640 Squadron Halifax III NA563 P/O. Paul Constant Marie Hellegers
Date: 10/11th August 1944 (Thursday/Friday)
Unit: No. 640 Squadron. 4 Group (motto: 'Strike hard and sure')
Type: Halifax III
Base: RAF Leaconfield, Yorkshire
Location: Gouloux, France
Pilot: P/O. Paul Constant Marie Hellegers 177029 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Nav: Sgt. George Henry Richold 1399324 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Air/Bmr: Sgt. Kenneth John Stewart 1399585 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Bernard Peter Wood 1783228 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. William George Jeffery 1800571 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Harold Ernest Smith 629543 RAF Age 27. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. William Bryce 646633 RAF Age 22. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 20:55 hrs with 14 others to join a further 89 to bomb the railway junction at Dijon.
The Dijon force was plotted in the Alencon area, flying south and described as 'a large force of four-engined bombers'.
Some aircraft of UNJG5 were sent to FF Trappe, east of T. for interception of the returning bombers. Other Nachtjager were gathered over FF royes, at 23 45 hrs, which put them in a suitable position Jupiter (at an unlocated position) between 23414 and 13.58 hrs.
There were references on a Laufende Reportage of heavily jammed VHF R/T in the Dijon area at 00.38 hrs and some isolated plots on the returning bombers were passed between that time and 00.48 hrs, the plots being in the area just west of the target. The Nachtjagd reaction, however, was probably too late and the controllers of 4. and 5. JD were unable to form a good picture of the air situation. As a result, hardly any fighters were met deep in France.
Just two Halifaxes, both of 640 Squadron, failed to return, one of which LW654 C8-D flown by F/O. Denis Johnson 178782 RAFVR was badly damaged by Flak over the target, the crew baling out over the French coast on their return. All the crew managed to evade capture and returned to their unit later. The second aircraft, NA563, was accounted for, shortly after leaving the target, by Fw. Peter Oberheid in a Ju88 G-1 of 6./NJG2, engaged the Halifax ay 2,200 metres at 00:49 hrs. He was the only Luftwaffe pilot to achieve a claim on this night. Five Dijon raiders returned with varying degrees of Flak damage.
We are indebted to Stephen Claypole who contacted us in November 2022:
'George Richold is slightly unusual because his background was German. He and a younger brother were taken in at the beginning of the war by my Aunt Miss Helen Claypole who shared a home with Harvey and Pearl Schwalm at the White Cottage, Angering, West Susses.
We dont know whether the Richold boys were interned or watched because of their German origins. They were both happy at White Cottage and helped to rescue animals abandoned by departing English families during the Blitz period.George joined the RAF as soon as he could, probably at the age of 18 and may have gone to Canada for aircrew training.
He was good friends with the Shwalms eldest daughter Sonia, then 12 years old, and used to buzz her school, Battle Abbey when returning in his Halifax to RAF Leaconfield.
Helen Claypole, had given him a great deal of support in the early stages of World War II. She died in a horse riding accident in 1946 only 18 months after him. We believe his mother was Kathleen and lived in the East end of London'.
All were initially buried locally by the Maquis. All reburied next to each other in Nantes.
P/O. Paul Constant Marie Hellegers. Nantes Communal Cemetery (Pont-Du-Cens) Plot L. Row D. Grave 8. Born on March 07th 1923 at Venlo (Netherlands) and living at Burgemeester van Rijsingel, 26 at Venlo. He's a former pupil of the Sint-Thomascollege of Venlo. He moved to Kanne (Belgium) on April 30th 1938. Son of Clement and Jane Hellegers, of Lanaken, Belgium. Epitaph: 'Sans Peur Et Sans Reproche R.I.P'.
Sgt. George Henry Richold. Nantes Communal Cemetery (Pont-Du-Cens) Plot L. Row D. Grave 7. No further details - are you able to assist?
Sgt. Kenneth John Stewart. Nantes Communal Cemetery (Pont-Du-Cens) Plot L. Row D. Grave 10. Son of Albert Edward and Alice Mary Stewart, of Ryarsh, Kent, England.
Sgt. Bernard Peter Wood. Nantes Communal Cemetery (Pont-Du-Cens) Plot L. Row D. Grave 2. Son of Charles Bernard and Barbara Wood, of Middlesbrough, Yorkshire, England. Epitaph: 'In Loving Memory Of Our Dear Son, On Whose Soul, Sweet Jesus, Have Mercy R.I.P.'.
Sgt. William George Jeffery. Nantes Communal Cemetery (Pont-Du-Cens) Plot L. Row D. Grave 9. Son of Bertie and Olive Jeffery, of Milton Regis, Sittingbourne, Kent, England. Epitaph: 'To The World, He Was One, To Us, He Was The World Remembered. Mum, Dad, Vi, Bert. And Alf'.
Sgt. Harold Ernest Smith. Nantes Communal Cemetery (Pont-Du-Cens) Plot L. Row D. Grave 6. Son of Ernest James Smith and Evelyn May Smith, of Finchley, Middlesex; husband of Freda Jamie Smith. Epitaph: 'Our Loss Is Great We'll Not Complain But Hope In Heaven To Meet Again'.
Sgt. William Bryce. Nantes Communal Cemetery (Pont-Du-Cens) Plot L. Row D. Grave 1. Son of Jack Patterson Bryce and Annie Bryce; husband of Catherine Alice Bryce, of Galashiels, Selkirkshire, England. Epitaph: 'Deep In Our Hearts A Memory Is Kept Of One We Loved And Will Never Forget'.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to Stephen Claypole and family for photograph and information on Sgt. George Henry Richold, Air 27-2157-15/16 National Archives, Rob Philips for his extensive research into Dutch Airforce losses, Nightfighter Combat Archive 1944, Part 4, Kracker Archive.