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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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429 (Bison) Sqn, RCAF
11/12.06.1943 429 (Bison) Sqn RCAF Wellington X HE593 Flt Sgt. Robert F. Conroy

Operation: Düsseldorf, Germany

Date: 11th/12th June 1943 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit No: 429 (Bison) Sqn, RCAF

Type: Wellington X

Serial: HE593

Code: AL:?

Base: RAF East Moor, North Yorkshire

Location: Zijtaart 22 km (13½ mls) SE of ‘s-Hertogrnbosch, The Netherlands.

Pilot: Flt Sgt. Robert Fitzgerald Conroy R55965 RCAF Age 22. Evader (1)

Observer: WO1. Glenn Arthur Leitch R63913 RCAF Age 27. KiA

WOp/Air Gnr: Plt Off. George Robert Densmore J17486 RCAF Age 23. KiA

WOp/Air Gnr: WO2. Gordon Arthur Nelson R105521 RCAF Age 20. KiA

Air Gnr (Rear): WO2. James Burns R144158 RCAF Age 25. KiA

Above left to right: Plt Off. Densmore, WO2. Nelson (from their service records)

REASON FOR LOSS:

On the 11th June 1943 HE593 took off from RAF East Moor at 23:00 hrs along with 17 other Wellingtons to join a force of 783 aircraft comprising 326 Lancasters, 202 Halifaxes, 143 Wellingtons, 99 Stirlings and 13 Mosquitoes on a mission to bomb Düsseldorf in Germany.

Whilst climbing toward 19,000 ft, on the outbound leg, HE593 was intercepted and shot down by a German night-fighter. HE593 was one of 38 aircraft that failed to return from this mission.

HE593 was claimed by Ofw. Bruno Eikmeier, his 4th Abschuss, from 2./NJG1, 2 km SW of Veghel at 4.600 m. at 01:17 hrs. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (1 January - 22 June) 1943 Part 1 - Theo Boiten).

Oblt. Eikmeier was killed and his Bordfunker seriously injured when his Bf110 G-4 crashed at Brummen SW of Zutphen in The Netherlands due to instrument failure on the night of the 3rd/4th September 1943. He was credited with 6 Abschüsse his last on the 31st August 1943. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (23 June - 22 September) 1943 Part 2 - Theo Boiten).

HE593 crashed in the hamlet of Zijtaart, in the community of Veghel, 22 km (13½ mls) SE of ‘s-Hertogrnbosch, The Netherlands.

(1) (Ref 1, pp 87-89). Flt Sgt. Conroy was the only survivor from the crew. After parachuting from the aircraft he landed in muddy field, hid his parachute and Mae West and then headed away from the crash site in a north-westerly direction. As dawn broke he hid in wheat field for the day and at nightfall he continued walking that night and the rest of the next day without incident. That evening he came across an isolated farmhouse and risked introducing himself.

The farmer was friendly and provided him with food. A man from a nearby village, believed to be Oirschot, which is some 19 km (12 mls) SW of the crash site, was brought to see him. He was then taken to another house in the village and hidden in the owner’s barn for the night.

The following day the man who had collected him came back and provided civilian clothes and took him to his home for the afternoon. That evening he drove Flt Sgt. Conway to Esbeek, some13 km (8 mls) further to the SW and close to the Belgian border. Here he was left in a restaurant where he remained overnight.

The next morning he was taken to a nearby forest by a Dutch policemen where he joined four Dutch students who were hiding from the German forced labour service.

Note: On the 28th February 1941, the German Reichskommissar in Holland, Seyss-Inquart, proclaimed an ordinance concerning the "Duty for the Performance of Services." This ordinance provided for the forced employment of Dutch citizens in Nazi-Germany and its occupied territories. The recruitment took place initially through regional Dutch government employment offices who possessed the means for enforcement, specifically in the case of unemployed persons. More than 500,000 Dutch citizens were taken for forced labour, of which, based on Red Cross estimates, 30,000 perished in Germany.

