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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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625 squadron crest
19/20.02.1944 No. 625 Sqdn. Lancaster I ME588 CF-A P/O Aspin DFM

Operation: Leipzig

Date: 19/20 February, 1944

Unit: No. 625 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: ME588

Code: CF-A

Base: Kelstern

Location: Crashed at Almke, Helmstedt, Germany

Pilot: P/O James Desmond ‘Des’ Aspin DFM 171216 RAFVR Age 21 Killed (1)

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Paul Robert Wheeldon 1339602 RAFVR Age 22 Killed (2)

Nav: Sgt. William Edward Riley 1515357 RAFVR Age 21 Killed (3)

Air/Bmr: Sgt. J.C. Landon 1266011 RAFVR Age 28 Killed (4)

W/OP/Air/Gnr: Sgt. George Harry Eastwood 1535627 RAFVR Age 21 Killed (5)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Patrick Sylvester Skebo R188577 RCAF Age 20 Killed (6)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Ronald Somner Watson 922306 RAFVR Age ? Killed (7)


INTRODUCTION

By 1941 it was apparent that the war was going to be a protracted affair. The final outcome was not a given and a period of attrition was necessary to weaken the Nazi stranglehold on Occupied Europe. There was debate over the possibility of bombing the enemy into surrendering, or if land invasion and liberation would be required. Regardless of the final option, a potent Bomber Command was essential to create a Second Front taking the war to the heart of Germany.

This would require the development of four-engined heavy bombers including the Handle Page Halifax and Avro Lancaster, in expanded squadron strength. These aircraft would require crews to man them and aerodromes with hard-surfaced runways to ensure all weather, operational capabilities.

With this in mind the Air Ministry Directorate of Works recommended the ideal guidelines for all new airfields with the following Class A Standards: one 2000-yard main and two 1400-yard subsidiary runways, 50 yard wide; perimeter track encircling the runway layout, 50 feet wide with attached aircraft hardstandings, 50 feet wide with 50 feet wide circle (‘frying pan’) or practical loop type (‘spectacle’).

A classic Standard A Airfield construction required about 400,000 cubic yards of concrete, with the runway slab being 9 to 12 inches thick. Total cost for such an airfield was £1 million at 1940s value or £100 million pounds at current rates.

The proposed site for the airfield at Kelstern was located four miles from Binbrook and Ludford Magna on the Lincolnshire Wolds. In July 1942, four hundred acres of farmland were acquired and a £810,000 contract was committed to the construction of an airfield to Class A Standard.

The main road from Binbrook to South Ellington crossing the site centre was closed. The three intersecting concrete runways were the main 06-24 at 2,000 yards and subsidiaries, 01-19 and 13-31, each 1,400 yards, including 36 hardstandings of the loop ‘spectacle’ type, as well as two T2 hangars.

On October 1, 1943, No. 625 Squadron formed at the station as a sub-base for Binbrook. It had taken fifteen months to construct the airfield. How long would it take to make it operational under the duress of war? *

625 SQUADRON ORB

1943

Postings-in

1.10 W/Cdr T. Preston, Squadron Commander from No. 12 Base

F/O J.E. Pritchard, Engineer Officer

10.10 F/L J.C. Maxwell, Bombing Leader from 103 Sqn

F/L A. Flett, Navigation Officer from 1667 HCU

F/L L.T. Eaglesfield, Adjutant from R.A.F. Hemswell

13.10.43 - 10.57 “The first of the Squadron’s aircraft with F/Lt. Attwater as Captain and Pilot landed to-day. The Lancaster being “H” Lancaster III, JB122. This was followed at short intervals by other aircraft from “C” Flight 100 Squadron, Grimsby, from which Flight the nucleus of 625 Squadron was formed. Ground personnel from “C” Flight, 100 Squadron commenced to arrive in the afternoon.”

Between October 13 and 25th this included twelve Captains and crews from 100 Squadron, three from 101 Squadron, one from 12 Squadron, one from 125 Squadron and twelve from assorted Heavy Conversion Units, for a total complement of twenty-nine.

It is noteworthy that this would include Sgt. J.D. Aspin and his rookie crew, flying the the twenty kilometre jaunt from Grimsby to start their tour of ops. It would prove to be a roller coaster ride that most could not survive. The majority would “fail to return”.

Between October 1943, and mid-January 1944 this crew comprised:-
Pilot - Sgt James Desmond Aspin DFM,
Flight engineer Sgt Paul Robert Wheeldon
Bomb aimer Sgt Richard Elias Eastway RAAF
Navigator – Sgt William Edward Riley,
Wireless operator/ a/g Sgt George Harry Eastwood
Mid-upper gunner – Sgt Patrick Sylvester Skebo RCAF
Rear gunner – Sgt Ronald Somner Watson

L-R. Wheeldon, F/E; Watson, A/G; Eastway, B/A; Aspin, Pilot; Riley, Nav; Skebo, A/G; Eastwood, W/OP. Courtesy of Hilary Davis.

L-R. Watson, Eastway, Riley (on roof), Aspin, Wheeldon, Eastwood and Skebo. Courtesy of Hilary Davis.

The car is a (probably 1936) Singer Bantam produced between 1936 and 1939 – three speed gearbox, 972cc engine – early models had wire wheels ('easyclene' wheels became standard in 1937) 'A chromed mascot portraying a flying Bantam chicken was mounted on the radiator surround until outlawed by new legislation in 1937.' It had a comfortable top speed ('in poor gusty weather') of 60mph. – very useful for sorties to Lincoln, Louth, pubs and dances. John Proctor

18.10.43 OPERATIONS: 14 aircraft aircraft detailed for Operations, the target being HANOVER. 4 aircraft unable to bomb up in time for take off. The remaining aircraft successfully bombed the target.

20.10.43 OPERATIONS: 14 aircraft detailed for Operations, the target being LEIPZIG…

Aircraft “R” JA714, Captain J21453 F/O W.P Cameron and crew. Missing, no news after the take off. The remaining 11 aircraft bombed the target and bad weather conditions including considerable icing and static interference. Aircraft “A” Captain, Sgt. Aspin was engaged in 4 combats, 3 N.W. of TEXEL and 1 over BRUNSWICK. Over TEXEL one ME 110 was claimed as destroyed and one JU 88 damaged. The only damage to our aircraft was shattered perspex at the side of the cockpit and no one was injured. This was Sgt. Aspin’s first Operational Flight as Captain, and for his determination and skill he was recommended for, and awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal.

SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, 23 NOVEMBER, 1943

1239065 Sergeant James Desmond ASPIN, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 625 Squadron.

One night in October, 1943, this airman piloted an aircraft detailed to attack Leipzig. On the outward flight his aircraft was attacked by 2 enemy fighters. Coolly and skilfully, Sergeant Aspin out-manoeuvred the attackers, enabling his gunner to shoot one of the enemy aircraft down and drive the other off. Although the rear turret became unserviceable, Sergeant Aspin flew on and executed a successful bombing attack. On the return journey, the bomber was hit by machine-gun fire from another fighter but Sergeant Aspin flew clear and was able to reach base. This airman displayed outstanding skill, courage and resolution.

Gunners’ Combat Report from this Op:

2nd attack by Messerschmitt 110, sighted on starboard quarter at a range of 400 yds. Rear gunner immediately gave order, 'diving turn starboard, go'. Both rear and M/U gunner opened fire as Captain made turn to starboard. Strikes were seen on enemy aircraft, which burst into flames and fell to ground, and 'Correct evasive action ordered by rear gunner and executed by Captain. Rear and M/U opening fire immediately and destroying enemy aircraft. Very good show by rear gunner who showed splendid initiative, timing and accurate shooting.’

20.10.43 Lancaster III ED951 Sgt. J.D. Aspin and crew, with Sgt. R.E. Eastway as Bomb Aimer. Target. LEIPZIG - On the way to the target aircraft attacked by enemy fighter, successful evasive action taken. 2 more enemy fighters in the TEXEL area, evasive action taken, and by return to offensive 1 enemy fighter shot down, and the 2nd fighter damaged. Rear turret U/S. Proceeded to attack the target at 2109, bombs being dropped from a height of 21,000. Scattered fires seen.

3.11.43 Lancaster III ED951 Sgt. J.D. Aspin and crew. Target. DÜSSELDORF - Target bombed successfully and large explosion seen in large area.

18.11.43 Lancaster ED951 Sgt. J.D. Aspin and crew. Target. BERLIN - Task abandoned owing to starboard outer engine trouble (very low oil pressure and temperature) 4000 lb bomb jettisoned to gain altitude, engine feathered but unable to climb above 12,500 feet. Landed on three engines.

22.11.43 Lancaster III ED951 Sgt. J.D. Aspin DFM and crew. Sgt. K.P.C. Doyle 2nd Pilot. Target. BERLIN - Target bombed successfully in conditions of 10/10 cloud at 20.23 hours from a height of 21,000 feet. Enormous explosion in target area at 20.22 hours and glow fires seen through clouds.

26.11.43 Lancaster III ED951 Sgt. Aspin and crew. Target. BERLIN - Unable to go right through to target due to engine trouble but bombed outer belt of searchlights. Inner engine feathered and port outer fluctuating badly on return. Lost height from 21,000 to 15,000 feet. Many fires visible to south and south west of target.

2.12.43 Lancaster III ED951 Sgt. J.D. Aspin and crew. Target. BERLIN - Task abandoned at 1908 hrs, port outer engine cut completely inside the Dutch Coast. Bombs jettisoned safely at 1940 hrs. Two FW 190 attempted to attack from below 3 times at 1920 hrs.

23.12.43 Lancaster III DV278 Sgt. J.D. Aspin and crew. Target BERLIN - Target bombed at 0041 from a height of 22,000 ft. “Target looked pretty good, fires appeared to be mostly West of Berlin. Two large concentrations of fire seemed to join together as we left the target.” JU 88 sighted 20 miles North East of Hanover - corkscrew and enemy aircraft was lost.

29.12.43 Lancaster III ED938 Sgt. J.D. Aspin DFM and crew. Target BERLIN - Target bombed at 20.07 from a height of 20,000 feet in conditions of 10/10 cloud. Leipzig spoofs seen. “Quiet trip on the whole.”

1944

1.1.44 Lancaster III ND940 Sgt.J.D. Aspin DFM and crew. Target BERLIN - Task abandoned over Base at 00.26 hours, Port Outer engine fluctuating 500 revs, Starboard Inner engine fluctuating 250 revs and aircraft would not climb above 12,000 feet, and kept going into a stall. Bombs jettisoned safe.

2.1.44 Lancaster III LM384 Sgt. J.D. Aspin and crew. Target. BERLIN - Unfortunately recalled by error, receiving recallment for Gardening Wellington aircraft. Several aircraft in the Group were recalled under similar circumstances. Bombs were jettisoned in sea and aircraft landed at Exeter in accordance with recall instructions received.

5.1.44 Lancaster I W4833 F/Sgt. J.D. Aspin DFM and crew. Target STETTIN - Target bombed at 03.58 hours from a height of 21,000 feet in exceptionally good visibility. A good concentrated attack.

14.1.44 Lancaster I W48333 F/Sgt. J.D. Aspin DFM and crew with F/Sgt Yates as Bomb Aimer. Target BRUNSWICK - Task abandoned at 17.41 hours owing to Starboard Inner engine being U/S. Bombs jettisoned and Cookie exploded on impact with sea.

27.1.44 Lancaster I ME588 F/Sgt. J.D. Aspin DFM and crew with F/L Maxwell DFC (Squadron Bombing Leader) as Bomb Aimer. Target BERLIN - Target bombed at 20.28 from a height of 21,000 feet in condition of 10/10th cloud with tops at 15,000 feet. Preparing to bomb searchlights when flares and C/R Stars went down at 20.27 hours. A prolific well coordinated attack.

28.1.44 Lancaster I ME588 F/Sgt. J.D. Aspin DFM and crew with Sgt. W.A. Footman as Bomb Aimer. Target BERLIN - Target bombed at 03.15 hours from a height of 21,000 feet. Clouds 9/10ths, tops 10,000 feet with good visibility above. A gun emplacement was bombed and as we did so the flares red with green stars went down. A terrific explosion occurred at 03.13 hours. Very large fires with volumes of black smoke rising. The outline of the streets could be seen and looking back there was a huge red glow.

30.1.44 Lancaster I W5702 F/Sgt. J.D. Aspin DFM and crew with Sgt. W.H. McMillan as Bomb Aimer. Target BERLIN - Task abandoned. The Flight Engineer became sick through lack of oxygen at 12,000 feet, and at 18,000 ft he passed out completely. He could not be revived sufficiently to continue the mission, and so we turned for Base. Bomb and fuel could not be jettisoned owing to defect of the hydraulic system, so bomb aimer cut through the pipe lines to jettison.

15.2.44 Lancaster I ME588 F/Sgt. J.D. Aspin DFM with F/Sgt. C.E. Pearson as 2nd Pilot, along with Sgt. A.T. Sinclair (Flight Engineer), Sgt. G.A. Paterson (Bomb Aimer), Sgt. G.A. Cartwright (Wireless Operator) and Sgt. A.R Trivett (Mid-upper Gunner) of his regular crew. As expected, Sergeants Riley and Watson would man the critical positions of Navigator and Rear Gunner. Target BERLIN - Target bombed at 21.14 hours from a height of 19,500 feet in 10/10 th cloud. Good route but R/marker outbound would have helped.

19.2.44 Lancaster I ME588 P/O J.D. Aspin and crew with Sgt. J.C. Landon as Bomb Aimer. Target LEIPZIG - Up at 23.31. Failed to return - no news after take off.

Breakfast on February 20, 1944 would be a sobering event for the crews of 625 Squadron as they realized three of their Squadron's aircraft had not returned from the previous night’s raid on Leipzig: JA862, S/L Douetil (“B” Flight Commander) and crew; ME588, P/O Aspin DFM and crew, and sadly and ironically, LM384 with F/Sgt. Pearson and crew on their first op after their ‘second dickie’ trip with P/O Aspin four days prior!

http://www.aircrewremembered.com/douetil-barry-nicholas.html

http://www.aircrewremembered.com/pearson-charles-e...

A costly and demoralizing raid for the crews of 625 Squadron, and it would not be the last. Before war’s end the Squadron would lose seventy-four aircraft and crews— seventy-two on ops and two on training flights. On seven raids the Squadron would lose three or more aircraft and crews: Leipzig/19/20.2.1944, Stuttgart/15/16.3.1944, Berlin/24/25.3.44, Mailly-le-Camp/3/4.5.1944, Achères/10/11.6.1944, Vierzon (3 aircraft and 4 crews)/30/01.6-7, 1944 and Essen/23/24.10, 1944.



REASON FOR LOSS: THE CHOP

What happened to ME588?

The accepted authority for identifying Allied bombers lost over Europe, having been shot down by German night-fighters is 'The Nachtjagd Diaries' by Dr Theo Boiten. Entries for the Leipzig raid of 19th/20th February 1944 suggest that ME588 was shot down over the Dutch coast by Lt Friedrich Potthast of 12/NJG1 whose claim was for:—

Lancaster – Sea 5kmNW Zoutkamp (CN-56) : 5700m - 02.08.

Both the timing and location appear way off the mark given contemporary information.

The village of Almke is just south of Wolfsburg and south-west of Gardelegen in the Saxony-Anhalt region, pretty much 400 miles due east of the Norfolk coast. The bombers' route to Leipzig was a direct route towards Berlin with a turning point in the region of Wolfsburg, diverting the bomber stream south-eastwards towards Leipzig. ME588 came down in the vicinity of the turning point. As well as the navigator plotting the position of the turn, Pathfinder aircraft in the bomber stream were normally tasked with marking turning points with sky-markers. The drawback of laying illuminating route-markers was that they could also be seen by night-fighters and tended to attract them to the bomber stream.

An Abschuss claim closely fitting the time and location of the loss of ME588 was made by Oblt Paul Zorner – 8./NJG3 – Lancaster W.Burg/Gardelegen: 5800m 03.26

This was Zorner's third of four Abschuss that night. His 29th 'victory' so far.

More than 60 years later, Zorner vividly recalled: “In the night from 19 to 20 February 1944 our listening service reported numerous enemy preparations, even though in the opinion of our meteorologists the weather situation over England was not good. Perhaps that was the reason why the incursions were very late in arriving. Around 23:00hrs there was an advance warning for the second half of the night, then half an hour after midnight the announcement that large bomber formations were assembling over southern England. My Staffel was told to take on cockpit readiness at around 01:00hrs, and at 01:13hrs I took off from Lüneburg to fly south-west on an interception heading. Then came the order to go into a holding position between Münster and Oldenburg.

After waiting for about an hour large enemy formations were reported between Rotterdam and the IJsselmeer but without any indication of their expected destination. There were many possibilities: in view of the fact that at this time of the year sunrise was only at around 06:00hrs it could be anywhere from the Ruhr to way beyond, and so I decided to stay where I was. Shortly afterwards we could eliminate the Ruhr from our list as the enemy headed north and then east. I then observed the first planes being shot down to the north and guessed that the target was further inland, so I continued searching in the general direction of north-east. By this time I was slowly becoming nervous as we had by now been almost two hours in the air leaving us operational for one hour at the most. Why had we been sent up so early?

Be that as it may. In front of us we could observe planes going down in flames so we were at least heading in the right direction.

Finally, after almost two hours and just before 03:00hrs Wilke’s SN-2 picked up a first contact flying from left to right but he was unable to keep it. A few minutes later he had another acquisition at an altitude of 5800 metres. He guided me onto the target, which I found slightly above at around 03:00hrs. Weather conditions were ideal for an attack from astern with thick haze on the horizon. I was able to approach unobserved and at 03:02hrs opened fire between the two port engines from a distance of roughly 100 metres. Fire broke out immediately, the bomber went down vertically and crashed north of Hannover at 03:04hrs. (625 Squadron Lancaster JA862, crashed in large swamps some 12 km NNW of Hannover, author’s note). I carried on searching in an easterly direction…

The Me110’s controls shook briefly, a quick check at the instrument panel and a question to Wilke. Everything OK. Just four minutes later he found another target; we must be in the middle of the bomber formation. All around us, ghost-like, enemy bombers lit up like so many flares and went down. Wilke directed me onto the target a little lower down. I throttled back, went into a dive slightly to port and then saw the Lancaster coming up very close to starboard. I immediately attacked, aiming at the port wing which burst into flames. The Lancaster started to roll, perhaps the pilot was trying to side slip to extinguish the flames. In vain. The flames spread further and further along the wing. About three minutes later he went into a steep bank before finally going down vertically and impacting at 03:26hrs near Gardelegen. (550 Squadron Lancaster LM461, set on fire and abandoned, crashed twixt Solpke and Wernitz, author’s note). Time for us to recover our breath and reflect on our tactics…

Already prior to this fourth Abschuss I had observed Flak flashes and bomb explosions a long way off to the south. This led me to assume that we had now fallen back to the rear of the formation. By now we had been around two and a half hours in the air and so had roughly 20 minutes fuel left. I was familiar with the nearby Stendal airfield and decided to land there. I learned that Leipzig had been attacked and that overall our night’s activities had been a resounding success with our own four aerial victories in less than forty minutes a crowning achievement”.

