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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
08/09.06.1942 97 Squadron Lancaster I R5495 OF:N Plt Off. Hughes

Operation: Essen, Germany

Date: 8th/9th June 1942 (Monday/Tuesday)

Unit No: 97 (Straits Settlements) Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: R5495

Code: OF:N

Base: RAF Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire

Location: Marl (Westphalia), about 13 miles North of Essen

Pilot: Plt Off. Mervyn Frank Hughes 119504 RAFVR Age 26. KiA (1)

2nd Pilot: Flt Sgt. Harry Lawton R86144 RCAF Age 22. KiA

Nav: Flt Sgt. Denis John Platten 958563 RAFVR Age 24. KiA

Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt. Alexander Crerar 751722 RAFVR Age 24. KiA

WOp/Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. Ronald Harris 1168160 RAFVR Age 20. KiA

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Sgt. Douglas Leonard Overton DFM. 940865 RAFVR Age 21. KiA (2)

Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Gordon Henry Mercer 1263777 RAFVR Age 22. KiA

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

Above: Sgt. Gordon Henry Mercer - rear gunner R5495


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


REASON FOR LOSS:

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 comprised 92 Wellingtons, 42 Halifaxes, 14 Stirlings, 13 Lancasters and 9 Hampdens.

97 Squadron sent 6 Lancasters each equipped with the 4,000 lb. cookie bomb and 8 x SBC lb. bombs. 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.

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.

SBC - Small Bomb Containers - usually containing incendiary bombs of various sizes.

97 Squadron Lancaster - bombing up

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

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) Mervyn Frank Hughes was employed as a Draughtsman by the Ordnance Survey. He was a pre-war NCO pilot. 740612 Temporary Warrant Officer (WO) was appointed to a commission and promoted to Plt Off. on the 26th March 1942. Promulgated in the London Gazette on the 28th April 1942.

(2) Sgt. Overton received an immediate Distinguished Flying Medal (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, Flt Lt. Penman received the DFC. Promulgated in the London Gazette on the 28th April 1942.

Burial details:

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

Plt Off. Mervyn Frank Hughes. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 17.F.11. Born on the 6th May 1916 in Southampton. Son of Rupert Henry Hughes and Florence Rosetta Hughes (née Wilkins) of Southampton, England

Also remembered on the Ordnance Survey War Memorial and the Southampton Cenotaph.

Flt Sgt. Harry Lawton. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 17.F.12. Born on the 2nd July 1917 in Pittsburg, Texas. The son of William Otis and Lizzie Fay (née Brooks) Lawton of Dallas, Texas. Husband to Reva Lawton of Waco, Texas, USA.

Flt Sgt. Denis John Platten. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 17.F.14. Grave inscription: ‘SAFE IN GOD'S KEEPING UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN’. Son of John Henry and Nellie Elizabeth Platten, of Felixstowe, Suffolk, England.

Flt Sgt. Alexander Crerar. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 17.F.15. Grave inscription: ‘DEEP IN MY HEART A MEMORY IS KEPT OF ONE I LOVED AND SHALL NEVER FORGET’. Born on 18th December 1918, Canongate, Edinburgh. Son of Robert and Agnes McManus Crerar, husband of Catherine (née Lee) Crerar, of Edinburgh, Scotland.

Alexander Crerar was employed as a salesman for the Gas Department prior to enlisting in the RAFVR.

Flt Sgt. Ronald Harris. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Joint Grave 17.F.9-10. Grave inscription: ‘HE FOUGHT AND FELL A HERO IN THE BATTLE OF THE SKIES, FAR FROM HOME’. Son of Alfred George and Rosina Harris, of Knowle, Bristol, England.

Sgt. Douglas Leonard Overton DFM. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 17.F.8. Grave inscription "I KNOW THAT MY REDEEMER LIVETH". 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. Born on the 11th May 1920 in Poplar, London. Son of William Henry Mercer and Beatrice Jane Mercer (née Baxter) of Poplar, London.

Gordon Henry Mercer was a wallpaper print cutter before enlisting in RAFVR

Above: Initial Joint Grave marker for Sgt. Mercer and Sgt. Harris (courtesy Mr. Gordon (Don) Mercer)

Researched by Kelvin Youngs (Webmaster) for the son of rear gunner, Mr. Gordon (Don) Mercer. Thanks to the following, Clive Boocock for additional information on Plt Off. Hughes, Dave Champion (Jun 2018). Thanks to Paul Markham for the Next of Kin details for Plt Off. Hughes and Sgt. Mercer (May 2024). Other updates by Aircrew Remembered (May 2024).

Other sources listed below.

RS - 21.05.2024 Next of Kin details for Plt Off. Huge and Sgt. Mercer added to updated report

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Acknowledgements
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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