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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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50 Squadron Crest
29/30.09.1943 No: 50 Squadron Lancaster III JB143 VN-L P/O. Code

Operation: Gardening (1)

Date: 29/30th September 1943 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit: No. 50 Squadron

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: JB143

Code: VN-L

Base: RAF Skellingthorpe, Lincolnshire

Location: North Sea off Denmark

Pilot: P/O. Ronald Morris Code J/18166 RCAF PoW No: 2936 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Bellaria

Fl/Eng: Sgt. A.E. Langford 1249510 RAFVR PoW No: 250728 Camp: Stalag Luft Muhlberg

Nav: Sgt. Bernard Ridsdale 1457270 RAFVR Missing - believed killed

Air/Bmr/Nav: Sgt. Eric Frederick Coling 1481171 RAFVR PoW No: 250729 Camp: Stalag Luft Muhlberg

W/Op/Air/Gnr: P/O. A. Noble 149920 RAFVR PoW No: 2921 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Bellaria

Air/Gnr: Sgt. H.J. Boyton 548816 RAFVR PoW No: 250697 Camp: Stalag Luft Muhlberg

Air/Gnr: Sgt. C.R. Moad R/134208 RCAF PoW No: 250745 Camp: Stalag Luft Muhlberg


Taking off at 18:24 hrs with one other from the Squadron to lay sea-mines in the 'Spinach' garden (1 see gardening code names) The other aircraft returned safely after dropping its load but Lancaster JB143 failed to return. RAF Heston gave the final position fix of 55`50N 05`38E for any rescue aircraft to make for.

The following day at 16:00 hrs two aircraft, understood to be flown by P/O. Douglas Hardy Chopping 124826 RAFVR and W/O. John Herbert Mason 175361 RAFVR left the base at RAF Skellingthorpe to attempt a search for the missing crew. They returned having had no success.

Above: Painting that hangs in Eric Coling's room (courtesy Brenda Marlow)

Lancaster JB143 was attacked by Oblt. Werner Speidel of 10./NJG3 and damaged. The port engines were on fire and the pilot decided to dive trying to extinguish the flames. With no success he decided to attempt a ditching in the North Sea. With great skill the pilot carried out the manoeuvre successfully and all the crew survived initially. The emergency dingy failed to deploy and so Sgt. Coppell took the escape axe and struck the compartment area that housed it - success, it had the effect and the crew started to crawl into the dingy, miles from anywhere. During this the navigator, Sgt. Ridsdale was swept away by a wave but the crew were powerless to save him.

They were adrift for some five days before a Danish fishing vessel the 'Niels Aaen' out of Frederikshavn, Denmark saw them, the remaining crew were then rescued. The boat arrived at Thyborøn where they were arrested by the Germans and taken to Dulag Luft Oberursel near Frankfurt. Once there the crew were interrogated before being shipped of to the two PoW camps where they remained until the end of the war in 1945.

Above Eric showing some details of his courageous RAF career to Brenda Marlow in September 2018 (courtesy Brenda Marlow)

Burial details:

Sgt. Bernard Ridsdale. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 163. He is also remembered on a plaque placed by Tuborg Breweries and members of the Danish resistant group in 1948 at Tuborg Harbour in Denmark. No further family details - are you able to assist with this or any further information.

Researched for Sgt. Eric Frederick Coling and his visitor at his care home Brenda Marlow - page dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to sources as shown and also to Suzy Smith who had been the Granby home Manager at Granby Road, Harrogate. In 2016 Suzy took Eric Coling to a very touching 50 Squadron reunion at Skellingthorpe. Brenda Marlow visits the home on a regular base and has formed strong relationships with several of the elderly living there.

Above Eric's visit to Skellingthorpe in 2016 (courtesy Suzy Smith)

KTY 08.09.2018

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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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