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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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619 Squadron Crest
04/05.01.1945 619 Squadron Lancaster III ND728 PG-N Fg.Off. Dean Gray

Operation: Royan, France

Date: 4/5th January 1945 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: 619 Squadron

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: ND728

Code: PG-N

Base: RAF Strubby, Lincolnshire

Location: Thought to be the Bay of Biscay

Pilot: Fg.Off. Dean Gray 417746 RAAF Age 21. Missing, believed killed

Flt.Eng: Sgt. Arrol Johnson 1595131 RAFVR Age 25. Missing, believed killed

Nav: Flt.Sgt. Eric Andrew Morley 1581491 RAFVR Age 21. Missing, believed killed

Air Bmr: Flt.Sgt. Howard Insley 1507972 RAFVR Age 26. Missing, believed killed

WOp/Air Gnr: WO. Leslie James Symonds 424572 RAAF Age 24. Missing, believed killed

Mid Upp. Gnr: Sgt. Ronald Brown 1595165 RAFVR Age 22. Missing, believed killed

Rear Gnr: Sgt. William Howard Bartholomew 1898551 RAFVR Age? Injured (1)


Took off from RAF Scrubby, Lincolnshire at 01:22 hrs to attack the German garrison town. 347 Lancasters and 7 Mosquitoes took part in the controversial attack. The town was under siege at the time by French Resistance force commandeered by the Free French officers appointed by De Gaulle. The French without artillery had little effect on the German troops but the German commander offered the civilian inhabitants of the town to leave but many preferred to stay in order to look after their homes. Around 2,000 civilians remained.

Bomber Command was ordered to attack to soften up the German forces after the French assured SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) that the only civilians left in the town were collaborators. A last minute cancellation due to some "doubts" about the report was not received by Bomber Command and the raid took place.

The attack was carried out in two waves in good visibility conditions in the early hours of 5th January. 1,576 tons of high-explosive bombs were dropped on the town. Resulting in between 85-90% of the town being destroyed with the civilian death toll estimated as up to 800. German casualties were given as around 35 - 50 killed.

Many repercussions followed this raid with Bomber Command being totally cleared whilst the American Officer from SHAEF was removed from his command, a French General committed suicide. The Germans did not surrender the town until the 18th April.

Many versions are reported about this raid - we may never know the real truth.

4 Lancasters were lost on the raid and a further 2 were lost after colliding behind Allied lines in France. 33 Crew members were killed, one other injured.

Lancaster ND728 Crashed with the loss of all the crew. (1) Sgt. William Howard Bartholomew is thought to have survived but sadly died a few days later. No other bodies were recovered from the crash site, thought to be possibly in the Bay of Biscay.

Burial details:

Fg.Off. Dean Gray. Commemorated at the Runnymede Memorial. Panel 283. Born 29th November 1923. Son of Arthur Gray of Adelaide South Australia.

Sgt. Arrol Johnson. Commemorated at the Runnymede Memorial. Panel 272. Son of Frederick and Agnes Johnson, of Middleton St. George, Co. Durham, England.

Flt.Sgt. Eric Andrew Morley. Commemorated at the Runnymede Memorial. Panel 275. Son of Andrew Charles and Elsie May Morley, of Bulwell, Nottinghamshire, England.

(Right Courtesy of Mike Baker) Flt.Sgt. Howard Insley. Commemorated at the Runnymede Memorial. Panel 271. Born in June 1919 in Burton, Staffordshire. Son to Joseph and Millicent Eva (née Toon) Insley of Burton, Staffordshire and husband to Dorothy May Insley of Swadlincote, Derbyshire, England

Howard Insley was appointed police constable No. 323 in Sept 1939, initially being sent to Long Eaton on the Derbyshire / Nottinghamshire border. Howard volunteered for service in RAF and left the force on 8th Feb 1942.

(Left) WO. Leslie James Symonds. Commemorated at the Runnymede Memorial. Panel 284. Born on the 16th July 1920. Son of James Garfield Symonds and Ida Ruth Marguerite Symonds, of Willow Tree, New South Wales, Australia

(Right: courtesy Brian Brown) Sgt. Ronald Brown. Commemorated at the Runnymede Memorial. Panel 274. Born on the 18th December 1923 the son of John Dixon and Maria Brown of Leeds, West Yorkshire, England.

Sgt. William Howard Bartholomew. Soulac-Sur-Mer Olivess) Communal Cemetery. Sec Z. Grave 15. No further details as yet available - can you assist?

Researched for Matty Leigh - relative of WO. Leslie James Symonds. With thanks to Brian Brown, nephew of Sgt. Ronald Brown who contacted us in November 2016 and in November 2019 with a photograph of Sgt. Brown. Thanks to Mike Baker for the photograph and Police information for Flt.Sgt. Insley. Sources as quoted below.

RS 25.02.2020 - Addition of NoK, Bio details and image of Flt.Sgt. Insley

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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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