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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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226 Squadron
22.09.1942 226 Squadron Boston III AL743 Sgt. Maurice A. Collins

Operation: Chocques, Northern France

Date: 22nd September 1942 (Tuesday)

Unit No: 226 Squadron

Type: Boston III

Serial: AL743

Code: MQ:F

Base: RAF Swanton Morley, Norfolk

Location: Gonnehem, NE of Béthune, France

Pilot: Sgt. Maurice Archer Collins 1258829 RAFVR Age? Evader (1)

Obs: Plt Off. Harold John Milford MiD 103586 RAFVR Age 30. PoW No. 715 */ Murdered (3)

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. George Alfred Nicholls 1309264 RAFVR Age? PoW No. 27162 ** (2)

* Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).

** Stalag 8b, in 1943 renamed Stalag 344, Lamsdorf (now called Łambinowice) in Silesia, Lamsdorf (now called Łambinowice) in Silesia.

Note: The US AAF designation for the Boston III was Douglas A-20B Havoc.

REASON FOR LOSS:

The Sqn was detailed to provide three sections of two aircraft for operations against three power stations in Northern France. The aircraft took off from RAF Swanton Morley at 10:50 hrs.

AL743 was one of four aircraft detailed to attack the power station at Chocques, Béthune. Two Bostons from the Sqn failed to return from this mission.

The second was Boston III AL685 MQ:Z. Flt Sgt. M.A.H. Demont 1311761, Plt Off. R.W. Andrew 118718, Sgt. W.E.R. Wareham 1013281 were KiA and rest at the Middelkerke Communal Cemetery in Belgium.

Note: The Squadron Operational Record Book (ORB) details Sgt. Collin’s Boston III as #W8287 and Flt Sgt. Demont’s Boston III as #AL750. Both these serials were allocated to Boston IIIs but other sources record them as being with 114 Sqn and 307 Fighter Training Unit (FTU). This discrepancy has yet to be resolved.

One of the two Bostons was claimed by Hptm. Klaus Mietusch, his 23rd Abschuss, from 7./JG 26, 3 km east of Ostende at 13:15 hrs. (The Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (OKL) (German Air Force High Command) fighter claims for the Reich, Western Front 1942)

Hptm. Mietusch was the Staffelkapitän of 7./JG 26. He was awarded the Deutsches Kreuz in Gold, the Ritterkreuz and the Eichenlaub. He was KiA when he was shot down on the 17th September 1944. He had flown 452 sorties and was credited with 72 Abschüsse.

After successfully baling out the crew buried their parachutes and Mae Wests. Plt Off. Milford and Sgt. Nicholls made off towards some woods. Sgt. Collins was lagging behind and witnessed their capture by a German patrol.

(1) Sgt. Collins evaded via Spain and Gibraltar and returned to England on the 4th April 1943.

Flt Sgt. Collins was awarded the DFM whilst with 226 Sqn. London Gazette 15th June 1943. Citation: “In air operations this airman displayed courage and fortitude in keeping with the highest traditions of the Royal Air Force”.

Warrant Officer (WO) Collins was granted a commissioned and promoted to 179327 Plt Off. from the 10th April 1944. London Gazette 29th August 1944. Promoted to Fg Off. on the 10th October 1944. London Gazette 1st December 1944.

Fg Off. Collins was awarded the DFC whilst with 226 Sqn. London Gazette 20th June 1945.

He was promoted to Flt Lt. on the 10th April 1946. London Gazette 10th May 1946.

(2) Sgt. Nicholls was promoted to Flt Sgt. whilst a PoW.

(3) After the prerequisite visit to Dulag Luft Oberursel Flt Lt. Street was transferred to Stalag Luft 3.

Flt Lt. Williams earned for himself or was selected on an early position in the line of two hundred hoping to escape from the north compound of Stalag Luft 3.

On the night of the 24th-25th March 1944, 76 officers escaped from the north compound of Stalag Luft 3 which, at that time, held between 1000 and 1500 RAF PoWs. The escape was made by the means of a tunnel. At about 05:00 hrs on the 25th March the 77th PoW was spotted by guards as he emerged from the tunnel.

An overview of the German response to the escape and the subsequent British prosecution of those responsible for the murder of fifty of the escapees is summarised in the report entitled “The Fifty - The Great Escape”.

After he exited the tunnel he was one of a party of officers assembled by Flt Lt. Bethell who was the forty-sixth out of the tunnel. The party started walking west though the woods for a bout 2km and then split up into smaller groups. It is not known with whom Flt Lt. Milford travelled with if anyone. (Ref 1. p 195)

Fg Off. Bethell was shot down by flak on a Rhubarb over Holland on the 27th December 1942 flying 268 Sqn, Mustang I AP212;
Flt Lt. Richard Anthony Bethell 120413 RAFVR, PoW No. 858 was returned to Stalag Luft 3.

What is known from the trial transcript is that he was captured at or near Sagan. He was one of a number of recaptured officers who were killed by persons unknown some time after the 4th April 1944 and cremated in Breslau. The other officers were:

Flt Lt. A.D.M. Gunn, Plt Off. W.J. Grisman, Lt. C.A.N. McGarr, Fg Off. D.O. Street and Flt Lt. J.F. Williams.

No one was formally charged with the actual murder of Flt Lt. Milford or the other five officers. The bodies of this group were cremated at Breslau and their urns returned to Stalag Luft 3.

Burial Details:

Memorial to “The Fifty” near to Żagań (Credit: CSvBibra - Own work, Public Domain)

Above: Grave marker for Flt Lt. Milford (Courtesy of TWGPP)

Flt Lt. Harold John Milford MiD. Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery Coll. Grave 9.A. Born on the 16th August 1914 in Streatham, Lambeth, Greater London. Son of William John and Ada (née Adcock) Frances of Streatham, London. Husband to Marion (née Heather) Milford of Lambeth, London, England.

Plt Off. Milford was promoted to Fg Off. whilst a PoW and then to Flt Lt. on the 9th August 1943. London Gazette 10th September 1943.

Flt Lt. Milford was Mentioned in Despatches (MiD) recognizing his conspicuous bravery as a PoW because none of the other relevant decorations then available could be awarded posthumously. Promulgated in the London Gazette on the 8th June 1944.

Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with additional thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.

Thanks to ‘The War Graves Photographic Project for their great work.

Other sources listed below:

References:

1. Stalag Luft III - An official history of the “Great Escape’ PoW Camp - Published by Frontline Books - ISBN: 978-1-47388-305-5.





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Acknowledgements
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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