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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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623 Squadron Stirling III LJ454 IC-E Fl/Lt. Charles Raymond Bennett

Operation: Mannheim

Date: 18/19th November 1943 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: No. 623 Squadron. 3 Group

Type: Stirling III

Serial: LJ454

Code: IC-E

Base: RAF Downham Market, Norfolk

Location: Kothausen, Mönchengladbach, Germany

Pilot: Fl/Lt. Charles Raymond Bennett AUS/409886 RAAF PoW No. 1543 Camp: Stalag Luft Barth-Vogelsang

Fl/Eng: Sgt. William Ernest Hutchings 1626616 RAFVR PoW No. 263480 Camp: Stalag Mulhberg (Elbe)

Nav: P/O. John Henry Clavell Smythe 144608 RAFVR PoW No. 1557 Camp: Stalag Luft Barth-Vogelsang

Air/Bmr: P/O. Harold Alexander Gourlie J/23587 RCAF PoW No. 1561 Camp: Stalag Luft Barth-Vogelsang

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Leslie Milnthorpe 1390996 RAFVR PoW No. 263495 Camp: Stalag Mulhberg (Elbe)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Les Ashplant 1608193 RAFVR PoW No. 263454 Camp: Stalag Mulhberg (Elbe)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Frank Matthews 651446 RAFVR PoW No. 263454 Camp: Stalag Mulhberg (Elbe)


623 squadron took off at 17:15 hrs. on a diversionary raid to bomb Mannheim-Ludwigshafen. 395 aircraft taking part with 23 failing to return. The main operation had been to Berlin with 440 aircraft.

There was cloud cover over the target and bombing was scattered. Most of the damage fell to the north of the town, where the Daimler Benz car plant suffered a 90% loss in production as a result. 21 deaths on the ground and 7,500 people were bombed out of their homes.

Above L-R: P/O. Harold Gourlie, Sgt. Leslie Milnthorpe, Sgt. Les Ashplant, Fl/Lt. Charles Bennett, Sgt. Frank Matthews, Sgt. William Hutchings and P/O. John Smythe

They were expected to return to base at around 23:00 hrs. so it is thought they were on the home run when hit by barrage flak over the target area resulting in severe damage. Just south-east of Monchengladbach the aircraft began to lose height due to an engine fire in No. 2 engine. The pilot realised they were unable to continue and reluctantly ordered the crew to bale out, This they all did successfully and all the crew were then captured and taken prisoners of war.

Amazingly the Stirling continued flying over the town of Rheydt and made a remarkable landing at Kothausen at around 20:50 hrs. The Germans from a nearby Luftwaffe airfield arrived and searched the area for the crew and took the wreckage to the Luftwaffe base (from 1945 until 1994 the US Army was based here, with the British taking over on their departure and naming it Ayrshire Barracks).

The squadron lost another crew on this operation. Stirling III EF155 IC-0 flown by 23 year old Australian, Fl/Lt. John Phillip Henry Wallace. Also hit bt flak crashing at Edenkoben. Five crew were killed (listed below) with three others taken PoW:

Sgt. John William Windle 651682 RAFVR PoW No. 263522. Camp: Stalag 4B Muhlberg (Elbe) PoW No. 263522.
F/O. Norman Lampard 134706 RAFVR injured and hospitalised. PoW No. 1678. Camp: Stalag Luft L1 Barth Vogelsang
Sgt. Thomas Verdun Lewis 1313601 RAFVR injured and hospitalised. PoW No. 43163 Camp: Stalag Luft L3 Sagan and Belaria .

Above the son of John Henry Clavell Smythe talks of his father

Burial and additional details:

All this crew survived as PoW.

Stirling II EF155 Crew:

Fl/Lt. John Phillip Henry Wallace. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Coll. grave 18. B. 6-10. Pilot. Aus/413464 RAAG Age 23. Son of John Harkness Stanley (died 04th January 1960, age 65) and Abigail Elizabeth Wallace (died 04th February 1969, age 75), of Taree, New South Wales, Australia. Epitaph: 'We Have Loved Him In Life, Let Us Not Forget Him In Death'.

F/O. Douglas Hartley Petch. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Coll. grave 18. B. 6-10. Born on the 16th of December 1921 in Gananoque, Ontario, Canada. J/14027 RCAF Pilot Age 21. Son of George Ford Petch (died 31st January 1943, age ) and Mary Kathleen Petch (née Pelow - died 1978, age 87) of Gananoque, Ontario, Canada. Epitaph: 'Committed To God, A Loving Son. 60 aliant In Spirit, Steadfast In Duty'.

P/O. William Gordon Moore. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Coll. grave 18. B. 6-10. Born on the 21st of July 1910 in Burwood, New South Wales. Aus/420900 Air/Bmr Age 33. Son of Henry and Winnifred May Moore (died 24th November 1938), age 63. Husband of Beth Moore, of Enfield, New South Wales, Australia.

Sgt. Ronald Luscombe Gill. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Coll. grave 18. B. 6-10. 1459774 RAFVR Air Bomber Age 19. Son of Ernest Luscombe Gill and Beatrice Gill, of Calverley, Leeds, Epitaph: 'Reater Love Hath No Man Than This, That A Man Lay Down His Life For His Friends (John 15:13-17 )'.

P/O. Frank Markham. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Coll. grave 18. B. 6-10. 161356 RAFVR Air Gunner Age 21. Son of Albert and Louisa Markham, of Armthorpe, Yorkshire Age 21

Fl/Lt. Charles Raymond Bennett. Was born on the 26th of March 1923 in Invercargill, New Zealand. Died 25th April 1999, age 78. Husband of Shirley Bennett (née Herd - died 07th May 2019, age 93). Parents of Roslyn and . Judith. Liberated by the Russians on the 14th of May 1945.

P/O. John Henry Clavell Smythe. Born 30th June 1915 in Sierra Leone. Died 13th December 1996 in Thame, Oxfordshire, age 81, Husband of Violet Wells Smythe (née Bain - died 2015, age 89). Both are buried in Saint Mary The Virgin Churchyard, Thame, Oxfordshire, England.P/O. Harold Alexander Gourlie. Died 1990, age 66 Saskatchewan, Canada. Husband of Joan Rose Gourlie from Suffolk, England. (née Bowyer - died 26th July 2012, age 86. Both are buried in Riverside Memorial Park Cemetery, Saskatchewan. Son of Thomas Mortimer Gourlie (died 03rd April 1959, age 61) and Ellen Winnifred Gourlie (née McKinnon - died 21st June 1979, age 78) of Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. Brother of Gilbert, Harvey, Evelyn and Norma.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to the 218 Gold Coast Squadron Association Historian, author and researcher Steve Smith and the amazing 623 Squadron Website, Australian National Archives, Parade RCAF Archive. Other sources as quoted below.

Other pages that maybe of interest to you:

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Pages related to prisoners of war

KTY 01-12-2023

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Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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