04/05.04.1945 424 (Tiger) Sqn RCAF Lancaster I RF150 QB:W Fg Off. Watson
Operation: Merseburg (Leuna synthetic oil refinery)
Date: 4th/5th April 1945 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: 424 (Tiger) Squadron RCAF
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Skipton-on-Swale, Yorkshire
Location: Widdenton Park Wood, Lane End, near High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
Pilot: Fg Off. Joseph William 'Pop' Watson J41735 RCAF Age 33. Killed
Flt Eng: Sgt. Edward Thomas Ashdown R198096 RCAF Age 21. Killed
Nav: Fg Off. Joseph Rochford J39294 RCAF Age 21. Killed
Air Bmr: Flt Sgt. Curwood Neville Armstrong R183655 RCAF Age 20. Killed
W Op/Air Gnr: WO2. Stuart Mclean Thomson R177285 RCAF Age 20. Killed
Air Gnr: Sgt. Stewart James Olson Robinson K222206 RCAF Age 19. Killed
Air Gnr: Sgt. Charles Keith Howes R170976 RCAF Age 19. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS
Taking off at 18.08 hrs from RAF Skipton-on-Swale, Yorkshire. 327 Lancasters with 14 Mosquitoes taking part to bomb the Leuna synthetic oil refinery, situated on the south east side of the City of Merseburg.
Above left: Crew of Lancaster RF150
Above: Left to Right: Plt Off. Ashdown, Plt Off. Rochford, Plt Off. Armstrong (From their Service Files)
Above: Left to Right: Plt Off. Robinson, Plt Off. Howes (From their Service Files)
Each of the thirteen Lancasters were carrying a bomb load of 1 x 4000 lb, 4 x 500 lb and 6 x 250 lb bombs, and enough fuel to last them the estimated seven hour return trip. Sqn Ldr. Ralph Green briefed the thirteen Lancaster crews from 424 (Tiger) Squadron for their next operation to Germany, Sqn Ldr. Green would also be flying as lead aircraft in QB:P, the ‘Piccadilly Princess.’
All of the aircraft arrived safely over Merseburg between 22:45 hrs and 23:00 hrs to begin the bombing run.
Aircraft from 424 Squadron on this operation:
RF148 QB:A Fg Off. Becket
PB897 QB:B Fg Off. Mullin
RA578 QB:C Fg Off. Sanders
NG451 QB:E Plt Off. McInroy
NG446 QB:J Flt Lt. King
NG484 QB:L Flt Lt. Taylor
RA504 QB:M Flt Lt. Matheson
NG279 QB:O Fg Off. MacDonald
NG347 QB:P Sqn Ldr Green
NG400 QB:R Flt Lt. Sillers
RF128 QB:V Fg Off. Saunders
RF150 QB:W Fg Off. Watson
NG281 QB:X Flt Lt. Skene.
The reported results from the bombing was that the target had been cloud-covered and the bombing scattered.
Lancaster RF150 crashed in woodland and was completely destroyed by fire on impact. It had been reported that some of the dead crew were wounded as some of the remains were wearing bandages. Tragically RF150 clipped a water tower during an emergency landing attempt at RAF Booker and crashed at Widdeston Park at 02:25 hrs, some 3 miles SW of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire and not far from the Headquarters that planned their mission.
The sound of the explosion was heard some miles away by firemen at the Fire Station in London Rd, High Wycombe. Before waiting for the call they estimated roughly the position of the glow they could see in the sky and headed towards the crash. One fire engine raced through the streets of High Wycombe and took the Piccadilly route to Widdenton Park Reservoir, the scene of the crash. A second fire engine took the route through Sands to get to the site.
Above: This is the same aircraft as lost, but with Flt Lt. J.F. Thomas as pilot, together with the crew of Lancaster Bomber I 'Victorious Virgin' RF128 QB:V of 424 (Tiger) Squadron RCAF, taken on the 21st of March 1945. (probably at the Skipton-on-Swale, North Yorkshire airfield). (Colorized by Tom Thounaojam from India)
Above: Flt Sgt. Howse with Flt Sgt. Robinson with right, original grave markers (Credit Tim and Carol Court)
Brookwood Military Cemetery: This site was further extended to accommodate the Commonwealth casualties of the Second World War. There is a large Royal Air Forces section in the south-east corner of the cemetery (which also contains the graves of Czechoslovakian and American airmen who served with the Royal Air Force) and the Air Forces shelter building nearby houses the register of the names of those buried in the section. A plot in the west corner of the cemetery contains approximately 2,400 Canadian graves of the Second World War including those of 43 men who died of wounds following the Dieppe Raid in August 1942. The Canadian Records building, which was a gift of the Canadian government, houses a reception room for visitors and other offices.
