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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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15 Squadron Crest
08/09.12.1942 No. 15 Squadron Stirling I W7635 LS-V Sgt. Blignault

Operation: Gardening (see here)

Date: 08/09th December 1942 (Tuesday/Wednesday)

Unit: No. 15 Squadron

Type: Stirling I

Serial: W7635

Code: LS-V

Base: RAF Bourn - Cambridgeshire

Location: North Sea west of Rømø, Denmark

Pilot: Sgt. Jochemus Johannes Blignaut 777957 RAFVR Age ? Missing - believed killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Eric Bance 748927 RAFVR Age 30. Missing - believed killed

Nav: Sgt. Frances George Crapp 1317502 RAFVR Age 20. Missing - believed killed

Air/Bmr: Sgt. Henry Charles Adkins 1269014 RAFVR Age 31. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Richard George Oliver 1189941 RAFVR Age 29. Missing - believed killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Robert Skelton 954437 RAFVR Age 27. Missing - believed killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. ‘Ted’ Alfred Theodore Kelley R/125770 RCAF Age 22. Killed


Taking off from RAF Bourn in Cambridgeshire at 16:42 hrs on a Gardening operation (Sweet Peas) - some 80 aircraft were detailed to lay mines to the North West coast of Germany and the Danish coast.

5 of these aircraft failed to return - 4 of these fallings victims of marine and Luftwaffe flak units. Stirling W7635 is the only aircraft to be lost to night fighters. Oblt. Hans Gref (1) of 4./NJG3 intercepted them at 22:03 hrs whilst flying very low at 400 ft. The aircraft crashed into the North Sea.

The body of rear gunner, Fl/Sgt. Alfred Kelley was washed ashore on Rømø island on the 17th December and buried the following day. The body of the air bomber, Sgt. Henry Adkins was taken to the cemetery at Esbjerg and buried on the 18th December.

(1) This was the first victory for Oblt. Hans Gref who went on to become a nightfighter ace with 18 claims. He was killed on an operational sortie on the 26th March 1944 in a crash at Rosbach.

Burial details:

Sgt. Jochemus Johannes Blignaut. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 78. No further details - are you able to assist?

Sgt. Eric Bance. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 77. Son of George and Rebecca Bance and husband of Dereter Joan Bance, of Battersea, London, England. Also remembered on the memorial at St Luke's Battersea, London, England.

Sgt. Frances George Crapp. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 80. Son of William F. C. and Dora L. Crapp, of Truro, Cornwall, England.

Sgt. Henry Charles Adkins. Esbjerg Cemetery (Fourfelt). Grave AIII. 8. 10. Son of William Thomas Chapman Adkins and Clara Jane Adkins and husband of Evelyn Barbara Adkins, of Ewell, Surrey, England.

Sgt. Richard George Oliver. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 90. Son of Richard and Elizabeth Oliver; husband of Gladys Edith Oliver, of Horn's Cross, Kent, England.

Sgt. Robert Skelton. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 93. Son of William and Eleanor Skelton, of Aspatria, Cumberland, England.

Fl/Sgt. Alfred Theodore Kelley. His body was recovered at Lakolk on the Western Coast of Romo Island on 12 December 1942. He was buried at the Kirkeby Churchyard, Grave 277B on the 16 December 1942. Born in Kansas City on the 20th June 1920. Husband of Murl Emaline Spellman from Kansas City. USA. Although as advised by a son of Muri, the marriage certificate states he was from Carbondale, Illinois, USA. He was also in the Marine Corp Reserve as a Male Nurse 1937-1939. Left to enter college and was also a male nurse in Springfield.

Researched for Richard Orr and family (his mother had been married to Fl/Sgt. Kelley) - and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to sources as shown. Thanks to John Jones for the update to Flt.Sgt. Kelley's details.

RS 29.09.2019 - Update to Flt.Sgt. Kelly's details

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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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