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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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No 431 Squadron
07/08. 03.1943 431 (Iroquois) Squadron Wellington HE202 SE:Z Sgt. Derek Cecil Pitts

Operation: Gardening (mine laying) Frisian Islands

Date: 7th/8th March 1943 (Sunday/Monday)

Unit No: 431 (Iroquois) Squadron, RCAF

Type: Wellington X

Serial: HE202

Code: SE:Z

Base: RAF Burn, Yorkshire

Location: West Essen, NW Jever, Germany

Pilot: Sgt. Derek Cecil Pitts 413470 RNZAF Age? PoW No 27655 * (1)

Nav: Sgt. Robert McHugh 1147399 RAF Age? PoW No 27649 * (2)

Bomb Aimer: Plt Off. Kenneth David Tutton 120888 RAF Age? PoW No. 262 ** (3)

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt Basil Gunn Peart 1379087 RAF Age 22. PoW No 27650 * (4)

Air Gnr: Sgt. Dewi Elwyn Hubert Dyer 1288756 RAF Age 20. PoW No 27635 (5)

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

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

Vickers Wellington X aircraft


Wellington HE202 took off at 18:13 hrs with six other aircraft from the squadron for a Gardening (mine laying) operation in Nectarine 2 (Frisians Islands) area. Each aircraft carried 2 x 1500lb G.P. mines. None of the other aircraft saw Wellington HE202 in the target area, but it was reported that there was a concentration of search lights and considerable flak seen at the apex

Map of the area of the crash of Wellington X HE202

Obit Paul Zorner

The aircraft was claimed by Obit Paul Zorner from 2./NJG3 15km. West Essen, North West Jever between 20:30 and 20:43hrs at 1,700 metres. This was his fifth Abschüsse of the war making him an ace. Obit. Paul Zomer's final total of bombers shot down was 59 which made him one of the leading Luftwaffe night fighter aces. He was awarded the Knights Cross on the 3rd June 1944 and Oak Leaf on the 17th September 1944 and finished the war with the rank of Major. He was taken prisoner by the Russians and finally released from captivity in 1950. (See Kracker Luftwaffe Archive on this site)

Of the seven aircraft that took off that night. One returned shortly after take off and one turned back due to faulty equipment. Of the remaining five aircraft three successfully dropped there mines, but one was unable to pin point the target and brought the mines back to base. The only loss for the Squadron was the Wellington flown by Sgt Pitts.

Above: Wellington HE202 SE:Z after it crash landed. All the crew were taken prisoners of war (courtesy Daz Bunker Museum, Emden, Germany

The first operation for the Squadron was on the night of 2nd March 1943 mine laying in Nectarine 1 (Frisians Islands) Sgt. Pitts and crew first flew on the 3rd March on a mine laying operation to Nectarine 1 (Frisians Islands) returning to base after a very successfull operation. Flying again on the 5th March in Wellington 202 Sgt. Pitts carried out an operation on Essen bombing the Krupps factory

Above: Lamsdorf Prisoner of War camp (courtesy New Zealand Bomber Command Association)

Back row: 403290 WO Carlye Arthur Powel RNZAF (BA), 412369 WO Raymond Herbert Thom RNZAF (WOp/AG), 404535 Flt Lt. William Edmund Gibbes RNZAF (Nav/BA), 402493 WO Gordon Leonard Otter RNZAF (BA), 403819 WO Noel Stuart Craddock RNZAF (AG), 41135 Fg Off. Aynsley Stuat Forbes RNZAF (P), 41164 WO Roden Barnsdale Pickford RNZAF (AG), 412222 WO Douglas Cecil Giddings RNZAF (WOp/AG)

Centre row: 414564 WO John Douglas Hardie RNZAF (P), most likely 41565 WO Leslie Sydney Bevan RNZAF (AG) - otherwise - 44772 (but previously RAF as 959593 until Jun 44) WO Stephen Henry Rossfield Bevan RNZAF (AG), 413470 WO Derek Cecil Pitts RNZAF (P), 402174 WO George Emmerson RNZAF (P), 411057 WO John William Filda Atkin RNZAF (AG), 411745 WO Thomas William Devine RNZAF (WOp/AG), 405310 WO Uila Nicolson (not Nicholson) RNZAF (Nav), most likely 413423 WO Eric William Peter Johnson RNZAF (P), otherwise - RAF 43643 (later 2473 in 1945) Flt Lt. Theodore Faire Storrier Johnson (P). 404559 WO Gordon George Whitla (not Witla) RNZAF (Nav)

Front row: 405311 WO William Kevin Charles O'Byrne RNZAF (BA), either 416637 WO Jack Edwin Hyde RNZAF (BA) - or - 413420 WO Galbraith Mickle Bullen Hyde RNZAF (P), Grimsby - no New Zeralander of this surname in WWII air force, 404550 Flt Lt. Bruce Alexander McKenzie (not MacKenzie) RNZAF (Nav/BA), 412349 WO Edwin Burton Mossman RNZAF (WOp/AG), 41708 WO William James Stanley Voice RNZAF (AG), 405327 WO Denis Butler Scoble (not Scobie) RNZAF (Nav/BA), 41596 WO Norrice John MacKenzie RNZAF (WOp/AG)

(1) Sgt. Derek Cecil Pitts. Born on the 20th January 1918 Derek left Auckland on the 22nd September 1941 and arrived in the UK on the 7th October 1941. Dereck died in 1984

(2) Sgt. Robert McHugh. After repatriation Robert stayed in the Royal Air Force and on the 7th September 1958 Flying Officer R McHugh service was extended by four years. Robert extended his service again on the 7th September 1962 and 1966. No further information. Are you able to help?

(3) Plt Off. Kenneth David Tutton. Kenneth was posted to 431 Squadron on the 11th December 1942. Are you able to help with further information?

(4) Sgt. Basil Gunn Peart. Born 1911, died 1988 in North Shields, Tyneside. He had more than one reunion with the crew that he was shot down with and credited Derek Pitts (pilot) for landing the damaged aircraft safely and with them all alive.

(5) Sgt. Dewi Elwyn Hubert Dyer was born on the 7th February 1923. He joined Royal Air Force on the 13th September 1940. After repatriation (Dave or Taff) was discharged from the the RAFVR on the 23rd June 1947. He re-enlisted into the RAF on the 11th April 1950 and subsequently served as an Air Traffic Controller retiring as a Warrant Officer (WO) on the 15th March 1973. Retired to his home village Deri in South Wales and sadly passed away on the 6th October 1993. He was survived by two daughters and their husbands, two grandchildren and one great grandson. RIP.

Burial Details:

None - all survived as PoWs

Researched by: Kate Tame Aircrew Remembered and for all the relatives and friends of the crew. With special thanks to Martin Klose, Germany, Daz Bunker Museum, Emden, Germany, New Zealand Bomber Command Archive. Thanks to Lynette Evemy for the biography for Sgt. Dyer. (Oct 2021). Other updates by Aircrew Remembered (Oct 2021). Thanks to Alison Blanchard for the additional biographical detail for Sgt. Peart, her grandfather. (Oct 2022).

RS 15.10.2022 - Update to biographical details for Sgt. Peart

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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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