Most current claimant by Theo Boiten, on July 2, 2022:

Hptm. Werner Hoffmann: 27 Stab I./NJG5 Lancaster 25 km E. Braunschweig (GB 9): 5.900 m. 02.51 625 Sqn Lancaster ME588

The location fits but the time is significantly earlier than that provided by the German authorities as 03.30. Both factors correlate better with Oblt. Zorner's third claim. We are in the process of reviewing these two claims with the possibility that they may have been interchanged. This will be amended if Theo is in agreement with our findings.


NACHTJAGD WAR DIARIES: VOLUME ONE

19-20 February 1944

On February 20, 1944, Western Allied Air Forces launched ‘Big Week’. RAF Bomber Command and the USAAF would drop 19,000 tons of bombs on the German aircraft industry in a co-ordinated round the clock offensive. However, losses would be high with 157 British bombers failing to return during this week of sustained ops.

On 19/20 February, 832 heavies would attack Leipzig’s aircraft assembly factories. Bomber Command would suffer its worst casualties to date losing 82 Lancasters and Halifaxes—for a loss rate of 9.6%!

1st Jagdkorps committed 294 single and twin-engined Nachtjagd aircraft of all Nachtjagd Geshwader in the West to battle. Early in the raid the bulk of the Tame Boar force was assembled south east of Hamburg at beacon Hahn anticipating interception of a gardening force headed for Kiel Bay. However, once this force had completed its task and withdrew, the entire Nachtjagd compliment was freed for the task at hand. The timing could not have been worse as the Leipzig Main Force has just crossed the Dutch Coast, tracking southeast. This enabled the Nachtjager to infiltrate the bomber stream over northeast Holland and in the area between Emden and southeast of Bremen. Over the next 250 km, assisted by flare-dropping Beleuchter (illuminators) and good high altitude visibility, there was a constant succession of combats. It is not surprising that 53 heavies would be claimed destroyed before the stream reached the target.

It appears that virtually every night fighter attack was successful. Havoc reigned supreme for the bomber crews. A handful of experienced Nachtjagd crews demonstrated the deadly potential of Tame Boar tactics, enabling crews with aircraft equipped with SN-2 AI (airborne interception) radar and Schräge Musik cannon to hunt freely in the bomber stream. Multiple victories were claimed by: Fw Rudolf Frank, 5 Lancasters; Hptm Erhard Peters, 5 4-mot victories; Oblt. Paul Zorner, 4 Lancasters; Hptm Werner Hoffman, 1 Lancaster and a Halifax and Oblt. Becker, 2 Halifaxes and 2 Lancasters. Wild Boar crews were limited to a meagre six claims over the target. By the time the bomber crews were homeward bound many of the night fighters were forced to land to refuel and heavy losses amounted to eight aircraft.

Unfortunately, for the crews of Bomber Command the losses from this raid would pale in comparison to those sustained during the Nuremberg raid of March 30/31, 1944, when the night fighter force infiltrated the bomber stream outward bound, in conditions of moonlight and the bombers dragging condensation trails! In retrospect there could only have been one outcome. This raid marked Bomber Command’s greatest losses in a single raid and the end of the Battle of Berlin. Invasion of Occupied Europe was now inevitable.

BOMBER COMMAND WAR DIARIES

19/20 February 1944

LEIPZIG

823 aircraft - 561 Lancasters, 255 Halifaxes, 7 Mosquitoes. 78 aircraft - 44 Lancasters and 34 Halifaxes - lost, 9.5 per cent of the force…

This was an unhappy raid for Bomber Command. The German controllers only sent part of their force of fighters to the Kiel minelaying diversion. When the main bomber force crossed the Dutch Coast, they were met by a further part of the German fighter force and those German fighters which had been sent north to Kiel hurriedly returned. The bomber force was thus under attack all the way to the target. There were further difficulties at the target because winds were not as forecast and many aircraft reached the Leipzig area too early and had to orbit and wait for the Pathfinders. 4 aircraft were lost by collision and approximately 20 were shot down by flak.

Leipzig was cloud-covered and the Pathfinders had to use sky-marking. The raid appeared to be concentrated in the early stages but scattered later. There are few details of the effect of the bombing…

THE AFTERMATH

The fate of ME588 and her crew was known fairly early after their failure to return.
However, it would not be until June 1950, before the last pieces of the puzzle fell into place.

Extract from KE 7791
Original filed in German records in basement (Custody B.5.)

Name Lancaster a/c Type 683 crashed at 3.30 hrs. 20.2.44.

Almke, 11 km NW. Augplatz, Helmstedt by night fighter, 3 killed and rest of crew so destroyed by explosion of a/c, the number and Identity were unrecognizable.

Identity discs found for :-
Aspin, 1239065
Sgt. Eastwood 1535672

MR3.
4.12.45 Extract placed on file by M. Houghting

Additional information was provided with Casualty Enquiry G.518 submitted on January 22, 1946:

1.Lancaster I ME588…was reported missing the night of 19/20 February 1944 as a result of an attack on Leipzig.

2. Crew 17116 P/O J.D. Aspin DFM… Missing

3. Captured German records state aircraft crashed at Almke, 11 Km. northwest of Augplatz, Helmstedt, three members of the crew were killed and the rest so destroyed by the explosion of the aircraft that the number and identity were unrecognisable. Identity discs for P/O Aspin and Sgt. Eastwood were found.

4. A letter was forwarded by the B.C.R.S. from Monsieur Henri Delclis (?Delcès) of Illies near La Base, Nord France, who was employed on forced labour in Germany. He confirmed the scene of the crash and the fact that the aircraft exploded on contact with the ground and explains that after the Germans had left the scene of the crash, he took the opportunity of searching the vicinity of the wreckage and discovered in a piece of clothing material some photos marked “Riley” (Sgt. Riley).

5. It would be appreciated if an investigation could be made to ascertain the burial place of the seven members of the crew.

E.F. Williams for Director of Personal Service.

Finally a letter to Sgt. Skebo’s father would bring it all into focus.

8th June, 1950

Dear Mr. Skebo:

It is with regret that I refer to the loss of your son, Sgt. Patrick Sylvester Skebo. A report has, however, been received from our Missing Research and Enquiry Service concerning your son and the members of his crew.

Investigating Officers of this Service have ascertained that your son’s aircraft crashed in a field 1/4 mile east of Almke which is 15 miles north east of Brunswick, Germany. The crew had been buried by the Germans in a communal grave in the cemetery at Mariental, seven miles south east of Almke.

A United States Graves Services Unit had visited the cemetery before our Investigating Officers arrived and not being fully aware of British policy that all British aircrew buried in Germany would be moved to British Military Cemeteries located in Germany, moved your son and the members of his crew to Belgium to the custody of the British Graves Unit there. They have since been reverently reinterred in the Hotten British Military Cemetery thirty miles south east of Namur, Belgium. They were laid to rest in multiple graves 9/12 in Row C, plot 11 and these graves will be registered collectively with their names…

Yours Sincerely,
W.R. Gunn Wing Commander,
R.C.A.F. Casualties Officer, for Chief of the Air Staff


BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW

  1. P/O James Desmond Aspin DFM:

Pilot Officer Aspin was the son of Thomas Beardwood Aspin and Sarah Aspin of Bury, Lancashire. He was born 18th May 1922 at the family home in Bury. He was the youngest of three siblings and was known as Desmond, or Des, to his family and friends.

Aspin Family,L-R. Frank, Desmond and Marion, with father, Thomas Beardwood Aspin. Courtesy of Hilary Davis.

Sister Marion on left, Desmond on right. Courtesy of Hilary Davis.


Des Aspin Pilot Training. Courtesy of Hilary Davis.


Desmond and sister Marion, attend brother Frank’s wedding. Courtesy of Hilary Davis.

P/O Aspin DFM. Courtesy of Hilary Davis

L-R. , "Bill" (? F/Sgt. H.W. Gumbrell or W.S. Middlemiss), F/O Bob McSorely and Sgt. Des Aspin. Courtesy of Hilary Davis

1239065 – Service number issued Cardington,Beds - April 1940 to Apr 1941. RAFVR deferred service allowed a suitable recruit (either called up or volunteer) to be attested into the RAF then sent back to civilian life without RAF pay to await space on training schemes.

ACDC – Heaton Park, Manchester. Aircrew Dispersal Centre – Holding Centre for overseas postings to Commonwealth Air Training Plan (Canada, Southern Africa) or Arnold Scheme (USA). By rail from Padgate station at midnight via Harrogate to Newcastle then up the east coast line. Delay 7 miles north of Belford, near Haggerston, where the track had been recently bombed by a German aircraft. Then to Berwick on Tweed, on to Edinburgh then Glasgow.

USA 42G contingent by train to Gourock – River Clyde transfer to fast liner HMT Louis Pasteur for Atlantic crossing 22/11/41 to 1/12/41 then to 31PD Moncton, New Brunswick. Gale force winds, ice forming on ship's superstructure, snow, sea-sickness. By rail to Moncton, passing through settlements without black-outs and with brightly lit shop windows, neon signs, car headlights, filling stations.

31PD Moncton, New Brunswick – RCAF Holding centre. Snow, unfinished buildings.

By rail to the Southern States:- from Moncton to St John, following the Potomac River to Macadam then across the US border into Maine, across New England to New York City, New Jersey and Washington DC and down though Virginia, North and South Carolina, down the edge of the Appalachians into Georgia. The final part of their journey to Montgomery was by coach.

42G – ACRC Maxwell Field, Montgomery, Alabama 'orientation' – 18-12-41 to 10-1-42

Learning American culture and 'ways'. Understood that 42G were 'difficult' and viewed 're-learning' drill in the US style as unnecessary, especially as among their number were Dunkirk veterans who had transferred into the RAF. Incident around Christmas – Pearl Harbour still fresh in the mind - where it was rumoured that a Japanese aircraft carrier was at large in the Gulf of Mexico, posing a threat to the US mainland. Pilot cadets of 42G were required to stay on the base (no 'open post' downtime). There followed drunkenness and loutish behaviour by some cadets. An element of confrontation occurred between RAF cadets and US officers leading to a relaxation of some stricter elements of the training regime.

That he sent a letter from Macon, Georgia in May 1942 ties in well with the portrait photo - most likely taken just after his graduation on completion of his pilot training in the USA as he is sporting both RAF and USAAF 'wings'. I wonder whether there are any indications in the letter whether he was just starting Basic, was part-way through or had just completed? RAF 'Arnold Scheme' pilot training in the USA at that time comprised a short 'acclimatisation' course to ease RAF trainees into USAAF ways, followed by three progressive stages of flying training - Primary, Basic and Advanced.

For example, Class 42G would have completed their Basic at the end of May 1942, followed by a period of leave before passing to Advanced on 20th June, graduating around 5th August 1942. (the preceding class 42F started Advanced on 27th April, graduated 3rd July, 42H to Advanced 4th July, graduated 2nd September). The USAAF training regime was very tough and cadets were 'washed out' at anytime during training for failure to make adequate progress, deficiencies in aptitude and disciplinary misdemeanours. The failure rate was high – e.g class 42G:- out of 729 pilot cadets intake at primary flying schools 376 pilots graduated, 335 were eliminated and 18 cadets died in flying accidents. So those who made it through the training process were skilled, determined and resilient individuals.

On return from the USA newly qualified pilots continued their training in the UK - Advanced Flying Unit, Beam Approach Training Flight, before forming a five-man crew at one of many Operational Training Units to operate twin-engined medium bombers. By reference to Patrick Skebo's service records the Aspin crew came together at 30 OTU, moving to RAF Seighford a satellite aerodrome of RAF Hixon, Staffordshire and completing the posting in August. It is assumed that Desmond's OTU crew comprised Sgt Aspin – pilot, Sgt Riley – navigator, Sgt Eastway – bomb-aimer, Sgt Eastwood – wireless op and Sgt Skebo – air-gunner.

They then 'converted' from two to four-engine heavy bombers at 1667 Heavy Conversion Unit, RAF Lindholme, Yorkshire, arriving on 11th August. Here two more crewmen were added – flight engineer Sgt Wheeldon and air gunner Sgt Watson. The crew’s operational posting came through, effective from 9th October 1943 – to 100 Squadron, RAF Waltham (Grimsby). This was a very short lived posting as 'C' Flight of 100 Squadron was split off to become the nucleus of a brand new squadron, 625, at RAF Kelstern w.e.f 13th October. JP

St John’s Church Memorial Plague. Courtesy of Jenny Evans


2. Sgt. Paul Robert Wheeldon:

1339602 Sgt Paul Robert Wheeldon RAFVR (Service number allocated to Uxbridge and Weston Super Mare recruitment centres from Nov 1940 – if W S M to Sept 41)

Paul Robert Wheeldon b o/n/d 1921 to John Goodyer Wheeldon and Florence Kate Long. John was born in Tottenham and Florence came from Somerset. In 1901 Florence was working as a housemaid in Wickford, Essex, where John G (20yrs) was living with his parents and two siblings and working as a warehouseman. John G and Florence married in December 1901 (West Ham). By 1911 John and Florence had very recently moved to South Wales, to a colliery village just south of Abertillery - Llanhilleth where John G was working as a coal hewer. With them were their young family: John Victor aged 6, Kathleen Eliza, 4, Florence Eileen, 2 and new-born Violet Winifred.

Their eldest daughter Irene Mildred had been born in Yeovil in May 1902 and was living with Florence's mother and step-father in Tadhill, Leigh on Mendip, Somerset (John & Irene's address at that time was 63 Chesterford Road, Manor Park). More children were born into their home at 13 Troy Road, Llanhilleth:- Brenda E b 1913 Pontypool, Richard E, 1915 Pontypool, Marjorie A, 1918, Pontypool followed by twins Paul R and Peter R in late 1921 followed by Barbara R in 1925.

- total 11 children, although sadly Paul's twin Peter died in 1923. Paul's father John Goodyear Wheeldon died in February 1931 in Keynsham, Somerset when Paul was 9 – it seems that the family had returned to the county of Florence Long's roots as Florence Eileen married a Leigh-on-Mendip man in 1930. Leigh on Mendip is a village in the Somerset coalfield where the quarrying of limestone, basalt and the manufacture of asphalt are also prevalent.

The issuing of Paul's service number from Weston-Super-Mare suggests that he had continued to live in Somerset in his teenage years.

As a trainee flight engineer and after 'square-bashing' at an ITW Paul Wheeldon would have undertaken a trade course. The main f/e school was at RAF St Athan, South Wales. He would have received his technical engineer training, becoming proficient on all the mechanical, hydraulic and pneumatic systems but would have done no real flying until after graduation when his next posting would have been to a Heavy Conversion Unit - 1667 HCU where he would have been assigned to his crew. As the pilot's right-hand man in the cockpit, the engineer would have learnt basic pilot skills, to at least keep the aircraft straight and level in case anything untoward happened to the pilot.

Norah Mary Wheeldon (known as Mary). Courtesy of John Proctor

On 12th November 1943 Paul Wheeldon married Norah Mary Moss (born in October 1926 in Middlesborough) in Oban, Scotland. The occasion coincided with 6 days leave for the crew between 10-11-43 to 15-11-43. Why Oban? The town hosted a RAF Coastal Command Station - it is possible that Mary (Norah) was in the WAAF and had met Paul at a mutual posting elsewhere and they had subsequently been posted apart. Oban is in the parish of Kilmore and Kilbride.

Mary remarried in 1954.

Paul Wheeldon is commemorated on a war memorial plaque on the north wall of the north aisle of St Giles Church, Leigh St, Leigh-on-Mendip, Somerset.

Update: July 13/22

Details of Paul Wheeldon/ Norah's wedding from their marriage certificate:-

11th November 1943 at Oban Old Parish Church Manse
After Banns

According to the Forms of the Church of Scotland.

Paul Robert Wheeldon
Motor Mechanic
(Sergeant, Royal Air Force) now engaged on war service - Batchelor - age 22 - usual residence - Tadhill, Somerset
Name, rank, profession of father – John Wheeldon – Colliery Manager (deceased)
Name & maiden surname of mother – Florence Kathleen Wheeldon – Ms Long

Norah Mary Moss
Spinster – age 17 – usual residence – Rhubeg, Strone, Argyll
Name, rank, profession of father – John Thomas Moss – Factory Manager, Lieutenant RNVR
Name & maiden surname of mother – Sarah Moss – Ms Hardman

Minister – William MacDonald, Minister of Oban Old Parish Church

Witnesses -
F O Folks, Naval Officer, Oban
Kirsty McLean Ogden, Kentra,
Angus Terrace, Oban
Marion R Campbell Registrar- register signed - Oban on 12th November.

Some of it is a little hard to de-cypher due to somewhat over fancy hand-writing and I am not certain of F O Folks, Naval Officer as I can't find any records at all for that name/spelling.

Anyhow the certificate does provide a little information although it would appear that Mr/Lt Moss was the reason for Norah being in Oban. I am still intrigued to know how/ where she and Paul met. It had not previously registered with me that Norah was only 17 when they married.

Information gleaned from a surviving relative of Paul Wheeldon - He worked at the garage in Leigh on Mendip on Saturdays and after school, selling petrol with no evidence of any mechanical knowledge. It is believed Paul entered the RAF early, although his service number suggests 1941. My thought is that he may have entered as a fitter and re-mustered later as a FE. It is possible that he met Norah during an early posting, but without recourse to his service record, this is conjecture. JP

3. Sgt. William Edward Riley:

“The Northern Daily Telegraph” (NDT), Monday, February 24th, 1944.

'Sgt – navigator William Edward Riley (21), 329 Haslingden Road, Guide, has also failed to return from a recent operational duty. He joined the RAF almost two years ago, and previously was employed in Blackburn Public Library and later in the Borough treasurer's department at Blackburn Town Hall. An old boy of Blackburn Grammar School, he was associated with St James's Church, Blackamoor and was a teacher at the Sunday school connected with that church in Guide. A brother is serving in the Navy.’

William E Riley was born in late1922, the eldest of two sons to Thomas and Doris Elizabeth Riley of 329 Haslingden Road, Guide, Lancashire. William's service number was from a series allocated to the Padgate Recruitment Centre, Warrington, from April 1941. JP

4. Sgt. John Conybeare Landon:

Sgt. Landon, civilian. Sgt. Landon, Service portrait. Courtesy of David Wingate

Hotton Gravesite. Courtesy of David Wingate

These six gravestones for the Aspin crew can be found in Hotton Cemetery in Belgium, having been relocated from Germany after the war. They are connected not only with a terrible sequence of tragedies which struck the family of the bomb aimer, John Conybeare Landon, but also the selfless act of a Frenchman, a forced labourer in Germany, who witnessed the crash which killed the crew.

The Aspin crew of 625 Squadron took off from RAF Station Kelstern in Linconshire half an hour before midnight on 19 February 1944. Within a couple of hours, the aircraft had been shot down over Germany with all its bombs on board…

John Conybeare Landon was married to a Canadian girl called Virginia. She sent the news that he was missing to a friend or relative who lived in Australia.

Sgt. Landon, Telegram. Courtesy of David Wingate


Note added 24 October 2018: Information from Brenda Curtis: I just wanted to add a couple of points of clarification. John was married to Virginia Collins Quigley and she sent the telegram about John being missing to John’s sister Thyra Munro Godber (nee Landon) who as you mentioned was living in Australia at the time. Apparently she and her daughter lived on a sheep station not far from Sydney during the war.

