07/08.06.1944 15 Squadron Lancaster III LM575 Sqn Ldr. Philip J. Lamason DFC & Bar
Operation: Massy-Palaiseau, France
Date: 7th/8th June 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit No: 15 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk
Location: Between Jouars-Pontchartrain and Plaisir, France
Pilot: Sqn Ldr. Philip John Lamason DFC & Bar 403460 RNZAF Age 25. Id No: 78407 *, PoW No 8056 ** (1)
Flt Eng: Fg Off. John Marpole DFC 139292 RAFVR Age 23. Evader (2)
Nav: Fg Off. Kenneth Walter Chapman 138136 RAFVR Age 25. Id No: 78409 *, PoW No. 8046 **
Bomb Aimer: Fg Off. Gerald Albert Musgrove DFC J17952 RCAF Age? Evader (3)
WOp/Air Gnr: Fg Off. Lionel Henry James George DFC 138213 RAFVR Age? Evader (4)
Air Gnr (Mid Upper): WO. Robertson Brown Aitken 1001191 RAFVR Age 22. KiA
Air Gnr (Rear): Fg Off. Thomas William Dunk 160014 RAFVR Age 32. KiA
* Buchenwald Concentration Camp established on Ettersberg hill near Weimar, Germany in July 1937.
* Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).
Sqn Ldr. Lamason’s crew - Lancaster LM575
From left to right: Fg Off. Chapman, Fg Off. Musgrove, Fg Off. George, Fg Off. Marpole, Sqn Ldr. Lamason, Fg Off. Dunk, WO. Aitken (Unknown attribution)
REASON FOR LOSS:
LM575 took off from RAF Mildenhall at 00:42 hours on the night of the 7th/8th June 1944 to bomb the rail facilities at Massy-Palaiseau in France.
En route to the target the aircraft was shot down by an German night-fighter. The aircraft crashed some 5km to the north east and between the village of Jouars-Pontchartrain and the town of Plaisir, in the commune of the Yvelines department.
LM575 was claimed by Leutnant (Lt) Gerhard Wagner, his 7th Abschuss and his fourth of that night, from 8./NJG5 some 30-40km South West of Paris at and altitude of 1,300m at 02:11 hrs.
He was flying Bf110 (C9+ES) with his Bordfunker (Radio/Radar operator), Unteroffizier (Cpl) Herbert Grunere and Bordschütze (Gunner) Obergerfreiter (acting Cpl) Rudolf Gross.
Lt Wagner was shot down during a low-level strafing sortie in the invasion area on the 3rd/4th August 1944. By that time he had been promoted to Oberleutnant and given command of 9./NJG5. His victories stood at 13 confirmed and 1 rejected. . (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (12 May 1944 - 23 July 1944) Part 3 - Theo Boiten).
Four crew members managed to bale out, but WO. Aitkin and Fg Off. Dunk were killed. WO. Aitken did not survive his parachute jump as he baled out at too low an altitude.
Sqn Ldr. Lamason and Fg Off. Chapman evaded the enemy and were being moved along the “Comet” escape line and were betrayed by a traitor. The events leading to their capture, subsequent incarceration at the Buchenwald concentration camp and the tenacity of the two in getting most of the airmen transferred to Stalag Luft 3, are described here:
Two airmen did not make the transfer to Stalag Luft 3:
1st Lt. Levitt Clinton Beck Jr. O-736945, US AAF, who died in the camp hospital through medical neglect of purulent pleurisy on the night of the 29th/30th October 1944. His story, in the form of an Autobiography, can be read in “Fighter Pilot”;
Fg Off. Philip Derek Hemmens, 152583, RAFVR, who died the camp hospital through medical neglect on the 18th October 1944 due to septicæmia from a wound received whilst escaping his crashing aircraft. This was further complicated through medical neglect for rheumatic fever and pneumonia. Note: although his official date of death is given as the 18th October the true date is thought to have been the 27th September 1944.
For decades the International Red Cross (IRC) had stated that there were no military personnel in Buchenwald despite the overwhelming documentary and anecdotal evidence. It was not until 1988 that the IRC eventually confirmed the airmen were illegally held at Buchenwald.
The Australian, New Zealand and Canadian governments also consistently denied that any of their service personnel were ever held in concentration camps and refused to investigate the claims made by a 'mere’ handful of men.
Reparations were made to the British airmen who had been illegally held at Buchenwald in 1965. Eventually in 1988 the Australian, New Zealand and it is believed the Canadian governments acknowledged that their airmen had been illegally held in concentration camps.
American airmen were among those receiving compensation and the US Air force have acknowledged the Buchenwald airmen with an exhibit at the Air Force Museum, albeit the airmen are shown in uniform rather than in civilian attire. Furthermore, there is no mention of decades-long denial of their experiences by other branches of the government.
Fg Off. Marpole and Fg Off. George manage to evade being captured. Exactly how they achieved this remains unknown, other than the fact that they clearly made contact with the French underground and were duly protected until the liberation of Paris later in the year.
