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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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103 Squadron Lancaster III JB732 P/O. John Walter Armstrong

Operation: Aulnoye-Aymeries, France

Date: 10/11th April 1944 (Monday/Tuesday)

Unit: No. 103 Squadron (motto: Noli me tangere - 'Touch me not')

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: JB732

Code: PM-S

Base: RAF Elsham Wolds, Lincolnshire

Location: Méharicourt, France

Pilot: P/O. John Walter Armstrong NZ/42996 RNZAF Age 28. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Howard John Beddis 1817791 RAFVR PoW No: 4177 Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug

Nav: F/O. Alec William Drage 135745 RAFVR Evaded capture

Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Angus John Macaulay 1361166 RAFVR Evaded capture

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Leonard Fisher 1321693 RAFVR PoW No: 4186 Camp: Dulag Wetzlar

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Reginald Patrick Bowler 1626590 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

Air/Gnr: F/O. Michael Frederick Dillon NZ/411866 RNZAF Age 26. Killed


147 allied aircraft were dispatched to attack the railway yards at Aulnoye-Aymeries in France.

12 aircraft from the squadron took part with JB732 taking off at 23:10 hrs. The bomb load carried - 8x1000 lb. GC, 4x1000 lb GP and 4x500 lb GP.

The route taken was Base - Newbury-Selsey Bill - target - Shoreham - Reading - Base. The weather outbound was clouds as far as the French coast and some clouds to the target area. A searchlight belt was reported in the Amiens area. There were a great deal of fighters sightings and crews observed several aircraft going down.

Above: Lancaster III JB732 crew

Read further here.

Light tracer flak over the target was described as intense. Crews report discrepancies in the red and green markers and according to reports the Master of Ceremonies was vague in his direction. The attack would seem to have been moderately successful, but could have been more concentrated. 11 aircraft from the squadron returned to base between 04:50 - 04:45 hrs.

The Luftwaffe ace Hptm. Helmut Bergman of 8./NJG4 describes the final moments of JB732:

(He shot down 7 on this single operation)

'We spotted the Sth and 6th enemy South East of a searchlight area. I placed myself below the first and fired at 02:48 hrs. at a range of about 8 metres at the starboard wing. A severe fire broke out at once. The burning aircraft was caught by the searchlights which followed it until it crashed at 02:50 hrs. My engineer fired the recognition signal Nr: 4. Crash site: near Beauquesne, 9 km South South East Doullens, 30 km East North East Abbeville'.

Above the Ju88 crew L-R: Helmut Bergmann, Wilhelm Schopp and Günter Hauthal.

Four of the crew managed to bale out due to the pilot remaining at the controls to try and hold the aircraft steady. Two were captured but two others managed to evade capture eventually liberated by a British Armed column and return to their unit.

Above: The original grave markers at Meharicourt Communal Cemetery. Below Meharicourt today.

Burial details:

P/O. John Walter Armstrong. Meharicourt Communal Cemetery. Brit. Plot. Grave 29. Born on the 24th of April 1915 in Exeter, Devon, England. Educated at Mt. Albert Grammar and Ruakura Farm College. A farmer on his father's farm in Albany. Served one year in thr territorial army prior to enlisting at Levin on the 08th of February 1942. Trained with No. 2 Elementary Flying Training School on the 04th of April 1942 and then with No. 1 Service Flying Training School on the 13th of June 1942. No. 1 Service Flying Training School on the 13th of June 1942. Flying badge awarded on the 02nd September 1942 and promoted to sergeant on the 28th of November 1942. Joined 103 squadron from 1 Lancaster Flying School in February 1943 Commissioned on the 27th of February 1944. A total of 615 flying hours logged with having completed 8 operational sorties. Son of Frank Clayton and Edith Mary Armstrong (née Clapham) of Redvale, Albany, New Zealand.

Sgt. Reginald Patrick Bowler. Meharicourt Communal Cemetery. Brit. Plot. Grave 27. Son of Clifford and Mabel Margaret Bowler, of West Hampstead, London. Epitaph: 'My Dear Son, You Have Done Your Duty, So Rest In Peace. Never Forgotten'.

F/O. Michael Frederick Dillon, Meharicourt Communal Cemetery. Brit. Plot. Grave 28. Born on the 27th of September 1917 in Eastern Bengal, India. Moved to New Zealand around 1924. Educated at Cambridge District High School. A dairy farmer on his father's farm at Root-o-Rangi. Enlisted at Levin on the 23rd of March 1941. Commenced training as a pilot at No. 3 Elementary Flying Training School on the 04th May 1941. Embarked for Canada on the 'Dominion Monarch' on the 22nd of July 1941. Pilot trains terminated and re-mustered as a Navigator on the 23rd of September 1941. After a period of sick leave, he was re-mustered as air gunner. Air gunner badge and promoted on the 11th May 1942. Embarked for England on the 31st of May 1942. Serves with 196 squadron and a period as an instructor with 83 Operational Training Unit. Commissioned on the 16th June 1943. Joined 103 squadron on the 27th of February 1944. A total of 515 flying Hours logged (67 as a Pilot, 448 as an Air Gunner) and completed 37 operational sorties. Son of Captain David (died 14th May 1951, age 72) Dillon and Jane Dillon (née Fields - died 26th August 1966, age 85), of Dacca, East Bengal, India. Later of Root-o-Rangi, New Zealand. He had two brothers, John Herbert Dillon 179357 and Robert Arthur Dillon 1056 a sister, Helen Dillon WAAC also served in the New Zealand Armed Forces, and his father was an officer in the Cambridge Home Guard.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Jenifer Lemaire and to the extensive research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, New Zealand Cenotaph, Theo Boiten ' Nachtjagd Combat Archive 1944 part 2', Weekly News of New Zealand, Air Museum of New Zealand, Air-27-816-8/9 National Archives, The Historic Flying Clothing Company, Kracker Luftwaffe Archive, Museum of Transport and Technology, Auckland,

KTY 27-01-2023

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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, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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