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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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144 squadron badge
29.09.1939 No. 144 Squadron Hampden I L4132 P/O. Coste

Operation: Heligoland

Date: 29th September 1939 (Friday)

Unit: No. 144 Squadron

Type: Hampden I

Serial: L4132

Code: PL-?

Base: RAF Hemswell, Lincolnshire.

Location: Between Heligoland and Wangerooge

Pilot: P/O. Robert M. "Gonga" Coste RCAF PoW No: 20 Camp: Several (1)

Pilot/Obs: Fl/Sgt. Siriol Williams 366471 RAF Age ? Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: A/C. 2. Stanley Isherwood 621052 RAF Age 19. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Charles George Williams 580687 RAF Age 19. Killed


Took off at 06:40 hrs. Hemswell, Lincolnshire to bomb German warships in the Heligoland area. 11 Hampdens were sent in two formations - the first 6 attacked 2 destroyers but missed the target, the second wave of 5 were intercepted and every one shot down by Luftwaffe Me. 109's that were now in place and waiting. 16 aircrew were lost and another 4 made PoW.

A/C. 2. Stanley Isherwood 2nd row from the top, fifth man from left. Does anyone recognise any others in this photo and can explain where and when it was taken? (courtesy Bill Gould)

Note: Webmaster identified it in October 2014 - Thought to be the barrack block at RAF Uxbridge. In 1981 the PIRA plant a bomb here but the device was discovered, thankfully RAF musicians and other airman stationed here were evacuated before the device exploded.

A disastrous day for 144 Squadron, losing 4 other aircraft and crews:
Hampden L4121 Flown by: F/O. John T.B. Sadler (Killed with 3 crew, 1 made PoW.) - Hampden L4126 Flown by: F/O. Baughan (3 killed, with the pilot a PoW) - Hampden L4127 Flown by: F/O. Norman C. Beck (All 4 crew killed) - Hampden L4134 Flown by: W/Cmdr. James C. Cunningham (3 killed, 1 PoW)
This Hampden L4132, was thought to have been shot down at 10:03 hrs by Uffz. Pollack (2) of I./ZG26 flying an Me109.

Handley Page Hampden and cockpit area - this one from 455 Squadron (courtesy IWM)

The famous castle at Spangenberg where many early RAF prisoners including P/O. Coste were held.

(1) P/O. Robert M. Coste broke his right leg and suffered severe cuts to both knees during his escape from the aircraft. He was treated for 5 weeks at the German Navy hospital at Wilhelmshaven. Imprisoned in the following camps; Oflag Spangenberg, Germany, Oflag Thorn-Podgorz, Poland, Oflag Dosel bei Warburg, Oflag Schubin bei Bromberg, Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria and Stalag Luft SaganBad Sulza/Mühlhausen. Initially thought to have been killed, however, reports of his death were later proved to be erroneous.

Later promoted to Fl/Lt. Sadly he died on the 15th October 1953 and was buried at the Mount Pleasant cemetery in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He was laid to rest next to his brother, Eugene Francis Coste who was a Hurricane pilot at the battle of El Alamein.

The three items above kindly provided by David Archer of the project Operation Picture Me

(2) Uffz Werner Pollack went missing 6th November 1943.

Burial details:

Fl/Sgt. Siriol Williams. Sage War cemetery Grave: 4.E.6. Husband of Florence Maud Williams.

A/C. 2. Stanley Isherwood. Sage War cemetery Grave: 4.E.4. Son of Stanley and Catherine Isherwood, of Tong Moor, Bolton, Lancashire, England.

Sgt. Charles George Williams. Sage War cemetery Grave: 4.E.5. Son of Charles and Evelyn Williams, of Westbury-on-Trym, Gloucestershire, England.

Researched for Bill Gould and his wife, relatives of Stanley Isherwood and dedicated to all the crew. Thanks to Marc Coste for the correction to the details for his uncle P/O. Coste . With thanks to sources as quoted below.

RS 12.10.2018 Update to F/O. Robert Coste details

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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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