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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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158 Squadron Crest
13/14.07.1943 No. 158 Squadron Halifax II HR720 NP-B Fl/Sgt. Duthie

Operation: Aachen

Date: 13/14th July 1943 (Tuesday/Wednesday)

Unit: No. 158 Squadron. 4 Group (motto: 'Strength in unity')

Type: Halifax II

Serial: HR720

Code: NP-B

Base: RAF Lissett

Location: Vorstenbosch, Netherlands

Pilot: Fl/Sgt. George James Robert Duthie NZ/415298 RNZAF Age 21. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. John Neil Hempstead 540151 RAFVR Evaded

Nav: Sgt. Frank Dow Granger R/133108 RCAF PoW No: 391 Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug

Air/Bmr: Sgt. Terence Edwin Frederick Carr 1335961 RAFVR PoW No: 222490 Camp: Stalag Muhlberg (Elbe)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Gordon Harry King 1211259 RAFVR PoW No: 405 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus

Air/Gnr: Sgt. James Leslie Rixon Grey AUS/420186 PoW No: 393 Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Tom Pinkney 545380 RAFVR PoW No: 422 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus


The crew joined the squadron in June 1943 from 1652 Heavy Conversion Unit.

Taking off at 23:44 hrs from RAF Lissett - joining 373 others on an operation to Aachen.

During the outbound journey managed to avoid being hit in an attack by night fighters whilst over the Netherlands. But just 15-20 minutes later attacked again and hit in the port inner engine resulting in a fire and a subsequent explosion between the engine and the fuselage.

Lt. Werner Baake (1) of 1./NJG1 claimed to have intercepted them at 01:30 hrs with HR720 coming down at Vorstenbosch. (shown left)

Six of the seven man crew managed to bale out but the pilot either mortal wounded during the explosion or the night fighter was unable to leave the aircraft. It is possible also that he chose to remain to hold the Halifax steady to allow his crew to escape safely.

Five of his crew were captured and made Pow - liberated by the allies, all returning home safely after the end of the war. The flight engineer with the assistance of the Dutch managed to evade capture and returned to the UK via Belgium, France, Spain and Gibraltar on the 28th October 1943, together with Sgt. Raymond Arthur Smith 1213143 RAFVR from 10 squadron Halifax II JD207 ZA-V shot down on the 25th July on an operation to Essen - both also survived the war.

Statement made by Sgt. Ray Smith regarding their evasion:

"I took off from Melbourne (Yorkshire) at 22:15 Hrs on 25th July in Halifax JD207 ZA-V to bomb Essen. On the way home we were attacked by fighters and about 01:30 Hrs the pilot gave the order to abandon aircraft.

(note: Flown by Sq/Ldr. Francis John Hartnell-Beavis DFC. 76456 RAF, the only other survivor, but taken PoW No:1940 and held at Stalag Luft Sagan. The remaining crew of five were killed)

I came down in a wood near Oisterwijk, about 5 Miles N.E. of Tilburg. I buried my parachute and flying kit under some leaves and took out the maps from my escape kit and roughly located my position. I started off walking South and a little later I hid under a bush and slept until dawn. I then started walking again.

I stopped a man in the road and he pointed out my position to me on my map, but would not give me any further help. I then met a young lad who recognised my RAF uniform. He motioned to me to hide in the hedge. He came back to me later bringing with him his father. He also had a pack of food and some very old civilian clothes for me. I hid my RAF trousers under some scrub and put the civilian jacket on over my battle dress jacket. I then continued on my way. Some hours later I went up to a man who was standing outside a farm, and by gesture made him understand I wanted something to drink. He took me in the house and gave me some milk. He then went out and returned with a man who spoke English. This man took down some details of my number, name and rank, and after collecting some food for me took me out and hid me in a wood, telling me he would return later. He came back at 21:00 Hrs bringing with him an English speaking man from Rotterdam.

They then took me back to the farm and I spent that night (26th July) in a barn. Next morning at about 08:00 Hrs, after my unknown helper had given me a ration card and 5 guilders, the 2 English speaking men and I set out for Rotterdam. From 26th July - 9th October I was sheltered by helpers at various addresses in Holland.

