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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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214 Squadron Crest
03/04.03.1945 214 Squadron Fortress III HB815 BU:J Fg Off. Bennett DFC

Operation: Bomber Support

Date: 3rd/4th March 1945 (Saturday/Sunday)

Unit No: 214 Squadron (motto: Ultor in umbris - 'Avenging in the shadows')

Type: Fortress III

Serial: HB815

Code: BU:J

Base: RAF Oulton, Norfolk

Location: Lodge Farm at airfield

Pilot: Fg Off. Harry Bennett DFC. 190245 RAFVR Age 24. KiA

Flt Eng: Sgt. Leslie Ernest Billington 2205644 RAFVR Age 20. KiA

Nav: Flt Sgt. Harry Barnfield 1059973 RAFVR Age 24. KiA

Sp/Op: WO. Lindsay Joseph Odgers AUS/417595 RAAF Age 21. KiA

Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt. Frank Hares DFM. 1581827 RAFVR Age 21. KiA

WOp/Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. William Briddon 1817057 RAFVR Age 27. KiA

Air Gnr (Upper): Flt Sgt. Leslie Arnold Hadder 1804649 RAFVR Age 20. KiA

Air Gnr (Waist): WO. Bill Church 626466 RAFVR Survived - injured

Air Gnr (Waist): Sgt Alistair McDermid 2202207 RAFVR Age 20. Survived - injured

Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Patrick James Healy 1300369 RAFVR Age 24. KiA

REASON FOR LOSS:

Taking off from RAF Oulton in Norfolk at 18:40 hrs on bomber support 'windows' duties (see codenames)

On return to base enemy night fighters were waiting for them (operation 'Gisela' see notes) and whilst on final approach they were attacked by a Ju88 (many reports state that the Luftwaffe pilot responsible was Lt. Arnold Doring of 10./NJG3. This Fortress crashed at 00:01 hrs nearly an hour before the time he claimed . It is 'probable' that the aircraft he had downed was a 1664 HCU Halifax.

Note: Operation 'Gisela' - designed as an aerial intruder operation to support the German air defence system in its night battles with RAF Bomber Command during the Defence of the Reich campaign. It was the last major operation launched by the Luftwaffe Nachtjagdgeschwader. By March 1945 the Luftwaffe had lost air superiority over all fronts. Western Allied Air Forces held air supremacy over the German Reich and remaining German-occupied territory.

Incredibly the two waist air gunners walked away from the burning Fortress with only slight injuries.

DFC and DFM Citation for Harry Bennett and Frank Hares:

As pilot and air bomber of aircraft respectively, this officer and airman participated in an attack against Ladbergen one night in February, 1945. After leaving the target the aircraft was attacked by a Junkers 88 and sustained much damage. The navigator was seriously wounded and Flight Sergeant Hares promptly went to his assistance. After rendering what aid he could he afterwards took over the duties of the wounded navigator and his good work was of great value to his pilot, Flying Officer Bennett who, displaying exceptional skill, succeeded in flying the badly damaged aircraft to an airfield in this country. This officer and airman set an excellent example of coolness and co-operation. That the aircraft was brought safely back reflects great credit on their skill and resolution.

Note: Fg Off. Earnest George Paddick 179426 RAFVR succumbed to his injuries and died on the 8th February 1945. The replacement, Flt Sgt. Harry Barnfield was on his first operation when he was killed.

Burial details:

Fg Off. Harry Bennett DFC. Islington Cemetery And Crematorium. Sec. Z. Block 28. Grave 21989. Grave inscription reads: "NO DAY DAWNS. NO NIGHT FALLS.BUT WE WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER YOU". Son of Harry (deceased 31 May 1968 age 78) and Chrissy Ivy (deceased 23 May 1984 age 91) Bennett, of Islington, London, England.

Fg Off. Bennett had a girlfriend and they were getting engaged. She was a nurse at the Station Sick Quarters but she wasn’t on duty that night. During the next few days she enquired where Harry Bennett was. No one was game enough to tell her but she looked in the morgue and saw his body amongst the large number in there.

Sgt. Leslie Ernest Billington. Blickling Churchyard (St. Andrew) Grave 685. Grave inscription reads: "IN HIS GOLDEN YOUTH HE TOOK HIS PLACE, A MAN AMONG MEN". Son of George Alfred and Doris Billington, of Wythenshawe, Manchester, England.

Flt Sgt. Frank Hares DFM. Coalville Cemetery (Hugglescote) . Sec. A. Grave 217. Grave inscription reads: "ALL HE HAD HOPED FOR, ALL HE HAD, HE GAVE". Son of James and Beatrice Mary Hares, of Hugglescote, Leicestershire, England.

Flt Sgt. Harry Barnfield. Salford Cemetery (Agecroft). Sec. 28. Grave 52. Grave inscription reads: "HE GAVE HIS ALL HIS UNFINISHED LIFE". Son of Edward and Mary Barnfield, of Salford, England.

This was his first operational sortie.

WO. Lindsay Joseph Odgers. Cambridge City Cemetery. Grave 15363. Born on the 21st February 1924 at Arlgaston, the son of Edward Thomas Odgers and Mabel Evelyn Ellie Odgers, of Sturt Street, Arlgaston, South Australia.

Flt Sgt. William Briddon. South Wingfield Churchyard (All Saints). Grave inscription reads: "WITH CHRIST WHICH IS FAR BETTER". Son of William and Ellen Briddon, of South Wingfield, Derbyshire, England.

Flt Sgt. Leslie Arnold Hadder. Thorpe-Next-Norwich Church Cemetery (St. Andrew). Grave inscription reads: "HE GAVE HIS LIFE THAT WE MIGHT LIVE. MAY WE BE WORTHY OF HIS SACRIFICE". Son of George Henry and Elizabeth Annie Hadder, of Thorpe, Norwich, Norfolk, England.

Sgt. Patrick James Healy. Leytonstone Roman Catholic Cemetery (St. Patrick's). Plot A. Row 3. Grave 198. Son of Patrick Sullivan Healy and Anna Christina Healy, of Forest Gate, London, England.

Researched by Kelvin Youngs (Webmaster) and dedicated to the relatives of this crew (Feb 2019). Additional NoK details for Fg Off. Bennett thanks to John Jones (Sep 2022).

Other sources as shown below.

RS 11.09.2022 - Update to NoK details for Fg Off. Bennett

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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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