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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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75 Squadron Crest
15/16.06.1944 75 Squadron Lancaster I LL888 AA-X Crew loss

Operation: Valenciennes

Date: 15/16th June 1944 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: No. 75 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: LL888

Code: AA-X

Base: RAF Mepal, Cambridgeshire.

Location: Rieux-en-Cambresia, France.

Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Roland Desmond Ernest Betley NZ/421495 RNZAF Age 22. Killed

Fl/Eng: Fl/Sgt. Basil Griffiths 1578754 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Nav: Sgt. Edward George Gilliatt 648452 RAF Age 22. Killed

Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Lawrence Eastmure Hale NZ/42395 RNZAF Age 26. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: W/O. Edward Wallace Toohey NZ/416672 RNZAF Age 22. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Ronald Howe 993314 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Peter Jackson Cook NZ/42708 RNZAF Age 21. Killed


Taking off from RAF Mepal, Cambridgeshire at 23.09 hrs. to bomb the railway yards at Lens and Valenciennes. Visibility was considered excellent for the 224 aircraft operation with both targets accurately bombed.

Left to right: Fl/Sgt. Betley, Fl/Sgt. Cook and Fl/Sgt. Hale (courtesy N/Z. Weekly News)

Lancaster LL888 is reported to have been shot down by 'probably' Hptm. Josef Krahforst (1) an ace at this time with 5 abschusse from 2./NJG4 at 00.51 hrs.

(1) Hptm. Josef Krahforst claimed a total of 11 kills, before he was shot down by a Mosquito on the 27/28th September 1944 at Somborn, south of Geinhausen, Hessen.

Rieux Communal Cemetery (courtesy Michel Lespagnol)

Burial details:

Also buried here are some of the crew from 514 Squadron. Lancaster II LL690 crashed the same night after being shot down.

Fl/Sgt. Roland Desmond Ernest Betley. Rieux Communal Cemetery. Coll.

Grave 8-10. Son of John Ernest Betley and of Amy Violet Betley (nee Shaw), of Hastings, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, husband of Barbara Isobel May Betley, of 6 Wellesley Street, Fielding, Wellington, New Zealand.

Further information: Flight Sergeant Roland Desmond Ernest Betley was born in Hastings, New Zealand. Educated at Palmerston North T S and became an electrical engineering apprentice at Feilding Freezing Works. Ten months with the Territorials before enlisting in the RNZAF in March 1942 as an Aircraft hand GD, re-mustering as a Pilot under training. During his training at No. 2 Elementary Flying Training School at Ashburton he survived a mid-air collision then completed his training in Canada at No. 10 Service Flying Training School at Dauphin Alberta where wings were awarded in July 1943, embarking for the UK the same month. In England he was sent to an Advanced Flying Unit followed by 11 Operational Training Unit for experience on Wellingtons at R.A.F. Westcott in Berkshire and then to 1651 Heavy Conversion Unit for training on Stirlings and Lancasters at RAF Wratting Common in Cambridgeshire moving finally to 75 Squadron. This was his second operation.

(Left) Fl/Sgt. Basil Griffiths. Rieux Communal Cemetery. Coll. Grave 8-10. Born in 1922. Son of Robert and Cicily Griffiths from Pant, Shropshire, England. Brother to Margaret, Ken, Don and Len. Fl/Sgt Griffiths is remembered on a Plaque at the Pant Memorial Hall. (Photograph courtesy of the Griffiths family)

Sgt. Edward George Gilliatt. Rieux Communal Cemetery. Coll. Grave 8-10. Son of John and Ellen Orrell Gilliatt; husband of Monica Julia Gilliatt, of Cheetham Hill, Manchester, England.

Fl/Sgt. Lawrence Eastmure Hale. Rieux Communal Cemetery. Grave 7. Son of Sylvester Gresham Hale and Violet Francis Kate Hale, of Auckland City, New Zealand.

W/O. Edward Wallace Toohey. Rieux Communal Cemetery. Grave 5. Son of Edward Cornelius Toohey and of Alexandra Toohey (nee Wallace), of Hokitika, Westland, New Zealand.

Sgt. Ronald Howe. Rieux Communal Cemetery. Grave 6. No further details currently available.

Fl/Sgt. Peter Jackson Cook. Rieux Communal Cemetery. Grave 11. Son of Henry Cook and of Ellen Mary Cook (nee Hewson), of Huinga, Taranaki, New Zealand.

Researched with the kind assistance of Michel Lespagnol, who lives close to where the Lancaster crashed. With thanks for further information to Auckland War Memorial Museum, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol. 5', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth Graves Commission. Thanks to Helen, the Secretary of the Pant Memorial Hall, for the new information for Fl/Sgt. Griffiths.

RS 30.10.2018 - Update to details for Fl/Sgt. Griffiths

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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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