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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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44 Squadron Crest
10/11.10.1941 No. 44 Squadron Hampden I AE382 KM-A Sgt. J.P. Bonett

Operation: Dunkerque

Date: 10/11th October 1941 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit: No. 44 Squadron (Rhodesia)

Type: Hampden I

Serial: AE382

Code: KM-A

Base: RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire

Location: Near Hardervijk, Holland

Pilot: Sgt. Joseph P. Bonett 777659 RAFVR PoW No: 24367 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus

Obs: Sgt. George W. Niblett 1259464 PoW No: 24457 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. F.E. Wotton 1153799 RAFVR PoW No: 24471 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. J.A. Anderson 1104542 RAFVR PoW No: 24362 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus


Taking off from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire at 18:55 hrs. one of twenty three aircraft detailed to bomb Dunkerque, the only aircraft not to return.

The bomber stream were recalled due to strong tailwinds but it seems that the radio was unserviceable and consequently never received the order. After reaching the target they released their bomb load, only then did they realise they were alone.

Due to the now heavy headwind they thought that they were then over the UK and started to descend. Sadly, they were over occupied Holland and shortly afterwards they were hit by anti-aircraft fire. The Hampden caught fire, reluctantly the crew were forced to bale out. It seems that they managed to evade capture for a few days but were then captured. (to be confirmed)

The son of the pilot, Mr. Paul Bonett contacted us with some of the details and also explained that his father remained close friends with a Vic Bruce for the rest of his life having both served as prisoners together.

We had a look for this chap and it is quite probable that it was a Victor Walter Bruce 748497 RAFVR of 51 Squadron. He was the pilot of a 51 Squadron Whitley P5108 MH-Q which was forced to crash land on a Sandbank in the Wadden Sea north of Pilsum. Two German seaplanes landed to collect the prisoners. One of these later crashed on landing - killing 3 of the captured airman. The remaining two were sent to Stalag Kopernikus at what is now known to be called Toruń in Poland.

Above: 44 Squadron Hampdens over RAF Waddington 1941.

Joseph P. Bonett, the pilot, was born in Alexandria, Egypt on the 01st March 1910 - moved to South Africa and then to Rhodesia - running a government farm during the 30's. After release from the Royal Air Force he returned to Rhodesia and then back to United Kingdom in 1950 after marrying Rosaline Connolly, a wartime nurse. He then trained as a civilian airline pilot with Freddy Laker with Skyways Limited which became established as the largest operator of non-scheduled air services in Europe. Sadly Joseph passed away on the 08th January 1988 in Steeple Bumpstead, Essex.

Burial details:

None - all crew survived the war as PoW.

Whitley crew:

Sgt. Ronald Smith 758058 RAFVR Age 23. Buried at Sage War Cemetery. Grave 7.E.9. Son of Joseph and Susannah Smith, of Salford, Lancashire, England. Grave inscription reads: "In Mind A Constant Thought, In Heart A Silent Sorrow. Mum And Dad".

Sgt. Reginald Vere Huston. 745934 RAFVR Age 24. Buried at Sage War Cemetery. Grave 7.C.8. Son of Vere Wintringham Huston and Harriet Laura Huston and husband of Eileen Huston. Grave inscription reads: "They Shall Grow Not Old As We That Are Left Grow Old: Age Shall Not Weary Them..."

Sgt. Ernest Frederick Matthews. 640340 RAF Age 20. Buried at Schiermonnikoog Cemetery (Vredenhof). Grave 52. Son of John Frederick and Annie Matthews, of Dingle, Liverpool, England.

The two Whitley survivors:

Sgt. Victor Walter Bruce 748497 RAFVR PoW No: 485 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus.

Sgt. A. Mather 648563 RAFVR PoW No: 510. Camp L6. Stalag Luft Heydekrug.

Researched for and with information supplied by Paul Bonett, son of the pilot who contacted us in November 2107. For further details our thanks to the following sources shown below.

KTY - 14.11.2017

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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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