AR banner
Search Tips Advanced Search
Back to Top

Info LogoAdd to or correct this story with a few clicks.
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.
Check our Research databases: Database List


We seek additional information and photographs. Please contact us via the Helpdesk.

50 Squadron
03/04.05.1944 50 Squadron Lancaster III LM480 Flt Lt. Thomas H. Blackham DFC

Operation: Mailly-le-Camp, France

Date: 3rd/4th May 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit No: 50 Squadron

Type: Lancaster lII

Serial: LM480

Code: VN:U

Base: RAF Skellingthorpe, Lincolnshire

Location: Saint-Mesmin, France

Pilot: Flt Lt. Thomas Henry Blackham DFC, 124922 RAFVR Age 21. Evader/PoW No. 78380 * (1)

2nd Pilot: Plt Off. Cyril Edward Stephensen 409859 RAAF Age 21. KiA

Flt Eng: Plt Off. Charles Richard Ernest Walton 174051 RAFVR Age 28. KiA

Nav: Plt Off. David Gwynfor Jones 144926 RAFVR Age 24. KiA

Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt. Stewart James Godfrey 175487 RAFVR Age 30. Evader/Killed (2)

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Sidney Charles Wilkins 1396525 RAFVR Age 21. KiA

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Sgt. Herbert George Ridd 1003849 RAFVR Age 29. KiA

Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. William Dennis Dixon 1835971 RAFVR Age 20. KiA

* Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria)


LL840 took off at 22:07 hrs from Skellingthorpe, Lincolnshire to attack enemy troop concentrations at Mailly-le-Camp in France. The target was accurately on time by Mosquito pathfinders led by Wg Cdr. Leonard Cheshire. However, the order for the main force to commence bombing failed to get through because of radio communication problems which resulted the 346 Lancasters orbiting an assembly marker. Added to the delay there was a three-quarter moon in a cloudless sky resulting in a total of 42 Lancasters being shot down by German night fighters.

After clearing the target area LM480 was claimed by Hptm Martin Drewes, his 28th Abschuss and 2nd of 5 victories this night, from Stab III./NJG1, over Saint-Mesmin near Romilly (CH 3): at 2,000m at 00:36 hrs. (Nachtjagd Combat Archives 1944 Part 2 - Theo Boiten).

The aircraft wreckage fell to earth at Saint-Mesmin which is a village straddling the railway line between Romilly-sur-Seine and Troyes in France and about 35 km SW of Mailly-le-Camp.

(1) Flt Lt. Blackham managed to keep the aircraft flying until all his crew had baled out safely, and then a sudden explosion knocked him senseless, hurling him through a glass panel. He recovered consciousness to find himself surrounded by flames and jumped clear moments before the aircraft exploded in mid-air.

Parachuting in Maquis country he narrowly escaped being hung as a German spy, but another British airman in the vicinity was able to vouch for him. For over two months he lived and fought with the Maquis, until he was sent on to Paris for return to England along the Réseau Comète (Comet Line).

In Paris he was betrayed by Jaques Desoubrie, a French traitor, who claimed that he was part of the French underground. On the 27th July 1944 he was handed over to the Gestapo.

Jaques Desoubrie was in fact a Belgian traitor (Jean-Jacques, Jean Masson and Pierre Boulain were his aliases) who had infiltrated the Réseau Comète escape route in Brussels and Paris. He was responsible for the Nazis rounding up dozen of members of the Réseau Comète and Allied airmen. He was finally captured and stood accused at a French military trial in Lille. He was convicted and condemned to death for having participated in the capture and assassination of members of the resistance and for sending Allied military to their deaths in violation of the Geneva convention. It was reported that he was executed by firing squad on the 20th December 1949.

After interrogation, Flt Lt. Blackham was imprisoned in Fresnes prison located to the south of Paris.

At Fresnes, he was beaten, stripped of clothing and put under cold showers, surviving on weak sauerkraut soup and slept on filthy lice-infested straw. At one point during his two week stay at Fresnes, he was among a group of inmates that faced a firing squad but the order to fire was never given.

Fresnes prison was were French political prisoners were held and ordinarily Allied airmen, after questioning, were moved to a PoW Camp. In the summer of 1944, with the Allies having liberated Paris and closing in, the Gestapo guards started reducing the prison population by execution, and then relocating surviving prisoners to various concentration camps east of France (Ref 1: p 195).

The prison was liberated on the 24th August by French forces.

On the 15th August 1944 168 PoWs including Flt Lt. Blackham and hundreds of French men and women were packed into a freight train and transported to Buchenwald concentration camp on a journey lasting five days.

Buchenwald was located 8 km north of Weimar in the German province of Thüringen.

Sqn Ldr. Lamason and Fg Off. Chapman who evaded the enemy were being moved along the Réseau Comète (Comet line) and were also betrayed by a traitor. The events leading to their capture, subsequent incarceration at the Buchenwald concentration camp and the tenacity of the two in getting most of the airmen transferred to Stalag Luft 3, are described here.

1st Lt. Levitt Clinton Beck Jr. O-736945 USAAF, was one of two airmen that did not make the transfer to Stalag Luft 3. The second was Fg Off. Philip Derek Hermmens 152583, RAFVR.

Flt Lt. Blackham was awarded DFC whilst with 50 Squadron. London Gazette 7th April 1944.