On the 18th June another Dutch policeman collected him and took him to the border where the first Dutch policeman was on duty. He was given a Belgian ID card and handed over to a smuggler who took him across the border and onto Turnhout, Antwerp and then Brussels where he was handed over to the Bourgogne escape line who organised his escape route.

A brief report from his Escape and Evasion report describes his crossing from Andorra to Spain on the 13th August 1943 with a Fg Off. Thomas W. Simpson, RCAF:

“We began travelling by night and resting by day and making slow progress. Fg Off. Simpson and I thought the party was rather large and broke away from it on the 15th August. That day we walked to a town, which was probably Berga, and continued south. At the outskirts of a village we stopped a man and asked him for cigarettes. We also asked for directions to Barcelona and enquired if there were police in then next village. The man preceded us and when we arrived there the police were waiting for us. They took us to the police station, where they we quite friendly. After some lunch, and escort took us to the police headquarters in Barcelona where we remained in a cell until the 19th August. We were then moved to a gaol in Barcelona where the Consul visited us. On the 8th September we were escorted from the gaol by a Spanish Air Force officer to the Consulate-General. That day we were taken to Alhama de Aragon. We were interned in a hotel here for about a week. On release I was sent to Madrid arriving there on the 17th September, and left for Gibraltar on the 19th September”.

Fg Off. Thomas W. Simpson J12681 RCAF, was the Mid-Upper gunner from 405 (Vancouver) Sqn, RCAF, Halifax II HR854 which was shot down by a German night-fighter on a mission to Montbéliard on the 15th July 1943 (6 Evd, 1 PoW).

He returned to England landing a RAF Tilstock (previously named RAF Whitchurch Heath) in Shropshire, on the 2nd October 1943.

Flt Sgt. Conroy was appointed to a commission and promoted to J17939 Plt Off. with effect the 20th May 1943 and then to Fg Off. on the 20th November 1943.

Tragically he would be killed in action on the 24th March 1944 aboard 429 (Bison) Sqn RCAF Halifax III LV914 on a mission to Berlin.

Burial details:

WO1. Glenn Arthur Leitch. Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery, Plot JJB. Joint Grave 71-72. Grave inscription: '"WATCH YE THEREFORE, AND PRAY ALWAYS"'. Born on the 5th August 1916 in Toronto, Ontario. Son of Elmer Douglas and Phoebe Jane (née Murphy) Leitch, of Islington, Ontario, Canada.

Plt Off. George Robert Densmore. Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery, Plot JJB. Joint Grave 71-72. Grave Inscription: '"BETTER IN DARKNESS JUST TO FEEL THY HAND, AND FOLLOW THEE"'. Born on the 13th February 1920 in Nova Scotia. Son of Wendell MacLean and Minnie Blanche (née Lockhart) Densmore of Nova Scotia, Canada.

WO2. Gordon Arthur Nelson. Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery, Plot JJB. Joint Grave 71-72. Grave inscription: 'MAY OUR DARLING REST IN PEACE. HIS LOVING MOTHER, FATHER, BROTHER, WIFE AND SON'.Born on the 27th December 1922 in St. Paul, Alberta. Son of Arthur Henry and Myrtle Gertrude (née Newstead) Nelson, of St. Paul, Alberta, Canada. Husband of Edna Appleby Nelson of Rushall, nr. Walsall, Staffordshire, England.

Above: Initial Grave marker for WO2. James Burns (from his service record)

WO2. James Burns. Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, XVI.F.11. Grave Inscription: 'ETERNAL REST GRANT UNTO HIM, O LORD; MAY HE REST IN PEACE'Born on the 11th March 1918 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Son of Benjamin Joseph and of Mary Catherine Burns (née Puhl), of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.

Researched by Ralph Snape from Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew.

Other sources listed below:

Reference 1

They came from BURGUNDY - A study of the Bourgogne escape line - Keith James





RS 26.12.2023 - Initial upload

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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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