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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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144 Squadron Crest
29.09.1939 No. 144 Squadron Hampden I L4127 F/O. Norman C. Beck

Operation: Anti-shipping

Date: 29th September 1939 (Friday)

Unit: No. 144 Squadron

Type: Hampden I

Serial: L4127

Code: PL-?

Base: RAF Hemswell, Lincolnshire

Location: North Sea between Heligoland and Wangerooge, Germany

Pilot: F/O. Norman Croxen Beck 37923 RAF Age 28. Injured

Obs/Air/Bmr: Sgt. Herbert Harold Turner 508292 RAF Age 30. Missing

W/Op/Air/Gnr: AC1. Alan Wilson 551660 RAF Age 18. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Percy Edmund Boyce Sproston 580679 RAF Age 21. Killed


A disastrous day for the RAF, so early in the war with the allies losing some 6 aircraft from Bomber Command. A Blenheim I L1341 from 104 Squadron damaged beyond repair during a landing at RAF Penrhos - two crew injured, the third surviving with no injuries (1).

144 Squadron Hampdens - over RAF Hemswell, 1939

The squadron sent 12 aircraft (some reports list 11 Hampdens sent but they never recorded the 1 returning early) to bomb German shipping, in particular the German destroyers ‘Bruno Heinemann’ (2) and ‘Paul Jacobi’ (3) having RAF Hemswell at 06.50 hrs. Two waves were sent, the first wave located the destroyers bombing without success. The second wave led by W/Cdr. Cunningham were intercepted by a strong force of Me109’s from I./ZG26 from Jever - all 5 aircraft were shot down within minutes at about 10.00 hrs. (1 Hampden had already turned back after suffering engine problems)

Some survivors were picked up by German patrol boats. It is understood that two of the Me109’s had been hit by return fire and forced to ditch - both pilots being picked up by the same patrol boats. Some eight bodies were also recovered from the Hampdens, the other eight were missing. F/O. Beck succumbed to his injuries shortly after being picked up. We do have the Luftwaffe pilot names credited with these losses, but it has proven impossible to identify the individual for this aircraft.

(Hptm. Friedrich-Karl Dickore x 1, Uffz. Pirsche x 1, Uffz, Pollack x 1, Uffz Günther Sprecht x 2)

The others lost from 144 Squadron on this operation:

Hampden I L4121 - Flown by 24 year old, F/O. John Tulloch Burrill Sadler 40061 RAF from Tasmania, Australia Killed with 2 other crew, 1 taken PoW at Stalag Luft Heydekrug.
Hampden I L4126 - Flown by F/O. Baughan taken PoW - all 3 other crew killed. (F/O. Baughan MBE retired from RAF in May 1958 as a W/Cdr.)
Hampden I L4132 - Flown by P/O. R.M. Coste RCAF taken PoW at Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria, all 3 other crew killed. (P/O. R.M. Cost transferred to RCAF as Fl/Lt. August 1952.)
Hampden I L4134 - Flown by 31 year old W/Cdr. James Charles Cunningham 16219 RAF from Louth, Lincolnshire, Killed with 2 other crew, 1 taken PoW at Stalag Luft Heydekrug.
(1) The two injured were sadly later killed during the war, the pilot, 24 year old Plt.Off., then Sqn.Ldr. Arthur Mitchell Paape 36192 from Otago, New Zealand, DFC and bar, was killed, along with his crew, on the 3rd April 1943 with 467 Squadron, on a mission to Essen aboard Lancaster III ED524, PO-T. His family also suffered the loss of his older brother, 28 year old, Fg.Off. John Mitchell Paape 411932 earlier on the 15th October 1942 with 214 Squadron, on a mission to Köln aboard Stirling I, R9146, BU-S..
(2) The Z8 Bruno Heinemann destroyer was later to be sunk on the 25th January 1942 off the coast of Belgium after hitting two mines.
(3) Z5 Paul Jacobi destroyer survived the war - scrapped in June 1954.

Notes on Hampden Aircraft: Crew: 4, Length-16.32 m, Wingspan-21.09 m, Powered by-2 x Bristol Pegasus radial engines, 247 mph at 4,210 m, armament-1 x fixed forward firing .303 in (7.7 mm) M1919 Browning machine gun in nose or 3–5 Vickers K machine guns - one flexibly mounted in the nose, one or two each in dorsal and ventral positions. Bomb load: 1,814 kg or 1 457 mm torpedo (or mines)

Burial details:

F/O. Norman Croxen Beck. Sage War Cemetery. Grave 4.E.7. Husband of Jean Evelyn (Judy) Beck, of Bushey Heath, Hertfordshire, England.

Sgt. Herbert Harold Turner. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 2. Son of Herbert and Mabel Turner, of Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, husband of Ann Turner, of Cleethorpes, Yorkshire, England.

AC1. Alan Wilson. Schiermonnikoog (Vredenhof) Cemetery. Grave 16. Son of Duncan and Jessie Wilson, of Sandyford. Newcastle-on-Tyne, England.

Sgt. Percy Edmund Boyce Sproston. Sage War Cemetery. Grave 13.A.9. Son of Christopher and Ethel Sproston, of High Lane, Cheshire, England.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol. 1, 2nd edition, Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries’ (Updated 2014 version) Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Tom Kracker - 'Kracker Luftwaffe Archives'. Aircrew Remembered own Archives.

Note: This loss as well as the others from 144 Squadron and others is covered more comprehensively in Bill Chorleys latest addition to his wonderful series ‘Bomber Command Losses’ 2nd edition 1939 - 1940. ISBN 978 1 906537 40 1 - Published by Classic Publications an imprint of Ian Allan Publishing Ltd 2013.

RS 28.06.2019 - Correction to details for Plt.Off. Paape

Pages of Outstanding Interest
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CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
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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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