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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.


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No. 101 Squadron Crest
16/17.06.1944 No. 101 Squadron Lancaster III LM474 SR-X2 P/O. Gordon George Welch


Operation: Sterkrade

Date: 16/17 June 1944 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit: No. 101 Squadron. Motto: Mens agitat molem - 'Mind over matter'

Badge: Issuant from the battlements of a tower, a demi-lion rampant guardant. The squadron adopted the battlements of a round tower as symbolic of its claim to be the first squadron equipped with an aircraft fitted with a power-operated rotating turret (the Boulton Paul Overstrand). A lion being a fierce fighter is symbolic of the unit's fighting spirit by its position in the tower. Authority: King George VI, February 1938.

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: LM474

Code: SR-X2

Base: RAF Ludford Magna, Lincolnshire.

Location: Crashed at Volkel (Noord-Brabant) Netherlands

Pilot: F/O. Gordon George Welch J/27563 RCAF Age 21 - Killed (1)

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Brian Towse 1892647 RAF Age 21- PoW - Details not known (2)

Nav: F/O. Duncan Traylen McKillop J/35032 RCAF Age 34 - PoW No. 6390. Camp: Sagan and Belaria -L3 (3)

Air/Bmr: F/O. David Kenneth Adair J/29705 RCAF Age 26 - Killed (4)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Patrick West 957498 RAF - PoW - Details not known (5)

W/Op/Air/Gnr (Special Duties): Sgt. Ronald H. James 1896179 RAFVR Age 28 - Killed (6)

Air/Gnr (MU): P/O. John Shaw Winder J/93659 RCAF Age 22 - Killed (7)

Air/Gnr (R): Sgt Willard Vernon Ireland R/210291 RCAF Age 19 - Killed (8)


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INTRODUCTION

In September 1943 101 Squadron crews began to fly specially modified Lancasters fitted with top secret Airborne Cigar or ABC radio jamming equipment. An additional "Special Operator" was included in the crew of each 101 Squadron crew to monitor this equipment. During the winter of 1943/4 No. 101 Squadron crews fought in the Battle of Berlin but suffered high casualties. On the 31st March 1944, during the Nuremberg Raid, 101 Squadron lost 7 Lancasters and crews out of 26 dispatched. In the spring and summer of 1944 101 Squadron attacked targets in France in preparation for and in support of the allied invasion of Normandy. These raids were no milk runs and 4 crews were lost on 4th May in the raid on Mailly-le-Camp. On D-Day, the squadron used "ABC" to jam night fighter controllers to protect the British airborne landings. After D-Day the squadron returned to targets in Germany.

F/O. Gordon Welch and his crew of six arrived at RAF Ludford Magna in Lincolnshire on 8 June 1944 where they were joined by Special Operator Ronald James. But ready or not they were to have little more than a week to become acquainted with Ronald and their new surrounding before being detailed to fly their first operation with the squadron; a raid on the oil plant at Sterkrade on the night of 16/17 June.

A force comprising 162 Halifaxes, 147 Lancasters and 12 Mosquitoes was despatched for this bombing raid on the Ruhrchemie AG synthetic oil plant at Sterkrade/Holten, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.

Despite a poor weather forecast the 321 strong force set out for Germany where they found that the target was covered by thick cloud and therefore the Pathfinder markers were quickly diminishing to little more than a glow. The main force bombed on what they discerned to be the markers but although some bombs fell on the plant most of the bombing was scattered and had little effect on production.

The route taken by the bomber force outbound and homebound circumvented the city of Bocholt. Situated 20 miles north of Sterkrade, Bocholt was the site of a night fighter beacon and the German controller had chosen the beacon as the holding point for his night fighters.

Approximately 21 bombers were shot down by fighters and a further 10 by flak. 22 of the lost aircraft were Halifaxes, these losses being 13.6 percent of the 162 Halifaxes on the raid. No 77 Squadron, from Full Sutton near York, lost 7 of its 23 Halifaxes taking part in the raid.


REASON FOR LOSS

It was 23.41 on 16 June 1944 and as Gordon Welch, captain of Lancaster LM474 eased back the stick, the bomber left the runway at RAF Ludford Magna and rose into the night sky. Navigator Duncan McKillop gave Gordon the course for Sheringham in north Norfolk then out across the North Sea towards the Dutch coast for the first leg of the four hour round trip.

