No. 625 Squad. Lancaster III ND742 CF-F P/O James Dudman
Date: June 10/11, 1944
Unit: No. 625 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Location: Bois d’Arcy (Yvelines), France
Pilot: P/O James Dudman 174032 RAFVR Age 26 Killed (1)
Fl/Eng: Sgt Geoffrey Laurence Mills 1891587 RAFVR Age 20 Killed (2)
Nav: P/O James William Wells 175072 RAFVR Age 34 Killed (3)
Air Bmr: P/O Peter Cowie 177640 RAFVR Age ? Killed (4)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: F/Sgt John Taylor 1079856 RAFVR Age ? Killed (5)
Air/Gnr: Sgt Robert Bruce Hodgins R197404 RCAF Age 20 Killed (6)
Air/Gnr: Sgt Keith James Kinchington 1338708 RAFVR Age 22 Killed (7)
When P/O James Dudman and his crew arrived from 11 Base on 18.4.44 at RAF Kelstern, they were rather unique from most rookie crews arriving at an operational squadron. Most crew approached their operational contract of thirty documented missions with fear and trepidation. Not the Dudman crew. Right from the moment of ‘crewing up’ their Skipper had instilled in them their raison d’être: take the war to Nazi Germany in any possible way. The reasons are obvious once the family history is revealed:
Monday, Jul. 30, 1945
On the front page of the London Times last week appeared three brief obituaries that were like an epitome of Britain's war effort: "Dudman — killed at El Alamein, Nov. 2, 1942, Richard Anthony Dudman, Lieutenant, Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry.
"Dudman — previously reported missing, now known to have been killed in action in Italy, Nov. 11, 1943, Peter John Dudman, Lieutenant, 7th Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, loved husband of Joan (nee Burberry) and father of Nicholas and Maureen.
"Dudman — previously reported missing, now known to have been killed on operation in France, June 11, 1944, Pilot Officer James Dudman. These three were the sons of William James and Nora Dudman...”
Lundi 30 Juillet 1945. Courtesy of Maurice Riviere
It is apparent that P/O Dudman and his crew arrived at Kelstern prepared to live up to the expectations of the 625 Squadron motto: We Avenge. And they would not disappoint.
In a most unorthodox move P/O Dudman and his crew observed their names on the Battle Order for the same night they arrived! Normally crews would be given a week or two to acclimatize to the hectic pace of an operational bomber squadron: ground lectures, dinghy drills, cross country flights to familiarize themselves with local landmarks, bombing practice and finally a simulated night bombing attack over the UK. For reasons we do not know it was judged this crew was exceptional and did not require this pre-operational workup.
It was most fitting F/Sgt Dudman had as his mentor for his second ‘dickey’ trip, the seasoned veteran, Squadron Commander W/C D.D. Haig DFC. In unprecedented fashion W/C Haig placed his faith in this entire rookie crew—no experienced nav or rear gunner as insurance. In addition, as well as F/Sgt Dudman’s original crew, this nine man crew included a 2nd bomb aimer, P/O D.J. Henderson. It would not be the last time W/C Haig operated with a nine man crew. On the other occasion he was fortunate to return to Base after severe flak damage nearly resulted in a night ditching in the North Sea. He lived a charmed life and survived the war. https://aircrewremembered.com/625-squadron-referen... — 625 Squadron Commanders Officers.
This 18/19.04.1944 night bombing attack on Rouen, France, would be uneventful for this crew in Lanc ME697. However, it would be catastrophic for P/O J.P. Cosgrove and his crew in ME731 when they were shot down in flames within the aerodrome perimeter following an attack by a German intruder. Sadly, there were no survivors and this crash was witnessed by many Squadron personnel. https://aircrewremembered.com/cosgrove-joseph-patr...
This would be one of the most demoralizing events for many Squadron aircrew and culminate in a record number of airmen leaving the Squadron due to lack of moral fibre (LMF) during the month of August, 1944. This incident coupled with the ‘milk-run’ edict leading up to and following D-Day, and returning with full bomb loads, made many aircrew realize the die for survival was a Catch-22. The writing was on the wall—life was simply too short under the circumstances.
