12.05.1941 217 Squadron Beaufort I W6494 MW:F Sgt. Dermot E.R. Ellwood
Operation: Reconnaissance over St Nazaire, France
Date: 12th May 1941 (Monday)
Unit: 217 Squadron, Coastal Command
Type: Bristol Beaufort I
Base: RAF St. Eval
Location: Carpiquet, Caen, France
Pilot: Sgt. Dermot Ezra Read Ellwood 745448 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Nav: Flt Sgt Gerald Thomas Hardwick 581334 RAF Age 19. Killed
WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. William Bennett 937589 RAF PoW No: 39296 *
Air Gnr: Sgt. George Alexander Duncan Ritchie 974516 RAF PoW No: 39330 *
* Stalag Luft 6, Heydekrug, Memelland (now Šilutė in Lithuania)
Above: Sgt. Ellwood (Courtesy of Sharon Gallagher)
REASON FOR LOSS:
Due to take off at 22:40 hrs from St. Eval, but probably due to the previous nights operations from the Luftwaffe bombing the airfield they were forced to use another aircraft.
Attacked by a night-fighter en route but the pilot took evading action and continued to the target area flying on instruments due to the cloud.
The pilot became lost and during their return they were diverted to Boscombe Down by a coded signal - the crew were unable to read this as they never carried decoders on operations.
The personal recollection of Sgt. Bennett provided by his son Robert recalls that:
Their original order was to return to Thorney Island. Thorney Island sent a coded message to divert to Boscombe Down which they didn't receive. Due to various reasons they thought they were landing in UK when they came out of cloud and saw an airfield with lights on but it was Carpiquet and German planes were taking off.
They were caught by searchlight followed by intense flak - hitting the aircraft from the anti-aircraft batteries at Carpiquet west of Caen, a Luftwaffe base. The aircraft crashed some time after 04:00 killing the pilotnand navigator. The other two crew were seriously injured but well looked after by Sister Mehl from the German Red Cross for some eight weeks, until they were fit enough to travel to the PoW camps.
Sgt Dermot Ezra Read Ellwood. Bayeux War Cemetery, France. Grave: XXVIII.J.8. Son of Arthur and Laura P. Ellwood, of Willingham, Cambridgeshire, England.
Flt Sgt Gerald Thomas Hardwick. Bayeux War Cemetery, France. Grave: XXVIII.J.7. Son of Arthur William and Nellie Hardwick, of Rayleigh, Essex, England.
His brother 22 year old, Lt. Arthur Cyril Hardwick 164567 also died whilst serving with the 1st Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers on the 25th October 1942. Buried at the Pietermaritzburg Cemetery (Fort Napier) in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa.
Researched for Aircrew Remembered Michel Beckers (Oct 2016). With thanks to Mr. R. Biaux for grave photographs - remainder from the Michel Beckers collection. Thanks to Robert Bennett, the son of Sgt. Bennett for his personal recollections (May 2020). Thanks to Sharon Gallagher, whose husband was the great nephew of Sgt. Ellwood, for his photograph. Sgt. Ellwood sent the photograph to his sister, Florrie Ellwood, who joined the WRNS after his death to support the war effort (Feb 2022).