Operation: Gardening – La Pallice, France
Date: 27/28 June 1943 (Sunday/Monday)
Unit: No. 101 Squadron
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Ludford Magna, Lincolnshire.
Location: Angrie, 6km north east of Cande, France.
Pilot: F/O. Frederick Sinclair Buck J/20349 RCAF Age 25. Killed (1)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Kenneth David Selwyn Mordecai 1411197 RAFVR Age 21. Killed (2)
Nav: Sgt. Geoffrey William Fuller 1321959 RAFVR Age 25. Killed (3)
Air/Bmr: Sgt. James Norman Sparkes 1534177 RAFVR Age 24. Evaded capture (4)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Kenneth Boyd Coulter 1076266 RAFVR Age 21. Killed (5)
Air/Gnr (M/U): Sgt. Kenneth William Gadsdon 1803966 RAFVR Age 19. Killed (6)
Air/Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Harold Thomas Clarke 1206892 RAFVR Age 35. Killed (7)
We welcome any contact from relatives of this crew with any further information/photographs
Authorities are planning to erect 5 Wind turbines on the site of the memorial to this crew. Aircrew Remembered have contacted the Mayor to appeal to have them moved further away - May 2019. Contact us if you would like to assist.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 22:30hrs with three more Lancasters from RAF Ludford Magna on a mine laying mission to the port of La Pallice in France. The other three aircraft returned safely.
This aircraft was armed with 6 mines. Special Equipment: Tinsel.
F/O. Frederick Sinclair Buck and his crew had been posted from 1656 Conversion Unit to 101 Squadron with effect from 25 June 1943. Undertaken two days later, this was their first operational mission.
Sgt James Norman Sparkes the sole survivor, reported that the aircraft was flying at 15000’ on the homeward journey and had just reached the turning point at ‘Florent on Loire’ when they were attacked by an enemy fighter.
Oblt. Erich Gollasch (8) of 11./NJG5 shot the Lancaster down at 02.27 hrs with combat taking place at 2.800 mtrs.
He saw orange tracer coming from ahead and slightly below. The first burst of fire apparently hit the aircraft and the pilot put it into a steep dive. There was no return fire. He saw that their aircraft was on fire and there was a red glow in the fuselage. He opened the escape hatch and flames came through it. He believed that while he was putting on his parachute Flight Engineer Sgt. Mordecai may have baled out.
Sgt. Sparkes heard later that the aircraft exploded in the air. Three bodies were found in the aircraft and though W/Op. Sgt. Coulter baled out and landed safely he was badly burned and died two hours later. The rear gunner had also baled out but his parachute had caught fire. The body of the Flight Engineer was found in a field two days later.
The aircraft is reported to have crashed at approximately 02.15 hrs on 28 June at Angrie 6km north east of Cande in the Department of Maine et Loire in western France.
Sgt. Buck is reported to have been buried at Nantes on 30th June and the other 5 crew members on 7th July also at Nantes.
The Escape and Evasion Report (3315 /1446) of Sgt. Sparkes explains that he bailed out about 02.30hrs and after he did so the aircraft exploded twice before crashing about a mile east of Cande. After landing in a field near Cande he buried his parachute and mae west. He left the field but being unable to find a road he hid in a ditch until daylight when he set out walking south. He walked all day keeping mainly to secondary roads taking care to hide whenever he heard or saw traffic approaching. He says that he only stopped once at a farm where he obtained food but no other help. He had suffered burns to his face before baling out and when he encountered a ‘road policeman’ was told to hide in a field and was brought some ointment for his burns. He spent that night in a field near Villemoisin about 10 miles south east of Cande.
Ju88 of 11./NJG5 (courtesy Kracker archive)The following morning (29th June) he walked into Champtoce (sur Loire) where a girl directed him to hide in a bush while she fetched a man who told him to remain there until 2200hrs. Meanwhile however, another man from Cande was touring the countryside by car looking for survivors from the aircraft. He had a description of Sgt. Sparkes and by making enquiries in Champtoce had located the people who had befriended him earlier. They brought him to where Sgt. Sparkes was hiding and he took him to his house where he remained for 10 days until 8 July. During his stay there, he was introduced to the organisation that arranged his eventual escape.
The organisation that arranged his escape was the Marie-Clair Escape Line. He was led over the Pyrenees in September and arrived in Gibraltar on 4 October. From there he flew to England landing at Whitchurch on 5 October 1943.
Unfortunately W/O. James Norman Sparkes although survived the war, was killed on the 17th October 1945. On board a Vickers Wellington NA929 that crashed in Scotland. The aircraft took off from the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment at Helensburg, Dumbartonshire to carry out depth charge dropping trials at Brodick Bay, Arran. Whilst flying at low level (50’) a depth charged was released which exploded prematurely thus damaging the aircraft which then dived into the sea. Also on board and killed were Fl/Lt. Albert Stewart Carswell AFC. 89368 RAFVR and Mr C. Bound, FTO. W/O Sparkes is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. He was aged 26 and the son of James Dobson and Sarah Lily Sparkes of Liverpool.
(1) F/O. Frederick Sinclair Buck, born 1917 in Canada, Son of Frederick William and Beatrice Ann Buck of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
(2) Sgt. Kenneth David Selwyn Mordecai, born 1921 Bridgend, Glamorganshire, Wales, son of Mr and Mrs J.H. Mordecai of Pencoed, Nr. Bridgend, Mid-Glamorgan, Wales.
(3) Sgt. Geoffrey William Fuller, born 1917 Croydon, Surrey, son of William and Nellie Dorothy Fuller of Addiscombe, Croyden, Surrey and husband of Mary Fuller of Addiscombe, Croydon, England.
(4) Sgt. James Norman Sparkes, born 2 January 1919 Toxteth Park, Liverpool. Son of Ernest and Agnes Mary Sparkes of Liverpool. Lived at 133 Booker Avenue, Liverpool 18, England. Peacetime Profession, Police Officer. RAF service from 24 June 1941. No. 30 OTU (Hixon).
(5) Sgt. Kenneth Boyd Coulter, born 1921 son of Percy Britt and Lily Williamson Coulter of Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland.
(6) Sgt. Kenneth William Gadsdon, born 1924 Hackney, London, son of William George and Maud Elizabeth Gadsdon of Stoke Newington, London, England. This airman was originally recorded in the Bomber Command database as Sgt. K.W. Gadson. Commonwealth Graves Commission details, RAF Loss Card, Escape and Evasion Report 3315/1446 and Registration of Birth however all record his name as Gadsdon.
(7) Sgt. Harold Thomas Clarke, born 1908 Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England. Son of Ernest and Agnes Mary Clarke and husband of Beryl Jane Clarke.
(8) This was the 7th and final kill for Lt. Erich Gollasch before he went missing on 26th September 1943 over Tscherkasy, Russia (Ukraine)
F/O. Frederick Sinclair Buck. Nantes (Pont-Du-Cens) Communal Cemetery, Plot L. Row C. Grave 10.
Sgt. Kenneth David Selwyn Mordecai. Nantes (Pont-Du-Cens) Communal Cemetery, Plot L. Row C. Grave 8.
Sgt. Geoffrey William Fuller. Nantes (Pont-Du-Cens) Communal Cemetery, Plot L. Row C. Grave 9.
Sgt. Kenneth Boyd Coulter. Nantes (Pont-Du-Cens) Communal Cemetery, Plot L. Row C. Grave 12.
Sgt. Kenneth William Gadsdon. Nantes (Pont-Du-Cens) Communal Cemetery, Plot L. Row C. Grave 11.
Sgt. Harold Thomas Clarke. Nantes (Pont-Du-Cens) Communal Cemetery, Plot L. Row C. Grave 7.
A large memorial to the crew of Lancaster ED377 SR-Q was erected by the local community outside the chapel ‘Notre-Dame du Coeur immacule de Marie dite de la Croix-Poulet’. The memorial is dated 8 May 1995 it incorporates a few surviving parts of the crashed aircraft. Photographs of the memorial can be seen ‘here’.
Researched by Roy Wilcock for Aircrew Remembered January 2015. Sources: RAF Loss Card, Bomber Command Night Operations Report, Escape and Evasion Report of Sgt. James Norman Sparkes (SPG 3315/1446), Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
RW 24.08.2015 Updated details of Sergeant Gadsden.
MB 14.03.2016 Photo of pilot added.
KTY 14.05.2019 Appeal placed regarding Turbines
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember
them. - Laurence
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