On the 9th October the man who had arranged my accommodation during the period mentioned above, Sgt. John Hempstead, 2 Dutchmen and I left the Hague by train for Amsterdam. At Amsterdam we were hidden on the station by the station master, who appeared to be friend of my helpers. At 05:00 hrs we all went over to a platform where the Paris train was waiting. We got underneath the train and lay on an iron platform under the carriage. The train left at 07:30 hrs and arrived at the Gare du Nord, Paris at about 21:30 hrs. We came out of our hiding place, and, under shelter of another stationary train on the next line, we took off our overalls which were covered in dirt. We then went into a toilet on the station and washed. On the station we lost one of the Dutchmen who was travelling with us. He had an address in his suitcase which we had been told to go to.

We spent one night at an address I do not remember and the next day my helper found out where the Dutchman was staying. He also obtained papers for us saying we were Dutchmen travelling to Bordeaux with permission to break our journey in Paris. On the 11th October we met the Dutchman and went to stay at his hotel.

At 22:00 hrs (14th October) we caught a train to Bordeaux which arrived about 07:00 hrs on the 15th October. We stayed in the waiting room until 09:00 hrs and then got a train to Bayonne. We got off the train at Dix at about midday as we had been told that there was a control between Dix and Bayonne. We spent the rest of that day in a room in a hotel and that night (15th October) we went to catch the 21:30 hrs train for Irun. My helper who always went ahead first, came back and told us that the train was full of troops.

We therefore went over to the other side of the station, jumped down on to the railway track, dodges underneath a stationary train and got underneath the Irun train. I lay flat on a brake bar and clung with my hands and feet on to cross girders. I found it very difficult to hang on, as when the train was in motion, the brake bar moved. The train got into Hendaye about two and a half hours late. My helper got off here and came back saying that some of the carriages were to be dropped and that we would therefore have to move further up the train. We scrambled out, ran up the track and again got underneath another carriage. I took a pep tablet here. Our train was considerably overdue when it reached Irun and we found that the Lisbon train, which we had intended to catch, had already gone.

We therefore made a dash for the goods yard and sat on the ground underneath a stationary goods train. We waited all day under the train. By this time we were very hungry as we had nothing to eat since we left Dix. At night the train we were under began to move and we had to scramble out very quickly in order to avoid being pinned under. We moved under another goods train and sat on the girders. After a short time, a man came along tapping the wheels. My helper lost his balance and slipped off.

Realising that we should probably all be found, we made a dash. We got separated, but a little later I found John Hempstead again. We went over to the other side of the station where the Spanish trains were standing and got into a carriage. We slept that night in the train and in the early morning a cleaner who came into the carriage told us the train was going to San Sebastian. We left Irun at 07:00 hrs (16th October) and arrived in San Sebastian about half an hour late. We found we could not get out of the station without tickets.

We therefore went over to the other side of the station and out through the goods entrance. We were still wearing overalls and berets. We stopped a man in the street and asked him the way to the British Consulate. He led us there and we waited outside until about 10:00 hrs when an official arrived. The next day we were taken by car to Madrid and on the 24th October we left for Gibraltar, arriving the next day".

Burial details:

Fl/Sgt. George James Robert Duthie. Uden War Cemetery. Grave 5.E.9. Born on the 05th September 1921 at Invercargill, the son of Robert McCabe Duthie and of Hilda Eva Margaret Duthie (née Davis), of Invercargill, Southland, New Zealand. Prior to service worked as a clerk for the education department in Wellington. A total of 500 flying hours logged and having completed 16 operational sorties.

(1) Lt. Werner Baake survived the war as a highly scoring night fighter c. (48 claims). Killed along with two other crew whilst piloting a Lufthansa B-720-030 "D-ABOP", when it crashed on 15 July, 1964, 8 km (5 mls) NE of Ansbach, Germany. See Kracker Archive on this website.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to Jenifer Lemaire and to the research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland Library Heritage Collection, Weekly News of New Zealand, other sources as quoted below:

KTY 23.09.2019

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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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