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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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44 Squadron Crest
07/08.07.1944 44 Squadron Lancaster I ME859 KM:S Plt Off. Dewhurst Graaff

Operation: St-Leu, France.

Date: 7th/8th July 1944 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit No: 44 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: ME859

Code: KM:S

Base: RAF Dunholme Lodge, Lincolnshire.

Location: Equennes - Eramecourt (Somme)

Pilot: Plt Off. Dewhurst Graaff 160154 RAFVR Age 21. KiA

Flt Eng: Sgt. Lawrence Archibald Critchley 1822207 RAFVR Age 20. KiA

Nav: Fg Off. Victor Davenant Purvis DFC. 158090 RAFVR Age 22. KiA

Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt. Frank Gibberson 851417 RAFVR Age 33. KiA

WOp/Air Gnr: Fg Off. John Sydney Hodge 157045 RAFVR Age 22. KiA

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): WO. Robert Bruce Groves 409992 RAAF Age 23. KiA

Air Gnr (Rear): WO. Arthur Holland 1028124 RAFVR Age 29. KiA


Lancaster I ME859 KM:S left RAF Dunholme Lodge at 22:33 hrs. to bomb the flying bomb storage site at St-Leu. Bombing was reported as accurate resulting in the blocking of the entrance tunnels and the approach roads.

Huge losses inflicted by the night fighters with some 32 Lancasters lost. 74 aircrew being killed, 21 made PoW and a further 24 aircrew evading capture.

Above left to right: Edward, Victor, with their mother Ellen and father Joseph Purvis (courtesy Susan Uren and family, Ian Hamilton)

Above: Fg Off. Victor Davenant Purvis DFC. (courtesy Susan Uren and family, Ian Hamilton)

ME859, 9 Sqn Lancaster JB116 or 57 Sqn Lancaster LM522 was claimed by Hptm. Heinz-Horst Hissbach, his 19th Abschuss, from 5./NJG5 east of Dieppe at 3.500 m. at 01:45 hrs. A second claim for ME859 or 9 Sqn Lancaster JB116 was made by Lt. Fritz Brinkmann his 1st Abschuss from Stab I./JG301 near Senarport at 2.800 m. at 01:39 hrs. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (12 May 1944 - 23 July 1944) Part 3 - Theo Boiten).

The aircraft crashed at Equennes-Eramecourt (Somme). All were laid to rest in the local churchyard of this small village. Although the crew were reported as "missing" in July 1944, Fg Off. Purvis’s family did not discover that he had lost his life till March 8th 1945.

44 Squadron lost three aircraft on this operation:

ME634 KM:P flown by Flt Lt. Ronald F. Carnegie killed, with 3 crew evading capture, 2 made PoW and another dying of his injuries later;
LM631 KM:W flown by Plt Off. Kenneth J. Gowing, killed with his Flt Eng, the other 5 evading capture

Burial Details:

Above: Equennes Churchyard (courtesy Pierre Vandervelden)

Above: The headstone for the grave - the individual names were inscribed on top of the grave as can perhaps be seen in the upper photograph.

Above the crew - Depicted on the from the plaque placed on the grave. Note: the only crew member that can be positively identified, from his pilots wings, is Plt Off. Dewhurst Graaff who is 1st on the left. It appears that 4th from the left is Fg Off. Purvis DFC.

Plt Off. Dewhurst Graaff. Equennes Churchyard. Collective grave. Son of Hendrik Christian and Lucy Jane Graaff of Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia.

Plt Off. Graaff lost his brother, Sgt. Stafford Graaff 777668, earlier in the war. On the 12th September 1941, flying with 16 OTU. Took off from Upper Heyford in Hampden I P1323 on his first night solo flight. At 21:15 hrs the aircraft dived into a field at Slade Farm near Northbrook.

Sgt. Lawrence Archibald Critchley. Equennes Churchyard. Collective grave. Son of Lawrence and Helen Critchley of Glasgow, Sotland.

Fg Off. Victor Davenant Purvis DFC. Equennes Churchyard. Collective grave. Son of Joseph Cecil and Ellen Louise Purvis, brother of Annie, Joseph, Rose and Edward Purvis. Born in Gateshead, Co.Durham, England later moving to Darlington where his father was employed by the Greenfield Locomotive Workshops.

His mother Ellen and daughter Annie were active members of the British Legion and supplied a Union Jack to be placed at Victor’s graveside after his death. His brother Edward (Ted) followed Victor into the RAF but was told they would be unable to serve in the same squadron and transferred to the Royal Navy serving in the Pacific Fleet. Victor enlisted in March 1942, passing as Sergeant/Observer in March 1943 before being commissioned as Pilot Officer in July 1943. Promoted to Flying Officer in early 1944

Fg Off. Purvis was awarded the DFC on 23rd January 1944, London Gazette on 4th February 1944:

Citation:This officer has completed many sorties, including attacks on such targets as Berlin, Munich, Milan and Turin. He has displayed a high standard of navigational ability and his efforts have contributed materially to the successes obtained. In addition Plt Off. Purvis has devoted much energy towards the training of other members of the squadron. His example of keenness and devotion to duty has been most commendable”.

Flt Sgt. Frank Gibberson. Equennes Churchyard. Collective grave. Son of Frank and Kathleen Gibberson of Birmingham and husband of Vera Olive Gibberson of Edgbaston, Birmingham, England.

Fg Off. John Sydney Hodge. Equennes Churchyard. Collective grave. Son of Hermon and Ellen Hodge of Urmston, Lancashire, England.

Plt Off. Robert Bruce Groves. Equennes Churchyard. Collective grave. Born on the 19th December 1920 in Seymour, Victoria. Son of David Govan and Elsie Isabell Groves of Seymour, Victoria, Australia.

WO. Arthur Holland. Equennes Churchyard. Collective grave. Husband of Joan Holland of Werneth, Oldham, Lancs, England.

Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew. Photo credits and information relating to Fg Off. Purvis to Susan (née Purvis) Uren his niece, Ian Hamilton and the Uren family. Special thanks to Pierre Vandervelden for his beautiful memorial at Equennes Churchyard to this crew. name corrections and addition of German night-fighter claims by Aircrew Remembered (Nov 2023)

Other sources listed below:

RS 10.11.2023 - Corrections and German night-fighter claim added.

Pages of Outstanding Interest
History Airborne Forces •  Soviet Night Witches •  Bomber Command Memories •  Abbreviations •  Gardening Codenames
CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
Concept of Colonial Discrimination  •  Unauthorised First Long Range Mustang Attack
RAAF Bomb Aimer Evades with Maquis •  SOE Heroine Nancy Wake •  Fane: Motor Racing PRU Legend
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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