It would not take long for the Dudman crew to adjust to the ebb and flow of life on a bomber base. Between 18/19.04.1944 and 07/08.06.44 this crew would participate in fifteen uneventful missions, with the exception of two that were beyond their control. With the exception of the first two ops this crew remained intact, epitomizing the seven link gold chain incorporated into the Squadron’s crest—further testimony to the ingenious ‘crewing-up’ concept resulting in the makeup of every bomber crew. This was the invaluable glue providing crews camaraderie and teamwork, enabling them to carry on despite the horrific odds of surviving their tour of ops:
18.04.44 Lanc III ME697 W/C Haig DFC, F/Sgt Dudman, 2nd Pilot and crew with P/O Henderson Rouen. ME731 shot down in the circuit by a German intruder.
20.04.44 Lanc III ME637 F/L R.W.H. Gray, F/Sgt Dudman, 2nd Pilot and crew with Nav, F/O L.F. Medway and rear gunner, Sgt B. Escritt Cologne. Uneventful op.
24.04.44 Lanc I W4263 F/Sgt Dudman and crew Karlsruhe.
26.04.44 Lanc III LM427 P/O Dudman and crew Essen.
27.04.44 Lanc III LM427 P/O Dudman and crew Friedrichshafen.
11.05.44 Lanc III ND742 P/O Dudman and crew Hasselt - Mission abandoned by the order of the M.C. All bombs brought back home.
21.05.44 Lanc III LM427 P/O Dudman and crew Duisburg.
22.05.44 Lanc III ND639 P/O Dudman and crew Dortmund.
24.05.44 Lanc III LM427 P/O Dudman and crew Le Clipon.
27.05.44 Lanc I LL956 P/O Dudman and crew Merville.
28.05.44 Lanc III LM512 P/O Dudman and crew EU Coastal Battery.
31.05.44 Lanc I LL897 P/O Dudman and crew Tergnier - Task abandoned owing to icing up of the port out engine.
05.06.44 Lanc I ND992 P/O Dudman and crew St. Martin de Varreville.
06.06.44 Lanc I LL897 P/O Dudman and crew Vire.
07.06.44 Lanc I ME733 P/O Dudman and crew Foret de Cerisy.
10.06.44 Lanc III ND742 P/O Dudman and crew Up 23.32 Down- Acheres. No news after take off- missing.
ORB: SUMMARY OF EVENTS - JUNE 1944
OPERATIONS. 18 aircraft were detailed for Operations, the target being Acheres. The target was the Marshalling Yards at Acheres, and from photographs and comments received from the Crews, it is quite certain that the traffic at these marshalling yards would not pull out on “time” for many days to come, and that serious dislocation of traffic would take place. The attack was carried out at heights varying from 4-6,000 feet. A normal bomb load was carried and delivered in the true “Bomber Command” style. From these Operations, three of our aircraft failed to return.
Besides ND742, LM139 with F/O W.P. Geeson and Crew (1KIA 1POW and 5 Evaders) and LL897 with F/O A.E.G. Malin and Crew (7KIA) would be lost. It is difficult to imagine the negative impact this would have had on aircrew morale the next morning, with twenty-one vacant seats in the Squadron mess halls. This would mark the Squadron’s fifth multi-loss raid with three or more aircraft and crews failing to return to Base. This along with several other factors would have a cumulative effect on Squadron morale that would climax in August 1944 with a record number of airmen leaving the Squadron due to Lack of Moral Fibre (LMF). This is not difficult to understand when the average loss rate for this raid was 3.8%, yet with 625 Squadron the loss rate of three of eighteen aircraft detailed was a horrific 17%. At this rate a crew was unlikely to survive past their sixth mission. The contract of thirty was not in the cards. Confronted with these statistics it is remarkable that many more airmen did not opt for the LMF ‘option’.
