25/26.06.1943 No. 101 Squadron Lancaster I ED373 SR-K Fl/Sgt. Banks
Date: 25/26th June 1943 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: No. 101 Squadron
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Ludford Magna, Lincolnshire
Location: North Sea - 5 km West of Ijmuiden
Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Ivan William Banks AUS/405803 RAAF Age 20. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Norman Stanley Mould 1297129 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
Nav: Sgt. Harold James Toze 1218772 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Air/Bmr: Sgt. Thomas Geoffrey Brook 658112 RAFVR PoW No: 374 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus.
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Henry William Snowdon 1037458 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Geoffrey Victor Branson 1607031 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Ronald Pugh 1317561 RAFVR Age 27. Missing
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from RAF Ludford Magna, Lincolnshire on an operation to bomb Gelsenkirchen with another 217 Lancasters, 190 Halifaxes and 10 Mosquitoes. The raid was not at all as had been hoped.
Equipment failure occurred in half of the Mosquitoes and another dropped target markers 10 miles off target! The bombing as a result of this made the Germans think that the raid was actually on Bochum. However some industrial targets were hit in the town.
101 Squadron lost another aircraft and crew during this operation:
Lancaster I II LM318 SR-Y Flown by Fl/Sgt. George Hay 778764 RAFVR killed with all six other crew members.
Lancaster 373 was intercepted and shot down by Ofw. Karl-Heinz Scherfling (1) over the North Sea some 5 km. West of Ijmuiden at 02.51 hrs. Combat taking place at 5.500 mtrs.
Initially, it was thought that the only survivor Sgt. Brook is thought to have been blown over land, saving his life - the remainder also bailed out, but could not be recovered in time.
However, new evidence uncovered in 2015 by the researcher, Mr. Lyndon Pugh discovered with a Dutch researcher, Mr. Jon van der Maas, that after contacting some time ago Sgt. Brook, then aged 90 he was clear what happened that night. When the order to bale out was given, the escape hatch jammed. While trying to free it, Geoff could hear the rest of the crew talking to each other over the intercom. The rear gunner, he was absolutely certain, was already dead, killed in the initial attack by the fighter. When the hatch was finally freed Geoff was unable to get any response from the others. After sitting on the edge of the hatch for some time, he baled out. As he descended he was able to see ED373 flying on until it crashed into the sea, and he was absolutely adamant that nobody else left the aircraft. The location of the six bodies in close proximity to each other on Zaandvoort beach seems to bear this out.
We are indebted to Lyndon for this update.
(1) Ofw. Scherfling of 10./NJG1 was already an ace at this time with 16 abschüsse. He was killed after 31 confirmed night kills when on the 20/21st July 1944 he crashed following an interception by a Mosquito NT113 from 169 Squadron flown by W/Cmd. Bromley OBE DFC and Fl/Lt. Truscott DFC. (see Kracker Luftwaffe Archive on this site for details of Ofw. Scherfling)
Both RAF officers were killed on the 6th September 1944 after their Mosquito VI PZ230 exploded in the air - details unknown at present.
Right: Ofw. Karl-Heinz Scherfling and crew
Fl/Sgt. Ivan William Banks. Amsterdam New Eastern Cemetery. Plot 69. Row B. Coll Grave 18. Son of William Henry and Alice Banks, of South Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia.
Sgt. Norman Stanley Mould. Amsterdam New Eastern Cemetery. Plot 69. Row B. Coll Grave 18. Son of Charles William and Anne Mould, of Tetbury, Gloucestershire, England.
Sgt. Harold James Toze. Amsterdam New Eastern Cemetery. Plot 69. Row B. Coll Grave 18. Son of James and Mary Tozze of Wlkden, Manchester, England. His brother, Edward Toze also served but in the Royal Navy - survived the war, passed away in 1987.
Sgt. John Henry William Snowdon. Amsterdam New Eastern Cemetery. Plot 69. Row B. Coll Grave 18. Son of John Henry and Margaret Snowdon, of Grove Hill, Middlesbrough, Yorkshire, England.
Sgt. Geoffrey Victor Branson. Amsterdam New Eastern Cemetery. Plot 69. Row B. Coll Grave 17. Son of Albert Victor and Violet Branson, of Wallington, Surrey, England.
Sgt. Ronald Pugh. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 162. Son of Isaac Collwyn Pugh and Elizabeth Ann Pugh, of Abercynon, Glamorgan, Wales.
Researched for relatives of the crew with thanks to the following for additional information, Mr. Lyndon Pugh, Mr. Jon van der Maas, also to David Toze for details on Sgt. Harold Toze - November 2017, together with other sources as shown below.
The Lost Gunner
Sgt Ronnie Pugh, my father’s younger brother, was killed during WWII while serving in 101 Squadron of RAF Bomber Command. He was the rear gunner in the crew of F/Sgt. Billy Banks RAAF. This crew had been in action throughout the Battle of the Ruhr in the Spring and Summer of 1943. Their aircraft crashed off Zaandvoort in Holland, after an encounter with a Luftwaffe nightfighter, and six men died in the early hours of the 26th June 1943. One member of the crew, bomb aimer Geoff Brook, survived and served out the rest of the war in a German prison camp. The author was fortunate enough to talk to him in detail before his death.
For many years, it was believed that the body of Ronnie Pugh had not been recovered, and he remains ‘Killed in Action, Lost at Sea’ as far as the official record is concerned. This proved not to be the case. This book is the result of research into exactly what happened over Gelsenkirchen on the night of the 25th/26 June 1943. It tells the story of the seven crewmen involved, giving some detail of their family background and their operational history. It begins with the five men who formed the Whitley crew at 81 OTU in late 1942 to their final operation for 101 Squadron. A separate chapter explores the role of gunners on WWII heavy bombers.
101 Squadron operations in 1943 are examined in some detail. The chapter on the Gelsenkirchen raid of the 25/26th June 1943 forms the centrepiece of the story. The circumstances which led to the crew flying on that raid after they had been stood down following operations to Krefeld, Mannheim and Wuppertal earlier in the week are examined. This led to the related story of one of the most interesting crews to serve in 101 Squadron during WWII. They were a unit which combined great bravery, skill and commitment with a dismissive attitude to authority and discipline which had unforeseen consequences for them and their comrades.
Bomb aimer Geoff Brook’s description of the last moments of Lancaster ED373 SR–K provides some of the details of the attack by the nightfighter and its aftermath, and contradicts the information provided in other sources. Geoff story continued with his activism as a POW, and several attempts to escape, leading to a short time spent at Belsen just before the end of the war.
The final element in the story is the search for the grave of Ronnie Pugh, and the facts concerning the recovery of the bodies. The crucial intervention of a Dutch aviation expert who had already investigated the loss of this crew, led to confirmation of the author’s view that Ronnie Pugh was actually buried as an unknown RAF sergeant in the New Eastern Cemetery in Amsterdam. Jon van der Maas went even further, and pointed out the grave.