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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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207 squadron crest
12/13.10.1941 207 Squadron Manchester I L7312 EM:L Plt Off. Bowes-Cavanagh

Operation: Hüls

Date: 12th/13th October 1941 (Sunday/Monday)

Unit: 207 Squadron

Type: Manchester I

Serial: L7312

Code: EM:L

Base: RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire

Location: Horendonk about 2 km east of Essen

Pilot: Plt Off. Brian Derek Bowes-Cavanagh 89371 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Pilot 2: Sgt. Robert Surfleet Stuart 754925 RAFVR Age 21. Kiled

Obs: Flt Sgt. Jack Alfred Cheeseman 581273 RAFVR Age? Survived PoW No: 24356 * (1)

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Andrew Joseph Carter 1161981 RAFVR Age 26. Killed

WOp/Air/Gnr: Sgt. George Paul Spindler 759054 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air Gnr: Sgt. John William Leason 999653 RAFVR Age 28. Killed

Air Gnr: Sgt. Ian Harry Deare Passy 921874 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

* Stalag Luft 6, Heydekrug, Memelland (now Šilutė in Lithuania)


Took off from RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire to bomb the synthetic rubber factory at Hüls. 79 Hampdens and 11 Manchesters took part in this operation which turned out to be a very dissatisfactory bombing raid as the target was completely cloud covered and the bombing scattered.

A great series of photo's showing Manchester EM:S of 207 squadron, taken from the top rear turret of a Hampden (courtesy Flight)

L7312 was claimed by Ofw. Paul Gildner as a Whitley, from 4./NJG1 04:05 hrs. This was his 19th Abschuss with his regular crew of Fw. Müller and Uffz. Pollelmeyer who scrambled in Do215 B-5 G9+MM from Gilze-Rijen. L7312 crashed between Oudemirdum and Nijemirdum.

Gildner later wrote in his Gefechtsbericht (Combat Report) "After several fruitless vectors, I was on to an incoming enemy aircraft at around 04:00 hrs. I flew on a heading of 80 degrees (almost due east), altitude 3700 m. Range 8km. After various course corrections and being given a new height (5000 m), I found myself 1 km from the enemy. Unteroffizier Pollelmeyer, my Bordmechaniker (Flight Engineer), pointed out a shadow 500 m above me. Climbing, I recognised a Whitley (actually a Manchester) and got into an attacking position. At 04:05 hrs I attacked from below and astern at a range of around 20m and after delivering a short burst, both engines caught fire. The Whitley immediately went down at a flat angle and hit the ground burning south west of Roosendal. I didn’t see anyone bail out. I landed at Gilze-Rijen at 04:43 hrs." (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (13 July 1941 - 29 May 1942) The Early Years Part 2 - Theo Boiten)

Oberleutnant Gilder was killed on the night of the 23rd February 1943 when the left engine of his aircraft exploded at an altitude of 550m on final approach to Gilze-Rijen and crashed on the airfield and was killed. He had 43 Abschüsse to his credit. (Luftwaffe ACES - Biographies and Victory Claims (Mathews and Foreman) - Volume 2)

Above: Manchester I L7312 crash site images (Credit: Geert L. G. Jacobs)

(1) Flt Sgt. Jack A. Cheeseman was captured very quickly and apparently taken back to the crash site the next day by the Germans, perhaps to identify the aircraft. Following that he was taken away for the usual interrogation. He spent time at various PoW camps including: Stalag 8d Teschen, Stalag Luft 3 Sagan and Belaria, Stalag Luft 1 Barth Vogelsang and Stalag Luft 6 Heydekrug.

Jack Cheeseman passed away on the 5th July 2005

An article in the Historical Circle - Essen in Dutch, describes the aftermath of the crash (Credit: Geert L. G. Jacobs)

A translation of the main body is reproduced below:

A twin-engine Manchester of the Royal Air Force crashed at Essen-Horendonk on October 13, 1941. The bomber with the code EM-L and serial number L7312 was attacked at 04:08 at night near Rotterdam by the German oberfeldwebel Paul Gildner in a German Messerschmitt Me110. This caused the British machine to catch fire. Immediately the bombs were dropped but the plane was lost and returning to base seemed impossible. The pilot tried in vain to maintain altitude and still managed to reach our territory. At Horendonk the badly damaged Manchester flew low over the woods, spun downwards, bore into the ground with a terrible bang and exploded. This happened shortly after 4 a.m. diagonally behind the farm of Fons Van de Keybus on the corner of the (Grote)Horendonk and the Leegtestraat. The residents of Horendonk were startled awake before the crash by the howling of the sputtering aircraft engines. The havoc on the ground was enormous: debris everywhere, charred tree trimmings, burning wreckage, a large pit of up to 3 meters deep. The remains of the crew were scattered around. The Germans were very quick on the spot and closed off the area hermetically. However, one of the British crew members escaped, it was navigator sergeant Jack Cheesman. He immediately realised that the plane was lost and with his parachute already on he opened the forward escape hatch and jumped into thin air. Curiously, he landed less than 200 meters from the crashed plane in the garden of the Schamhoeve of Louis Vrients. At the Vrients family, in their barn, they washed the Brit, took care of him, offered him coffee, etc...Then father Vrients showed him the way to the station and Cheesman left but on the way or at the station was picked up by the Germans and taken to a POW camp in Germany. This he also fortunately survived and after the war he returned to England. On the basis of personal belongings found between the debris, the identity of the six crew members could be established. Mayor Jan Meeusen, municipal employee Guillaume Suykerbuyk and Jef Hensen were ordered by the German authorities to collect the mortal remains. The 6 corpses were so mutilated that they could be put in two coffins. These were placed in the old church of Horendonk during the night of October 13-14, 1941 and buried already the next day under the watchful eye of the Germans. The church was packed with citizens who carried many flowers and wreaths. The six men whose young lives were cut short so abruptly lie next to the church at the entrance to the cemetery in Horendonk. Here are four typical British military headstones with their names and the emblem of the Royal Air Force on them. The green plaque, identifying mark for war graves, is also affixed. Every year, around October 20, the KNSB Essen organises a ceremony around the liberation of the municipality. That day there is a Holy Mass for the fallen British crew members in the church of Horendonk and their graves in the cemetery are honoured. Family members of the fallen crew also flew in over the years and visited the graves in the cemetery at Horendonk. The names of the fallen British crew members are: BRIAN BOWES-CAVANAGH Pilot officer, lieutenant. He was the flight commander. 21 years old. IAN HARRY DEARE PASSY Sergeant air-gunner. 20 years old. ANDREW JOSEPH CARTER Sergeant wireless operator, air-gunner. 26 years old. GEORGE PAUL SPINDLER Sergeant wireless operator, air-gunner. 21 years old. ROBERT SURFLEET STUART Sergeant pilot. He was the reserve pilot. 21 years old.


Burial Details:

Above twoimages of the crew funeral. The crew's remains were interred in two coffins (Credit: Geert L. G. Jacobs)

Above: Initial Grave marker (unattributed)

Plt Off. Brian Derek Bowes-Cavanagh. Essen (Horendonk) Communal Cemetery Coll grave. Inscription reads: "MORNING THOUGHTS AND EVENING MEMORIES". Son of Gerald Richard and Cecilia Gwendoline Bowes-Cavanagh, of Hampton, Middlesex, England.

Sgt. Robert Surfleet Stuart. Essen (Horendonk) Communal Cemetery Coll grave. Son of George Arthur and Lizzie Stuart, of Narborough, Norfolk, England.

Sgt. Andrew Joseph Carter. Essen (Horendonk) Communal Cemetery Coll grave. Inscription reads: HIS LAMP WAS DIMMED BUT HIS SPIRIT LIVES FOR EVER". Son of Stephen Benjamin and Kate Ada Carter, of Over, Cambridgeshire, England.

Sgt. George Paul Spindler. Essen (Horendonk) Communal Cemetery Coll grave. Son of George Charles and Pauline Spindler, of Luton, Bedfordshire, England.

Sgt. John William Leason. Essen (Horendonk) Communal Cemetery Coll grave. Inscription reads: "FOR HIM THE GATES ARE OPEN AND HEAVENS BUGLES BLOW HE DIED THAT THAT WE MIGHT LIVE". Son of Thomas and Susan Leason; husband of Enid Leason, of Hull, England.

Sgt. Ian Harry Deare Passy. Essen (Horendonk) Communal Cemetery Coll grave. Inscription reads: "CRUSADERS THEY AS ANY KNIGHTS WHO WORE THE CROSS". Son of Maj. F. H. B. Passy (formerly Indian Army), and Margaret Alexandra Passy, of Cornwood, Devon, England.

Researched for relatives of the crew. With thanks to the following: David Turner - Narborough History Society. Reviewed and updated by Aircrew Remembered (Nov 2021). Thanks to Geert L.G. Jacobs for the images of the initial grave marker, German Burial of the crew, crash images and link to Dutch article (Nov 2021). Other sources below.

RS 08.11.2021 - Addition of crash, initial grave images and link to crash article

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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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