REASON FOR LOSS/ THE CHOP
We are grateful to Theo Boiten for providing the most current information on the claimants of the three 625 Squadron losses resulting from this raid:
1. Uffz. Hanke: 2 8./NJG5 Lancaster SW Paris, i. Zus. Arb.: 2.300 m. 00.45 625 Sqn Lancaster LL897. Note: claimed as probable victory, confirmed as full victory on 18.8.1944. Victory achieved in co-operation with Flak and/or searchlights
2. Lt. Walter Briegleb: 5 10./NJG3 Lancaster NW edge Paris (AE 2): 1.200 m. 01.14 625 Sqn Lancaster LM139
3. Lt. Walter Briegleb: 6 10./NJG3 Lancaster over W. part of Paris (AE 5): 1.500 m. 01.17 625 Sqn Lancaster ND742. Note: also claimed by Flak of 2./schw. Flak Abt. 538 (‘Lancaster Bois 00.32 hrs’), victory Lt. Briegleb confirmed on 19.8.1944
It is noteworthy that Lt. Briegleb would account for two of the Squadron’s losses from this raid. He would attain the status of experten with the destruction of LM139 and survived the war with a total of twenty-five night victories.
His combat record provides how deadly and impersonal this form of aerial warfare was:
…Again I attack exactly from behind, at 01.18, distance of 100 metres, at a height of 1500 metres. Immediately, I observe a fierce fire in the fuselage. No return fire, the aircraft crashes and explodes in the urban district of greater Paris.
It is not difficult to understand from this report, the factors of low altitude and engulfing fire, how P/O Dudman and his crew did not stand a chance.
A sixty year post-script of these events provides insight of just how lopsided an encounter was between a RAF heavy bomber and a nimble twin-engined Nachtjagd crew armed to the teeth:
I took all four of my adversaries on June 10-11, 1944 by surprise. There was no escape from our excellent gun ammunition (type MG15 20 mm, electrical, 800 shells per minute), The gun belts were loaded with mine-incendiary and armour piercing incendiary- horrible! In the future, our so-called civilized peoples will hopefully never tear each other apart in such a horrendous way.
Above: Map of Target and Crash Site.
Information: Telegram from I.R.C.C. SB 4664 quoting German information states 11/6 Lancaster five dead 1338708 Kirchington (sic) K. N. 658401 Dudman three unknown. It is not possible to I.D. the unknown as there were seven members in the crew.
Post Presumption Memorandum No 2701/47 15.9.45
Crashed at Bois D’Arcy
No. Rank Name Burial Details Parish City Cemetery Clichy, France, Plot, Row, Grave
1338708 Sgt Kinchington, K.J. 16 14 1
174032 PO Dudman, J. Communal Graves 16 14 9 and 10
177640 P/O Cowie, P “
1891587 Sgt Mills, G.L. “
175072 P/O Wells, J.W. “
1079856 F/Sgt Taylor J. “
R197404 Sgt Hodgins, R.B. “
France. F3372 shows burial as indicated. 5 members were buried in Clichy immediately after the crash. The two remaining members were recovered from the wreckage 2 months later, buried in Bois d’Arcy and now reburied in Clichy. Case closed.
Crash Debris, Serial Number. Courtesy of Maurice Riviere.
Crash Debris, Fuselage Side Panel. Courtesy of Maurice Riviere.
Crash Debris, Internal Stencilling. Courtesy of Maurice Riviere.
Initial Grave Marker. Courtesy of LAC/Ancestry.ca, All Canada, World War II, Records and Service Files of War Dead, 1939-1947: Robert Bruce Hodgins R197404.
THE BOMBER COMMAND WAR DIARIES:
10/11 June 1944
432 aircraft - 323 Lancasters, 56 Halfaxes, 19 Mosquitoes - attacked railway targets at Achères, Dreux, Orléans and Versailles. All targets were believed to have been hit but few further details are available. 15 Lancasters and 3 Halifaxes lost.
Minor operations: 32 Mosquitoes to Berlin, 13 R.C.M. sorties, 7 Serrate, and 18 Intruder patrols, 30 aircraft minelaying off France on the flanks of the invasion area. 2 Mosquitoes lost from the Berlin raid.
Total effort for the night: 532 sorties, 20 aircraft lost (3.8 per cent) lost.
