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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 No. 214 Squadron Fortress III HB815 BU-J F/O. Bennett DFC

Operation: Bomber Support

Date: 03/04th 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: F/O. Harry Bennett DFC. 190245 RAFVR Age 24. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Leslie Ernest Billington 2205644 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Nav: Fl/Sgt. Harry Barnfield 1059973 RAFVR Age 24. Killed

Sp/Op: W/O. Lindsay Joseph Odgers AUS/417595 RAAF Age 21. Killed

Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Frank Hares DFM. 1581827 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. William Briddon 1817057 RAFVR Age 27. Killed

Air/Gnr (Mid upper): Fl/Sgt. Leslie Arnold Hadder 1804649 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Air/Gnr (Waist): W/O. 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. Killed

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.

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 (1) 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.

(1) The navigator 23 year old, F/O. Ernest George Paddick 179426 RAFVR succumbed to his injuries and died on the 08th February 1945. The replacement, Fl/Sgt. Harry Barnfield was on his first operation when he was killed.

(notes) 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.

Burial details:

F/O. Harry Bennett DFC. Islington Cemetery And Crematorium. Sec. Z. Block 28. Grave 21989. Son of Harry (dec. 31.05.1968 age 78) and Chrissy Ivy (dec. 23.05.1984 age 91) Bennett, of Islington, London, England. Grave inscription reads: "No Day Dawns. No Night Falls.But We Will Always Remember You".

Sgt. Leslie Ernest Billington. Blickling Churchyard (St. Andrew) Grave 685. Son of George Alfred and Doris Billington, of Wythenshawe, Manchester, England. Grave inscription reads: "In His Golden Youth He Took His Place, A Man Among Men".

Fl/Sgt. Frank Hares DFM. Coalville Cemetery (Hugglescote) . Sec. A. Grave 217. Son of James and Beatrice Mary Hares, of Hugglescote, Leicestershire, England. Grave inscription reads: "All He Had Hoped For, All He Had, He Gave".

Fl/Sgt. Harry Barnfield. Salford Cemetery (Agecroft). Sec. 28. Grave 52. Son of Edward and Mary Barnfield, of Salford, England. Grave inscription reads: "He Gave His All His Unfinished Life". This was his first operational sortie.

W/O. 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.

Fl/Sgt. William Briddon. South Wingfield Churchyard (All Saints). Son of William and Ellen Briddon, of South Wingfield, Derbyshire, England. Grave inscription reads: "With Christ Which Is Far Better".

Fl/Sgt. Leslie Arnold Hadder. Thorpe-Next-Norwich Church Cemetery (St. Andrew). Son of George Henry and Elizabeth Annie Hadder, of Thorpe, Norwich, Norfolk, England. Grave inscription reads: "He Gave His Life That We Might Live. May We Be Worthy Of His Sacrifice".

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 and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to sources as shown below.

KTY 27.02.2019

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', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', 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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