12/13.01.1941 149 Squadron Wellington II T2807 Sgt. Richard A. Hodgson
Operation: Turin, Italy
Date: 12/13th January 1941 (Saturday/Sunday)
Unit: 149 Squadron
Type: Wellington Mk II
Base: RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk
Location: near Venice Beach, Italy
Pilot: Sgt Richard Arthur Hodgson DFM 748175 RAFVR PoW, Unknown camp (1)
Pilot 2: Plt Off. Leslie Kenneth Sloan Wilson 81026 RAF Age 20. PoW No. 2547 Stalag Luft 3 Sagen and Bellaria
Obs: Sgt. Leslie W. Hatherly 759243 RAF PoW No. 260523 Stalag 4B Muhlberg (Elbe)
WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. "Lofty" E.E. Harding 755710 RAF PoW, Stalag 4B Muhlberg (Elbe)
WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. James Anthony Mac Anally 969038 RAF PoW No. 260747 Stalag 4B Muhlberg (Elbe) (2)
Air Gnr: Sgt. Charles Frederick Pummery 755709 RAF PoW 138981 Stalag 11A Altengrabow
REASON FOR LOSS:
Hodgson's crew attacked the secondary target, which they hit. Then they carried out a low-level run across Venice, dropping bundles of propaganda leaflets. It was then that the Wellington was hit. Bullets burst all around Wilson and Harding the Wireless Operator. Hodgson yelled over the intercom "We're on fire”!
At the PoW Camp - Sgt. James Mac Anally front, 2nd from left. it was 2 years since they were listed as missing before they received news that the crew were prisoners. The camp Padre sent this photo to the family assuring them of their captivity rather than lost. (courtesy Veronica Ford)
They had flown right over the only armed naval patrol ship in the lagoon. Wilson reckoned that the wimpy must have been doing 200 mph as they hit the water. The front-gunner Sgt. Pummery was still in his turret. Incredibly all crew members survived without injury. They were rescued by the Regia Marina and taken to an island south of Venice.
(1) Sgt Richard Arthur Hodgson DFM was awarded on the 9th May 1941.
(2) James Mac Anally released from captivity on the 23rd April 1945 - enlisted 24th May 1940 - left the service on the 18th August 1945, passed away some time around 1966.
In July 2021 Kate Wilson, a Granddaughter of James Mac Anally, has contacted us and provided us with a link to the story of the crew and crash written by Sgt. Hodgson..
In April 2018 Graham Underwood contacted us:
"The crash in 1941 is well known to me as the captain 'Dickie' Hodgson was my stepfather-in law and we spent many good times sailing together. He was flying low over Venice lido after bombing the oil tanks, trying to avoid flak when the aircraft was hit, one engine caught fire and most of that wing was destroyed. He remembered clearly that the aircraft immediately entered a full 360 roll and only by chance happened to be upright when it struck the water. Photos online show the damage and the Italian launch that came out to rescue them. All the crew were unharmed and all eventually returned home. One member joined the IRA and another was ordained into the church. Dickie kept contact with Les for many years.
At one time, they knew that it was very rare to actually see a night fighter, but for some reason they seemed to have regular contacts. The crew were horrified to find that the rear gunner was carrying a torch in his turret and was 'fishing' for them.
Contrary to many reports (webmaster note: including ours until advised by Graham), he did not 'evade capture' but was transferred to Sulmona PoW camp with the NCOs of his crew. I don't know where the officers went. Whilst in the camp he formed and ran the sailing club, holding committee meetings and regattas quite undeterred by the complete absence of boats or water. He spent several miserable years there on severely reduced rations and after the armistice he, with his observer Les walked out and made their way down through Italy until they reached the advancing US forces. Six months later he was home.
Photographs above and below showing Dickie Hodgson during his retirement years
When he eventually arrived back home, having been awarded DFM - he found that his squadron was bombing the same targets that they had been doing when he crashed - he was told that he could choose any posting he wanted, except Mosquitos because everyone wanted those. He chose multi engine, with an eye to a commercial future and rapidly qualified on Dakotas, which he then flew in the Berlin Airlift. A rich career followed with BEA, first on Ambassadors, then Comets and finally many years of Tridents 1 and 3. He was proud that he had every single Trident in his logbook.
Sadly, his last few years were in care with advanced dementia and he died there in 2011".
Further information on James Mac Anally, notes from his daughter: It turned out my Mum was pregnant with Margaret the eldest daughter. My father then didn’t see her till she was about 4 and half when he got home from the War. Then they went on to have nine children. Margaret, Padraig, Monica, Veronica, John (RIP), Jim, Marie Anne, Marty, and Gus who was was born in Australia 1962.
I have heard him say the following;
“The first night they crashed, they took refuge in an old monastery on top of a hill.”
When the family travelled to Australia in December 1961 and the ship was berthed for a day at Naples, my father tried to get to an old monastery at the top of a hill. We took a tram and there was a lot of walking for us uphill but he didn’t get to where he wanted.
I heard him tell this story to a mate one night;
“We escaped. I was with a Frenchman. We ran across an open area and climbed over a very high fence. I don’t know how we did it but we did. We ran and the first night we took refuge in an old barn house. We were hungry and didn’t know what food looked like. In the camp some men would eat numbes. We ate something that was lying on the floor and it turned out to be rat bait. We were very sick from that.”
None - all crew survived
Researched by Michel Beckers for Aircrew Remembered, February 2016. Photographs from the Michel Beckers collection. Photo of Sgt. James Mac Anally courtesy John Ford (grandchild of James Anthony Mac Anally and Monica Mary Therese Mac Anally) With thanks also to Veronica Ford for additional information / photographs of Sgt. James Anthony Mac Anally - May 2017. Thanks to Kate Wilson, a Granddaughter of James Mac Anally for the additional information (July 2021).