NACHTJAGD WAR DIARIES: VOLUME TWO
The Nachtjagd controllers were well prepared for this four pronged attack on railway targets at Orléans, Dreux, Achères and Versailles. The bomber stream was plotted crossing the French coast near Dieppe to a point North West of Paris where they branched out for their independent targets. In cloudless weather Nachtjager of NGJ 1, 2, 3, and 4 assembled in force but were unable to intercept the bomber stream before the turning point.
The attack opened on Versailles at 00.40 and for the next hour the four forces were engaged by night fighters in widely separate areas. The majority of combats occurred on the first leg of the home-bound route—the damage already done. The Tame Boar forced engaged the Achères force over the target.
Between 01.15 and 01.32 hours, Lt. Walter Briegleb would dispatch four Lancs of the Achères force, including 625 Squadron’s LM139 and probably ND742 (now confirmed).
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW:
1. P/O. James Dudman was born on 9 December 1917 at Basingstoke, Hampshire, a twin son of William James Dudman and Nora Annie Dudman née Curtis. He had 3 siblings: George Edward Dudman (1916-1984), his twin brother, Peter John Dudman (1917-1943) and Richard Anthony Dudman (1920-1942).
In 1939 the four brothers were living with their mother at 13, Inglis Road, Ealing, London, whilst their father, a Secondary School Head Master, was living at 39 Bicester Road, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. In 1939, James Dudman was recorded as being a Bank Clerk.
Sadly three of the four brothers were to lose their lives during the war: Second Lieutenant, Richard Anthony Dudman, 1st Battalion, Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, died on 2 November 1942 and lies in El Alamein War Cemetery, Egypt. Lieutenant Peter John Dudman, 7th Battalion, Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, died on 11 November 1943 and lies in Cassino War Cemetery, Italy.
658401 Fl/Sgt. James Dudman was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 11 March 1944 (London Gazette 9 May 1944).
2. Sgt. Geoffrey Laurence Mills was born in 1924 at West Ham, London, the son of Fred K. Mills and Doris C. Mills née Letchford. He had one sibling: Betty M. Mills born in 1928.
In 1939 the family lived at 431 Higham Hill Road, Walthamstow, Essex at which time Fred Mills was a Bus Conductor and Doris Mills a Cotton Yarn Weaver.
3. P/O John William Wells was born on 31 January 1910 at Sowerby Bridge West Riding of Yorkshire, the son of Thomas Wells (a Railway Shunter - Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway) and Ann Hainsworth Wells née Waddington of 10 Rose Mount, Burnley Road, Sowerby Bridge. He had one sibling: Albert Edward Wells born 1906.
John William Wells. Courtesy of David McNay (Find a Grave).
In 1936 he married Elsie Sugden at North Bierley, West Riding of Yorkshire.
In 1939 John William and Elsie Wells lived at 26 Beechwood Road, Wibsey, Bradford. Their son, Geoffrey Wells, was born in 1940.
Prior to joining the air force John Wells was a Building Society Clerk and a part time Air Raid Warden for Bradford Corporation.
1474207 Fl/Sgt. John William Wells was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 21 March 1944 (London Gazette 30 May 1944).
4. P/O Peter Cowie was born on 21 January 1915 at 6 East Carlton Terrace, Buckie, Banffshire, Scotland, the son of Peter Cowie and Margaret (Maggie) Ann Cowie née Coull.
1074298 Fl/Sgt. Peter Cowie was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 10 June 1944 (London Gazette 25 July 1944).
Peter Cowie is commemorated on the Scottish National War Memorial, Edinburgh Castle, Scotland.
5. F/Sgt. John Taylor - nothing further known. (See below)
6. Sgt. Robert Bruce Hodgins was born on September 14, 1923 at Parkhill, Middlesex County, Ontario, Canada. He received his education at S.S. No. 17, McGillivary, Ontario. His activities included softball and model aircraft building. Prior to enlisting with the RCAF for flying duties, he was employed as a candy maker.
