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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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158crest
27/28.05.1943 No.158 Squadron Halifax II HR775 F/Sgt. William H. Wyatt

Mission: Essen, Germany

Date: 27/28 May 1943 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: No. 158 RAF Squadron

Type: Halifax II

Serial: HR775

Code: NP-V

Base: Lissett, North Yorkshire.

Location:3 km. S of Raalte, Netherlands.

Pilot: F/Sgt. William Hubert Wyatt, R/99557 RCAF Age 21 Killed

Flt. Eng: Sgt. William John Erdbeer, 1037117 RAFVR Age 22 Killed

Nav: Sgt. John Leonard Atha, 1436421 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Bmr: Sgt. Reginald Arthur Tilbury, 1337416 RAFVR Age ? Killed

W.Op/AG: Sgt. George Henderson 1294468 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Rene Real Mantha, R/151473 RCAF Age 19 Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Simmons 1334759 RAFVR Age 21 Killed

REASON FOR LOSS

The Battle of the Ruhr began in March 1943 and lasted to July of that year. Essen was specifically named as a priority target for Bomber Command under the “Area Bombing Directive” issued by the British Air Mininistry in 1942 due to the huge Krupp steelworks and armament factories located there. In all Essen was attacked six times by heavy bombers together with a minor raid by two Mosquitoes over the five month period of the battle.

The raid on the night of 27/28 May 1943, by all accounts was not one of the most successful in terms of destruction of the manufacturing infrastructure. The target area was obscured by cloud and industrial haze such that the bombing was scattered over a wide area hitting other towns in the Ruhr valley. In Essen itself the damage was limited to the central and northern districts where 488 buildings were destroyed, killing 196 people and injuring another 547.

F/Sgt. Wyatt and crew took off at 22:53 hours as part of a force of 518 aircraft consisting of 274 Lancasters, 151 Halifaxes, 81 Wellingtons and 12 Mosquitoes.

At 01:37 hours Wyatt’s Halifax was shot down by the Bf110 G-4 night fighter of Lt. Hans-Heinz Augenstein of 7./NJG1 at a height of 5200 meters for his fourth victory of the night. The bomber came down in the countryside between the villages of Okkenbroek and Nieuw Heeten, ENE of the city of Deventer in the Netherlands.

In total 23 aircraft did not return with the loss of 100 aircrew killed and a further 42 taken as PoW’s.

The Crew

F/Sgt. William Hubert Wyatt

William was 19 years and 7 weeks old when he attended his first interview at the RCAF London, Ontario, Recruiting Centre on 13 March, 1941 having just just completed a one year Special Business Course at H.B. Beal Secondary School. He attended Victoria Park Public School from 1927-1935 and upon graduation studed university courses at South Collegiate, London from 1935–1940. During his school years he was a very keen ice hockey and baseball player.

Upon completion of his medical examination he was categorized as A1B, fit for full flying duties (A1) and ground duties (B) with the notation “appears to be keen and fairly alert - good aircrew material.”

He enlisted one month later on 10 April 1941 wanting to be trained as a pilot and was placed on Special Reserve to await his posting to No.1 Manning Depot, Toronto which came on 18 June.
After completing his basic training he was posted to No.6 Initial Training School, Course 38, on 10 October 1941. Here he was recommended for further training as a pilot on completion of the course on 5 December with the comments, “Youthful energetic sort; a little nervous; cooperative; anxious to become fighter pilot.”
On 5 January 1942 William was enrolled in Course 46 at No.20 Elementary flying training School at Oshawa, Ontario to begin his training in an actual cockpit. Here he accumulated over 75 hours flying in De Havilland Tiger Moth aircraft and 10 hours in a Link simulator completing the course on 13 March 1942. His final report recommended him for further training on twin engine aircraft with the comments, “Progress good. No outstanding faults. Instruments and aerobatics average. Picked up flying quickly but is careless of detail. Deportment is good and has plenty of initiative.”
From Oshawa he was posted to No.16 Service Flying Training School, Course No.52, at Hagersville, Ontario to train on the twin engined Anson. William was stationed there from 30 March until 17 July 1942 when he graduated with the awarding of his Pilots Badge. His instructor’s comments read,”Average ability in all phases of flying. Flies with head in cockpit too much.”
He was next posted to “Y” Depot, Halifax and to the RAF Training Pool on 20 August 1942 embarking for the UK the next day arriving at No.3 PRC, Bournemouth on 2 September. After a week at Bournemouth he was posted to No.11 Pilot Advanced Flying Unit at RAF Shawbury in Shropshirewhere he trained on Airspeed Oxford aircraft.
From Shawbury he was posted to No.20 Operational Training Unit at RAF Lossiemouth, Scotland to train on the twin engined Wellington bomber on 3 November 1942. It would be here that he would first meet and “crew up” with his other crew members, with the exception of Erdbeer the Flt. Engineer, to train together as a team.
On 19 March 1943, Wyatt and his crew were posted to No.1658 Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU) at Riccall in Yorkshire to complete their training on the Handley Page Halifax bomber. Here, as per the practice of the day, flight engineers would join their flight crews to complete the seven man crew.
Upon completion of their training on 20 April 1943 a crew training report was issued reading in part:

PILOT. No. R.99557 RANK Sgt. NAME Wyatt W.H.
Total flying hrs. 35.05 day. 8.40 night. 1 Fighter Affiliation Exercise 30 min. duration. 1 Operation flown as 2nd. Pilot.
“An average pilot who showed above average for night flying.”