Above: Grave markers for Fg Off. Watson, Plt Off. Ashdown, Fg Off. Rochford, Plt Off. Armstrong
Fg Off. Joseph William 'Pop' Watson. Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 51.F.6. Born on the 13th May 1911 in Toronto. Son to William Howard and Violet Francis (nee Brown) Watson and the husband to Alice Louisa (nee Corbet) Watson.
Plt Off. Edward Thomas Ashdown. Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 51.F.7. Son of Alfred Thomas Ashdown and Ivy Isabel Ashdown, of Toronto. Ontario, Canada. Grave inscription reads: ‘MIZPAH. SO WELL REMEMBERED.’
Sgt. Ashdown was posthumously commissioned and promoted to Plt Off. with Service No. J95123 on the 4th April 1945
Fg Off. Joseph Rochford. Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 51.F.2. Son of James and Alice Rochford, of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Grave inscription reads: ‘MERCIFUL LORD JESUS, GRANT HIM ETERNAL REST.'
Plt Off. Curwood Neville Armstrong. Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 51.F.3. Son of Leslie and Vera Armstrong, of Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada. Grave inscription reads: ‘GREAT LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS. FOR OUR TOMORROW HE GAVE HIS TODAY.’
Flt Sgt. Armstrong was posthumously commissioned and promoted to Plt Off. with Service No. J95124 on the 4th April 1945
Above: Grave markers for Plt Off. Thomson, Plt Off. Robinson, Plt Off. Howes.
Plt Off. Stuart Mclean Thomson. Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 51.F.4. Grave inscription reads: ‘HE GAVE THE GREATEST GIFT OF ALL, HIS UNFINISHED LIFE. MOTHER, DAD AND ALEX.’Son of Albert S. Thomson and Jessie M. Thomson, of Three Rivers, Quebec, Canada.
WO2 Thomson was posthumously commissioned and promoted to Plt Off. with Service No. J94843 on the 4th April 1945.
Plt Off. Stewart James Olson Robinson. Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 51.F.5. Grave inscription reads: ‘GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS, ThHAT A MAN CAN LAY DOWN HIS LIFE, FOR HIS FRIENDS'. Son of Henry and Hannah Olson Robinson, of Raymond, Alberta, Canada. Stewart James Olson Robinson was born January 2nd, 1926 in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.
At the age of 17 (he lied about his age to get in to the Canadian air force) he joined the RCAF and trained as an air gunner. Shipped overseas in 1944 and assigned to 6th Bomber Group, 424 Sqn, based at Skipton-on-Swale. On the 31 March, 1945 Stewart was credited with downing a Me262 while his Lancaster was on a daylight bombing raid over Hamburg. The people of Lane End, the village near where the plane went down, were kind enough to include the seven Canadians killed in the crash on their village cenotaph honouring the war dead of that area.
Sgt Robinson was posthumously commissioned and promoted to Plt Off. with Service No. J95524 on the 4th April 1945
Plt Off. Charles Keith Howes. Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 51.F.1. Grave inscription reads: ‘MAY HIS SOUL REST IN PEACE.’Son of Charles Tupper Howes and Mary Howes, of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Sgt Howes was commissioned and promoted to Plt.Off. with Service No. J95122 on the 4th April 1945.
Above: Memorial stone at the site of the crash site for RF150 (Credit Simon Cains)
Above: Village war memorial at Lane End (Credit Simon Cains)
In the Magazine "After The Battle" (Issue 67) a reader investigation by David King & Peter White entitled "The Strongest, Bravest and Best" provides a personal perspective of the crew their families and the events after the crash. The investigation is also available for those that have a facebook account on the "RAF Losses aircrewremeberencesociety.com" page.(Brought to our notice by Simon Cains (Apr 2021).
Report dedicated to relatives of the crew with special thanks for information and photographs to Tim and Carol Court, relative of Plt Off. Robinson. Thanks to John Jones for the NoK details for Fg Off Watson. Thanks to Simon Cains for the images of the memorial at the crash site and the village war memorial at Lane End (Apr 2021). Other updates by Aircrew Remembered (Apr 2021). Thanks to Malcolm Kelly for pointing out that the squadron was incorrectly identified (Sep 2021).