His RAF Airman’s Record Sheet indicates his aircrew training progression:
No.3 B and G to 1Y Depot 3.9.43
No. 1 Y Depot to No. 3 PRC 13.9.44
Emb. Halifax 13.9.43
Disemb. UK 20.9.43
Arr. 3 PRC 20.9.43
17 OTU 28.9.43
1670 Conv. Unit 12.11.43
1657 Conv. Unit 25.11.43
11 Base 27.3.44
625 Sqd 18.4.44
Pres. Dead 11.6.44
Promotions: Aircrew “Std”
Air Gunner “Std” 8.1.43
Air Gunner LAC 26.6.43
Air Gunner “Spec” T/Sgt 20.8.43
Air Gunner “Spec” (Gr. 2) T/Sgt 20.8.43
T/F/Sgt 20.5.44 JEA
Robert Bruce Hodgins. Courtesy of LAC/Ancestry.ca, All Canada, World War II, Records and Service Files of War Dead, 1939-1947: Robert Bruce Hodgins R197404.
7. Sgt. Keith James Kinchington was born in 1922 at Richmond, Surrey, the son of James Daniel Kinchington (an Engineer) and Kitty Faith Kinchington née Rogers. One known sibling: Violet Kitty Kinchington born in 1907 at Camberwell, Surrey.
In 1939 the family lived at 49 South Worple Way, Barnes, London SW14, at which time James Kinchington was recorded as a Retired Shopkeeper.
In 1943 he married Marjorie Evelyn (Margie) Plowman and the following year their son Barrie K. Kinchington was born. Marjorie is recorded in the Commonwealth Graves Commission record as living at Epson. This was probably with her parents.
We are grateful to Roy Wilcock for providing us with this detailed information.
Keith James Kinchington. Courtesy of Michel Beckers (Find a Grave).
Clichy Northern Cemetery. Courtesy of CWGC.
1. P/O James Dudman is buried in the Clichy Northern Cemetery, France, Plot 16. Row 14. Coll. grave 9-10. Son of William James and Nora Annie Dudman.
2. Sgt Geoffrey Laurence Mills is buried in the Clichy Northern Cemetery, France, Plot 16. Row 14. Coll. grave 9-10. Son of Mr and Mrs. F.K. Mills of Walthamstow, Essex.
His epitaph reads:
To live in the hearts
Of those we loved
Is not to die
3. P/O John William Wells is buried in the Clichy Northern Cemetery, France, Plot 16. Row 14. Coll. grave 9-10. Son of Tom and Ann Hainsworth Wells; husband of Elsie Wells of Wibsey, Bradford, Yorkshire. His epitaph reads:
We who loved him
Will always remember
4. P/O Peter Cowie is buried in the Clichy Northern Cemetery, France, Plot 16. Row 14. Coll. grave 9-10.
5. F/Sgt John Taylor is buried in the Clichy Northern Cemetery, France, Plot 16. Row 14. Coll. grave 9-10.
6. Sgt Robert Bruce Hodgins is buried in the Clichy Northern Cemetery, France, Plot 16. Row 14. Coll. grave 9-10. Son of Henry and Edna N. Hodgins of Parkhill, Ontario, Canada.
7. Sgt Keith James Kinchington is buried in the Clichy Northern Cemetery, France, Plot 16. Row 14. Grave 1. Son of James Danial and Kitty Faith Kinchington; husband of Evelyn (Margie) Kinchington, of Epsom, Surrey. His epitaph reads:
In good hands
I leave my dearest
And in God’s hands, my love.
Margie and son Barrie
DECORATION RECOMMENDATIONS by the author:
1. P/O James Dudman 174032, DFC.
2. Sgt Geoffrey Laurence Mills 1891587, DFM.
3. P/O James William Wells 175072, DFC.
4. P/O Peter Cowie 177640, DFC.
5. F/Sgt John Taylor 1079856, DFM.
6. Sgt Robert Bruce Hodgins R197404, DFM.
7. Sgt Keith James Kinchington 1338708, DFM.
P/O Dudman and his crew arrived at RAF Kelstern at a transitional phase of the war. Operation Overlord switched overnight Bomber Command’s tactics from area to precision bombing. A tough pill to swallow. The aim now was to maximize damage to pinpoint targets and minimize civilian casualties. For the bomber crews this was a nightmare, bombing in clear or moonlight conditions, at relatively low altitudes. For the Nachtjager crews this could not have been better. Perfect conditions for Tame Boar attacks.
