Date: 28/29th July 1944 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: No. 576 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Elsham Wolds, Lincolnshire.
Location: Renauvoid Forest, West of Epinal, France.
Pilot: F/O. Jimmy Archibald NZ/42786 RNZAF Age 29. Survived - injured (PoW)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. John Rowland Cuthbert 1470775 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
Nav: Sgt. John Edward Kearney 1584132 RAFVR Age 26. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Leslie Fielding 1035033 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Air/Bmr: F/O. Peter Joseph Biollo J/26543 RCAF Age 20. Killed
Air/Gnr: W/O. Terence Patrick Barry 1394654 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Alexander Milne 1697372 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
The son of Sgt. John (Jack) Edward Kearney would really like to make contact with other relatives - if they care to write to us we will forward your contact details.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 21:18 hrs from RAF Elsham Wolds, Lincolnshire joining 494 Lancaster's and 2 Mosquitoes to attack Stuttgart on the last raid of a series of 3 over 5 nights. The Luftwaffe night fighters numbering over 200, aided by a bright moon intercepted the bomber stream on the outward flight over France.
Above left: F/O. Jimmy Archibald and right: Sgt. John Edward Kearney (Jack)Huge losses were suffered by the allies with 39 aircraft shot down including another 3 from 576 Squadron. (The Luftwaffe crews claimed 66 kills on that raid, but the majority were over claims) Strangely the return flight home caused no interceptions by the night fighters and the remaining 455 returned home safe.
576 Squadron losses on this raid in addition to PB253:
Lancaster I LL799 UL-N2 flown by F/O. Ronald W. Brown RAAF with 5 crew killed and 2 made PoW.
Lancaster I LL905 UL-H2 flown by F/O. Edward J. Mann RCAF with 4 killed and 3 made PoW.
Lancaster III PB128 UL-S2 flown by Fl/Lt. Howard A.F. Smith RAFVR with all crew of 7 killed.
Stuttgart was left devastated with 1,171 people on the ground killed and a further 1,600 injured after this and the previous two raids.
PB253 was shot down by a night fighter, although not an absolute certainty, it is thought to have been Oblt. Fritz Brandt of Stab II/NGJ3 his 3rd claim of the war at this stage.
The engagement took place at 4.800 mtrs. at 01.20 hrs. Very soon after they were attacked the Lancaster went out of control and started to spin - an explosion occurred in the aircraft and the pilot Jimmy Archibald was thrown through the perspex and parachuted clear. The remainder it seemed went down with the aircraft or were also thrown out by the explosion.
French people found the crew bodies and also offered assistance to F/O. Archibald who had been very badly injured. Jimmy had baled out of the aircraft and landed in Epinal. Due to his injuries the French were forced to had him over to the Germans for the necessary medical treatment at about 11.00 hrs.
Sgt. John Edward Kearney during training - 2nd left.
Earlier on the 16th of May whilst with 1 LFS (Lancaster Finishing School) some of this same crew were involved in a lucky escape when the Lancaster I W4965 took off at 01.10 hrs on a transit flight from Sturgate to Hemswell and very shortly lost control after take-off and crashed at high speed ending up on land belonging to Laburnham Farm where it caught fire. All crew escaped uninjured and also luckily no casualties on the ground. (2 Pigs killed)A letter from Sgt. John Edward Kearney describes what happened:
Friday19th May 1944
"Dear Mum and Dad,
Many thanks for the letter, I have only just received it because you sent it to Blyton and I am at Hemswell now, it doesn’t seem very far away but it took three or four days to reach me. I know how interested you both are in the baby so I had better let you know the latest news about him first of all. He weighs 18 lbs. 10 oz. now and apart from a little constipation he’s as fit as ever. His teeth are very prominent now but he hasn’t got any more yet but no doubt they will be arriving shortly.Betty is quite O.K. and settled down quite comfortably.
