Date: 12/13th August 1944 (Saturday/Sunday)
Unit: No. 635 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Downham Market, Norfolk
Location: Werbomont, Belgium
Pilot: F/O. George Henderson 127350 RAFVR Age 28. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Angus Vass Urquhart 1815458 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Nav: W/O. Richard Pedrazzini 1375587 RAFVR Age 30. Killed (1)
Air/Bmr: W/O. Alwyn Terence Till AUS/410756 RAAF Age 23. Survived (2)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Henry Charles Ross 1334400 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. John Hubert Morgan 1852381 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Francis Reginald Holledge RAFVR 1318586 aged 21. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 21:42 hrs from RAF Downham Market in Norfolk - joining some 296 other aircraft flying deep into southern Germany to bomb the Opel works at Russelsheim, bombing the target between 00:07 and 00:27 hrs. (The factory was thought to be manufacturing the wings for the V1 flying bombs). The bomber stream encountered night fighters from Brussels all the way to the target and also on their homeward-bound flights.
The Allies lost some 20 aircraft on this operation. The target was only slightly damaged, most of the bombs landed in open countryside. However the tyre and dispatch departments and powerhouse were hit - some 9 people killed on the ground with a further 31 injured.
It is understood that they were intercepted and shot down at 01:09 hrs by Hptm. Heinz Wolfgang Schnaufer (nicknamed the night ghost of St. Trond) of Stab IV.NJG1 who took of from St. Trond at 23:16 hrs - his 92nd claim of the war.
(1) W/O. Richard Pedrazzini had an earlier lucky escape that year for that he obtained his Caterpillar badge as did four others of this crew (awarded by the Caterpillar club - Irvin Airchute Company of Canada - having saved his life by parachute) Whilst with 76 Squadron on a trip to Magdeburg. The pilot of Halifax V LK630 MP-D, Fl/Sgt. Eric Firth lost control of the aircraft shortly after take-off - thought to possible have been caused due to icing. The pilot ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft but it crashed before he could leave. The remainder of the crew abandoned successfully.
His brother (shown right) also served but with 431 Squadron.
(2) Preliminary investigations by the Missing Research and Enquiries Unit in November 1945 were convinced that a war crime had been committed against W/O. Alwyn Terence Till. However after many interviews with a number of Belgians, Germans it was established that following his successful baling out of the aircraft he tried to evade capture, a few days later he was picked up by members of the Belgium resistance and taken into hiding and looked after. It seems that he became bored and requested that he joined the Marquis on an operation that they had planned against the Germans.
As the operation went underway it was clear that the 30 Belgians were outnumbered and a withdrawal was ordered by the leader of the group. W/O. Alwyn Terence Till decided to remain and fight it out - he was shot during the fire fight by the Germans. His body was later handed over to the Nuns at Dinant for burial. (several witness statements were made regarding his loss by both the Belgians and the German forces - these were accepted by the MREU and the war crime investigation was therefore closed)
(3) Heinz Wolfgang Schnaufer - born on the 16th February 1922. Schnaufer was taken prisoner of war by British forces in May 1945. After his release a year later, he returned to his home town and took over the family wine business. In July 1950, Schnaufer was on a wine buying visit to France. On the afternoon of the 13 July, he was heading south on the Route Nationale No. 10 in his Mercedes-Benz 170 convertible. Just south of Bordeaux, at about 18:30, he was involved in a collision with a Renault 22 truck. Schnaufer never regained consciousness at Saint-André Hospital in Bordeaux. He succumbed to his injuries at the hospital two days later on 15th July 1950, age 28.
The crew were initially buried at Werbomont, where there is a memorial erected to them. They were reinterred and laid to rest in Hotton War Cemetery after the end of the war and subsequent investigations by the Missing research and recovery groups.
F/O. George Henderson. Hotton War Cemetery. Grave VII.A.4. Son of James and Etta Henderson of Aberdeen, Scotland, and husband of Mary Isabella Henderson.
Sgt. Angus Vass Urquhart. Hotton War Cemetery. Grave VII.A.5. No further details - are you able to assist?
W/O. Richard Pedrazzini. Hotton War Cemetery. Grave VII.A.1. Son of Battista and Harriet Emma Victoria Pedrazzini and brother of Ernie Pedrazzini of Lambeth, London, England.
W/O. Alwyn Terence Till. Hotton War Cemetery. Grave VII.A.6. Son of Sydney Norman and Evelyn Victoria Till of Mitcham, Victoria, Australia.
Sgt. John Henry Charles Ross. Hotton War Cemetery. Grave VII.A.3. Son of John Thomas and Alice Mary Ross of Dartford, Kent, England.
Fl/Sgt. John Hubert Morgan. Hotton War Cemetery. Grave VII.A.2. Son of Edward Charles and Elsie Morgan of Shirley, Southampton, England.
Francis Reginald Holledge. Hotton War Cemetery. Grave VII.A.7. Son of Reginald Arthur and Beatrice Maud Holledge of Bickley, Kent, England.
Researched by Linda Ibrom for Aircrew Remembered - May 2017. Photo credits to Ernie Pedrazzini (brother) and Marilyn Ensor (niece) Page dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to sources shown below and Australian Archives. Thanks also to Des Phillippet for grave photographs.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember
them. - Laurence
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