One has to keep in mind that at 20,000 feet a bomber crew’s survival window was two to three minutes to bale out. However, at 4-6,000 feet this window was often mere seconds and less than a minute. For many crewmen this was insufficient time to unhook from oxygen and intercom connections and make it to an escape hatch.
It is apparent from the onset the Dudman crew was treated with kid gloves to ensure they would survive their tour of ops. This included flying their second ‘dickey’ trip under the auspices of the Squadron CO.
Further research discovered this crew had the unique distinction of having a follow-up second ‘dickey’ op with their Flight Commander. This would have been at the discretion of the Squadron CO, W/C Haig, to ensure they had no obvious flaws to be addressed. He was a brave, compassionate leader who did not hesitate to stretch the rules for the survival of his crews.
In addition, this crew remained intact for their abbreviated tour. Most Skippers who survived more than ten ops were designated to introduce a rookie crew to the realities of night operations over Occupied Territory. This crew remained intact for the duration of their operational experience—until they were caught at the wrong place at the wrong time.
At this phase of the war, Bomber Command was confronted with a morale issue similar to that resulting from the catastrophic losses during the Battle of Berlin. The difference being at this point with the Normandy invasion accomplished, the end was in sight. However, this exposed crews to a hectic schedule of Battle Orders to provide strategic support for the the advancing Allied Armies. During the months of May and June, 1944, 625 Squadron would endure three raids with the loss of three or more aircraft and crews—ten in total! It is impossible to comprehend the impact on Squadron morale, the loss of three of its more experienced crews—if it could happen to them, who’s next? This coupled with the edict for ‘milk-run’ trips to occupied France, recalls to land with full bomb loads and the notorious ‘Scarecrow’ shells hoax, seriously impacted aircrew morale. The end result would be the unprecedented lack of moral fibre (LMF) meltdown in August, 1944, with a record number of Squadron airmen deciding that they had had enough, wanting to live to see another day—despite being branded with the label, LMF. They had quite simply had had enough. They had suffered enough. It was time to return to their families while they still had the option.
We are most grateful to Maurice Riviere for drawing to our attention the loss of ND742 and her crew and the tragic losses the Dudman family suffered as a result of the conflict of this war.
It is heartwarming to know Maurice and the citizens of Bois D’Arcy held a commemoration ceremony in 2007, with the unveiling of a memorial cairn dedicated to the two RAF bomber crews who perished: LM126, AS-A2 of No. 166 Squadron shot down on June 7/8, 1944 attacking a target near Versaille and ND742 during the June 10/11, 1944 bombing attack on the Achères marshalling yards. There were no survivors from either crew. It is noteworthy the citizens of Bois D’Arcy are in the process of planning a commemoration ceremony in June 2024 to mark the 80th anniversary of these events. In collaboration with the mayor a local landmark will be named in memory of P/O James Dudman.
The Crew of No. 166 Squadron’s Lancaster, LM126, AS-A2:
Pilot: P/O Cyril Richard Hanson 172950 RAFVR Age 30 KIA.
Fl/Eng: Sgt Leslie Ratcliffe 1801563 RAFVR Age 21 Woolwich London KIA.
Nav: P/O Roland Maxwell Marshall 423818 RAAF Age 26 Sydney, N.S. Wales, Australia KIA.
A/B: F/Sgt Leslie James Robey 1324986 RAFVR Age 23 Eastleigh, Hampshire KIA.
W/Op: Sgt Joseph Fulton 1079160 RAFVR Age 23 Consett, Durham KIA.
M/U/G: Sgt George Edward King 1602002 RAFVR Age 30 KIA.
R/G: Sgt Allen Banham 1357410 RAFVR Age 22 Hinckley, Leicestershire KIA.
The original June 20, 2007 commemoration was conceived and organized by the mayor of Bois D’Arcy, Monsieur Claude Vuillet and Jean Charles Vergnaud, UNC president. Aviation historian, Frederic Vincent, was able to establish contact with some of the crews’ relatives. They included Barbara Taylor, widow of ND742’s wireless operator, F/Sgt Jack Taylor. They had married just one month before he failed to return from the Achères raid, yet still managed to have a daughter, Linda Radford. Sadly, Barbara died several years before and Linda was unable to attend. However, Jack’s two grandsons, Dudley and Jeremy Radford were able to.
