 2 other crew killed, Blenheim IV P4852 Flown by Sq/Ldr. Delap DFC safe with 1 other crew member, one killed, Blenheim IV P4853 Flown by Sgt. Newbatt killed with 2 other crew, Blenheim IV P4854 Flown by P/O Toft PoW 2 other crew killed, Blenheim IV P4898 Flown by P.O. Christensen killed with 2 other crew, Blenheim IV P4903 Flown by Sgt. Wrightson injured, 2 other crew safe.
Set alight in attacks by Bf109s of 1./JG3 and exploded between Merval and Lappion, south-east of Laon, 06.30 hrs Sgt. Lees and LAC. Reed killed. Sgt. Watkins miraculously blown from aircraft and managed to deploy his parachute, evaded capture and returned to his Squadron on the 11th June 1940 .
Sgt. David John Lees. Lappion Churchyard. Son of Harry and Sarah A. Lees, of Erith, Kent, England.
LAC. Kenneth Gordon Reed. Merval Churchyard. Son of Albert Henry and Elizabeth Ellen Reed, of Penygraig, Glamorgan, Wales.
Researched Michel Beckers for Aircrew Remembered April 2017, with thanks to Soilsister for grave photographs, the remainder the collection of Michel Beckers.