31/01.09.1944 No. 138 Squadron Stirling IV LJ503 NF-P F/O. Hardie
Date: 31st/01 September 1944 (Thursday/Friday
Unit: No. 138 Squadron (motto: 'For Freedom')
Type: Stirling IV
Base: RAF Tempsford, Bedfordshire
Location: Lombard, France
Pilot: F/O. Robert Blackburn Hardie AUS/415649 RAAF Age 34. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. George McPherson Jack 1822606 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
Nav: Fl/Sgt. Morris Stanley AUS/427160 RAAF Age 19. Killed
Nav: Sgt. John Campbell Alexander 1672382 RAFVR Age 30. Killed
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Gordon Wesley McLeod AUS/422658 RAAF Age 26. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Norman Edward Barnes AUS/424554 RAAF Age 20. Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Stuart James Hayes AUS/432172 RAAF Age 19. Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Robert Alexander Ashton AUS/436598 RAAF Age 22. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 22:00 hrs on operation 'Bob 325', a supply drop for members of the French Resistance.
The special operation executive Stirling encountered a severe storm, clipped some trees and crashed in the village of Lombard.
Above as described (courtesy Geoff Swallow)
All the crew were buried at the Arc-Et-Senans Communal Cemetery - the only commonwealth graves in the cemetery. Local resistance built a memorial to the crew and the villagers attend a memorial service every year honouring the crew.
Another 138 Squadron Stirling also lost this night. LK131 NF-T on 'operation 'merit' to Holland flown by Fl/Lt. Alfred Jerry Wallaca J/272564 RCAF - killed with six other crew. One made PoW.
Above as described (courtesy Vicki Barnes-Scott - February 2020)
The airfield at Tempsford was located in a relatively remote part of the Bedfordshire countryside. It was built on the land of the Gibraltar Farm, which was situated across a low bog. The airfield was developed in 1940 under the specifications of an "A" class airfield, though it was kept clandestine. The locals knew there was an RAF station down a little side-road marked “This road is closed to the public”, but they knew little else. Since the flights were all undertaken at night, the local farmers saw very little of the aircraft that operated out of Tempsford. Built over a bog, this became telling later when fog proved a recurring significant hazard to landing aircraft. The airfield lay largely dormant until the arrival of the SD squadrons in 1942. 138 Squadron moved to Tempsford 11 March 1942. 161 Squadron followed 10 April 1942. The first covert supply mission flown from Tempsford was carried out by 138 Squadron in the March moon period to a drop zone in northern France, 18 March 1942.
Underdeveloped, Tempsford was not a typical RAF airfield. It did have the standard three runways laid out at 60 degree angles to each other in a triangular pattern, and a perimeter track which circled the field's dispersals. Hugh Verity, the former commanding officer of 161 Squadron's A Flight, described it as "not much of an RAF station."RAF Tempsford was designed to look like an ordinary working farm. SOE agents were lodged in a local hotel before being brought to Tempsford's farm buildings. No one was allowed to see, let alone speak to, the agents being ferried to France. One of the buildings was brick built, but had wood siding framed around the structure to disguise it. This structure was commonly referred to as the Gibraltar Farm. It was very unusual for any structure to be standing within the perimeter track of an RAF airfield, but at Tempsford the Gibraltar Farm and a number of other farm buildings were located there. After final briefings and checks at the farm, the agents were issued firearms in the barn, and then boarded onto an awaiting aircraft flown by one of a team of pilots.
Though keen to discover the source of the SD flights, the Germans were never able to determine where the Special squadrons were based, though twice a German agent was picked up lurking about near the airfield.
Above memorial to the crew as placed by the French Resistance in 1944 (courtesy Vicki Barnes-Scott - February 2020)
F/O. Robert Blackburn Hardie. Arc-Et-Senans Communal Cemetery. Grave 1. Born on the 25th August 1910 at Albany, the son of John and Sarah Hardie, of 53 Evan Styreet, Shenton Park, Albany, Western Australia. Insurance agent prior to enlisting on the 07th December 1941. Grave inscription: 'Loved Son Of Mr. And Mrs. J. Hardie Of Albany, Western Australia'.
Sgt. George McPherson Jack. Arc-Et-Senans Communal Cemetery. Grave 8. Son of George and Isobella Hay Jack, of Liberton, Edinburgh, Scotland. Grave inscription: 'Proud, We Salute Our Dead Where They Lie Gathered, Each To His Sleeping'.
Above: Local French villagers at the annual remembrance service to the crew (courtesy Geoff Swallow)
Fl/Sgt. Morris Stanley. Arc-Et-Senans Communal Cemetery. Grave 2. Born on the 30th November at Fremantle, the son of Edgar Hugh and Nessie Venetta Stanley, of Claremont, Western Australia. Farmer prior to enlisting. Grave inscription: 'Ever Remembered'.
Sgt. John Campbell Alexander. Arc-Et-Senans Communal Cemetery. Grave 3. Son of William and Margaret Alexander, of Glasgow and husband of Isabella McM. Alexander, of Glasgow, Scotland. Grave inscription: 'It's Only Those Who Have Lost Can Tell The Pain Of Parting Without Farewell'.
Fl/Sgt. Gordon Wesley McLeod. Arc-Et-Senans Communal Cemetery. Grave 4. Born on the 24th November 1917 at Macksville, the son of William Gordon and Violet May McLeod, of Macksville, New South Wales, Australia. Grave inscription: 'He Is Nearest God Who Served Him Best. Ever Remembered'.
Fl/Sgt. Norman Edward Barnes. Arc-Et-Senans Communal Cemetery. Grave 5. Born on the 05th November 1923 at Speers Point, the son of Albert Leslie and Winifred Graham Barnes, of Belmont, New South Wales, Australia. Grave inscription: 'The Lord Is My Shepherd; I Shall Not Want" Ever Remembered. Mum And Dad'.
Fl/Sgt. Stuart James Hayes. Arc-Et-Senans Communal Cemetery. Grave 6. Born on the 29th September 1924 at Marrickville, the son of Matthew and Isabel Hayes, of Ashfield, New South Wales, Australia. Grave inscription: 'Dearly Loved Son Of Mr. And Mrs. M. Hayes Of Sydney, Australia'.
Fl/Sgt. Robert Alexander Ashton. Arc-Et-Senans Communal Cemetery. Grave 7. Born on the 28th February 1922 at Melbourne, the son of William Arthur and Laura Rosena Ashton, of Brighton, Victoria, Australia. Grave inscription: 'Loved Son Of William And Laura Ashton Of Melbourne, Australia'.
Researched for Vicki Barnes-Scott (relative of Fl/Sgt. Norman Edward Barnes) and dedicated to the relatives of this crew, with thanks Geoff Swallow for various photograph, Wikipedia for RAF Tempsford text, other sources as quoted below: