18/19.07.1944 9 Squadron Lancaster I ME833 WS-Z Fg.Off. Wood
Date: 18/19th July 1944 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
Unit: 9 Squadron
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Bardney, Lincolnshire
Location: North of Somsois
Pilot: Fg.Off. Leslie John Wood 175628 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Flt.Eng: Sgt. Terence Michael Gordon 963494 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Nav: Flt.Sgt. Norman Oates 1555705 RAFVR PoW No: 614 Camp: Stalag Luft Bankau (Bakow, Poland), near Kreuzburg (Klucsbork, Poland)
Air Bmr: Flt.Sgt. Leslie Richard Lutwyche 1578970 RAFVR Age 21. Killed (1)
W/Op Air Gnr: Sgt. David George Mumford 1586139 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Mid Upp. Gnr: Sgt. Neil Hannah 1824317 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Rear Gnr: Sgt. Joseph Edward Shuster J/88968 RCAF Age 21. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 23:01 hrs from RAF Bardney in Lincolnshire to destroy a railway junction. 253 Lancasters with 10 pathfinder Mosquitoes taking part. ME833 carried 10 Medium Capacity bombs of 1,000 lbs and 4 x 500 lb. Medium Capacity General Purpose bombs.
Reports state that both targets were hit with the railway lines to the front severed. Huge losses were taken by Bomber Command, with 24 Lancasters shot down by the intensive night fighter activity during the operation.
They attacked the target and very shortly afterwards were attacked by a night fighter (although no definite claims for this Lancaster were sourced). Despite carrying out corkscrew movers they were hit. Flt.Sgt. Lutwyche and Flt.Sgt. Oates managed to bale out of the stricken aircraft which came down some 3 km. north of Somsois at around 02:00 hrs.
The parachute of Flt.Sgt. Lutwyche either failed to deploy fully or he was killed during the escape from the aircraft. His body recovered in the area of Châtelraould-Saint-Louvent he was buried in the local cemetery.
The following is the transcript of a letter written to Mrs Reeves, the sister of Flt.Sgt. Luwyche, by the farmer Jerome Lœwenbruck. (Kindly provided by Keith Grant whose wife, Lesley, was named after her mother's cousin Leslie Lutwyche)
1. of February 1948
Dear Mrs Reeves.
I am sorry to be so late to give you the following information concerning your brother. I am a farmer living near the village of Châtelraould, about 7 kms south of Vitry le Françous and this letter is written by one of my cousins who fought in the war in the British Army and speaks English.
Your brother was shot down by a German anti-aircraft battery located in the Mailly Camp (location unknown), on 18th of June 1944 at one o’clock in the night. The aircraft was blazing and I could see it myself falling just above my farm and hit the ground in the middle of the woods near a place called Sompuis.
In the morning while I was mowing a meadow I discovered a white parachute in the middle of the grass, under the parachute was a killed aviator, your brother. He was not burned, he had the time to jump, but unfortunately the parachute, while getting down, was torn by a piece of iron from the aircraft, because the plane exploded and lots of debris were spread all around. I could see by myself many holes in the parachute. The other men of the crew were killed by the explosion.
I collected all the personal things before the Germans came and could hide them in my home. Then the Germans came to make a report and give instructions to the Mayor of the village about the burial.The burial took place 2 days later. People did not care the Germans orders (no ceremony was allowed) and the church was crowded with all the population of the village and other places. Some came from Vitry le Françous. The coffin was covered by a huge heap pf flowers. Children had Tricolor bunches of flowers from the fields. I want you to know that it was an unforgettable ceremony and that your brother could not have elsewhere better honours, given by a population of countrymen, marquis, women, youngsters and children all full of deep emotion.
Your brother’s grave has always been covered with flowers and very well taken care of by the youngsters and girls of the village. The grave is in the Châtelraould cemetery.
A commission of American soldiers came first in 1944. They took all the personal things we had kept; fountain pen, cigarette holder (with lighter attached), some British coins, keys and a ring.A second commission of English came from St.-Germain-en-Laye near Paris, where they have their HQ. We gave them the photographs of the burial and a complete report. We hope you got the whole. We know that the body will be brought back to England soon.
If you want to come to this district, to see the cemetery, the grave, the place where your brother was killed, the church where the burial took place; we are ready to receive you at home when you want and as long as you want and take you to the place with our cars. It is easy to jorn (journey) Vitry le Françous by train (direct from Paris) and my cousin, Mr Colland lives near the station.So we hope to see you.
Very sincerely. Jerome Lœwenbruck
Flt.Sgt. Oates landed in a wooded area and after evading capture until the 10th August with the great assistance from the local Marquis. Eventually captured and taken PoW.
(1) The family also lost his cousin in 1943. Sgt. Percy Lutwyche lost on a 15 Squadron Stirling III EF359 LS-B.
Fg.Off. Leslie John Wood. Somsois Churchyard. Grave 3. Born in December 1922 in Tamworth, Worcestershire. Son of John and Hilda Alice (née Bromwich) Wood of Tamworth, Worcestershire, England.
Sgt. Terence Michael Gordon. Somsois Churchyard. Grave 2. No further details - are you able to assist?
Above: Flt./Sgt. Leslie Richard Lutwyche and grave (courtesy of Fiona Worrall who's father, Thomas E.H. Bagnall had been a dear friend - we have since tried to contact Fiona with no success)
Flt.Sgt. Leslie Richard Lutwyche. Chatelraould St. Louent Churchyard. Son of Richard Lutwyche and of May Maud Lutwyche (née Carnell), of Lozells; nephew of Mr. A.S. Bond, of Lozells, Birmingham, England. Grave inscription reads: "At The Going Down Of The Sun And In The Morning We Will Remember Them".
Sgt. David George Mumford. Somsois Churchyard. Grave 5. Son of Frederick George Mumford, and of Ethel Lilian Mumford, of Hawicknowle, Plymouth, Devon, England. Grave inscription reads: "Beloved Eldest Son Of Ethel And The Late Fred Mumford "For God So Loved The World".
Sgt. Neil Hannah. Somsois Churchyard. Grave 1. No further details - are you able to assist?
Sgt. Joseph Edward Shuster. Somsois Churchyard. Grave 4. Son of James L. Shuster and Sophia Elizabeth Shuster, of Mount Dennis, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Grave inscription reads: "The Lord Shall Preserve Thee From All Evil: He Shall Preserve Thy Soul".
Researched for Gwenda Done who would really appreciate other relatives of the crew to add their names and perhaps further information to the page. With thanks to sources as quoted below.