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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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418 Squadron Mosquito FV.VI MM421 Sq/Ldr. Howard Douglas Cleveland DFC

Operation: IntruderDate: 16th May 1944 (Tuesday)

Unit: No. 418 Squadron (motto: Inuktitut: Piyautailili - 'Defend even unto death')

Type: Mosquito FV.VI

Serial: MM421

Code: TH-P

Base: RAF Holmsley South, Hampshire / RAF Coltishall, Norfolk.

Location: Baltic Sea

Pilot: Sq/Ldr. Howard Douglas Cleveland DFC, J/5765 RCAF Age 32. Interned

Obs: Fl/Sgt. Frank Day DFM. 1503804 RAFVR Age 22. Killed


Weather: cloudy, some showers, visibility: moderate to good.

Two of the squadron took off at 15:00 hrs from RAF Coltishall on a Ranger patrol on the German Baltic Coast.

Sq/Ldr. Charles Curnow Scherf (1) Aus/413671 RAAF and his navigator, F/O Colin Gowans Finlayson (2) AJ/13956 RCAF destroyed 5 enemy aircraft in the air with 1 other on the ground. Also a Do.18G damaged on the water. They reported that the last sighting of MM421 with one engine feathered and heading for Sweden.

On interview dated 18th June 1944, Sq/Ldr. Cleveland (3) reported:

'I was captain and first pilot of a Mosquito aircraft which took off from Coltishall on the 16th May 1944 at about 13:00 hours on a Day Ranger operation across Denmark, and covering German aerodromes on the Baltic. When approximately over Rostock we were hit by flak at about 15:30 hours. One engine was rendered completely unserviceable, and the fuselage was badly damaged.

“t was obvious that we would not be able to reach base, so I took the only alternative of attempting to get to Sweden.

'When over Ystad we were fired on by flak, although it was obvious that we were in distress. This compelled me to fly out to sea again. I ditched outside the three-mile limit, exactly south of Ystad at about 17:00 hours.

Above: MM421 Crew with Fl/Sgt. Frank Day DFM on left, Sq/Ldr. Howard Cleveland DFC

The aircraft broke up badly, but we both got out safely. The water was so cold that I just managed to inflate my dinghy and got into it before becoming unconscious. When last seen my navigator, Fl/Sgt. Day was trying to get his dinghy inflated. When I came to about half an hour later there was no sign of him.

'I was picked up by a Swedish fishing boat, which also found my navigator’s body. I was taken ashore and to a hospital in Ystad. I was there until the 22nd May. On the second day a member of the British Legation at Malmo came to see me. On the 22nd May I was taken to the internment camp at Falun. After a trip to Stockholm to report the details of our accident to the authorities. I returned to Falun whilst negotiations were being carried out with the Swedes for my repatriation.

'At no time was any interrogation pressed on me, and I was treated with great consideration. On the 11th June I was taken down to Stockholm and repatriated on 16 June'.th

Above 418 Squadron crews. L-R: Sq/Ldr. Howard Cleveland, Fl/Sgt. Frank Day, Lt. James Luma (USAAF) and F/O Colin Finlayson.

(1) Sq/Ldr. Charles Curnow Scherf DSO. DFC and bar. - born on the 17th May 1917 at Emmaville New South Wales, Australia. On the 11th April 1945, Scherf transferred to Royal Australian Air Force Reserve and returned to his home in Emmaville, thus ending his wartime service. By this time, Scherf had been officially credited with shooting down 14½ Axis aircraft in aerial combat, as well as nine aircraft destroyed on the ground and a further seven damaged from a total of 38 operational sorties. He was discharged from the Royal Australian Air Force Reserve on the 01st July 1947.

He found it difficult to re-adjust to civilian life, and began to have nightmares about the Germans he had shot down and killed during the war. This led him to drink heavily. On the 13th July 1949, Charles Scherf was driving his car along the Inverell road approximately 3 kilometres from Emmaville when he struck a tree and the vehicle overturned. He died from his injuries later that day.

Son of Charles Henry Scherf (died 06th February 1953, age 76) and Susan Jane Scherf (née Curnow - died 22nd May 1958, age 82). Husband of Florence Hope Scherf (married on the 23 August 1939 - née O'Hara - died in 2010, age 95). Father of one son and three daughters. He was buried at Emmaville Cemetery, New South Wales, Australia.

(2) F/O Colin Gowans Finlayson DFC. J/13956 (R/110361) - born on the 09th November 1920 at Killam, Alberta Canada. He lost his. life on the 18th October 1944 with his pilot 24 year old Fl/Lt. Stanley Herbert Ross Cotterill DFC. J/4874 RCAF. They were on a Day Ranger with 418 squadron to eastern Austria flying Mosquito VI HR351. They took off at 10:00 hrs from Leisi airfield in Italy. Both crew were listed as missing. The wreckage and grave were identified in October 1948 at Burguge near Lanisc, Yugoslavia.

Son of Forbes Leopold Finlayson (died on the 30th April 1948. age 65) and Elizabeth Susan (née Gair - died 03rd September 1972, age 85). Brother of John Forbes, Bruce Walker, Margaret Elsie, Evelyn Beatrice and Elizabeth Helen of 1040 Craigdarrach Road, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

F/O Colin Gowans Finlayson DFC. Belgrade War Cemetery. Joint grave 6.D.3. Epitaph: 'As Long As Life And Memory Last We Will Remember Thee'.

Fl/Lt. Stanley Herbert Ross Cotterill DFC. J/4874 (R/72424) Born on the 30th October 1919 in Toronto, Canada. Enlisted on the 18th March 1941. Son of Gordon and Mary Angela Cotterill, of 201 Eandringham Apartment, 3 Clayton Boulevard, Toronto, Ontario Canada. Epitaph; 'He Died For The Freedom Of Man. Live And Be Free Men'.

F/O Colin Gowans Finlayson Bar to DFC;

This Air Observer continues to display the highest qualities of skill, bravery, and devotion to duty. He hast taken part in a large number of sorties, many of them of' a difficult and dangerous nature. On one occasion May,1944, he took part in a sortie far into enemy territory during which he assisted in the destruction of five enemy aircraft. He has proven himself to be a most valuable member of the squadron. He was born in Killam, Alberta and received his education in British Columbia and Queen University. He enlisted at Vancouver in July 1941.

W/Cdr. Howard Douglas Cleveland DFC. Born on the 07th July 1913. Enlisted on the 24th October 1940. Commissioned on the 24th June 1941.

DFC Citation 07th July 1944:

This officer is an extremely efficient flight commander whose example of courage and determination has proved most inspiring. He has completed very many sorties, including several successful sorties against ground targets in daylight. On one of these, Squadron Leader Cleveland assisted in the destruction of three enemy aircraft in the air and personally damaged one on the ground. On another occasion, in April 1944, this officer led a formation of aircraft in a most successful sortie during which he damaged three enemy aircraft on an airfield. He is a gallant and forceful leader and has rendered much valuable service.

Burial details:

Fl/Sgt. Frank Day DFM. Malmo Eastern Municipal Cemetery. Section IV.D.1A. Son of Thomas and Annie Day, of Rawtenstall. Lancashire, England. Epitaph: 'Your Spirit Still Abideth At Home Beside Us. Mum, Dad, Irene And Gerald'.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to the National Archive., Kew, AIR-27-1821-9/10. Government of Canada WW2 Service Files, Parade RCAF Archives. Public Record Office WO 208/3320

KTY 12-03-2024

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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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