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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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218 Squadron crest
28/29.04.1943 No. 218 Squadron Stirling I EF356 HA-O Sgt. Kenneth S. Hailey

Operation: Gardening (Sweet Pea)

Date: 28/29th April 1943 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit: No. 218 Squadron (Gold Coast)

Type: Stirling I

Serial: EF356

Code: HA-O

Base: RAF Downham Market, Norfolk.

Location: Odum, Denmark

Pilot: Sgt. Kenneth Sidney Hailey 143386 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Andrew George Surtees 944647 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Nav: Sgt. Arthur George Sindrey 1315664 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air/Bmr: P/O. Sidney Michael Holliman 128621 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Ronald James Barton 1271695 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Harry Bliss 650927 RAFVR Age 25. PoW No: 1119 Camps: Stalag Luft Barth and Vogelsang, Stalag Luft Heydekrug, Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria, Stalag Kopernikus (1)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. James Alfred Head 130295 RAFVR Age 20. Killed


Took off on a Gardening operation from RAF Downham Market, Norfolk at 21.05 hrs. 218 squadron briefed to lay mines in the Sweet Pea area. (Rostock and Arcane) of the Baltic. 207 aircraft took part in this, the largest number of mines dropped in the war. It was also the largest loss of aircraft on any minelaying operation with 28 aircraft lost.

This was due to the very low flying that was required and this night the area was covered in low cloud. Light flak and night fighters were already waiting for them. 33 sorties from NJG3 were flown. 9 of the bombers were confirmed as shot down, a further 13 were lost to the deadly multi barrel flak guns. 11 lost over the sea, probably due to damage caused during the operation.

Stirling EF356 was one of 3 lost from 218 squadron during this operation. Another BK687 was also attacked by a night fighter (Fw. Rudolf Mangelsdorf)  but the pilot managed to escape and returned to England with light damage.

Stirling I BF447 HA-F Flown by P/O. Dennis James Brown killed with 4 other crew members, 2 being made pow's. Shot down by Lt. Gunter Holtfreter at 00.12 hrs.
Stirling III BF515 HA-N Flown by Fl/Lt. Gordon Frederick Berridge killed with all 6 crew members. Shot down by Uffz. Berg at 00.56hrs.                                                                                                                                                                            

Stirling EF356 was shot down by Lt. Gunther Rogge (2) at 01.48 hrs south east of Tarm at 2.200 mtrs. 

Sgt. Harry Bliss, only survivor from Stirling EF356 (see credits)

Caterpillar Club membership card and letter (see credits)

Before the Stirling crashed, Sgt. Bliss parachuted to safety, landing at 07.00 hrs. A local smallholder called the Parish Executive Officer who arrested Harry and took him to Addum Village where he was picked up by the Danish police and then handed over to the German Wehrmacht in Skjorn. Then taken to the interrogation centre at Oberursel before being sent to various pow Camps, including Stalag III and Stalag Luft IV Gross Tychow. 

At the latter camp the conditions were particularly atrocious and it is believed that it was here that his appendix burst. In a letter to Harry’s mother, a survivor and friend of Harry’s who must have been with him at the camp told her that Harry had suffered deep marks on his chest after having a rifle butt pushed into it. Whereas in “Footprints in the Sands of Time” by Oliver Clutton-Brock, (see credits) it states that on part of the journey by train from Gross Tychow to Fallingbostel, where, locked up in a cramped cattle truck with other pow’s, Harry developed acute appendicitis for which he received no medical attention. He died on the 30th of March 1945.

Kriegsgefangenenlager                                         Datum 8th Feb Tuesday    
Dear Olive,
Letters dated the 3.11.44 and 4.12.43 arrived o.k.
I would like to mention that this place is no holiday camp.
Did you know a person(girl) by the name of Figal,when you worked at a place called G.Barnes,as you are  mentioned in a letter which this chap received from his sister. glad to say that I’m keeping well. Hope Nibs soon gets over the flu.
Chin up!
Your loving brother Harry.

Kriegsgefangenenlager                                   Datum 6.12.43.Monday
Dear Olive,
Letter dated 8.9.43 arrived today.
Happy to note that you are both keeping well, glad to note that I’m same.
All letters are coming through o.k. Have received my first parcel.
Being Sergeants we don’t have to work.
I am doing haircutting & learning French for a past time. Save me a slice of Christmas Pudding. Tell Nibs I’ll take him up. Hope your cold has Gone. Remember me to Nibs etc.
”A Merry Christmas”
Better late than never.

Kriegsgefangenenlager                             Datum              Sunday 9.1.44
Dear Olive,
Letter dated 18.10.43 arrived o.k. Glad to note that you had a card from me. Yes Olive, I guess we had some good old times, those days, still true.
Are other days to come. Thanks a lot for your birthday wishes. I wish you all the best in the New Year
Please remember me to David, I guess he is growing  pretty well.
Cheerio for now,
Love Harry xx


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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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