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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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53 Squadron Crest
03.05.1940 No. 53 Squadron Blenheim IV L9329 TE-L P/O. John L.G. Butterworth

Operation: Reconnaissance

Date: 03rd May 1940 (Friday)

Unit: No. 53 Squadron

Type: Blenheim IV

Serial: L9329

Code: TE-L

Base: Metz Airfield, France

Location: Hornisgrinde, Germany

Pilot: P/O. John Leslie Gilbert Butterworth 40798 RAF Age 21. Killed

Obs: Sgt. Maurice George Arthur Pearce 565936 RAF Age 24. Killed (1)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: AC2. Robert Arthur Wood 624992 RAF Age ? Killed


Took off from airfield at Metz at 20:30 hrs on a reconnaissance sortie over the Ruhr.

The Blenheim failed to return and is understood to have been shot down near Hornisgrinde, Germany at around 21:00 hrs killing all three crew.

We understand that German locals have erected a memorial to this crew in 2006 in the village of Seebach, where they were originally buried and also at the crash site on the hill at Hornisgrinde .

(1) The family of Sgt. Maurice Pearce lost another son, 22 year old Cpl. Ronald William Pearce 575901 RAF. Whilst with 461 Squadron Sunderland V PP116 During take off from Milford Haven aircraft started to swing and in the swell started to Porpoise and nosed into the sea. Only casualty.

Mr. Brian Bouchard submitted the following detailed information on Sgt. Butterworth:

"The marriage of Joseph Leonard Butterworth to Cicely Ellen Fenn was registered at Camberwell for the September quarter of 1914. Their second child John Leslie Gilbert's birth appears in Lewisham District, 6/1918, when the family were residing at 53 Micheldever Road, Lewisham.
By 1932, they had moved to Oak End, Ember Lane, Thames Ditton, and from 1937 to The Cot, 12 Arundel Avenue, Ewell, Surrey.
Having obtained at least part of his secondary education at the Jesuit Wimbledon College, Edge Hill, London, SW19 4NS, John entered the RAF with a permanent commission as Acting Pilot Officer on probation with effect from 4 June 1938: that rank was confirmed on 4 April 1939.
He was appointed to 53 Squadron which was located in France from September 1939 in order to undertake strategic reconnaissance duties. On 3 May 1940 the squadron was based at Poix en Picardie but Blenheim L9329, piloted by John Butterworth, is reported to have taken off from an airfield at Metz, 20.30 hrs., to continue a reconnaissance sortie over the Ruhr. The aircraft failed to return and is understood to have been shot down on Hornisgrinde, above the village of Sasbach near Baden-Baden, Germany, at around 21:00 hrs. killing all three crew.

Villagers have erected memorials to this crew on the mountain and in churchyard where they were originally buried. On 16 May 2006, Mittelbadishe Presse reported a dedication by Mayor Wolfgang Reinholz:-
The interior of the memorial to the British crew of the crashed plane is credited to Erwin Fischer and the chairman of the association for local history, Carl Muth. The Bristol Blenheim had crashed during the night of 3/4 May 1940, seven days before the start of the French campaign, on the western slope of the Hornisgrinde in Sasbacher district. Erwin Fischer explained that the British had, on the outbreak of war, based a Bristol Blenheim squadron at Poix near Amiens in northern France. From there, the plane took off by 14 clock in the direction of Metz and after refuelling continued to night reconnaissance over the Rhineland and the Schwarzwald.

Flagman Josef Fallert was on night duty at the railway crossing Römerfeld in Sasbach. He noted the low-flying aircraft, emitting a strange engine noise. From the Rhine, it flew towards Achertal and from Hornisgrinde he observed a glow of light. Because the crash site was in Sasbacher woodland, the recovery of the dead crew fell to the community of Sasbach and was organised by Anselm Vollmer and Hermann Fischer. The three British airmen were laid in the cemetery chapel of St. Michael, the military funeral was held in Achern on 6 May 1940. An 'Ehrenzug' [honour guard?] from the Wehrmacht, a music corps, divisional chaplain and an officer in the Air Force gave the dead their last respects. The band played in honour of the fallen enemy the song from 'Good fellow', the Ehrenzug fired three volleys over the graves decorated with lilac wreaths.

The low altitude and the route suggest that this reconnaissance flight was observing rail guns on the Achertalbahn and long-range artillery in Ottenhöfen, said Fischer - 'The bunkers in Kniebis-Schliffkopf where Adolf Hitler was staying temporarily, were just a few kilometres away from here'.

Above the crash site on the 'Middle Mark forest road', the Sasbach association for local history has erected a memorial plaque providing details of the event."

Researched for the Wimbledon College Roll Of Honour - Aircrew Remembered have offered to provide basic information for the school records. P/O. John Butterworth had been a former pupil.

Durnbach War Cemetery - The quality of these photographs shown here can not be fully appreciated when the size is reduced for the web page. (courtesy David Franklin - David has kindly provided us with permission to release high definition copies to relatives)

Burial details:

Originally buried in Seebach - reinterred after war end.

P/O. John Leslie Gilbert Butterworth. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 11.E.20. Son of Joseph Leonard and Cicely Ellen Butterworth, of Ewell, Surrey.

Sgt. Maurice George Arthur Pearce. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 11.E.21. Son of Arthur and Florence Ellen Pearce, of Botesdale, Suffolk, husband of Kathleen Marjorie Blackwell Pearce.

AC2. Robert Arthur Wood. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 11.E.19. No further details, are you able to assist?


Cpl. Ronald William Pearce. Redgrave Churchyard (St. Mary) Husband of Cavell Lorraine Pearce, of Black's Harbour, Charlotte Co., New Brunswick, Canada. Parents as shown above.

Researched for the Wimbledon College Roll Of Honour. Detailed information on Sgt. Butterworth kindly supplied by Brian Bouchard to Aircrew Remembered. For further details our thanks to the sources shown below.

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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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