Wedding day for John Kearney (Jack) and Edith, December 20th 1939At the moment I am able to get here every night but it’s quite a long story how this state of affairs came about. We should have finished at Hemswell last Sunday and then gone to another station for ops. But in the early hour of Tuesday morning (16th May) 01.06 to be exact we crashed. It was quite a serious one as far as damage was concerned but fortunately nobody was killed. We had just taken off when something went wrong and we found ourselves going down very quickly (too quickly in fact). There wasn’t much anybody could do about it except hang on tight and pray. I really thought I’d had it. Anyway we hit a couple of telegraph poles then a roof of a house, ploughed through some trees, through a farmyard and finally hit the deck with a hell of a wallop! The aircraft immediately burst into flames so I just hopped out as quickly as possible and much to my relief found that everybody was O.K. apart from some cuts and bruises but it certainly looked a mess; we really hit that village and completely destroyed our aircraft. The shock was pretty bad and we were all sick and dizzy for a few hours. I guess we should be all back to normal by Saturday anyway. So while the injured members of the crew are getting over their cuts etc. I have been able to get in some time with Betty. I really believe in miracles now because I don’t see how it was possible for one to survive let alone seven, and not a sole was lost in the village except for two pigs killed.
I hope Dad’s O.K. now and back at work. Give him my best wishes. Betty sends her love and so does Paddy.
God bless you both.
Your loving Son
Above and below - crew graves taken on 15th December 1948
Memorial to the crewBurial details:
Sgt. John Rowland Cuthbert. Chaumousey Communal Cemetery. Grave 4. Son of John and Annie Cuthbert, of High Kelling, Norfolk, England.
Sgt. John Edward Kearney. Chaumousey Communal Cemetery. Grave 1. Son of John and Edith Kearney; husband of Betty Kearney, of Southall, Middlesex, England.
Fl/Sgt. Leslie Fielding. Chaumousey Communal Cemetery. Grave 1. Son of John and Lily Fielding, of Blackburn, Lancashire, England.
F/O. Peter Joseph Biollo. Chaumousey Communal Cemetery. Grave 3. Son of Peter Paul Biollo and of Doris May Biollo (nee Caswell), of Edmonton. Alberta, Canada.
W/O. Terence Patrick Barry. Chaumousey Communal Cemetery. Joint Grave 5. Son of Daniel and Bridget Barry, of Woolwich, London, England.
Sgt. Alexander Milne. Chaumousey Communal Cemetery. Joint Grave 5. Son of George and Mary H. Milne, of Fallowfield, Manchester, England.
Fl/Lt. James Alexander. Aramoho Cemetery. RSA Lawn. B.09. Plot 506. Born on the 20th May 1915 at Hailton. After being released as a PoW he married his fiancee, Post war returned to New Zealand. Awarded a masters degree in history becoming a school teacher. He taught in Auckland and Marton where he was a founder staff member of Rangitikei College. He ultimately became deputy principle of Te Kuiti High School. Died 27th September 1975, age 59.
Research with much of the informal supplied by Patrick Kearney, son of the navigator, Max Lambert, aviation author from New Zealand, Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses' Vol. 5, 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', The Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Tom Kracker - 'Kracker Luftwaffe Archives'.
'Night after Night' - history of New Zealanders in Bomber Command during WW2 and 'Day by Day', New Zealanders in fighter Command by Max Lambert.
'Day After Day' - An absorbing and long-overdue tribute to New Zealand fighter pilots in World War II In his bestselling Night after Night, Max Lambert wrote about courageous New Zealanders in Bomber Command. In this long-awaited companion volume, he profiles their daytime counterparts - pilots of single-engined day fighters in Fighter Command. Available from Amazon Books.
'Victory, New Zealand Airman and the Fall of Germany' - The definitive account of the New Zealand air crews' heroic and often deadly role in the dramatic and dangerous invasion of Europe in 1944 to the fall of Berlin the following year. 'Just another name, another place, another time for dying.' From hunting U-boats over the heaving waters of the cold Atlantic to dropping supplies for the Resistance and towing the gliders carrying paratroopers and weapons at Normandy, Arnhem and the Rhine crossing, the New Zealand airmen who fought with the RAF played an extraordinary role in the final chapters of World War II.
If you would like a signed copy of any of his publications drop us a line via the Helpdesk with your details and we will forward to Max.
KTY - 20.11.2015 - Updated details - courtesy Jack Brook
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