149 Squadron Stirling III LJ477 P/O. William Cyril Holmes DFC
Operation: SOE 'Harry'
Date: 05/06th July 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: No. 149 Squadron (motto: Fortis Nocte - 'Strong by Night')
Type: Stirling III
Base: RAF Methwold, Norfolk
Location: RAF Thorney Island, West Sussex
Pilot: P/O. William Cyril Holmes DFC. 176554 RAFVR Age 22. Seriously injured
Fl/Eng: P/O. Charles Watkins 175989 RAFVR Injured
Nav: Fl/Sgt. Frederick Leslie Alan White 1396093 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Air/Bmr: F/O. Harold Richardson Stannus Aus/421411 RAAF Age 22. Seriously injured
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Thomas Charles Frank Smith 910065 RAFVR Age 26. Seriously injured
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Charles Marjoram 544317 RAFVR Injured
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Douglas Richard Bacon R/190691 RCAF Age 21. Seriously injured
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 22:43 hrs with nine others on a special operation Executive operation to make a supply drop on the French/Swiss border.
There was no reception committee and as they climbed to fly back, they crossed an airfield and were shot at - it took out the port engines, damaged the petrol tanks and set fire to the port wing root, though Thomas Smith was able to extinguish that.
They managed to make it back to England and had to crash land on Thorney Island, West Sussex. William Holmes made a landing on the planes belly, before sparks caused a fire. Thomas Smith pushed William Holmes out of the pilot's escape hatch, but he suffered severe burns due to the delay in getting himself out. All the crew with the exemption of Fl/Sgt. Frederic White managed to exit the aircraft through various emergency hatches.
Above L-R: Rear - Sgt. Charles Marjoram, Fl/Sgt. Douglas Bacon, Fl/Sgt. Thomas Smith, P/O. Charles Watkins. Front: F/O. Harold Stannus, P/O. William Holmes DFC and Fl/Sgt. Frederick White.
William Cyril Holmes DFC - born on the 29th December 1921. Admitted to St. Richards Hospital, Chichester on the 06th July 1944 with burns to face, hands and legs. Moved to the Queen Victoria Hospital on the 07th July 1944 also treated at East Grinstead Hospital. He died on the 14th April 2017, aged 95.
Charles Watkins - treated at East Grinstead Hospital. Awarded the DFM for his actions during the accident. Died 07th August 1997, age 89.
Harold Richardson Stannus - born on the 26th May 1922 in Armadale, Victoria, Australia. Worked as a bank clerk. Enlisted on the 01st February 1942. Joined 149 squadron on the 15th April 1944 from 1651 Heavy Conversion Unit. Son of Mary Stannus of 11 Ferncourt Avenue Chatswood, New South Wales. Husband of Margaret Fay Stannus (died 2016, age 91). 7 operations at the famous East Grinstead Hospital after suffering Third degree burns to face, left arm, hands and legs. Removed off seriously injured list and moved to the Queen Victoria Hospital on the 08th July 1944 and discharged from there on the 09th December 1945. Left the RAAF as a Fl/Lt. on the 31st July 1946. Passed away on the 31st January 2017, age 94.
Thomas Charles Frank Smith - treated at East Grinstead Hospital. Died 01st August 1988, age 70.
Charles Marjoram - unable to find out anything further - are you able to assist?
Douglas Richard Bacon - treated at East Grinstead Hospital with burns to face and hands. Husband of Ruth L. Bacon (died 2019, age 95) of Milton, Ontario, Canada. Passed away at the Milton District Hospital on Wednesday 19th November 2008 age 85 following a courageous battle with cancer.
Fl/Sgt. Frederick Leslie Alan White. Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 22.D.4. Son of Harry George and Clara White. Epitaph: 'His Score Had Scarce Begun When God Declared The Innings Closed'.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to National Archives Kew, International Bomber Command Centre IBCC, National Archives Australia NAA, Paradie Archive.
Other sources as quoted below: