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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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217 Squadron Crest
15.02.1941 217 Squadron Beaufort I W6493 MW-G Fg.Off. Gair

Operation: Admiral Hipper

Date: 15th February 1941 (Saturday)

Unit: 217 Squadron. 5 Group (motto:'Woe to the unwary')

Type: Beaufort I

Serial: W6493

Code: MW-G

Base: St. Eval, Cornwall

Location: Plouguin, France

Pilot: Fg.Off. Ronald William Gair 36171 RAF Age 21. Killed

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Joseph Ronald Holmes Webster 958761 RAF Age ? Killed

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Arthur William Richard Beeden 552724 RAF Age 18. Killed

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Willia Noel Abbott 903156 RAF Age 22. Killed


One of three taking off from St. Eval at 16:40 hrs. to bomb the Admiral Hipper which had been reported in dry dock at Brest.

Some 20 km north of the target they were intercepted and quite simply outclassed as far as aircraft are concerned. The three Beaufort’s were claimed shot down near Lannilis by Uffz. Rudolf Schmidt, his 7th claim, from 5./JG 77 at 18:47 hrs; Hptm. Helmut Henz, his 5th claim, from 4./JG 77 at 18:50 hrs; and Ofw. Ertel, his 3rd claim, from 5./JG 77 at 18:53 hrs. (OKL Fighter Claims Reich & Western Front 1941)

The others:

Beaufort I L9807 MW-A Flown by Plt.Off. Francis Adrian Burdett Tams - taken PoW with 2 others of his crew, 1 killed.
Beaufort I L9794 MW-R Flown by Plt.Off. Cilmyn George Lane Williams DFM. - missing believed killed with all 4 crew.

Burial details:

Fg.Off. Ronald William Gair. Lannilis Communal Cemetery. Grave 3. Born on the 12th March 1919 at Wellington, the son of Charles Gair and of Emma Laura Gair (née Greenwood), of Lower Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand. Student prior to service, joining the RAF in 1937. A total of 778 flying hours logged and completed an amazing 131 operational sorties, yet still no decorations? Grave inscription: "His Country, The British Commonwealth, Needed Him".

Sgt. Joseph Ronald Holmes Webster. Lannilis Communal Cemetery. Grave 4. No further details - are you able to assist?

Sgt. Arthur William Richard Beeden. Lannilis Communal Cemetery. Grave 2. Son of Arthur and Lily Beeden, of Sandgate, Folkestone, England. Grave inscription: "At The Going Down Of The Sun And In The Morning We Will Remember Him".

Sgt. Willia Noel Abbott. Lannilis Communal Cemetery. Grave 5. Son of William George and Martha Jane Abbott, of Titchfield, Fareham, Hampshire, England. Grave inscription: "He Died That We Might Live".


Sgt. James Francis John Sheridan (905697 RAF). La Forest Churchyard. Son of John and Frances Louisa Sheridan, of Crayford, Kent, England.
Plt.Off. Francis Adrian Burdett Tams 43076 RAF. PoW No: 586 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan.
Fg.Off. Alan Howard Stratford 76593 RAF. PoW No: 585 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan.
Sgt. C.W.D. Cannon 550494 RAF. PoW No: 489 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus.


Plt.Off. Cilmyn George Lane Williams DFM. (45542 RAF). Runnymede Memorial. Panel 35. Son of Arthur Solomon Williams and Ada Lane Williams and husband of Violet Williams.
Sgt. Norman Victor Pusey (580555 RAF). Runnymede Memorial. Panel 50. No further information.
Sgt. Henry 'Harry' Cowling (526616 RAF). Runnymede Memorial. Panel 41. Born 1908, was the youngest son the late Henry Cowling, stationmaster Princetown, Devon, and his wife Ethel Eliza Barnicoat (Maddock) Cowling, later Welsford.
Sgt. Joseph Thompson (526413 RAF). Runnymede Memorial. Panel 53. Son of Colin and Amy Thompson, of Middleton, Manchester, England.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to the research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland War Memorial Museum, Weekly News of New Zealand Thanks to Victor Cowling for the NoK details for Sgt. Cowling, other sources as quoted below:

RS 21.04.2020 - Update of NoK details for Sgt. Cowling

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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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