At that stage, very little would have been known about the fate of the crew.

Just over one year after the aircraft crashed, a notice confirming that John Conybeare Landon was officially presumed to have been killed appeared in a newspaper. His entry is one up from the end of the column.

Sgt. J.C. Landon Newspaper Clipping. Courtesy of David Wingate

In late 1945, the Casualty Branch of the Air Ministry, which was located at 73-77 Oxford Street in London, wrote to John’s uncle who lived in Gloucestershire. John’s family had suffered a triple tragedy, some details of which were revealed in the newspaper notice above. His mother and father had lived in Malaya, where his father managed the Cluny Estate rubber plantation at Slim River, Perak, Malaya. The Japanese invaded in December 1941, and both parents subsequently lost their lives. The father, James Munro Palmer Landon, ‘Jim’, survived captivity but died soon after the war as a result of the harshness of his internment. The mother, ‘Pen’, died only three months after the Japanese invasion. She had been involved in war work in Malaya with the Medical Auxiliary Service and later in Singapore at First Air Posts. She was evacuated on the ship SS Kuala, which was sunk by the Japanese, but she survived and helped to nurse survivors on the beach at Pom Pom Island. A couple of days later, she and other evacuees were taken aboard the SS Tandjong Pinang, but this was also sunk, off Bangka Island, Indonesia, on the 17th Feb 1942. Pen did not survive this second sinking.

John’s two younger sisters, who had fortunately been evacuated to Australia before the Japanese invasion, thus endured the loss of virtually their entire family.

John’s uncle must have been acting as next-of-kin pending news of what had happened to John’s parents. The Air Ministry letter to him gave very substantial details about what had happened to the Aspin crew. It referred to captured German documents and to the difficulties the Germans had experienced in identifying the crew, or even establishing the number of bodies, due to the force of the explosion on impact.

The MRES later managed to establish the identity of five of the crew, but two – Ronald Somner Watson and Paul Robert Wheeldon – lie in a joint grave.

Joint Headstone, Watson and Wheeldon. Courtesy of David Wingate

The Air Ministry letter included details of testimony which had been received from a Monsieur Henri Delcles of Illies in Northern France, who had been a forced labourer in Germany at the time of the crash. Delcles stated that the aircraft had exploded on contact with the ground, and said that after the Germans had left the scene he had gone to search in the vicinity of the wreckage and there had discovered two photographs which were believed to be those of William Edward Riley, the navigator.

Delcles sent this information (and presumably the two photographs) to the British Red Cross Society, who forwarded it to the Air Ministry. Delcles’s action is very moving. Even as a slave of the Germans, he did his best to preserve the memory of the crew who had been killed, and once freed, after five years of captivity, he made sure that what he knew of their fate was passed on to the British.

Countless similar acts of remembrance were carried out by the peoples of Occupied Europe.

ALL DOCUMENTS AND PHOTOGRAPHS KINDLY SUPPLIED BY DAVID WINGATE, THE NEPHEW OF JOHN CONYBEARE LANDON.

5. Sgt. George Harry Eastwood:

Wilfred and Mary Eastwood's youngest child George Harry Eastwood was born on 3rd June 1922. By the time war was declared in 1939 George, apparently known to the family as Harry, had left school and had secured a job as an apprentice hairdresser with Sydney Lee at 12 Hallam Street, Heaviley, Stockport. The family were then living at 5 Countess Street, Heaviley. Daughter Margaret had married,- Sydney Barratt in 1938, hence was no longer at home. Wilfred's occupation at that time was as a works accountant at an engineering works, mother Mary was looking after the house, sons and husband (unpaid domestic duties) and Harry's elder brother (Wilfred, also known by his second name) Malcolm was working as a railway porter (heavy work).

Harry Eastwood's service number suggests that he enlisted around July 1941 at RAF Padgate, Warrington – about 20 miles west of Stockport, the nearest RAF recruitment centre. Having been previously assessed by written exam and interview as being best suited to wireless operator training he would have followed the normal recruitment path for a Volunteer Reservist – with a period continuing in his civilian occupation before embarking on 'square-bashing'.

Many would-be wireless operators did their initial training at Blackpool where they were taught the rudiments of accurately sending and receiving morse-code up to a speed of 10+ words a minute. The initial course was of about four months duration, followed by a technical course at one of the RAF specialist Signals Schools (in 1943 Signals Schools were re-assigned as Radio Schools). Aircrew wireless operators also received specialist air-gunner training. Having graduated, Sgt George Harry Eastwood would have passed to 30 Operational Training Unit where he became one of Des Aspin's five-man crew.


Stockport Express 19th October 1944 reported:-

'Eastwood – official notification has been received that Sgt G H Eastwood (21) of 82 Shaw Road, Shaw Heath, who failed to return from an operational flight over Germany some time ago is now presumed killed in action.

A member of the Boy's Brigade attached to his old school St. George's Sgt Eastwood before volunteering for the RAF in 1941 was employed by Mr S Lees, hairdresser of Hallam Street, Heaviley. He had been on operations for 12months, and his brother Wilfred, served in the Grenadier Guards until being discharged through wounds received in Egypt and Italy.

Stockport Express 15th February 1945:-

'EASTWOOD – In proud and ever-loving memory of our dear brother, Harry (Sergeant W.Op A/G RAF) missing presumed killed on air operations Feb 19th 1944; also his gallant Crew.
''Per Ardua Ad Astra''
Ever remembered by his loving Brothers, Sisters and Nephew.'

Margaret and Sidney had two sons, Allan, born 1943 and Harry V, in 1945.W Malcolm Eastwood married Una Green in the last quarter of 1941, a daughter Sandra was born in September 1945. JP

6. Sgt. Partrick Sylvester Skebo was born on March 27, 1923 in Wilno, Ontario, Canada. He received his education at #5, Wilo Ont, Entrance and Wilno H.Sc., 2 years and 3 mo. in 3rd Form. He had photography as a hobby and his athletic endeavours included hockey, baseball, tennis and boxing.

Sgt. P.J. Skebo. Courtesy of LAC/Ancestry.ca

He enlisted with the RCAF on July 10, 1942. At the time he was employed as a store clerk.

Record of Service of Airman:

1M.D. Toronto 31/8/42; 1 M.D. Toronto 6/11/42; 5 S.A.T.S. Brantford 7/11/42; 5 S.T. Brantford 21/2/43; 9 PAE McGill U. 22/2/43; 9 PAE 20/3/43; Stn. Trenton 21/3/43; Stn. Trenton 1/5/43; 3 B&G MacDonald 2/5/43; 3 B&G MacDonald 20/6/43; 1Y.N Halifax N.S. 21/6/43; 1Y to RAF Trainees Pool 22/6/43; Emb. Halifax 23/6/43; Dis. U.K. 1/7/43; 30 O.TU. 9/7/43; 1667 HCU 11/8/43; 100 Sqn. 9/10/43; 625 Sqn. 13.10.43; Pres. Dead 20/2/44.

Promotions: AC2 31/8/42; LAC 1/5/43; T/Sgt. 11/6/43; Air Gunner Badge 11/6/43.

RCAF TRAINING REPORT—AIR GUNNER

Course - 22/Mar/43 - 11 June/43

Remarks: An average student; Has worked hard and shown a keen interest in his work. He has a sound knowledge of his trade. Should make a good N.C.O. Air Gunner. Volunteered to forgo his normal embarkation leave to proceed overseas immediately on graduation.

Chief Instructor and Commanding Officer, No. 3 B&G School, MacDonald, Manitoba.
June 11, 1943.

It is noteworthy that Martin and Hannah Skebo would suffer the loss of two sons during their service with Bomber Command. Patrick would lose his life on February 20, 1944 and his younger brother, R275016 Sgt. Basil Andrew Skebo would fail to return from an operation with 24 O.T.U. on September 23/24,1944. Their parents had the rare distinction of receiving a Royal Message.

7. Sgt. Ronald Somner Watson:

Sgt Ronald S Watson – A/G Ronald Somner Watson's service number 922306 dates from Sept 1939 to May 1940 – issued by the Uxbridge Recruitment Centre. Sgt Watson is proving to be an elusive figure as I can find no birth records for Ronald Somner Watson. A probate record cites a Ronald Hope Sumner Watson of 65 Whyteleafe Road, Caterham, Surrey, who died on or after 20th February 1944. Administration of his estate (í287 11s 8d) was vested in Mrs Marie Laune Boulter, wife of Roland Bewick Boulter.

As far as I can determine Marie Laune Boulter's maiden name was Watson, having married Roland Boulter in 1937 in Westminster. Marie's parents were Charles William Watson (b Islington 8th October 1879) and Louisa Jane Birchall who married in 1916, their children were Louisa M Watson 1918 (Islington), Marie L Watson 1919 (Islington) and Brenda M Watson 1920 (Holborn). Surely there was a family tie between Ronald and Marie. In October 1945 65 Whyteleafe Road was occupied by Marie L Boulter, Elizabeth Case, Olive Hobbs and Jacqueline Millet. Roland was also on the electoral register for that address but is believed to have been serving in the RASC (2ndLieut).

Having apparently joined the RAF early in the war 922306 LAC R E Watson (correct service number) appears on the roll of trainee pilots at 36 SFTS Penhold, Alberta, Canada, No 59 course (prob July 1942) – with the comment 'left course'. Service Flying Training Schools were roughly equivalent to USA 'Advanced' - their purpose being to bring trainee pilots onto multi-engine aircraft through to 'wings' standard. The trainees would have already learned basic flying on light aircraft at an Elementary Flying Training School, they now undertook more advanced flying and navigation on the relatively high-performance twin-engine Airspeed Oxford. The duration of the SFTS course was about twenty weeks.