They reached Sterkrade without mishap, dropped their bomb load and turned for home; but at 01.50 hours flying at 20000 feet heading towards Tilburg in the Netherlands their luck ran out. Attacked from behind by a Junkers Ju 88 night fighter flown by Oblt Alfons Köster of 3./NJG 2 the Lancaster was set on fire. It seems that the warning devices had failed and the crew were taken totally by surprise. The aircraft was quickly engulfed in flames and according to captured German documents "...crashed [at 01.53 hours] on the North Side of flying fields at Volkel Airdrome 20 km North of Helmond. The plane was almost totally destroyed"

Navigator Duncan McKillop managed to bale out and later had this to say:

"Well they got me. Take a tip from me and keep that old parachute ready at all times. I came down in Holland and got away with only a few burns mainly my hands. Otherwise no injuries. Hospital 12 days"

In his report of 10 March 1945 Duncan McKillop stated that he had last seen the Wireless Operator Patrick West and Flight Engineer Brian Towes at Dulag Luft. As for the pilot Gordon Welch he did not believe it possible that he could have got out. As far as he knew, Gunners John Winder and Willard Ireland together with Special Wireless Operator Ronald James were still in the aircraft when he baled out and he knew nothing of their fate; but he believed that Flying Officer David Adair the Bomb Aimer "went out without parachute".

Flight Engineer Brian Towes stated that:

"I came down on the 17th June and fortunately sustained only superficial damage. I am quite OK and nearly better. I was in Holland for 10 days and now I'm in a Red Cross Hospital in Germany with (????). Three of us are OK but I've lost my (mates?) temporarily"

The other five, Gordon Welch, David Adair, Ronald James, John Winder and Willard Ireland were all killed. They were buried only 2 km from where they were killed, in the cemetery at Uden. In 1945 the body of David Adair was reinterred in Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery.


BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW

(1) F/O. Gordon George Welch was born on 14 December 1922 at Stratford, Ontario, Canada the son of London, England born parents William Charles Welch, a Caretaker and Florence Gertrude Welch nee White. He had three sisters Myrtle Helen Welch born c 1921, Doris Beryl Welch born c 1924 and Gladys Marjorie Welch born c 1927.

The family lived at 3678 Queen Street, Windsor, Ontario and later 3411 Peter Street, Windsor.

Gordon was educated at Marlborough School, Windsor (1929-1937) and Sandwich Collegiate Institute, Windsor from 1937 until his enlistment in the RCAF. He played hockey, football and baseball.

When he enlisted at Windsor on 15 January 1941 he was 5' 7½" tall, weighing 144 lbs with a dark complexion, brown eyes and dark brown hair.

His training was conducted entirely in Ontario i.e. Technical Training School at RCAF St. Thomas, No. 6 Initial Training School at RCAF Toronto, No. 12 Elementary Flying Training School at RCAF Goderich and finally at No. 6 Service Flying Training School at RCAF Dunnville where he was awarded his Pilot's Badge, promoted to Sergeant and commissioned as a Pilot Officer all on 25 June 1943.

After two weeks embarkation leave he was posted to the RAF Training Pool and on 16 July he embarked for the UK. On arrival he was posted to No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre on 23 July and on 14 September to No. 14 (Pilots) Advanced Flying Unit at RAF Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

He was promoted to Flying Officer on Christmas Day 1943.

On 18 January 1944 he was posted to No. 30 Operational Training Unit at RAF Hixon in Staffordshire for training on Wellingtons including night flying; to No. 11 Base on 11 April 1944 and on 8 June to No. 101 Squadron, RAF Ludford Magna, Lincolnshire for operational flying.


(2) Sgt. Brian Towse was born in 1923 at Horsham, Sussex the son of Charles F. Towse and Doris Towse nee Leak. He had two sisters Beatrice M. Towse born in 1919 and Margaret R. Towse born in 1935


(3) F/O. Duncan Traylen McKillop was born on 5 July 1910 at Calgary, Alberta, Canada the son of Duncan McKillop (a Car Salesman) and Mary McKillop nee Traylen. He had three sisters: Gwendolen Ruth Traylen McKillop born c 1913, Betty Traylen McKillop born c 1915 and Madge McKillop born c 1918. Madge was a Lieutenant in the Canadian Army Nursing Service and served overseas during the war.

His only brother Flying Officer Norman Colin McKillop was the Navigator of Halifax VII NP710 EQ-S of No. 408 Squadron piloted by P/O. Ronald Ward Smith RCAF which had engine failure after taking off from Linton-on-Ouse for a bombing raid to Castrop-Rauxel on 11 September 1944

Whilst attempting to land at base after jettisoning its bomb load the Halifax crashed into the motor transport shop and burned: the sole survivor being RCAF Air Gunner F/Sgt. W.D. Cooke.