Jack and Barbara (nee Egar) Taylor. Courtesy of Beckingham-Northnotts.org.uk.
Dudley and Jeremy Radford. Courtesy of Beckingham-Northnotts.org.uk.
Some of the other families became involved and finally came together for the first time. The commemoration ceremony involved over six ex-services, veterans associations and political representatives from the Senate, France, UK, Canada and Australia.
The parade began with a formal welcome by the mayor of Bois D’Arcy, followed by a procession to the Memorial Stone led by a marching band of cadets, with bayonets fixed. The veterans marched behind, proudly displaying their standards, followed by residents of Bois D’Arcy—over three hundred people in total.
Commemoration Ceremony June 20, 2007. ND742 Poster. Courtesy of Maurice Riviere.
Commemoration Ceremony. March to Memorial Cairn. Courtesy of Beckingham-Northnotts.org.uk.
Commemoration Ceremony. Laying Wreath, RAAF. Courtesy of Beckingham-Northnotts.org.uk.
Commemoration Ceremony. Chantal Riviere representing C TASCA Vice-President for SENAT. Courtesy of Maurice Riviere.
Left: Commemoration Cairn. ND742 Crew. Courtesy of Maurice Riviere.
This was followed by a civic reception, a lunch in St. Quentin and a journey to Clichy Cemetery in North Paris. Wreaths and flowers were placed at the crews’ graves by family members in a private ceremony.
A Guest of Honour at this ceremony was a French lady, Louise Deschamps, who described through a translator, her memories of seeing the Lancasters falling to earth. This was a particularly moving moment for both Madame Deschamps and the families as she described the events she had witnessed as an eighteen year old girl. (Pending English translation. Courtesy of Maurice Riviere.)
The day came to an end with both French and English joining in mutual respect, honouring the brave young airmen who fought, and sadly did not survive. A thank you from the French for the role the English played and their bravery, and a thank you from the English for the respect and honouring their crews after sixty-three years.
Commemoration Ceremony Clichy Cemetery. Courtesy of Beckingham-Northnotts.org.uk.
During our research for the 625 Squadron Project, we have been impressed by the dedication of the citizens of the Occupied countries, in their efforts to ensure the sacrifices made by the young airmen of Bomber Command are not forgotten. This remarkable group now includes France’s Maurice Riviere, his wife Chantel and the citizens of Bois D’Arcy.
Alain Charpentier, another Frenchman, deserves special mention for his dedication and involvement in ensuring the tragic losses of the June 30, 1944 Vierzon raid do not fade with the passage of time. He has shared with us his extensive research of the Squadron’s three aircraft and four crews who failed to return from this raid. He provided information and photos that enabled us to solve the mystery of Special Duties Flight Lanc ND975, in the process introducing us to co-author, Maureen Hicks. In addition he organized memorial services for family members visiting from abroad— Canada and Australia. On one occasion he travelled to Canada to visit a family who had lost a son during this raid. He also introduced us the amazing Air Commodore Arthur Mostyn ‘Father’ Wray.
In the Netherlands teacher, Mark Veldhuis, has been dedicated in his efforts to ensure the sacrifices made are never forgotten. His students are involved with maintaining the graves of the two crews buried in the Tubbergen Roman Catholic Cemetery and speaking at Remembrance Day ceremonies. In addition he has contributed to a number of Aircrew Remembered archive reports. He has travelled to Canada with his students to visit the son of an airmen buried at Tubbergen. On Remembrance Day and Christmas Eve he lights candles at the graves and shares photos with relatives in Canada. A beautiful, emotive gesture!
In Germany René Schütz and his team Searching for the Missing are driven to recover the remains of Allied and German airmen KIA for proper burial and memorial ceremonies. Whenever possible he invites and hosts the relatives to attend. In 2019 he organized the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the loss of 625 Squadron’s ED317, F/Sgt Raymond Jamieson and crew at Nägelstedt, Germany. This included the inauguration of a memorial cairn at the crash site. It was well organized and attended by crew relatives, civil officials and local citizens. Currently he and the team are investigating the loss of Lancaster NG177, lost without a trace (LWT) and the remains exhumed at a churchyard in Auerstedt, Germany, in April 2021—unresolved to date.