LAC R E Watson at Penhold, Alberta, Canada. Photo ID. Courtesy of John Proctor

That Ronald Watson 'left' the course suggests that he was ‘washed' having failed a 'check' test or for some other indiscretion or misdemeanour. Having been accepted for pilot training Ronald would have been initially assessed as Pilot/Observer material - the next option for a 'washed' pilot was to re-muster for navigator or bomb-aimer training. However, in LAC Watson's case he seems to have preferred to get on with the fighting, as did many others in his circumstances, and apparently opted to re-muster as an air-gunner, with shorter training and a seemingly less complicated existence. His next posting appears to have been at No 3 Bombing and Gunnery School, MacDonald, Manitoba – where future Canadian crew-mate Pat Skebo also undertook his gunnery training.

The combat report detailing the crew's epic first operation records that following his time at 3BGS Ronald progressed through 30 OTU and 1667 HCU, as did fellow gunner Patrick Skebo – it is not known which of them was the gunner in the original five man crew at 30 OTU. See combat report above in INTRODUCTION.

Consistently throughout his postings various record keepers refer to him as Sgt R E Watson – at 36 SFTS (albeit with a ?), 100 Squadron's ORB when the crew was listed as posting in, posting into 625 Squadron, entries in the ORB and the combat report, correspondence after the crew were lost.

In the ORB daily summary of events and letters to and from the Air Ministry and the MRES, his service number 922306 tallies throughout. It is only in Post presumption memorandum and CWGC record that R E becomes R S, and the Probate record cites Ronald Hope Sumner Watson. A fashion of the time was for a child's middle name to be the mother's maiden surname so Hope and/or Sumner may be significant clues.

Ronald Watson's birth seems to have eluded the registration system and it is difficult to gauge his age from the photographs – he could be anything from late-twenties to 22 - my best guess is that Ronald Watson was brought up in London, probably by Charles and Emma Watson alongside their three daughters. Ronald may have been their first-born but not registered, adopted or a son from a previous liaison. Charles William Watson was in his mid-thirties when he married Louisa Birchall in 1916. If not Louisa's son, Ronald's birth mother may have become destitute or perished in the influenza epidemic of 1918/19. Charles had at least three brothers – perhaps Ronald was a nephew – the possibilities are many. Charles William Watson died in 1920, Louisa in 1941, it is assumed that Marie Boulter had been Ronald's nominated next-of-kin. JP

Update, July 13/22:

Ronald Watson is a somewhat elusive character but I am now reasonably happy that an entry in overseas/ military records indicates that Ronald Watson's birth was registered in Paris in 1921. I would proffer the theory that the answer lies in his father's military service in the Royal Marines Light Infantry. Charles and Louisa Watson were married in 1916 – Charles's occupation was noted then as Private in the Royal Marine Light Infantry. Charles had joined the service as a 'Sea Boy' in August 1895 at 15 years old and seems to have served until 1926/27 – he was awarded his long service/ good conduct medal in 1927. The key, I think lies in the name Somner - checking Royal Marine Light Infantry records revealed Armourer Quarter-Master Sergeant Arthur Charles Somner and several Private Hopes. Charles Watson had been stationed for the most part at RN Base Chatham. In 1911 Arthur Somner, then a Lance-Sgt was also with the Chatham Division, as was Private John George Hope (in married quarters). Somner, b 1882 had enlisted in RM in 1900, Hope b 1881 had enlisted in 1898, Watson b 1879 enlisted in 1895.

Service records for all three indicate that they were serving in the RMLI Chatham Division at the same time in 1905/6, 1910/11, Somner and Watson 1901/02. Pte Hope's records show he started in the service in the Portsmouth Division until being posted to Chatham at the end of 1905.

Private John George Hope died on 1st January 1915 when HMS Formidable was torpedoed by German U-Boat U24 during a Naval exercise off the South Coast. QMS Somner 'died of disease' in August 1920. I would suggest that Ronald's middle names commemorate two of his father's lost comrades.

Charles's service record is incomplete so I have no postings for him beyond 1916 – if he was serving in France (accompanied by Louisa) beyond the end of the First World War it cannot yet be confirmed. I did find that a contingent of Royal Marines were attached to assist the delegation at the Paris Peace Conference.

Charles and Louisa were undoubtedly linked to Ronald by blood as Probate records link to Marie Laure Boulter (nee Watson b to Charles and Louisa in 1919). I have no explanation for the second initial E in Ronald Watson's squadron record book listings. JP

8. P/O Richard Elias Eastway:

Richard Elias Eastway. Courtesy of John Proctor

Sgt Richard Elias Eastway RAAF – bomb-aimer, d.o.b 27th April 1923.

Richard Eastway was training to be an accounting clerk in the Sydney office of Chartered Accountants Kent, Brierley and Fisher when he volunteered for the RAAF four months before his nineteenth birthday. He was assessed as suitable for pilot/ observer duties.

Richard Eastway undertook his initial training at RAAF Bradfield Park in the northern Sydney suburb of Lindfield. At the end of the 11 week course he passed to No 2 Embarkation Depot having been assessed for re-mustering from pilot to observer training.

AC1 Eastway sailed from Brisbane on 5th October 1942 for Canada, arriving at Halifax N S, the main reception port for incoming trainee airmen from all across the Commonwealth, on 21st October. After a brief period marking time at 3MU Richard Eastway joined course No 67 at No5 Bombing and Gunnery School RCAF Dafoe, Saskatchewan on 7th November. Having successfully negotiated his way through the nine week course he and his fellow observers u/t passed to No1 Central Navigation School, RCAF Rivers, Manitoba w.e.f. 10th January.

Course 67 graduated, being awarded their observers' flying badges on to 19/2/43 and promoted to Temporary Sergeant, warranted by their newly acquired aircrew status. Having travelled half-way round the world to train as an Observer Sgt Eastway made the Atlantic crossing from New York, embarking on 9th March 1943, disembarking in the UK on 18th March (probably Gourock). The dates coincide with convoy AT38 - a lone sailing (without escorts) by the Queen Elizabeth, departing New York on 10th March, arriving on the Clyde on 16th March 1943.

Having arrived in the UK Richard 's next posting was to 11PDRC (Personnel Despatch and Reception Centre) thought at that time to have been in Bournemouth, (from May it is understood that 11PDRC was centred in Brighton). The posting was a 'holding' centre where airmen were billeted in hotels and awaited their next meaningful training posting. Commonwealth airmen were sent on leave – possibly looking-up distant relatives, sent on refresher courses and various other 'time-marking' activities.

Sgt Eastway's next posting was to 2(O)AFU (Observers, Advanced Flying Unit) RAF Millom, Cumbria, effective 26th April. Bombing practices were flown in Avro Ansons, dropping practice bombs from around 10,000ft, also flying map reading/ navigation exercises in cloudy, and worse weather conditions. The AFU course lasted only four weeks whence Sgt Eastway moved to 30 OTU on 25th May where he subsequently crewed-up with the nucleus of the Aspin crew. Eastway’s service record notes an attachment to RAF Seighford, a satellite station to 30 OTU's main station at RAF Hixon, from 8th June 1943.

Richard Eastway's service record gives a good indication of the crew's progression. From OTU they next moved on 11th August from twin-engine flying in Vickers Wellington medium bombers to convert to four-engine flying at 1667 Heavy Conversion Unit, RAF Lindholme, Yorkshire. Now a complete seven man crew with the addition of f/e Sgt Wheeldon and a second air gunner. Practice take-offs, circuits and landings, cross-country exercises, practice bombing, gunnery and night-flying were undertaken at 1667 HCU to prepare for operational flying duties. At the conclusion of conversion training the crew were posted on attachment to 1 Group aircrew pool from 30th September awaiting posting to a squadron.

Sgt Aspin's crew flew together without a change in personnel until early January 1944. On the 5th, the operational sortie against Stettin was successfully completed but on 7th January Sgt Eastway was posted not-effective, sick and admitted to the RAF Hospital Rauceby. Whilst Rauceby became established as a specialist crash and burns unit it was a general hospital which also catered for an increasing number of TB patients. There is no indication in Richard Eastway's service record of the nature of his illness – that he was N/E sick suggests that he was ill rather than injured. He did return to operational flying in June 1944 but was again posted N/E in August. Following hospitalization at Rauceby he was granted a period of sick leave between 22nd March and 8th April but subsequent medical examinations delayed his return to flying. He was passed as A3B – fit for flying duties as a 'combatant passenger (not pilot)' on 12th June at Rauceby.

Back at Kelstern F/Sgt Eastway was soon back in action flying as a 'spare bod' on 14th, 15th and 16th June with P/O T G Wilson and twice with F/Lt A W Avery and crews on ops against Le Havre, Boulogne and Domleger respectively, Richard Eastway settled into flying with F/Lt C W C Hamilton's crew. Early raids on French targets in the lead-up to and immediately after 'D'-Day were credited as only half an operation towards the 30 sortie total for a completed tour of operations, subsequently revised to full operations, however halves were not reinstated retrospectively.

14th June P/O T G Wilson crew LE HAVRE
15th June F/Lt A W Avery crew BOULOGNE up 21.30 dn 00.34
16th June '' DOMLEGER
27th June F/Lt C W C Hamilton crew VAIRES
29th June '' SIRACOURT
2nd July '' OISEMONT NEUVILLE
6th July '' FORET DU CROC
12th July '' TOURS
18th July '' SANNERVILLE up 03.32 dn 07.33
18th July '' GELSENKIRCHEN up 22.53 dn 02.57
25th July '' ARDUVAL 11
3rd August '' TROSSY ST MAXIMIM
4th August F/O AJ Maxwell crew PAUILLAC
11th August F/Lt C W C Hamilton crew DOUAI
12th August '' BRUNSWICK – returned to base, target not bombed. Engine trouble

On 24th July F/Sgt Eastway was commissioned to P/O rank.

