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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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427 Squadron Halifax III MZ355 Sq/Ldr. William Bruce Brittain DFC

Operation: Gardening

Date: 14/15th February 1945 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit: No. 427 Squadron (motto: Ferte manus certas, -. 'Strike with a sure hand'). 6 Group

Type: Halifax III

Serial: MZ355

Code: ZL-W

Base: RAF Leeming, Yorkshire

Location: Near Knaplund, Denmark

Pilot: Sq/Ldr. William Bruce Brittain DFC. J/28286 RCAF Age 22. PoW (1)

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Philip De Metz 186880 RAFVR Age 33. PoW (2)

Nav: F/O. Charles Joseph Driscoll J/29619 RCAF Age 30. PoW (3)

Air/Bmr: F/O. Henry Mckay J/35102 RCAF Age 24. PoW (4)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: F/O. Raymond Victor Dallin J/29619 RCAF Age 30. PoW (5)

Air/Gnr: P/O. Everett Morrison Ford J/89704 RCAF Age 21. Killed

Air/Gnr: P/O. John Frederick Anthony Peak J/89673 RCAF Age 26. Killed


Taking off on a gardening (see here) operation, code name 'Willow One' in the Kadett Channel area in the Baltic at 18:01 hrs.

They carried out the operation successfully and were on their return trip when they were intercepted by Oblt Herbert Koch off 1./NJG 3 while flying at 12.000 ft. The Halifax received one burst from Joch's cannons which the crew believed was flak. The pilot carried out evasive action and windows were dropped.

Almost immediately the bomber received another burst that set fire to the port inner engine, the port main plane and the port side of the fuselage.

The engine was feathered and fire button was pressed and Sgt. De Metz and P/O. Ford was ordered to fight the fire in the fuselage with hand extinguisher. They were unable to put the fire out and the pilot ordered the crew to bail out. Five of the crew did so safely and the aircraft crashed at 22:45 hrs.

Local resistance fighters tried to arrange their escape but the Wehrmacht conducting searches for the crew arrived very quickly and the crew were picked up.

It is thought the crew were then taken to Stalag Moesburg and remained there until the 29th of April 1945.

Sq/Ldr. William Bruce Brittain DFC broke his leg during the jump and was hospitalised.

(1) William Brittain - born on the 10th February 1922, died on the 26th of September, 2007, age 85 Husband of Catherine Britain (née Wood - died 07th January 2014, age 92). Enlisted in Montreal on the 18th of July 1941.

DFC Citation:
'This captain has completed twenty-six heavy operational bombing attacks against the enemy. Flight Lieutenant Brittain is a Deputy Flight Commander and his work in general is outstanding. He sets his mind on the task in hand and with a fine offensive spirit, setting a magnificent example not only to his crew but to the entire squadron'.

(2) Philip De Metz - arrived back in England on the 08th May 1945 - very little known, but we understand he was from 46 Catherine Street, Leicester, England.

(3) Charles Driscoll - arrived back in England on the 10th of May 1945 - born on the 28th of April 1914 in Arthur, Ontario and died on the 15th April 1991, age 76 from a very rare type of leukaemia. From 61 Charles Street, Toronto.

(4) Henry Mckay - arrived back in England on the 10th May 1945 - very little is known, understood to have been killed in a car accident. From 3419 Erskine Street, Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

(5) Raymond Dallin - arrived back in England on the 10th of May 1945 - born in 1918. His parents Frederick Thomas (died on the 27th of February 1958, age 84) and Florence Dallin (née Wintle - died 29th of June 1951, age 72). Left Bristol, England in July 1906. 1220 Curry Avenue, Windsor, Ontario, Canada. As an NCO: R/105983

Burial details:

They were buried by the Germans on the 17th of February 1945 in a common grave in the corner of a furrow plantation near Gammelager, 2 miles northeast Hoven. Part of a propeller was placed on the grave but later a cross was placed showing their names and date of death. The Germans refused permission by rector Andreasen Rogerserg of the local church. Post-war the Danish people requested that the two be buried in Hoven as they would like to erect a memorial to the crew. The CWGC granted this wish and they were reinterred on the 12th of December 1945, the graves are beautifully maintained to this day.

P/O. Everett Morrison Ford. Hoven Cemetery (Brande). Joint grave 117B. Born on the 01st July 1923 in Evesham, Saskatchewan. Educated at Cotswold and Evesham schools. A truck driver for Smith Transport prior to service. Enlisted in London, Ontario, on the 28th of October, 1942. Awarded air gunner badge on the 26th of November 1943 and promoted to sergeant. On the 08th September 1944 he was awarded his commission. Son of Leslie Ezra (died 25th April 1963, age 82) and Della May Ford (née Webb - died 09th January 1978, age 82), of Box 132, Evesham, Saskatchewan, Canada. On his 13th operational sortie. As an NCO: R/197306.

P/O. John Frederick Anthony Peak. Hoven Cemetery (Brande). Joint grave 117B. Born on the 20th of September 1922 in Toronto, Canada. Educated at St. Bridges school and St. Michael's College. A bank clerk prior to service with Canadian Bank of Commerce. Enlisted in early 1943. Awarded his air gunner badge on the 01st of December 1943. Commissioned on the 20th November 1944. Son of Frederick Eugene and Mary Aileen Peak 9née Shaughnessy) of 2146 Gerrard Street., East Toronto, Ontario, Canada (parents married 26th October 1921). As an NCO: R/198018

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to National Archives. Government of Canada Archives, Paradie Archive, Kracker Archive, International Bomber Command Centre IBCC.

Other sources as shown below

KTY 25-02-2023

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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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