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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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40 Squadron Crest
10/11.04.1941 No. 40 Squadron Wellington Ic R1493 BL-P Fl/Lt. F.A. Bowler

Operation: Mérignac

Date: 10/11th April 1941 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: No. 40 Squadron

Type: Wellington Ic

Serial: R1493

Code: BL-P

Base: RAF Alconbury

Location: English Channel

Pilot: Fl/Lt. F.A. Bowler 42482 RAFVR Pow No: 573 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria

Pilot 2: Fl/Lt. Anthony Barclay Trench 88213 RAFVR Pow No: 587 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Bellaria (1)

Obs: Fl/Lt. Leonard Stewart Dunley NZ/40934 RNZAF Pow No: 1348 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Edward A. Jewson 910061 RAFVR Pow No: 603 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. E. Spencer 945533 RAFVR Pow No: 614 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus

Air/Gnr: P/O. John Peter Leslie Branson 72436 RAFVR Age 27. Missing - believed killed


The German naval base at Bacalan had been the main target in this area on previous occasions but the Air Ministry decided that the Luftwaffe base at Mérignac would be a far more important target. 11 Wellingtons from the squadron attacked the airbase causing much damage - with two hangars destroyed along with several aircraft parked on the ground. Others (25 x Wellingtons 12 x Blenheims and 5 x Manchesters) attacked other targets including the Gneisenau which was hit by 4 bombs. Some 50 Germans were killed during the operation with 90 others injured.

Mérignac Luftwaffe Airbase

The Gneisenau had already been attacked by Coastal Command 22 Squadron Blenheims 4 days previously on the 6th April, when F/O. Kenneth Campbell was awarded a posthumous VC.

Wellington R1493 was the only casualty of the operation which ditched in the English Channel - all but the rear gunner survived.

(1) Pilot, Fl/Lt. Anthony Barclay Trench lost his brother, Fl/Lt. Pat Trench with 7 Squadron - flying a Stirling I R9270 MG-T in March 1943, the 7 crew also lost their lives.

Burial details:

P/O. John Peter Leslie Branson. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 31. Son of Frank Young Branson, and of Dorothy Lilian Branson, of Hounslow, Middlesex, England.

For further details our thanks to the sources shown below. But we welcome contact from any relatives for any additional information.

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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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