NAVIGATOR. No. 143421 RANK Sgt. NAME Atha J.L
Classification. Above average. Recommended for commission.
“A very sound and efficient navigator, neat in all his work.”

AIR BOMBER. No. 1337416 RANK Sgt. NAME Tilbury R.A.
Classification. Above average. Recommended for commission.
“A good man who should do well. Obtained 78% error at 10,000 feet on infra-red bombing.”

W/OP/AG. No. 1294468 RANK Sgt. NAME Henderson G.
Flying hours 38.45 hrs. day. 9.05 hrs. night
Classification Average.
“Keen, will make good operational W/Op.”

1st.AIR GUNNER. No. 1334759 RANK Sgt. NAME Simmons J.
Flying hours 38.45 hrs. day. 9.05 hrs. night
Classification Above average
“A keen Gunner.”

2nd. AIR GUNNER. No. R.151473 RANK Sgt. NAME Mantha R.R.
Flying hours 28.30 hrs. day. 9.05 hrs. night.
Classification. Average

ENGINEER. No. 1037117 RANK Sgt. NAME Erdbeer W.
Flying hours. 28.50 day. 7.00 night
Classification. Above average

CREW DRILLS. Ditching 6 practices
Abandoning by parachute 6 practices
General Lectures on all drills, including forced landing and fire.

GENERAL REMARKS. “A good average crew.”

P. Dobson, Squadron Leader, Commanding ‘B’ Flight.
F.W. Thompson, Wing Commander, Commanding 1658 Con. Unit, Flying Training Wing

Two days later on 22 April 1943, the crew arrived at RAF 158 Squadron based at Lissett.

Sgt. Rene Real Mantha

Rene enlisted in the RCAF for flying duties as an Air Gunner at North Bay, Ontario on 20 July 1942 after working as a labourer for the Canadian Pacific Railway. He attended St.Vincent de Paul Public School in North bay from 1930 – 1938 and completed his Grade IX in 1939 at North Bay Collegiate.
He was initially sent to No.5 Manning Depot at Lachine, Quebec for basic training on 20 July 1942 and then, eight weeks later, on 26 September 1942 to No.9 Bombing and Gunnery School, Mt. Joli, Quebec. It was at Mt. Joli on completion of his training that he gained his Air Gunners Badge on 18 December 1942.
After two weeks pre-embarkation leave he was posted to No.1 “Y” Depot, Halifax on 2 January 1943 and then to the RAF Training Pool on 25 January setting sail for the UK the next day.
Arriving at No.3 PRC, Bournemouth on 5 February he was stationed there until 3 March when he was posted to No.7 Air Gunnery School at Stormy Down, South Wales achieving a mark of 81%. On 17 March he joined up with his crew at No.1658 Conversion Unit and then on to RAF 158 Squadron on 22 April 1943.

No further details are known of the British crew members.

Oblt. Hans Heinz Augenstein
Oblt. Augenstein was a German night fighter ace who is credited with shooting down 46 allied aircraft before him and his Radio Operator Gunther Steins were killed when they were shot down over Münster-Handorf by a Mosquito night fighter flown by S/L Edward Hedgecoe, DFC+Bar and his Navigator F/O Norman Bamford, DFC+Bar. His Air Gunner Uzz. Kurt Schmidt baled out unhurt.

Burial Details:

F/Sgt. William Hubert Wyatt. Raalte General Cemetery, Joint grave 15-16. Son of Ernest E. and Clara Wyatt, of London, Ontario, Canada..

Sgt. William John Erdbeer. Raalte General Cemetery, Grave 12. Son of Henry William and Minnie Linda Erdbeer, of Horninglow, Burton-on-Trent.


Sgt. John Leonard Atha. Raalte General Cemetery, Grave 14. Son of Mr. and Mrs. J. L. Atha, of Normanton, Yorkshire..

Sgt. Reginald Arthur Tilbury. Raalte General Cemetery, Grave 17

Sgt. George Henderson Raalte General Cemetery, Joint grave 15-16

Sgt. Rene Real Mantha. Raalte General Cemetery, Grave 13. Son of Joseph Wilfred Mantha, and Marie Ange (nee Houle) Mantha, of North Bay, Ontario, Canada.

Sgt. John Simmons. Raalte General Cemetery, Grave 11. Son of George and Edith Daisy Simmons, of Earley, Reading, Berkshire.

CHB 22.04.2017

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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