04/05.04.1945 No 424 Squadron Lancaster I RF150 QB-W F/O. Joseph W. Watson
Operation: Merseburg (Leuna synthetic oil refinery)
Date: 4/5th April 1945 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: No. 424 Squadron
Type: Avro Lancaster B.Mk1
Base: RAF Skipton-on-Swale, Yorkshire
Location: Widdenton Park Wood, Lane End, near High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
Pilot: F/O. Joseph William (Pop) Watson J/41735 RCAF Age 33. Killed
Fl/Eng: P/O. Edward Thomas Ashdown J/95123 RCAF Age 21. Killed
Nav: F/O. Joseph Rochford J/39294 RCAF Age 21. Killed
Air/Bmr: P/O. Curwood Neville Armstrong J/95127 RCAF Age 20. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: P/O. Stuart Mclean Thomson J/94843 RCAF Age 20. Killed
Air/Gnr: P/O. Stewart James Olson Robinson J/95524 RCAF Age 19. Killed
Air/Gnr: P/O. Charles Keith Howes R/170976 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
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. Sq/Ldr. Ralph Green briefed the thirteen Lancaster crews from No. 424 (Tiger) Squadron for their next operation to Germany, Sq/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 and 23.00 hours to begin the bombing run.
Aircraft from 424 Squadron on this operation:
RF148 QB-A F/O. Becket
PB897 QB-B F/O. Mullin
RA578 QB-C F/O. Sanders
NG451 QB-E P/O. McInroy
NG446 QB-J Fl/Lt. King
NG484 QB-L Fl/Lt. Taylor
RA504 QB-M Fl/Lt. Matheson
NG279 QB-O F/O. MacDonald
NG347 QB-P S/L Green
NG400 QB-R Fl/Lt. Sillers
RF128 QB-V F/O. Saunders
RF150 QB-W F/O. Watson
NG281 QB-X Fl/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 spun into the woodland at 02.25 hrs.
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: Fl/Sgt. Howse with Fl/Sgt. Robinson with right, original grave markers (courtesy Tim and Carol Court)
F/O.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. No grave inscription.
F/O. Joseph Rochford. Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 51.F.2. Son of James and Alice Rochford, of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. His grave inscription reads: ‘Merciful Lord Jesus, Grant Him Eternal Rest.’
P/O. Curwood Neville Armstrong. Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 51.F.3. Son of Leslie and Vera Armstrong, of Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada. His grave inscription reads: ‘ Great Love Hath No Man Than This. For Our Tomorrow He Gave His Today.’
P/O. Stuart Mclean Thomson. Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 51.F.4. Son of Albert S. Thomson and Jessie M. Thomson, of Three Rivers, Quebec, Canada. His grave inscription reads: ‘He Gave The Greatest Gift Of All, His Unfinished Life. Mother, Dad and Alex.’
P/O. Edward Thomas Ashdown. Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 51.F.7. Son of Alfred Thomas Ashdown and Ivy Isabel Ashdown, of Toronto. Ontario, Canada. His grave inscription reads: ‘Mizpah. So Well Remembered.’
P/O. Stewart James Olson Robinson. Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 51.F.5. Further information: 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 squadron, 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. His grave inscription reads: ‘Greater Love Hath No Man than this, That A man Can Lay Down His Life, For His Friends.’
P/O. Charles Keith Howes. Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 51.F.1. Son of Charles Tupper Howes and Mary Howes, of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. His grave inscription reads: ‘May His Soul Rest In Peace.’
Page dedicated to relatives of the crew with special thanks for information and photographs to Tim and Carol Court, relative of P/O. Robinson. For further details our thanks to the following, Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol's. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vol's. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries (Updated 2014 version), Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
CWGC - 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.
This is the same aircraft as lost, but with F/L J. F. Thomas as pilot, together with the crew of Avro Lancaster Bomber 'B' MkI 'Victorious Virgin' RF128 QB-V of RCAF 424 Squadron "Tiger" Squadron, taken on the 21st of March 1945. (probably at the Skipton-on-Swale, North Yorkshire airfield). (Colorized by Tom Thounaojam from India)
Thanks to John Jones for the NOK details for F/O. Joseph William (Pop) Watson.