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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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97 Squadron crest

Operation: Essen

Date: 08/09th June 1942 (Monday/Tuesday)

Unit: No. 97 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: R5495

Code: OF-N

Base: RAF Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire

Location: No exact location available - Essen?

Pilot: P/O. Mervyn Frank Hughes 119504 RAFVR Age 26. Killed

Pilot 2: Fl/Sgt. Harry Lawton R/86144 RCAF Age 22. Killed

Nav: Fl/Sgt. Denis John Platten 958563 RAFVR Age 24. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Alexander Crerar 751722 RAFVR Age 24. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Ronald Harris 1168160 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Douglas Leonard Overton DFM. 940865 RAFVR Age 21. Killed (1)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Gordon Henry Mercer 1263777 RAFVR Age ? Killed

The son of the rear gunner would like to make contact with other relatives of the crew. Please contact us in the first instance.


170 aircraft left from various bases to bomb the German city of Essen. The city was classed as one of the major industrial areas of Germany. During the war the area had been bombed on no less than 272 occasions.

This operation was made up with 92 Wellingtons, 42 Halifaxes, 14 Stirlings, 13 Lancasters, 9 Hampdens.

Above left: Fl/Sgt. Harry Lawton with right: Sgt. Douglas Leonard Overton DFM

Area of operation June 1942. Lancaster R5495 crashed near the small town of Marl (Westphalia) which is situated about 13 miles North of Essen.

97 Squadron sent 6 Lancasters each equipped with the 4,000 lb. cookie bomb (2) and 8 x SBC lb. bombs (3). Weather conditions were good with 5-6/10ths cloud. Bombing was made from 17,000 ft, but proved to be inaccurate due to poor target identification, the city suffered only light damage with 13 people killed a further 42 injured on the ground.

97 Squadron Lancaster - bombing up

Bombing results Essen 1942 - 1945

The RAF lost some 20 aircraft, 96 crew losing their lives, 1 taken PoW with 2 others evading capture. Most of the aircraft lost to the night fighters were over Holland. Lancaster R5495 was the only aircraft from the squadron failing to return, nothing was heard from them, no night fighter claims for this loss. It is thought probable they fell victim to flak over the target area. The remainder of the aircraft landed at just after 04.00 hrs.
(1) Sgt. Overton received an immediate DFM during operations to Augsburg on the 17th April 1942 when they bombed their target at very low level in spite of intense and accurate anti aircraft fire they managed to make direct hits on the target. His pilot, Fl/Lt. Penman received the DFC.
(2) 4000 Lb bomb also known as a cookie and the blockbuster bomb - designed to devastate a small area or a large building - usually dropped with incendiaries.
(3) SBC - small bomb containers - usually containing incendiary bombs of various sizes.

Burial details:

6 members of the crew were buried in the Municipal Cemetery at Marl before being moved to Reichswald Cemetery. Sgt Platten however was not found with them and was recovered at a later date and buried on the 1st August 1942

P/O. Mervyn Frank Hughes. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 17.F.11. NoK details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these? Born in Southampton 1915. Prior to joining worked for the Ordnance Survey - remembered on the Ordnance Survey War Memorial and the Southampton Cenotaph.

Fl/Sgt. Harry Lawton. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 17.F.12. Harry Lawton was born on the 02nd July 1917 in Pittsburg, Texas. The son of William Otis and Lizzie Fay (née Brooks) Lawton of Dallas, Texas, USA.

Right: Sgt. Gordon Henry Mercer - rear gunner R5495

Fl/Sgt. Denis John Platten. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 17.F.14. Son of John Henry and Nellie Elizabeth Platten, of Felixstowe, Suffolk, England.

Fl/Sgt. Alexander Crerar. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 17.F.15. Son of Robert and Agnes McManus Crerar, husband of Catherine (née Lee) Crerar, of Edinburgh, Scotland. Born on 18th December 1918, Canongate, Edinburgh. Formerly employed as a salesman in Gas Department.

Fl/Sgt. Ronald Harris. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Joint Grave 17.F.9-10. Son of Alfred George and Rosina Harris, of Knowle, Bristol, England.

Sgt. Douglas Leonard Overton DFM. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 17.F.8. Son of Leonard Ernest and Elsie Minnie Overton, of Bilston, Staffordshire, England.

Sgt. Gordon Henry Mercer. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Joint Grave 17.F.9-10. NoK details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?

Left: Grave marker for Sgt. Mercer and Sgt. Harris (courtesy Mr. Gordon (Don) Mercer)

Researched for the son of rear gunner, Mr. Gordon (Don) Mercer. For further details our thanks to the following, Clive Boocock for additional information on P/O. Hughes, Dave Champion for further details - June 2018. Other sources as quoted.

KTY - Additional information on P/O. Hughes added - courtesy Clive Boocock.

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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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