19/20.05.1940 102 Squadron Whitley V N1417 DY:B Plt Off. Cogman
Operation: Synthetic Oil Plant at Buer
Date: 19th/20th May 1940 (Sunday/Monday)
Unit No: 102 Squadron
Type: Whitley V
Base: RAF Driffield, Yorkshire
Location: De Klef north east of Milheeze, Netherlands
Pilot: Plt Off. William Curwin Gavine Cogman 39274 RAF Age 27. Evaded capture (1)
Pilot: Plt Off. Leonard Miller 40411 RAF Age 21. PoW No: 24, Stalag Luft Sagan - L3 (2)
Obs: Sgt. Kenneth Victor Thrift 580889 RAF Age 20. KiA
WOp/Air Gnr: LAC. John Robert Nicholson 620766 RAF Age? PoW No: 13040, Stalag Luft Heydekrug - L6
WOp/Air Gnr: AC2. Ernest Henry Bros 633782 RAF Age? PoW No: 13043, Stalag Luft Heydekrug - L6
REASON FOR LOSS:
A bomber force of some 78 aircraft were briefed to attack a wide range of targets both at the battle grounds in France and Belgium, the oil plant as well as communications and other industrial targets in Germany.
Taking off from RAF Driffield in Yorkshire at 20:00 to bomb the Synthetic Oil Factory in Buer. Understood to have been hit by flak and came down on farmland at around 23:30 hrs.
(1) On the 8th/9th September 1939, Plt Off. William Curwin Gavine Cogman was forced down by Belgian fighters (then a neutral country) in a 102 Squadron Whitley III K8985 DY:J. All his crew survived but then interned by the Belgian authorities. Only after intervention from the British Ambassador offering his apologies were the crew released.
After the incident as described on this page Plt Off. Cogman managed to evade capture and boarded the S.S. Abukir from Ostend also carrying large numbers of the British Expeditionary Force withdrawing from France and Belgium. The Luftwaffe bombed the ship for over an hour but failed to make any hits. At 01:15 hrs the Kriegsmarine E-boat, S-34 gave chase, although the ships captain managed to make a zig-zag course to try and ram the S-34. But the 8 knot top speed of the steam ship was no match S-34 fired two torpedoes - the first missed, the second hit the coaster amidships - sinking her within minutes, 24 survived out of the estimated 500 people on board.
(2) After being shot down Fg Off. Leonard Miller was found by a farmer in a field near the crash site. Fg Off. Miller had suffered a shrapnel wound to the leg so he was taken to a Doctor, Hendrik (Henk) Wiegersma, in the nearby village of Deurne. The wound was so serious that the Doctor decided to operate immediately. After the successful operation, Leonard recuperated for a few days at the home of Henk and his wife Petronella (Nel) (née Daniels) Wiegersma. In the meantime Henk had to determine how to return Leonard to Allied lines. In the interim and for the safety of all concerned it was arranged for Leonard to stay at a nearby Nuns convent. From there he travelled to Eindhoven and stayed with the De Vlam family, who were friends of Henk and Nel. From here they tried to move Leonard into France but unfortunately he was arrested by the Germans before he could be moved out of Eindhoven. The circumstance leading to his arrest have yet to be determined
As a PoW Leonard kept in contact with Henk and Nel, sending them letters and post cards about life in the camp. They in turn sent him food parcels and letters.
Letter and enclosed photograph of Pg Off. Leonard Miller, believed to be 3rd from the left, and captured Pilots at Oflag 9A Schloss Spangenberg, Hesse, Germany (Credit: Nick Wiegersma)
Anyone knowing the identity of the remaining captured pilots please contact the Helpdesk
Postcard card sent to Henk and Nel Wiegersma dated 14th October 1940 (Credit: Nick Wiegersma)
Christmas card sent to Henk and Nel Wiegersma in 1941 (Credit: Nick Wiegersma)
After his release, Leonard Miller transferred to the RNZAF and served with 74 Squadron. The then Flt Lt. Leonard Miller2451 was killed on the 2nd January 1946. Flying a Meteor F.III EE335 took off at about 10:55 hrs making a low level pass over the airfield at Warmwell an hour later, followed by a climbing roll into cloud at 2,000 ft. He emerged from that in a vertical dive and crashed into the ground close to Moreton Crossroads east of the airfield. He had 713 flying hours logged with 32 of these on the Meteor. (information courtesy of Errol W. Martyn)
Sgt. Kenneth Victor Thrift. Jonkerbos War Cemetery. Grave: 12.F.9. Inscription: "OUR MEMORY IS HALLOWED IN THE LAND YOU LOVED". Son of George Edwin Thrift and Emmie Thrift (née Taylor) of Kinver, Staffordshire, England.
Plt Off. William Curwin Gavine Cogman. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 5. Born on the on the 16th of May 1913 in Morningside, Edinburgh, Scotland. The son of George Curwen Cogman, a civil servant, and Eliza (née Gavine) Cogman of 22, Barnton Gardens, Davidson's Mains, Edinburgh. Granted a short service commission as an Acting P/O. in the RAF on the 21st of December 1936 and was confirmed in his rank on the 12th of October 1937. He was appointed as an Acting Fl/Lt. on the 2nd of March 1939 and was promoted to Flying Officer on the 12th of May 1939. He was married to Mary Isabelle (née Mill, later McCulloch) of 'Medan', Craiglockhart.
His brother Harold (born on the 25th of July 1922) also served in the RAF as a fighter pilot with 241 squadron. He was discharged from the RAF in May, l946. He worked for a time in Edinburgh and Dundee, for the Standard Life Assurance Co. After the war, things were pretty bad economically in Scotland, so he emigrated to the USA on the 09th September l948. He died on the 04th February 2005 in Ponca City, Oklahoma age 83.
Fl/Lt. Leonard Miller. Bath Cemetery (Haycombe). Plot 39. Sec. H. Row F. Grave 245. Born on the 21st April 1918 in Ayrshire, Scotland. Selected for RAF short service commission July 1937. Embarked for England on the 23rd September 1937. Commissioned 28th October 1937. Son of the Reverend Mathew (died 06th October 1930, age 60) and Leonora Miller (died 22nd February 1965, age 88) of Auckland, New Zealand.
Researched for relatives of this crew. For further details our thanks to Errol W. Martyn and Bill Chorley for details. Special thanks to Nick Wiegersma for allowing us to share the personal story and correspondence between his Grandparents and Plt Off. Miller.
Also to the following sources: