Operation: SOE. (Special Operations Executive)
Date: 3/4th July 1944 (Monday/Tuesday)
Unit: No. 148 Squadron
Type: Halifax II BII (Special)
Base: Brindisi, Italy
Pilot: Sq/Ldr. Surray Philip Victor Bird 70064 RAFVR Age 24. Killed
Fl/Eng: P/O. Harold Pearson 55712 RAF Age 22. Killed
Nav: Fl/Sgt. Peter Lake 1474551 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Air/Bmr: W/O 1. Donal David Charles Stewart R/116246 RCAF Age 21. Killed (1)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Arthur Archer Lee 1222362 RAFVR. Age ? Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Ronald Radford 1813848 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Air/Gnr: F/O. Kenneth Peter McLeod Cran 136498 RAFVR Age 35. Killed
Air/Gnr: W/O 1. Marcel Tilmont 1074381 RAFVR Age 24. Killed
Passengers: Lt. Col. E.P.E. Broughay. Maj. R.J.M. Wright. Lt. A. Vincent. Sgt. A.S. Manley. All survived - dropped prior to the loss.
REASON FOR LOSS:
This was one of the most dangerous assignments there was, their aircraft flew alone, without escorts, over enemy territory, re-supplying the Partisans of Josip Bros Tito.
By the very nature of their assignment their losses would have been high.148 Squadron flying Halifax Bombers were active over Poland and Yugoslavia carrying out mainly SOE (Special Operations Executive) Missions, inserting and extracting Secret Agents, re-supply to Partisan and civilian informants and spies, monitoring German Frequencies, bringing back German equipment and information from Partisan Forces for evaluation and dissemination etc.
It is thought most probable that JP286 was shot down by Luftwaffe pilot Hauptman Leopold Fellerer of StabIII/NJG6 at 01.50 hrs. 10km NE of Kaposvar on the 4th July 1944 at 1700 Metres The aircraft crashed and exploded - 8 bodies were recovered from the aircraft which meant the "agents" had been dropped to carry out their task. The crew of Halifax JP286 had succeeded in their mission but it cost them their lives.
Rare photo of Halifax FS-S in flight (courtesy Terry Maker)
From Gendarmerie reports Royal Hungarian police, Zombor station:
July 4, 1944 (JP286): "Mezocsokonya. In the morning hours an enemy four engined bomber crashed. 2 corpses were found, searching in progress for the rest of crew."
The death certificate diary also contains an entry:"According to the command of military authorities the funeral of the crew of eight of the British "Halifax" type bomber shot down in the night of 4 July at 0 1:00. Only one person had been identified, pilot Philip Victor [Surray Philip Victor BIRD]. All other bodies were recovered. Funeral: Mezocsokonya Nyires-puszta, 5 July.
Approx. scene of crash location (courtesy Terry Maker)
Halifax FS-S (courtesy Terry Maker)
Budapest War Cemetery (courtesy C.W.G.C.)
Sq/Ldr. Surry Philip Victor Bird. Budapest War Cemetery II. Coll. Grave 1-8. Son of Frederick Charles and Grace Dorothy Bird, of Isleworth, Middlesex, England, husband of Peggy Bird.
P/O. Harold Pearson. Budapest War Cemetery II. E. Coll. Grave 1-8. Son of Harold Pearson (20.11.1883 - 17.12.52) and Jane Twelves (3.3.1901 - 1979) of Great Ayton, Yorkshire. Born c1922 in Guisborough, Yorkshire, oldest of 3 sons.
Fl/Sgt. Peter Lake. Budapest War Cemetery II. E. Coll. Grave 1-8. Born Great Ouseburn, Yorks in the December 1923 Qtr, the son of 1543181 LAC Lawrence Lake and of Matilda (née Taylor) Lake of Haxby, Yorks. At the time of his son's loss, Lawrence was stationed c/o Air Officer i/c Records, RAF. England.
W/O 1. Donal David Charles Stewart. (Shown left) Budapest War Cemetery II. E. Coll. Grave 1-8. Son of David and Kathleen Martha Stewart, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Fl/Sgt. Arthur Archer Lee. Budapest War Cemetery II. E. Coll. Grave 1-8. Son of Mrs. H. Lee, of Carlton, Nottingham, England.
F/O. Kenneth Peter McLeod Cran. Budapest War Cemetery II. E. Coll. Grave 1-8. Son of Peter McLeod Cran and Alice Margaret Cran, husband of Doris Ada Cran (née Walker), of Crouch End, London, England.
Fl/Sgt. Ronald Radford. Budapest War Cemetery II. E. Coll. Grave 1-8. Son of Albert Edward and Dora Ellen Radford of Newington, Ramsgate, Kent, England.
W/O.I. Marcel Tilmont. Budapest War Cemetery II. E. Coll. Grave 1-8. Son of Augustin and Aurelie Tilmont, of Linselles, Nord, France.
Both the undermentioned were tragically killed during an allied air strike on a PoW distribution centre at Limburg.
2nd Lt. Alexander Vincent (Alias) Alexander Franciss Vass. 83995 SOE. Killed 23rd December 1944. Brookwood Memorial Ref Addenda Panel. Son of Mrs. Julia Vass, of Welland, Ontario, Canada. Born in Hungary.
Major. Richard John Moncrieff Wright 56743 RTR. Killed 23rd December 1944. Heverlee War Cemetery. Grave 1.K.14. Son of John Moncrieff Wright and of Leonore Ada Wright (née Beddall), of Carshalton Beeches, Surrey, England.
Researched by Terry Maker. Terry runs the Operation Dark of the Moon Yahoo group about these specialised squadrons. Please support them. With thanks to Michelle Wolfenden for details on P/O. Harold Pearson - December 2015. Also to Dave Champion for further details - October 2018.
(1) Donal Stewart Lake in Manitoba is named after W/O. Stewart