The family later lived at 1335 Grafton Avenue, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

Duncan Traylen McKillop married Alva Cora Phyllis Gallacher at Regina Saskatchewan on 16 January 1933 and they later had four children. He died at Calgary on 6 January 1987 aged 76.


(4) F/O. David Kenneth Adair was born on 2 May 1918 at 164 Valley Road, Streatham Hill, London Borough of Lambeth, Greater London, England the son of David Niven Adair (a Carpenter born Glasgow Scotland) and English born Mildred Adair nee Catt (born Canterbury, Kent). He had three siblings Mildred Jean Adair born c 1921, Alan John Adair born c 1926 and Marjorie Anne Adair born c 1933. The family emigrated from the UK to Canada in 1919 and lived at 878 Banning Street, Winnipeg (at enlistment) and later at 944 Spruce Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

He was educated at Mulvey School (1926-1935), Daniel MacIntyre High School (1936-1940) and the University of Manitoba where he studied Arts for two years (1940-1942). From 1930 to 1942 also worked part time as a Trucker and Spare Checker. He was a keen sportsman and played cricket, soccer tennis, basketball and baseball all extensively. When he enlisted at Winnipeg on 22 September 1942 he was described as being 5' 8" tall, weighing 148 lbs with a medium complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair.

After training at No. 7 Initial Training School at RCAF Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, No 6 Elementary Flying Training School at RCAF Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and No. 5 Air Observer School at RCAF Winnipeg, Manitoba he was awarded his Air Observers Badge and promoted to Sergeant on 20 August 1943. He was also commissioned as a Pilot Officer on 20 August 1943.

He embarked from Halifax on 13 September and on arrival in the UK on 19 September was posted to No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre. He was subsequently posted to No. 1 (Observers) Advanced Flying Unit at RAF Wigtown, Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland on 23 November; to No. 30 Operational Training Unit at RAF Hixon in Staffordshire for training on Wellingtons including night flying on 18 January 1944 and to No. 11 Base on 11 April 1944 and on 8 June 1944 to No. 101 Squadron, RAF Ludford Magna, Lincolnshire for operational flying. His promotion to Flying Officer was on 20 February 1944.


In 1961 the memory of David Kenneth Adair was honoured by the Province of Manitoba with the naming of Adair Lake




(5) Sgt Patrick West - Nothing known. If you have any information please contact our helpdesk.


(6) Sgt. Ronald H. James was born in 1916 at Huntingdon the son of Mr. and Mrs. A. H. James, of Colindale, Middlesex.


(7) P/O. John Shaw Winder was born on 8 May 1922 at Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada the son of Gledhill Winder (a Farmer and Plumber) and Bessie Winder nee Hazel of Onanole, Manitoba, Canada. He had six siblings; Beryl born 1924, Frances 1926, Ronald 1928, Edith 1930, Stanley 1933 and Xistra 1938.

He was educated at Clear Lake School, Manitoba (1927-38) and Solsgirth High School, Manitoba (1938-39). After leaving school he managed the family farm until enlisting in the RCAF. His hobbies included sketching, stamp collecting, photography, nature study and scientific farming. He won the Dominion and Provincial Grain Judging Championships of 1941.

He also participated in skating, swimming, cycling and softball extensively.

When he enlisted at Winnipeg on 15 December 1942 he was 5'11" tall weighing 157½ lbs with a medium complexion, brown hair and brown eyes.

His training in Canada was at No. 5 Manning Depot, RCAF Lachine, Quebec, No. 1 Wireless School, RCAF Montreal, Quebec, No. 9 Pre-Aircrew Education Detachment also at RCAF Montreal, No. 1 Air Gunners Ground Training School at Quebec City and No. 9 Bombing and Gunnery School at RCAF Mont Joli, Quebec. He was awarded his Air Gunners Badge and promoted to Sergeant on 29 October 1943. He embarked for the UK on 24 November arriving on 1 December and after No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre was posted on 18 January 1944 to No. 30 Operational Training Unit at RAF Hixon in Staffordshire for training on Wellingtons including night flying. After a posting to No. 11 Base on 11 April he was then posted No. 101 Squadron, RAF Ludford Magna, Lincolnshire for operational flying on 8 June 1944. On 15 June 1944 he was commissioned as a Pilot Officer.

He is commemorated on the Erickson War Memorial, Manitoba.

In 1974 the memory of John Shaw Winder was honoured by the Province of Manitoba with the naming of Winder Lake



(8) Sgt Willard Vernon Ireland was born on 23 February 1925 at Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada the son of Willard Norman Ireland (a Farmer) and Agnes Jane Ireland nee Snelgrove later of Holmfield, Manitoba, Canada. He had eight siblings Sadie Phoebe Ireland born c 1923, Robert George Ireland born 1926, Dorothy May Ireland born c 1927, Calvin Garfield Ireland born c 1929, Caroline Rose Ireland born c 1930, June Agnes Ireland born c 1932 Frances Joyce born c 1933 and Henry Norman Ireland born c 1934.After leaving Public School in 1940 Willard was employed by MacDonald Bros. Aircraft Ltd in Winnipeg first as a Carpenter and in 1942 as an Assistant Shipper. He played hockey and enjoyed hunting and making model aircraft

When he enlisted at Winnipeg on 29 December 1942 he was described as being 5' 5¾" tall weighing 140 lbs with a medium complexion, grey eyes and brown hair.



He was posted to No. 5 Manning Depot at RCAF Lachine, Quebec and after a posting to No. 8 Service Flying Training School at RCAF Moncton New Brunswick he attended No. 9 Pre- Aircrew Educational Detachment at RCAF Montreal. He was then posted to No. 1 Air Gunners Ground Training School at Quebec City and after training at No. 9 Bombing and Gunnery School at RCAF Mont Joli, Quebec he was awarded his Air Gunners Badge and promoted to Sergeant on 12 November 1943. Embarking for the UK on 14 December he disembarked on 21 December. The following day he was posted to No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre, at RAF Bournemouth and on 18 January 1944 to No. 30 Operational Training Unit at RAF Hixon in Staffordshire for training on Wellingtons including night flying. After a posting to No. 11 Base on 11 April he was then posted No. 101 Squadron, RAF Ludford Magna, Lincolnshire for operational flying on 8 June 1944.


In 1961 the memory of Willard Vernon Ireland was honoured by the Province of Manitoba with the naming of Ireland Bay



(9) Hptm. Alfons Köster was born 6 February 1919 in the city of Hüingsen (Sauerland), North Rhine-Westphalia the son of a woodsman and one of 10 children. He joined the Luftwaffe as an Unteroffizier in 1938 and after completing his training was assigned to 3 / NJG 2 in April 1941 scoring his first victory at Upwood on the night of 9/10 April.

In late 1941, he was transferred along with his Gruppe to the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations.

Oberfeldwebel Alfons Köster was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on October 29, 1942 after 16 confirmed victories. In the spring of 1943 he was transferred to I / NJG 1 and in September of that year he was promoted to Leutnant.

At the end of 1943 he was appointed Staffelkapitän of the 9/NJG 2 renamed 12./NJG 3 on 30.10.1944.

Ober-leutnant Alfons Köster was killed with his crew (Leutnant Bodusch and Unteroffizier Lingen) on the night of 6/7 January 1945 near the town of Varel (Oldenburg) when his Junkers Ju 88C-6, during the landing approach, touched the roof of a farm building in heavy fog, and crashed.

He was buried at Menden-Lendringen, III/10 (Rosseels) and posthumously promoted to Hauptmann.

During his career in the Luftwaffe Hptm. Alfons Köster executed more than 200 combat missions, during which he had 26 confirmed victories.

Awards

Aviator badge

Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe in Gold

Ehrenpokal (Honour Goblet) der Luftwaffe (on 20 August 1941 after 8 confirmed victories)

Iron Cross (1939) 1st and 2nd Class

German Cross in Gold (on 4 May 1942)

Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (on 29 October 1942 after 16 confirmed victories).



BURIAL DETAILS, MEMORIALS AND EPITAPHS



(1) F/O. Gordon George Welch was buried at Uden War Cemetery Grave reference 5.C.13

No epitaph


(4) F/O. David Kenneth Adair was originally buried in Uden War Cemetery and reburied on 25 October 1945 at Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. Grave reference 17.A.9

His epitaph reads:

Till the dawn breaks

And the shadows flee away


(6) Sgt. Ronald H. James was buried at Uden War Cemetery Grave reference 5.C.10

His epitaph reads:

Dearly loved

And forever in our thoughts


(7) P/O. John Shaw Winder was buried at Uden War Cemetery Grave reference 5.C.11

His epitaph reads:

That unselfish life,

It has not ended


(8) Sgt Willard Vernon Ireland was buried at Uden War Cemetery Grave reference 3.I.3

His epitaph reads:

Greater love

Hath no man than this

That a man lay down

His life for his friends



Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - March 2017

With thanks to the sources quoted below.

RW 29.03.2017

Acknowledgements: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives and Fred Paradie - Paradie Archive (both on this site), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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