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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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51 Squadron Crest
12/13.05.1943 51 Squadron Halifax II JB806 MH:J Bar, Sgt. Brown

Operation: Duisburg, Germany

Date: 12th/13th May 1943 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit No: 51 Squadron

Type: Halifax II

Serial: JB806

Code: MH:J Bar

Base: RAF Snaith, Yorkshire

Location: Weelde Station, Antwerp, 8 km (5 ml) north of Turnhout, Belgium

Pilot: Sgt. Beverley Brown 413162 RAAF Age 23. PoW No. 1170 *

Flt Eng: Sgt. Arthur Lloyd George Knight 1454177 RAFVR Age? PoW No. 327 *

Nav: Sgt. William Bruce Henderson 1317509 RAFVR Age? PoW No. 11 *

Bomb Aimer: Sgt. John Duncan Rae 1321387 RAFVR Age? PoW No. 1266 **

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Kenneth Albert Goodchild 1330530 RAFVR Age 19. PoW No. 1319 * (1)

Air Gnr (Mid Upper): Sgt. William Esmond North-Lewis 929468 RAFVR Age 29. PoW No. 1193 *** (2)

Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Phillipe Louis Marie Charles de Bourbon R144970 RCAF Age? PoW No. 1277 ****

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

** Stalag Luft 4 Groß-Tychow, Pomerania, Prussia now Tychowo, Poland (Moved from Stalag Luft 6 Heydekrug on 28th May 1944. Moved to Wöbbelin near Ludwigslust and then to Usedom near Swinemünde).

*** Stalag Luft 1 Barth-Vogelsang, today situated in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany.

**** Stalag 4b Mühlberg, Sachsen, Germany


Took off at 23:57 hrs on 12th May 1943 from RAF Snaith, joining 238 Lancasters, 141 other Halifaxes, 112 Wellingtons, 70 Stirlings and 10 Mosquitos. 572 aircraft in all. 34 aircraft were lost - 10 Lancasters, 10 Wellingtons, 9 Halifaxes and 5 Stirlings - 5.9% of the total force.

Above left: Sgt. Kenneth Albert Goodchild with right: Sgt. Arthur Lloyd George Knight in 1975

B806’s bomb-load consisted of 2 x 1,000lb general-purpose high explosive bombs, 48 x 30lb incendiaries and 630 x 4lb incendiaries. The course was set from Snaith to Stirling, then across the North Sea to Egmond on the Dutch coast at a height of approximately 20,000ft, and from there to Duisburg. The crew were tasked to be part of the second wave to bomb the oil refinery, before returning via Noordwijk, crossing the English coast at Scarborough.

Having made land-fall, JB806 experienced heavy flak, then about 10 minutes from target the aircraft was holed by anti-aircraft fire near the Wireless Operator’s position and in the cockpit roof. The shell exited the fuselage without exploding. In addition, a port wing tank was damaged and was leaking fuel into the wing. Nearing the target, the front turret was blown off and Sgt. Henderson, the navigator, was hit by a flak fragment that narrowly missed his lung. He was carried to the rear of the cockpit and given morphine

As they were so close to target, the crew decided to carry on, Sgt. Rae taking on the role of Navigator alongside his bomb-aiming duties. The target was bombed successfully and they headed for home.

JB806 was claimed by Lt. Wilhelm Beier, his 37th Abschuss, from 3./NJG1 5km west of Kleve at 5.100 m. at 02:30 hrs. Also hit by flak of 1./schw.Flak Abt. 401 in target area (Claimed by Flak as’Halifax Kleve 02:30 hrs’). Also attacked by night fighters four time on first part of return flight and eventually abandoned and crashed at Turnout. The victory for Lt. Beier was confirmed on the 19th December 1944. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (1 January - 22 June) 1943 Part 1 - Theo Boiten)

The port wing and the centre section of the fuselage caught fire, and the aircraft was sent into a dive when the port outer engine fell from its mounting. Sgt. Brown gave the order to bale out.

The Bakery - then and now

At 02:18hrs on 13th May 1943 the abandoned Halifax crashed at Weelde Station, Antwerp, 8km (5 ml) north of Turnhout, Belgium, practically on the border with Holland. The aircraft fell on a bakery, killing the owner’s wife and daughter.

Left photo - the Bakery. The other two the factory at the end of the road.

(1) Sgts. Goodchild and Knight landed close to each other in countryside and were captured on entering a hut that turned out to be full of Germans. They were taken to a central command post where they were re-united with Sgt. de Bourbon, who had been badly injured when his parachute had become entangled in the aircraft’s tail. Here they also learnt that Sgt. Henderson was in a Luftwaffe hospital, and that Sgts. Brown and Rae were unharmed, though captured. They were transferred to Oberursel via Brussels, Cologne and Frankfurt, and then on to Stalag Luft Heydekrug near Konigsberg, arriving in June 1943.

Above: The Bakery in 1992

In August 1943, due to the advance of the Russians, the prisoners were moved. Sgt. Goodchild was taken via Memel and Stettin to Stalag Luft IV at Groß-Tychow, enduring harsh conditions and treatment en route. The Russian advance caused another move in February 1945, when Sgt. Goodchild was one of 650 prisoners forced on the “Death March”, during which the RAF attacked the column killing 26, possibly mistaking it for a movement of troops. Conditions were bleak and prisoners suffered from the cold, malnutrition and dysentery, as well as from the sheer physical effort of the 487-mile march.

On about the 25th April 1945 the column was met by the 6th Airborne Division and the German guards surrendered. Sgt. Goodchild was flown from Celle to Brussels and thence back to England. He weighed just six stones and lost his sight for ten days due to malnutrition.

Sgt. Goodchild was promoted to Warrant Officer and awarded the 1939-45 Star, the Aircrew Europe Star, the France and Germany Star, the Defence Medal, the General Service Medal and the Croix de Combat. After the war he served in the Air Training Corps until 1966, the last five years as CO.

In 1992 Ken Goodchild visited Weelde, where his Halifax had crashed 49 years previously, and met the baker’s son, who still ran the same establishment.

Details of the raid:
Duisburg, Operation. Date: 12/13th May 1943. Time of raid: 01.56hrs - 02.47hrs
Weather: No cloud, half-moon setting at 03.20hrs, moderate visibility
Force: 572 aircraft - 238 Lancasters, 142 Halifaxes, 112 Wellingtons, 70 Stirlings, 10 Mosquitos.
RAF Losses: 34 aircraft, 5.9% of the force - 10 Lancasters, 10 Wellingtons, 9 Halifaxes, 5 Stirlings
This was the fourth raid on Duisburg during the Battle of the Ruhr, the first 3 having been only partially successful. The Pathfinder marking on this night was near perfect and the Main Force bombing was well concentrated.
The centre of Duisburg and the port area just off the Rhine, the largest inland port in Germany, suffered severe damage. 21 barges and 13 other ships totalling 18,921 tons were sunk and 60 ships of 41,000 tons were damaged. 1,596 buildings were destroyed and 273 people killed. 4 of the August Thyssen steel factories were damaged.
Nearly 2,000 prisoners of war and forced workers were drafted into Duisburg to repair the bomb damage.
It was not deemed necessary to attack Duisburg again during this period.
In response to the raid, the Germans flew 160 Himmelbett sorties, mostly by NJG1 over the Netherlands and the Dutch coast. The clear weather conditions were favourable to the night-fighters. NJG1 crews claimed 24 bomber kills en route over the Netherlands, damaging a further 10.
I./NJG1 at Venlo destroyed 10 bombers, IV./NJG1 at Leeuwarden claimed 8, III./NJG1 at Twenthe was credited with 5, Oblt. Geiger and BF Uffz. Koch of VII./NJG1 scored three, and Major Ehle, Kommandeur of II./NJG1 claimed one. Two other crews from II./NJG1 reported undecided claims, and two from III./NJG1 both claimed, and were credited with, the same Lancaster ED239 of 57 Squadron, shot down at Maasniel near Roermond.
On the German side a Bf110 F-4 of the 1st Staffel, piloted by Fw. Nepperscmitt, made a forced landing at Gilze-Rijen at 01.55hrs. This was probably the aircraft claimed by the rear gunner of a Halifax as being a Bf110 damaged 30km NNE of Arnhem. Returning bomber crews claimed a Ju88 near Deventer at 01.41hrs and another near Winterswijk at 02.03hrs. A further Ju88 was damaged over the Netherlands.

(2) William Esmond North-Lewis was 29 years old, born 22 July 1913. His twin brother, Pilot, Fg Off. John Clifford North-Lewis was killed just 11 days earlier in the loss of 24 OTU Whitley Z9362 on a night training exercise. He and his crew, Sgts. Ernest Jack Beer, Navigator, and Donald Ernest Watts, Air Gunner were killed in an attempt to alight in the sea off the Ayrshire coast after engine failure.

Researched by our volunteer Jeremy Nicholson Aircrew Remembered with assistance from 51 Squadron History Society. Thanks to Paul Markham for the date of birth for Sgt. North-Lewis and for his twin brother’s loss (May 2023).

Other sources listed below:

RS 02.05.2023 - Update to narrative and addition of details for Sgt. North-Lewis

Pages of Outstanding Interest
History Airborne Forces •  Soviet Night Witches •  Bomber Command Memories •  Abbreviations •  Gardening Codenames
CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
Concept of Colonial Discrimination  •  Unauthorised First Long Range Mustang Attack
RAAF Bomb Aimer Evades with Maquis •  SOE Heroine Nancy Wake •  Fane: Motor Racing PRU Legend
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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