Operation: Gardening (see here for explanation)
Date: 19/20th June 1943 (Saturday/Sunday)
Unit: No. 115 Squadron 'Despite the elements'
Type: Lancaster II
Base: RAF East Wretham, Norfolk
Location: Mesnil-en-Valle, France
Pilot: F/O. Derek Frank Paston Brown 124415 RAFVR Age 24. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Charles Frank Trott 577112 RAFVR Age 19. Evaded capture (1)
Nav: P/O. C.N. Pitchford 137108 RAFVR Injured PoW No: 1664 Camp: Stalag Luft 3 Sagan and Belaria
Air/Bmr: W/O. Alexander Suttie Davidson R/134223 RCAF Age 27. Injured PoW No: 222587 Camp: Stalag 4B Mühlberg-Elbe (2)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Alan Henry Sheppard 537866 RAF Age 28. Evaded capture (1)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. R. Gould 1028246 RAFVR PoW No further details (4)
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Leonard Francis King 928303 RAFVR PoW No: 326 Camp: Stalag 357 Kopernikus
Page sponsored by the daughter of Sgt. Charles Frank Trott in memory of the pilot who lost his life that day in to all the other crew members.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off on what is normally classed as a 'soft' operation on a Gardening operation to lay mines in the estuary of the River Gironde at 21:19 hrs. 12 Lancasters taking part with bombing made between 01:45 - 02:13 hrs.
During their homebound trip in clear moonlight they were attacked by Oblt. Erich Gollasch (3) of II/.NJG5 for an amazing 14 minutes before he managed to bring it down with the Lancaster crashing at Mesnil-en-Valle 02:01 hrs.
All the crew managed to bale out safely, but tragically the pilot, F/O. Derek Brown landed in the Loire river and was reported as drowned.
(1) Sgt. Charles Trott (of 204 Southend Lane, Bellingham, London) and Sgt. Alan Sheppard (of Knowles Mead Street Lane, Ardingly, Susses) managed to evade capture and return to England, via Spain, Andorra, Gibraltar. Arrived back in England on the 5th October 1943 - with the heroic dedication from the Maire-Claire Organisation. (see below MI6 interview notes)
(2) Sadly W/O. Alexander Davidson died of tuberculosis on the 21st April 1947.
(3) This was the fifth claim for Oblt. Erich Gollasch making him an ace. He was credited with two further victories flying the Bf110 before he was listed as missing on the 25/26th September 1943 over Tscherkasy in Russia. (Details from Kracker Archive on this site)
(4) The National Archives list Sgt. R. Gould as Sgt. Gold - we are unable to confirm which is correct.
The two evaders were interviewed by IS9 (for MI6) on the 06th October 1943 having arrived at Whitchurch on the 05th October from Gibraltar.
"I came down in a field about 2 km North of Champtoceaux. I hid my parachute and harness in a ditch keeping my Mae West which I hoped to use as a pillow. I walked due North to get away from the aircraft. After I had gone about 3 km I stumbled across a hollow tree, one of a line of trees in a field overlooking a road and hid in it for the night".
"In the morning I watched the traffic on the road for about 2 hrs. I then left the tree and went to a fairly isolated farmhouse about 1/2 km away which I had been watching for some time. I spoke to a peasant in the few words of French which I knew, and he handed me over to the owner of the farm. I was given some food, and I asked the way to Angers. I could see from my escape maps that it would be difficult to cross the Loire. I spent most of the day trying to observe the river. Eventually I got down to the river, having crossed tho Angers-Nantes road, a railway and (by a bridge) a tributary of the Loire. Near the river I Spoke to a farmer who took me to his farm and kept me there for three days (20-23rd June) The farm was SW. of Saint-Georges-sur-Loire. Here a Frenchman, Who spoke English, told me he had already met Trott and was trying to get us together. The Gestapo visited the house of this man and he did not come again to this farm, but on the 23rd June three young Frenchmen took me to a house near Champtoceaux where Sgt. Trott was staying. I was given civilian clothes on the night I left the farm".
"I came down about 8 km.North of Champtoceaux. On landing I missed a barn and came down on a pile of straw. I was knocked unconscious and when I came to I heard dogs barking. I got out of my parachute and Mae West which were hanging on the barn and I left them there. Walked for about 8 km across fields but as I had twisted my right ankle and my left ankle was also paining me I decided to seek help at once. I went into a village 3 or 4 km from Champtoceaux hoping to get in touch with the priest. It was then about 04:00 hrs (20th June) and the church was deserted.
I picked the cleanest looking house near the church and told the people I wanted help and if possible contact with an organisation. They took me to a large house north of Champtoceaux where I was fed and put to bed".
"In the morning man who spoke a little English gave me directions for a crossing of the Loire. I let the house in the morning wearing a civilian jacket. I heard later that the Gestapo visited this house and arrested the owners who had been betrayed by their gardener. Keeping to he main road I walked into Champtoceaux just as people were going to church. Two girls came up to me and recognised me as English. They took me to a place in Champtoceaux where I was given a complete outfit of civilian clothes and hidden in a shed in a vineyard. I was hidden in this shed for three days, food being brought to me by French youths. A doctor visited me and attended to my ankle. I was taken to another house near Champtoceaux where I met Sgt. Sheppard".
Sgt. Sheppard and Sgt. Trott:
"We met at this house in the middle of the night and were put into a barn the corner of a vineyard. We remained here till the 26th June as the Gestapo were searching the district, We were the taken by car to a garage on the road to Nantes. We stayed the night 26/27th June. On the 27th June we were taken to Nantes where we were handed over to an 'organisation' which then arranged our subsequent journey".
F/O. Derek Frank Paston Brown. Ingrandes-sur-Loire Communal Cemetery (single CWGC burial within this cemetery). Son of Paston Charles and Florence May Brown, of Crowcombe, Somerset, England.
W/O. I. Alexander Suttie Davidson. North Battleford Municipal Cemetery. Plan K. Block 14. Grave 6. Born on the 29th August 1916 at Edmonton, Alberta, the son of Thomas and Jane Maelar Davidson (née Robertson), of North Battleford and husband of Margaret Elaine Davidson (née Foster), of North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada. Grave inscription reads: "Rest In Peace". A miner by profession prior to service.
Davidson Island, Saskatchewan was named after him.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to our Ralph Snape and to the daughters of Sgt. Charles Frank Trott and Sgt. Alan Henry Sheppard (Jackie Trott and Valerie Redgate) - December 2018.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember
them. - Laurence
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