Citation reads: "As pilot, this officer has participated in a number of sorties and has displayed outstanding determination, fearlessness and devotion to duty. This was well illustrated on a recent occasion when detailed to attack Berlin. On the outward flight the aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire and the elevators were damaged. Soon afterwards the bomber was struck by bullets from a fighter. The rear turret was rendered unserviceable arid the oxygen installation was damaged. The target was still 100 miles distant but Flight Lieutenant Blackham continued his mission. On the bombing run, 3 members of his crew became unconscious "through lack of oxygen. The flight engineer successfully repaired the oxygen system and the affected members were revived. Flight Lieutenant Blackham then pressed home a determined attack and afterwards flew the damaged aircraft to base. A few nights later, this officer again displayed praiseworthy skill and resolution in-a successful attack on Augsburg".

After returning to England he remained in the RAF and was promoted to Sqn Ldr on the 1st February 1949 and then to Wg Cdr. on the 1st July 1960.

Wg Cdr. Blackham was appointed to be an Ordinary Officer of the Military Division of the said Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) on the 1st January 1964. He was appointed to commission as a Gp Capt. on the 1st July 1966 and appointed to Air Cdr. on the 1st July 1974.

He retired from the Royal Air Force and was transferred to the RAF Reserve of Officers (Class J) as a Gp Capt. on the 11th July 1977.

On the 1st February 1979 Air Cdr. Blackham was appointed as Gentleman to be Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Mid Glamorgan, Wales.

Thomas Henry Blackham was born on the 11th July 1922 in Dunoon, Argyll, Scotland and passed away on the 6th April 2003, aged 80, in Liskeard, Cornwall.

(2) Flt Sgt. Godfrey was initially assisted in evading the Germans by a Mme Deguilly of Romilly-sur-Seine who passed him onto the local resistance group.

Unfortunately the forest camp at Mailly-le-Camp where he was hiding was attacked by German troops on 24th June 1944 and he was killed.

Sgt Godfrey’s body has never been recovered and he is remembered on the Runneymede Memorial.

Note: No further information has been found about the 51 days from when he bailed out and being killed by the Germans.

Burial details:

Above: Saint-Mesmin New Communal Cemetery which has just the six casualties from this aircraft

Plt Off. Cyril Edward Stephensen. Saint-Mesmin New Communal Cemetery Grave 3. Grave inscription: "HE FLEW AWAY". Born on the 28th July 1922 in Maryborough, Queensland. Son of Christian Julius and Marie Louise Aimee Stephensen of Newtown, Tasmania, Australia.

Plt Off. Charles Richard Ernest Walton. Saint-Mesmin New Communal Cemetery Grave 2. Grave inscription: "WE WHO LOVED YOU WILL NEVER FORGET. GOD BLESS DADDY. WIFE CONNIE, JUDY AND TERRY". Son of Charles and Catherine (née Taylor) Walton; husband of Constance Phoebe (née Taylor) Walton, of Castle Bromwich, Warwickshire, England.

Plt Off. David Gwynfor Jones. Saint-Mesmin New Communal Cemetery Grave 4. Grave inscription: ""AND WHAT HE GREATLY THOUGHT- HE NOBLY DARED" MARION AND NOREEN". Husband of Noreen May (née Bumstead) Jones, of Southall, Middlesex, England.

Flt Sgt. Stewart James Godfrey. Runnymede Memorial Panel 211. Son of Stewart Thomas and Matilda Godfrey of Paisley, Scotland. Husband of Phyllis Edna (née Peagram) Godfrey, of Acton, Middlesex, England.

Sgt. Sidney Charles Wilkins. Saint-Mesmin New Communal Cemetery Grave 5. Grave inscription: "AT THE GOING DOWN OF THE SUN AND IN THE MORNING WE WILL REMEMBER THEM". Son of Sidney Charles and Alice Wilkins, of New Cross, London, England.

Sgt. Herbert George Ridd. Saint-Mesmin New Communal Cemetery Grave 6. Grave inscription: "AT THE GOING DOWN OF THE SUN AND IN THE MORNING WE WILL REMEMBER HIM". Son of Abram John and Mary Elizabeth (née Morgan) Ridd, of Swansea, Wales.

Sgt. William Dennis Dixon. Saint-Mesmin New Communal Cemetery Grave 1. Grave Inscription: "SOME WILL FORGET YOU NOW YOU'RE GONE BUT WE WILL REMEMBER NO MATTER HOW LONG". Son of William and Annie Dixon, of Carway, Carmarthenshire, Wales.

Researched by Ralph Snape and John Jones for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the crew and their families.

Other sources as quoted below:


1. Hitler’s Atrocities Against Allied PoWs - Philip D. Chinnery: ISBN 1526701871

RS 21.07.2022 - Initial upload

Pages of Outstanding Interest
History Airborne Forces •  Soviet Night Witches •  Bomber Command Memories •  Abbreviations •  Gardening Codenames
CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
Concept of Colonial Discrimination  •  Unauthorised First Long Range Mustang Attack
RAAF Bomb Aimer Evades with Maquis •  SOE Heroine Nancy Wake •  Fane: Motor Racing PRU Legend
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.
Click any image to enlarge it

Click to add your info via ticket on Helpdesk •Click to let us know via ticket on Helpdesk• Click to buy research books from Amazon •Click to explore the entire site
If you would like to comment on this page, please do so via our Helpdesk. Use the Submit a Ticket option to send your comments. After review, our Editors will publish your comment below with your first name, but not your email address.

A word from the Editor: your contribution is important. We welcome your comments and information. Thanks in advance.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember them. - Laurence Binyon
All site material (except as noted elsewhere) is owned or managed by Aircrew Remembered and should not be used without prior permission.
© Aircrew Remembered 2012 - 2023
Last Modified: 30 July 2022, 11:30

Monitor Additions/Changes?Click to be informed of changes to this page. Create account for first monitor only, thereafter very fast. Click to close without creating monitor