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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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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

Serial: LJ477

Code: OJ-M

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


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.

Crew information:
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.

Burial details:

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:

KTY 22-03-2023

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Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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