09/10.08.1943 No 427 (Lion) Squadron Handley Page Halifax V EB247 ZL-? Fl/Sgt. William (Billy) Biggs
Operation: Mannheim, Germany
Date: 9/10th August 1943 (Monday/Tuesday)
Unit: No 427 (Lion) Squadron
Type: Handley Page Halifax V
Base: RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire
Location: Near Hartford Bridge, Hampshire
Pilot: Fl/Sgt. William (Billy) Biggs 1239042 RAFVR Age ? Safe
2nd Pilot: Sgt. Robert (Bob) Cyril (Deeg) Deegan J/18889 RCAF Age 27 Safe (1)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Joseph (Jack) Elliott 1479954 RAFVR Age ? Safe
Nav: Sgt. Joseph Read 1804245 RAFVR Age ? Safe
Air/Bmr: Sgt. Alfred (Alf) Richards 1586257 RAFVR Age ? Safe
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Leslie (Les) Ernest Moyler 1268616 RAFVR Age ? Injured
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Harold (Harry) George (Mac) McLean 1335565 RAFVR Age ? Safe (2)
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. R E Fisher RCAF Age ? Safe (3)
REASON FOR LOSS:
Halifax EB247 took off from RAF Leeming at 23.10hrs for an operation on Mannheim. Part of a large force of 457 aircraft detailed for this operation. Halifax EB247 was twice attacked by a night fighter which was shot down on the second attack by the rear gunner. The aircraft was severly damaged in the wing where a fire broke out and the hydraulic system was also damaged. After some difficulty Sgt Elliott managed to make a hole in the side of the aircraft with an axe, and put out the fire with an extinguisher. The aircraft was so badly damaged that the pilot Fl/Sgt. Biggs had great difficulty in controlling the aircraft. With help from his 2nd pilot Sgt Deegan they attached a rope to the control column to try and maintain a level flight. The crippled aircraft was flown back to the United Kingdom were they all managed to bail out at 05.20hrs and landed near Hartford Bridge, Hampshire.
In his "Combat Report" for this operation Sgt Fisher reports "When leaving the target while on operation to Mannheim, Halifax bomber "P" EB247 of 427 Squadron was attacked by by enemy fighter identified as a FW109. Position approx. 49° 10° N, 08° 0° E, at 02.07hrs. The Halifax was flying a course of 296°M, at 17,000 feet latitude. T.A.S. 204 mph visibility was good with half-moon, 10/10ths cloud below at 6000 feet. The enemy aircraft was first noticed when it fired a long burst of fire from starboard quarter below at 500 yards range. Combat manoeuvre was ordered by the Rear Gunner in the way of a diving turn to starboard. The Rear Gunner at the same time opened fire and the enemy aircraft replied with a short burst damaging the controls of the Halifax and starting fires in the starboard wing. The enemy aircraft broke off his attack to port. There were illumination by means of searchlights on the clouds. The enemy aircraft was evidently operating around the target.
The Rear Gunner fired 200 rounds from four guns and hits were observed on the enemy aircraft as it broke away, engulfed in flames and exploded while diving towards the ground. The Mid-upper Gunner did not fire any rounds. Our aircraft had to be abandoned over England".
Left: Handley Page Halifax V aircraft (courtesy IWM) Right: From the Courier and Advertiser, Thursday September 9, 1943 (courtesy Democracy at War, Canadian War Museum)
F/Sgt William (Billy) Biggs, Sgt Joseph (Jack) Elliott and Sgt Leslie (Les) Ernest Moyler were awarded an immediate DFM after this operation for their outstanding airmanship.
"The King has been graciously pleased to approve the following awards in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy. Distinguished Flying Medal.
The citation in The London Gazette 7th September 1943.
1239042 Flight Sergeant William Biggs Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve No 427 (RCAF) Squadron. 1479954 Sergeant Jack Elliott Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve No 427 (RCAF) Squadron. 1268616 Sergeant Leslie Ernest Moyler Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve No 427 (RCAF) Squadron.
One night in August, 1943, these airmen were captain, flight engineer and wireless operator/air gunner respectively of an aircraft detailed to attack Mannheim. Shortly after bombing the target the aircraft was attacked by a fighter. Although the enemy aircraft was eventually shot down, the bomber sustained extensive damage. A fire broke out in one of the wings but Sergeant Elliott, after making an aperture in the side of the fuselage with an axe, was able to put out the flames with an extinguisher. The aircraft became exceedingly difficult to control, requiring almost superhuman efforts to maintain a level flight. Despite this, Flight Sergeant Biggs battled on to reach this country. The aircraft was so badly crippled, however, that a landing could not be effected but the crew were able to leave the bomber by parachute. Flight Sergeant Biggs displayed great courage and a fine fighting spirit throughout, while Sergeant's Elliott and Moyler, though the latter was wounded displayed great devotion to duty and rendered valuable assistance".
(1) Sgt. Robert (Bob) Cyril (Deeg) Deegan. Born in Smiths Falls, Lanark, Ontario on the 26th November 1916 and enlisted in Perth, Ontario on the 31 January 1940, remustering to aircrew in 1942. Trained at No 6 ITS (Initial Training School) Toronto, No 7 EFTS (Elementary Flying Training School) Ontario and No 9 SFTS (Service Flying Training School) Ontario. Deeg arrived in the UK in November 1942 and was commissioned in 1943. Posted to No 427 Squadron from No 1659 HCU (Heavy Conversion Unit) on the 3rd August 1943. Robert Cyril (Deeg) Deegan had been involved in two flying accidents. The first while serving at 1659 Heavy Conversion Unit on the 28th July 1943. Sgt R C Deegan and Sgt J H Tovey flying in Halifax DT500 took off at 02.34hrs from RAF Topcliffe, North Yorkshire for a night training flight of circuits and landings. At 02:44hrs on touch down a tyre burst and the undercarriage collapsed, ensuring that the aircraft never flew again. No one was hurt. See also (Halifax LK915 P/O. Deegan) and (Halifax DK251 Sgt. Tovey).
Acting Squadron Leader Robert Cyril Deegan J/18889, 420 (RCAF) Sqn, was awarded the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) as per London Gazette dated 13th October 1944. Deeg survived the war. Squadron Leader Robert Cyril Deegan DFC died on the 3rd January 1972 in Smiths Falls, Ontario. Roberts brother Donald Maurice Deegan also served in the RCAF during the war and was awarded the Purple Heart.
(2) Sgt. Harold (Harry) George (Mac) McLean. Harry McLean gave an interview on his life before the war up to his visit to Germany in 1988 and 1993. The interview is held in the Imperial War Museum and can be listened to by clicking (here). Harold George McLean died on the 2nd October 2009.
(3) Fl/Sgt. R E Fisher trained at No 3 Air Gunner School, McDonald, Manatoba and No 26 Operational Training Unit, RAF Station Wing, Buckinghamshire.
Flying accident 6/7th September 1943:
Fl/Sgt. William (Billy) Biggs, Sgt. Joseph (Jack) Elliott, Sgt. Joseph Read, Sgt. Alfred (Alf) Richards, Sgt. Leslie (Les) Ernest Moyler and Sgt. Harold (Harry) George (Mac) McLean had all been involved in a flying accident in (Halifax LK628).
Researched by: Kate Tame Aircrew Remembered and for all the relatives and friends of the crew. With special thanks to the Deegan family, Capt Fred Paradie - Paradie Archives at Aircrew Remembered, The British Newspaper Archives, Ian Tavender - The Distinguished Flying Medal Register of the Second World War ISBN 9781902366036, Democracy at War - Canadian War Museum.