It is heartwarming to know these European citizens are dedicated to remembering the young airmen who made the ultimate sacrifice—“Theirs is a world you’ll never know.” Lie in the Dark and Listen by Noel Coward. JEA
ND742: PARIS UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2023
In September the author and his wife had the privilege of meeting Maurice and Chantal Riviere and Simone Ouzeau in Bois d’Arcy. They are members of the planning committee for the 80th commemoration of the losses of Lancasters ND742 and LM126. During this time they had the opportunity to review and edit the draft archive report on the loss of 625 Squadron’s ND742— also a visit of the crew’s graves at the Clichy Cemetery and meeting the children of the farmer, whose property was the location where ND742 crashed on the evening of June 10/11 1944. They were presented with a video of the 2007 commemoration ceremony which was most helpful in obtaining eyewitness accounts of the loss of these two aircraft.
Maurice Riviere has provided the following English translations:
Michel Grandin and Eliane Smets (Grandin) the son and daughter of farmers Gaston and Yvette Grandin recounted the following information on the two bomber losses at Bois d’Arcy on the nights of June 7/8 and 10/11 1944.
On the evening of June 10/11 1944, Sgt Kinchington, rear gunner of ND742, was observed firing his weapons until impact. In addition there was initially a solitary survivor from these two crashes. This airman was injured but was guarded by German soldiers. He succumbed to his injuries and was given ‘military honours’ by the soldiers. We do not know if this was Sgt Kinchington or a crew member from LM126.
Eyewitness Accounts: Sozeaux, Deschamps and Magnand
1. LM126: Msr. Sozeau:
On the night of June 7/8, 1944, Msr. Sozeau witnessed the crash of No. 166 Squadron Lancaster, LM126. It was strange to see the plane descending slowly. It was uncertain of where it would crash. A German night fighter was in pursuit. We could see the tracer bullets. The nose fell intact. German soldiers were in contact with one of the airmen who asked for and was given water. All the other airmen were burnt. One airmen was found one street over, his body severely traumatized. It was a sad sight, one he can never forget.
2. ND742: Madam Deschamp and Msr. Magnand:
I remember that night the plane crashed near the house of Msr. Magnand. There was a massive ball of fire, coming closer and closer. The entire front of the plane was crushed on impact and the tail was located in a field further away. An airman was trapped inside when the German soldiers arrived. They removed the corpses from the wreckage and organized ceremony of military honours.
It appears from this testimony that one of Lancaster LM126’s crew survived the initial impact and ND742’s rear gunner, Sgt Keith Kinchington, perished in his turret.
Video courtesy of Maurice Riviere and translation by Laurance Jensen of Victoria, B.C., Canada. November 20, 2023.
AD2007 Bois d’Arcy Ceremony, left Jean Charles VERGNAUD and right Frédéick VINCENT
This archive report and update are dedicated to Maurice’s family heroes:
Bernard and Cécile ‘Cylo’ Lignel. They are direct cousins of his grandfather. During the war they were members of the French resistant movement called “OVERCLOUD”, involved in collecting and despatching dropped arms and ammunition to the Maquis. They were arrested by the Gestapo, and Bernard was executed by firing squad at Fort Mont Valérian, on October 28, 1942. ‘Cylo’, code name Nacht and Nebel, was imprisoned in three extermination camps, finally liberated in 1945. Postwar she was awarded the Legion d’honour. Maurice is rightfully proud of his family heroes. Their 1936 wedding photo hangs in their bedroom.
1936 Wedding photo of Bernard Lignel and Cécile ‘Cylo’ Cormerais
625 Squadron ORB
The Bomber Command War Diaries, Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everett
Nachtjagd War Diaries, Volume Two, Theo Boiten and Roderick MacKenzie
Roy Wilcock, Honorary Member of the 625 Squadron Project
Kelvin Youngs, Photo-editing
Submission by Maurice Riviere in memory of the crew and with respect for their families.