Date: 9th/10th April 1944 (Sunday/Monday)
Unit: 460 Squadron RAAF, 1 Group (motto: 'Strike and Return')
Type: Lancaster B Mk.I
Base: RAF Binbrook, Lincolnshire
Location: North of Åle, Denmark (Aale)
Pilot: Flt.Lt. Peter Alan Crosby DFC. 416656 RAAF Age 20. Killed
Flt.Eng: Plt.Off. Milton Wood Bender DFC. 173405 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Nav: Fg.Off. Charles Edward Suffren DFC. 409280 Age 23. Seriously Injured PoW
Bomb Aimer: Flt.Sgt. Clive Billett 414191 RAAF Age 25. Killed
WOp/Air Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Leslie Harold Chapman 410641 RAAF Age 20. Killed
Air Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Frederick Stanley Hodge DFM. 426100 RAAF Age 21. PoW No: 3518 Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug
Air Gnr: Fg.Off. Laurence William Robb 418879 RAAF Age 33. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from RAF Binbrook at 21:20 hrs to join 102 others from various squadrons on a Gardening operation. (codename for the dropping of air mines - see here)
Luftwaffe night fighters had tracked the Bomber stream on their inbound trip over the North Sea from about 150 km west of Esbjerg, Denmark - Two of the Bombers were shot down before they reached landfall. The remaining bombers continued to the target and bombed between 01:20 and 02:13 hrs with no contact from night fighters. On their return journey however they were again intercepted from 03:00 hrs with seven more allied bombers being lost, either over Denmark or the North Sea, seven others returned with combat damage.
ME663 was intercepted by Uffz. Erich Scheding of 3./NJG3 at 03:58 hrs whilst at 5.200 mts. His first and only claim of the war. He was shot down and killed on the 26th July 1944 over the North Sea.
All but two of the crew were killed either during the attack or after the aircraft exploded. Flt.Sgt. Hodge baled out and Fg.Off. Suffren DFC is thought to have either baled out or ejected during the explosion of the aircraft.
Extract from 460 Squadron Losses WWII:
Post war it was established that the aircraft crashed at Sknaale, 10km west of Horsens, Denmark. Both Fg.Off. Suffren and Flt.Sgt. Hodge became PoW’s. In a later report Flt Sgt Hodge reported "The aircraft was badly shot about and set on fire by three enemy aircraft at 23,000 feet. At about 18,000ft the Captain ordered abandon aircraft and all the crew acknowledged. The plane lurched and at 6000 feet straightened out and the Captain said hurry and abandon. The aircraft started to dive again. I left by way of the rear turret. The aircraft was burning in both wings and the flames were coming back both sides. The starboard side was the worst. The aircraft was shot up in the vicinity of Arrhus and Horsens. I did not see the aircraft crash. I was met by Danes and taken for a meal. Then the Germans turned up. I have no information re the other crew".
Extract from Air War Over Denmark:
The aircraft dived again with flames from both wings and after a short while it exploded at 03:58 hours 1km North of Aale. The wreckage was spread over a couple of kilometres. A wing was found near the road Aale/Mattrup and two engines were found in a nearby field where also two flyers was found dead.
The Wehrmacht in Horsens had been called at 06:00 by the local police constable who informed them about the crash but at 08:00 they had not yet shown up.
At 08:00 Navigator Fg.Off. Suffren was found laying severely wounded in Donnerupskov Forest. He had been blown out of the Lancaster when it exploded and had fallen to the ground. He had with him a water bag on which he had written: 03:40 attacked by fighter, thrown out of aircraft. Broke back. Give my love to my family, Ted. 05:10 pain unbearable. He was believed to be dead but moved when the search team attempted to cover the body with a blanket. Doctor Krogsgaard was called for and he gave the flyer a shot of morphine to relive the pain. Suffren was taken by ambulance to the hospital in Horsens where the doctors prepared for an operation.
The Germans however arrived and demanded that Suffren be handed over to them. Despite protests from the doctors the Germans placed him on the bed of a truck and took him to the German Field Lazarett in Aarhus. After some weeks Suffren was moved to Germany where he died on 16th February 1945 in a Luftwaffe hospital at Bad Tölz.
Flt.Sgt. Hodge made contact with a Danish family and ended capture briefly staying in the woods at Rask Mølle where he was brought food. He then decided to give himself up, probably to protect the local Danish people.
Above and below as described. Sent to Aircrew Remembered courtesy Kristian Zouaoui and the late Emile Henriksen in Denmark.
Fg.Off. Suffren was not so fortunate, he was seriously injured when he landed and indeed it is thought that he lay near the crash site of ME663 for some 3 - 4 hours before he was found. He was taken to the hospital at Horsens for treatment to what was thought to be a fractured back as well as other serious injuries, the Danish staff struggled to save his life. After 2/3 days the Germans arrived at the hospital and demanded that Fg.Off. Suffren be released to them. The doctors refused as this would endanger his life - the Australian navigator turned his head to the doctors and said: "This is the war, the idiots don't know what they are doing"! The staff formed a lane in honour for the airman as he was carried away, giving him chocolate and flowers for his onward journey.Sadly, on the 16th February 1945 Fg.Off. Charles Suffren died of his injuries whilst at Frankfurt hospital.
(Fg.Off. Charles Edward Suffren DFC shown left)
An RAF Officer who was also a PoW had met Charles and wrote a letter to his brother, John Suffren which said:
"I was at once attracted by his fine moral and his philosophical attitude towards his injuries and the slow recovery. A large piece of shrapnel had hit him in the back and had given him several injuries.
If he had survived he would probably have been paralysed from the hip down for the rest of his life. The German doctors and nurses fought hard for him just as they would for one of their own boys.
His morale was the finest to the last minute and everyone who came in contact with him, Germans, Americans, and Englishmen had the highest respect for his courage and his rare struggle for life. He will be buried tomorrow with full military honours in a beautiful cemetery in Overursel about five miles from here".
Your brother was a fine chap and a great example of the best Australian. May the Lord be with his soul.
Please accept our deepest sympathy with your great loss".
Flt.Sgt. Frederick Stanley Hodge DFM. Born on the 3rd April 1923 in Melbourne Australia, the son of George and Marie Hodge of Burnett Heads, Bundaberg, Queensland. An apprentice fitter and turner prior to enlisting at Brisbane on the 23rd May 1942 Also held in Stalag Fallingbostel for 239 days, Stalag Thorn for 21 days, with a further 6 at Dulag Luft. 93 days at Stalag Luft Heydekrug. Finally released and reached England on or about 21st May 1945. He left the service in Australia on the 28th November 1945. Flt.Sgt. Hodge was awarded the DFM (effective 8th April 1944) whilst with 460 Sqn. Gazetted 15 August 1944.
(Flt.Sgt. Frederick Stanley Hodge DFM shown right)
The people from Denmark honour the allied aircrews lost over their country every year. Most, if not all have a similar memorial placed near the crash site of their aircraft. The webmaster has attended one of the ceremonies in 2013 - see details of that crew here) Mr. Arne Rosenkvist has been one of the organisers of these wonderful memorials and in 2019 Arne sent us photographs of the 75th memorial gathering for this crew. These continue to be well attended even now!
Flt.Lt. Peter Alan Crosby DFC. Esbjerg War Cemetery. Grave A.7.7. Born on the 7th June 1923 at Brighton, South Australia, the son of Wilfred Alan and Vera Maud Crosby, of 35 Waratah Street, Seacliff, South Australia. Enlisted at Adelaide on the 16th August 1941, a bank clerk prior to service. Joined the Squadron from 1667 Heavy Conversion Unit on the 16th September 1943. Grave inscription reads: "Loved Son Of Alan And Vera Crosby Brother Of David, Seacliff, Sth. Australia". Flt.Lt. Crosby was awarded the DFC (effective 8th April 1944) whilst with 460 Sqn. Gazetted 21st December 1945.
Plt.Off. Milton Wood Bender DFC. Esbjerg War Cemetery. Grave A.7.11. Son of Samuel and Rose Bender, of Golders Green, Middlesex, England. Grave inscription reads: "Dearly Loved And Sadly Missed By His Heartbroken Mum, Dad Sister And Brother". Plt.Off. Bender was awarded the DFC (effective 8th April 1944) whilst with 460 Sqn. Gazetted 21st December 1945.
Fg.Off. Charles Edward Suffren DFC. Durnbach War Cemetery 2.H.22. Born on the 20th January 1922 at Ballarat, the son of Charles Edward and Euphemia Mabel Suffren, of 118 Frank Street, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia. Enlisted on the 20th July 1941 at Melbourne, a bank clerk prior to service. His brother Lt. John Raymond Suffren also served - in the RANR and survived the war leaving the service on the 15th May 1946. Grave inscription reads: "His Duty Nobly Done. Forever We Will Remember". Fg.Off. Suffren was awarded the DFC (effective 8th April 1944) whilst with 460 Sqn. Gazetted 15 August 1944.
Flt.Sgt. Clive Billett. Esbjerg War Cemetery. Grave A.7.9. Born on the 27th July 1918 at Darwin, the son of Son of John Charles and Mary Kate Elizabeth May Billett, of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Grave inscription reads: "His Duty Fearlessly And Nobly Done. Ever Remembered".
Flt.Sgt. Leslie Harold Chapman. Esbjerg War Cemetery. Grave A.7.10. Born on the 20th July 1923 at Stawell, the son of Harold Henry and May Chapman, of Stawell, Victoria, Australia. Grave inscription reads: "Greater Love Hath No Man".
Fg.Off. Laurence William Robb. Esbjerg War Cemetery. Grave A.7.8. Born on the 20th November 1910 at Alexander, the son of William George and Elizabeth Anne Robb and husband of Irene Beatrice Robb, of Ivanhoe, Victoria, Australia. Grave inscription reads: "His Duty Fearlessly And Nobly Done. Loved By All".
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to the Australian Achives and Horsens Folkeblad 08th April 1969. Also to Mr. Arne Rosenkvist and the wonderful Danish people. Also to Kristian Zouaoui and the late Emile Henriksen in Denmark. Thanks to John Jones for the extracts from 460 Squadron Losses WWII and Air War Over Denmark.
RS 28.03.2020 - Additional information added from 460 Sqn Losses WWII and Air War Over Denmark
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember
them. - Laurence
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