Having made a busy return to operations P/O Richard Eastway was again taken ill on 14th August and admitted to Louth County Infirmary, being transferred to RAF Hospital Rauceby three days later. Medical records remain closed for 100 years so it is not possible to confirm the nature of Richard's illness. However I have come across various instances of TB, a significant problem for aircrew flying at high altitude, on oxygen.

Suffice to say that he appears to have suffered relapses during his convalescence – having been transferred to MRU (Medical Rehabilitation Unit) Loughborough on 6th October. He was hospitalised again on the 19th when admitted to Princess Mary's RAF Hospital Halton. Returning to MRU Loughborough on 29th October he was back at Princess Mary's, Halton between 8th and 15th November when he resumed rehabilitation at MRU Loughborough. On 17th November 1944 he was discharged from MRU and reclassified as fit for operations on 24th and appears to have returned to 625 Squadron - he does not seem to have flown again operationally – his last sortie was on 12th August 1944.

Richard Eastway was posted to 11PDRC w.e.f 24th January 1945, then centred in Brighton, and embarked for home on 10th February1945 arriving in Australia on 24th March.

Richard married Enid Narelle Darch 17th May 1947 at St Mark's church, Darling Point, Sydney – his profession then recorded as 'clerk'. In 1949 the couple were living in Balgowlah, a Northern suburb of Sydney – occupation accountant.

In the early 1950’s Richard E Eastway joined the Stock and Station agents WF Allworth and Sons, business advisors to rural families, as a Partner. In 1974 the firm was renamed Chapman and Eastway, becoming a full service Accountants practice. Richard E Eastway went on to be the longest serving partner at Chapman Eastway, with a tenure of 43 years.

Richard passed away in 1998 . His RAAF papers were donated to the AWM.

Somewhat poignantly Richard Eastway's service record had been amended 'War cas N/E' in error on 20th February 1944 - it had not apparently been updated 'N/E 12 Base' on 7/1/44. JP


BURIAL DETAILS:

  1. P/O James Desmond Aspin DFM was buried at Hotton War Cemetery, Belgium, Coll. grave XI. C. 9-12. Son of Thomas Beardwood and Sarah Aspin of Bury, Lancashire.

Joint Headstone, Aspin and Eastwood. Courtesy of David Wingate

His epitaph reads:

There are deeds
Which should not pass away,
And names
That must not wither

2. Sgt. Paul Robert Wheeldon was buried at Hotton War Cemetery, Belgium, Coll. grave XI. C. 9-12.

3. Sgt. William Edward Riley was buried at Hotton War Cemetery, Belgium, Coll. grave XI. C. 9-12. Son of Thomas and Doris Elizabeth Riley of Guide, Lancashire.

4. Sgt. John Conybeare Landon was buried at Hotton War Cemetery, Belgium, Coll. grave XI. C. 9-12. Son of James Munro Palmer and Penelope Minna Landon; husband of Virginia Collins Landon (nee Quigley). His epitaph reads:

He died that we might live
I Cor. XV.3

5. Sgt. George Harry Eastwood was buried at Hotton War Cemetery, Belgium, Coll. grave XI. C. 9-12. Son of Wilfred and Mary Eastwood of Stockport, Cheshire. His epitaph reads:

When the old days we recall,
Til then we miss you
Most of all

6. Sgt. Patrick Sylvester Skebo was buried at Hotton War Cemetery, Belgium, Coll. grave XI. C. 9-12.

7. Sgt. Ronald Somner Watson was buried at Hotton War Cemetery, Belgium, Coll. grave XI. C. 9-12.


DECORATION SUGGESTIONS: by Author

1. P/O J.D. Aspin DFM 171216: DFC
2. Sgt. P.R. Wheeldon 133602: DFM
3. Sgt. W.E. Riley 1515357: DFM
4. Sgt. J.C. Landon 126601: DFM
5. Sgt. G.H. Eastwood 1535672: DFM
6. Sgt. P.J. Skebo R188577: DFM
7. Sgt. R.S. Watson 922306: DFM


LETTER TO P/O ASPIN’S MOTHER FROM A MEMBER OF HIS GROUND CREW:

‘I met the greatest and bravest man I have ever, or shall ever, meet—your son. As
a flyer Desmond’s name was a byword, and by his fellow pilots he was willingly given pride of place.

Many of us had an affection for him, that rare affection that is shown by men towards the really great and worthy…there was that undefinable something in his make-up that caused him to stand out above all those around him.

How proud of him you must be—and rightly so…his supreme modesty won for him the hearts of all who had the good fortune to meet him.’


AUTHOR’S NOTES:

I was in a state of disbelief when I realized that we were past the halfway mark of the 625 Squadron Project and discovered that we had overlooked P/O Aspin DFM and his crew of Lancaster ME588 for recognition with an Aircrew Remembered archive report. We are most grateful to John Proctor, Hilary Davis and Jenny Evans for bringing this to our attention, as well as sharing their research, photos and documents with us. The main goal of our team is to research and compile reports for the seventy-four Lancs of the Squadron that ‘failed to return’ or did so in dire straits. This includes seventy-two lost on ops, two on training flights and two airmen KIA without loss of aircraft.

It became very apparent early on in our research that Desmond Aspin was a born leader and destined to be one of the Squadron’s most aggressive and skilled pilots. As a Skipper his brave and trusting crew were prepared to follow him to hell and back, and in fact did so on fifteen occasions.

It was apparent right from the start of his operational tour that he was a gifted pilot and trusted leader. During the time with his crew at O.T.U. and Heavy Conversion Unit, he did not waste any time, honing them into tight combat team. As best we can gather Sgt. Aspin did not have the luxury of a ‘second dickie’ trip with a seasoned Skipper to introduce him to the cauldron to be endured over Occupied Europe, for thirty ops.

From this crew’s first mission it was obvious that they were destined to leave their calling card with Nazi Germany, in spades. There is no question that Sgt. Aspin was cast in the same mold as G/C Leonard Cheshire VC OM DSO, Two Bars DFC, Captain Ted Swales VC DFC and 625 Squadron’s 1st Lieutenant Max Dowden.

G/C Cheshire was awarded the VC for completing four tours of ops as bomber and Pathfinder pilot. Capt. Swales had the rare distinction of being posted from a Heavy Conversion Unit to a Pathfinder Squadron—without seeing aerial combat! He was awarded the VC for sacrificing his life to save those of his crew.

1st Lt. Dowden was a seasoned bush pilot and seven years Sgt. Aspin’s senior. Max and his Flight Engineer, Sgt. Frank Moody, would make the ultimate sacrifice for their crew mates. Neither were decorated.

Sgt. Aspin and his crew entered the fray just in time to participate in the Battle of Berlin. None of their seventeen ops was a cakewalk—including eleven to the “Big City”! Six were aborted due to mechanical problems, crew incapacitation and an erroneous recall.

They had encounters with night fighters on at least three ops.

Testimony to the wisdom and combat moxie of this young Skipper and his crew was that, on only their third mission, Senior Staff entrusted them to introducing Sgt. Doyle to the crucible of war. This responsibility was not usually delegated until a crew had survived at least ten ops. It is noteworthy that F/Sgt. Aspin DFM would have his next ‘second dickie’ experience with F/Sgt. Pearson on the February 15, 1944 Berlin raid.

Sadly, P/O Aspin DFM and his crew would bookend their operational tour on February 19/20, 1944, with their return to Leipzig. F/Sgt. Pearson participated on this raid, his first as Captain and Pilot in Command. Both failed to return to Base, victims of the Nachtjagd.

The fate of this experienced crew exemplifies that of the majority of those lost by Bomber Command, regardless of the Squadron: night fighter attack, no survivors.

By this phase of the war the majority of Nachtjagd Tame Boar aircraft were equipped with airborne interception radar and Schräge Musik cannons. Experienced crews were capable of intercepting and attacking an unsuspecting bomber in cloud, in the dark of night. The bomber pilot’s sole method of escape was the corkscrew maneuver, hopefully reaching the cocoon of a cloud. One can only hold in awe the courage of these young men, who regardless of the odds stacked against them, would return to battle night after night, often witnessing the demise of their Squadron mates.

Of the seventy-four of 625 Squadron’s aircraft and crews who failed to return, thirty-nine (53%) would have no survivors from the crew of seven and on one occasion, eight. Sadly, LM512 Skippered by F/O Howard Cornish, on the September 9, 1944, Frankfurt raid, would be in collision with 622 Lancaster NF965, piloted by F/O George Owen. There were no survivors. P/O David Tointon was on his ‘second dickie’ op with F/O Cornish.

Unfortunately, it would be his first and last introduction to combat flying, the only member of the Squadron to lose his life under these circumstances. His orphaned crew members would be absorbed into the Squadron’s volunteer (‘spare bod’) pool, hopefully to be adopted by an experienced Pilot. This pool could be thought of as Bomber Command’s equivalent of Russian roulette, being teamed up with a different crew each op with no chance of refusal. The option was to be branded lack of moral fibre (LMF).

http://www.aircrewremembered.com/cornish-howard.ht...

For these crews there were no survivors to return to Base, to relate the cause and events of their final moments, hours or days, and no way to say “Good-bye” to family back home. This was considered to be the norm and derivation behind the descriptive term, “The Chop”. To drive this message home many surviving crews had repeatedly witnessed the explosive demise of their Squadron mates. It was reinforced with the disappearance of familiar faces in the Mess Hall and proliferation of new ones. The writing was on the wall and most demoralizing. Who would be next?

Without survivors the cause of loss for these aircraft and crews was often unknown. However, the majority can safely be attributed to Nachtjagd attacks or a direct flak strike. A sprinkling due to collisions and ditching. Four Squadron aircraft and crews were lost without a trace.

If there was one common denominator that accounted for the loss of the majority of Bomber Command aircraft during the last eighteen months of the war, it was the Schräge Musik weapon system in the hands of a capable Nachtjagd pilot and crew. Further information on the development and deployment of this deadly, efficient weapon: http://www.aircrewremembered.com/dowden-max-eugene... (See Addendum 3)

The critical factor with Schräge Musik was the element of absolute surprise. The first indication of an attack was that it was over, lasting a matter of seconds, leaving the shocked crew a limited time span to asses the damage and make life saving decisions, as their world came apart around them. Evasive action was not in the equation in most cases.

The first indication of trouble would be the vibration of a short, staccato burst of cannon rounds hitting, usually the port wing. The mid-upper gunner in his ‘room-with-a-view’ turret would have a panoramic field of vision of the upper wing surfaces, and may have first spotted the faint blue tracer from below as the attack was delivered. The remainder of the crew were essentially blind to these events, shielded by their position, fuselage and engines. It was the mid-upper gunners role to report any damage and location of the ensuing wing fire/s, and their proximity to petrol tanks and main spar. Serviceable intercom was essential for communication and coordination as the situation unfolded.

The Skipper was Pilot-in-Command and his role required him making a series of life saving decisions: Was the aircraft controllable? If not this would call for an immediate “Abandon aircraft” order. Regardless, clip on chutes; Were there crew mates killed or wounded? Delegate first aid for the wounded; Was there risk of petrol tank explosion or main spar failure? Prepare to or abandon aircraft. It was understood that the Skipper would be the last to go. This would cost many their lives—still belted to their seats or too low for the chute to deploy.

The time factor between the initial attack and the order to bale out could vary from zero to infinity, with the damaged aircraft nursed back to home Base to return to the fray. The latter was the exception. The time required was dependent on a multitude of factors including crew position, equipment limitations, injuries and fire locations. The bomb aimer and gunners could jump in a matter of seconds. For the remainder it could have been a matter of minutes—that they did not have. One has to remember that with massive explosion or structural failure including the main spar, the escape clock stopped ticking and those left behind were in for a ride that only had one ending, and they knew it.

This was what they had volunteered for and there was no turning back. Free falling, trapped by centrifugal force or being ejected into the freezing night air at 20,000 feet over Occupied Europe, without a chute, had not been in the plans. Unfortunately, for the majority of Bomber Command airmen this is how their lives would end. With the crew’s photograph imprinted in my mind, I vicariously take this ‘last trip’ with each of them as I research and compile the story of their short brave lives. I have to admit that on many occasions my sleep has been disturbed or impossible. This was especially so with Des Aspin and his close knit team portrayed in their relaxed crew photo. So much potential, never to be realized.

On very rare occasion, airmen found themselves falling freely at extreme altitude without a chute, and survived. Two examples are included in the archive report on the loss of LM513, 1st Lieutenant Max Dowding and crew noted above, under Addendum 2, The Chop. To date I have yet to discover an account of two airmen baling out with one chute and both surviving—attempted on several occasions but doomed to failure.

Since compiling the account of LM513, I have encountered two additional situations involving encounters with Schräge Musik that are noteworthy. The loss of PB174, F/L Virtue and crew includes the miraculous survival of rear gunner, F/Sgt. Michael Stoyko, following an attack over Holland by Nachtjagd experten Hptm. Martin Drewes, with unpredicted consequences for all involved.

http://www.aircrewremembered.com/virtue-james-denh...

One daylight encounter with this weapon system is worth mentioning as it exemplifies the critical emphasis on teamwork to survive to fight another day. In particular this report emphasizes the precise co-ordination between a seasoned Skipper and survivalist rear gunner, F/O Doug Cameron DFC. My research into this loss resulted in F/O Cameron being ‘promoted’, in my opinion, to hero and VC status. You be the judge in the roles played by S/L ‘Baz’ Bazelgette and his rear gunner leading up to the loss of Lancaster ND811.

http://www.aircrewremembered.com/bazalgette-ian-wi...

It is impossible to imagine the thoughts and interactions of a bomber crew during the final moments as they plummet to earth. There were no survivors to relate the intercom chatter and cockpit voice recorders were decades away. However, the closest I can come to portraying the atmosphere in the cockpit just prior to impact, is to share the amazing account documented by senior researcher and webmaster, Roy Wilcock, of the final moments of Lancaster ND688, vividly recounted by Sgt. John Upton who was able to escape at the last moment prior to impact, via the cockpit roof escape hatch— normally recommended for crash landings and ditching. One senses an atmosphere of complete resignation by mature young men, resolved to their fate.

http://www.aircrewremembered.com/deas-william-ingl...

Unfortunately, the vagaries of war would not choose favourites and P/O Aspin DFM and his remarkable crew would be no exception. On the evening of February 19/20, 1944, they would have the misfortune to cross paths with a Nachtjagd experten at the top of his game. It is apparent that his attack caused catastrophic damage to ME588, to the extent that none of the crew could bale out. Sadly for Sgt. John Landon he was the sixth ‘spare bod’ bomb aimer to draw the short straw that had him join this crew for their last op—age 28 and married.

On the bright side, Sgt. Richard Eastway was medically incapacitated and spared.

It is most remarkable that Richard Eastway was kissed on both cheeks by Lady Luck, each time saved by a medical grounding. First with the loss of ME588 and second with the demise of LM691, S/L C.W.C. Hamilton and crew, lost on the October 23/24, 1944, Essen raid, after colliding with 462 Squadron Halifax LL599, ZS-E over Allied Territory. S/L Hamilton would be the sole survivor of both crews and would be back at RAF Kelstern in a matter of days. Aussie Flight Engineer, F/O John William Brady, would be laid to rest in the company of his countryman, Sgt. John Landon of the Aspin crew, in the Hotton War Cemetery. Three Aussies joined by fate, with only one to survive, united by 625 Squadron's first and last triple loss raids: Leipzig and Essen. It is apparent that the Senior Staff of the Squadron showed compassion for Sgt. Richard Eastway, removing him from further operational duties. It was unlikely that he would be third time lucky. He had earned his Operational Wings, in spades!

We are most grateful to John Proctor for his diligent research, revealing that Richard Eastway returned to ops with the Squadron, was commissioned, almost completed his tour and lived a full, productive life. His bios on the crew and location of the John Landon’s website have added a personal touch to the their lives.

We are most thankful that John, Hilary and Jenny shared the story and photos of P/O Des Aspin DFM and crew, the perfect segue linking the first and last losses of the Squadron— bringing the 625 Squadron Project closer to fruition.

First loss: JA714 F/O W.P. Cameron and crew. Last ‘loss’: PD204, F/O J.F. Mooney and crew. http://www.aircrewremembered.com/mooney-joseph-fre...

*On April 5, 1945 No. 1 Group shifted No. 625 Squadron to Scampton. It is most probable that this measure was taken to reduce the risk of collision due to overlapping circuits of adjacent airfields. The holding party withdrew in the summer of 1945 and property returned or sold to the landowners in 1965-66. The closed country roads across the airfield were reopened and much of the concrete was broken up and removed, hangers sold and broken up. To ensure that this sacred soil and the brave young airmen who gave their all, are not forgotten, a memorial to 625 Squadron was erected at the junction of two roads near the village of Kelstern. And yes, they did avenge.

This archive report is dedicated to the memory of Reg Price DFC, co-author of the 625 Squadron Project for the last six years. He was included in the crews who first formed the Squadron, along with Des Aspin and my uncle, Jack Owen. Reg was the only one of this trio to survive his tour of ops. Interestingly, he also encountered engine problems with Lancaster W4833, managing to return to Base after a two hour hair raising adventure. It is quite remarkable that Reg and his crew managed to prevent this raid from becoming the Squadron's first quadruple loss reversal.

The author is indebted to John Proctor for introducing me to this remarkable man, resulting in a six year friendship during which time
Reg provided yeoman service as our technical advisor and co-author of the Project. Serendipitous propinquity.

http://aircrewremembered.com/price-reginald-dfc.ht...

Luck would run out for W4833, F/Sgt. Gigger and crew, on March 15, 1944 Stuttgart raid, marking the Squadron’s second triple loss raid in less than a month. We will never know if this crew was forced to ditch/crash due to engine malfunction or battle damage.
JEA

http://www.aircrewremembered.com/gigger-derrick-jo...


RAF Kelstern 1948 / 2000. Courtesy of Roger A. Freeman)

RAF Kelstern Memorial, October 17, 2021. Courtesy of Rosemarie Prest


REFERENCES:

Aspin Family Collection/ John Proctor Website
625 Squadron ORB
Library and Archives Canada/ ancestry.ca
CWGC Website
Nachtjagd War Diaries Volume One by Dr. E.W. Boiten
Bomber Command War Diaries by Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everett
Bases of Bomber Command Then and Now by Roger A. Freeman
War Graves and Remembrance: John Conybeare Landon & the Aspin Crew
https://historypage.net/buried-in-belgium/john-con...

CO-AUTHORS:
John Naylor
Maureen Hicks
Mike Edwards
Jack Albrecht
Kelvin Youngs: Photo editing and Map of Crash Site

Submission by John Proctor, Hilary Davis and Jenny Evans, as a tribute to this crew, their relatives and friends.




JA 20-08-2022

Pages of Outstanding Interest
History Airborne Forces •  Soviet Night Witches •  Bomber Command Memories •  Abbreviations •  Gardening Codenames
CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
Concept of Colonial Discrimination  •  Unauthorised First Long Range Mustang Attack
RAAF Bomb Aimer Evades with Maquis •  SOE Heroine Nancy Wake •  Fane: Motor Racing PRU Legend
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, 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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