WO. Robertson Brown Aitken. Jouars-Pontchartrain Churchyard. Inscription reads: “SAFE IN THE ARMS OF JESUS”. Son of Mr. and Mrs. Peter A. Aitken, of Langside, Glasgow.
Fg Off. Thomas William Dunk. Plaisir Communal Cemetery. Son of Charles Henry Dunk, and of Minnie Priscilla Dunk, of Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia.
Thomas William Dunk Enlisted into the RAF in Rhodesia after June 1940 as a Class F. Reservist with a Service No. of 777865.
(1) Plt Off. Lamason was awarded the DFC whilst with 218 Sqn which was promulgated in the London Gazette on the 15th May 1942.
Citation reads: "Pilot Officer Philip John. LAMASON, (NZ 403460), Royal New Zealand Air Force, No. 218 Squadron. One night in April, 1942, this officer was the captain of an aircraft which attacked Pilsen. During the return flight his aircraft was attacked by an enemy fighter and sustained damage; the hydraulics were shot away and the turret rendered unserviceable, while a fire broke out in the middle of the fuselage. Displaying great presence of mind, Pilot Officer Lamason coolly directed his crew in the emergency and, while 2 of them dealt with the fire, he skilfully outmanoeuvred his attacker and finally shook him off. By his fine airmanship and great devotion to duty, Pilot Officer Lamason was undoubtedly responsible for the safe return of the aircraft and its crew. This officer has completed 21 sorties and he has at all times displayed courage and ability."
Acting Sqn Ldr. Lamason was awarded a Bar to his DFC whilst with 15 Sqn which was promulgated in the London Gazette on the 27th June 1944.
Philip John Lamason passed away on 19th May 2012 aged 93. His Obituary is reprinted here with the kind permission of the Daily Telegraph obituaries column
(2) John Marpole was born in Shepperton, Middlesex on the 26th June 1921 and enlisted in the Royal Air Force in October 1939. Having completed training as a Flight Engineer he was promoted to Sgt (905299) and posted to 218 (Gold Coast) Sqn, a Stirling unit, in February 1942, and flew his first operational sortie on the night of 8th/9th March, against Essen, the first of four successive visits to that place in less than three weeks, one of them being completed on three engines. Other heavily defended German targets to be attacked in the following month included Cologne, Dortmund and Hamburg, in addition to three more visits to Essen, Marpole now having been appointed to the crew of his Sqn Ldr.
On the night of 25th/26th April, 218 Sqn was given a special assignment to strike the Skoda works at Pilsen in Czechoslovakia, Sgt Marpole’s Stirling being one of a small force of six allocated to the task. He records in his Flying Log Book a low-level attack being carried out at just 1500 feet. Nonetheless, a return visit was ordered for the first week of May. As evidenced by the joint recommendation for immediate DFCs to his Pilot, Sqn Ldr Arthur Waite Oldroyd, AFC, MiD (four times) and Navigator, Fg Off Reginald Wiseman Brown, the enemy were now ready and waiting.
DFC promulgated in the London Gazette Supplement on the 22nd May 1942. Citation reads: “Squadron Leader Oldroyd and Flying Officer Brown were pilot and Navigator respectively of an aircraft detailed to attack the Skoda works at Pilsen. Dense cloud was experienced in the last 200 miles to the target but, owing to the navigational skill of Flying Officer Brown, the objective was reached and located five minutes before the estimated time. Very heavy anti-aircraft fire was encountered and the aircraft was repeatedly hit. Despite this, Squadron Leader Oldroyd remained over the target for a considerable time. On the return journey the aircraft was held by searchlights and subjected to further anti-aircraft fire, which was evaded successfully. Later, the aircraft was engaged by a Junkers 88, fire from which caused further damage to the oil system, the port landing wheel and the petrol tanks Throughout this combat Squadron Leader Oldroyd displayed skill and courage of a high standard which contributed largely to the safe return of his aircraft and crew. Flying Officer Brown has continually displayed great skill and courage, and has always identified his targets under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions.”
At the end of the same month, Sgt. Marpole and his crew were back in action over Cologne in the first 1000 Bomber Raid, an experience to be repeated on the similar strike against Bremen on 25th June. And it would not be until the end of August 1942 that Sgt Marpole completed the 30th and final sortie of his first tour of operations, raids on Duisberg (twice), Dusseldorf, Frankfurt and Hamburg being carried out in the interim, among other targets.
He was rested at 1657 Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU) at RAF Stradishall for most of 1943 during which time he was commissioned.
Sgt. Marpole was commissioned and promoted to Plt Off. (139292) on the 19th January 1943 which was promulgated in the London Gazette Supplement on the 2nd March 1943.
On the 19th July 1943 he was promoted to Fg Off. which was promulgated in the London Gazette Supplement on the 17th August 1943.
Fg Off. Marpole returned to operational flying with a posting to 15 Sqn, a Lancaster unit, at RAF Mildenhall at the end of 1943. He flew his first sortie of his second tour against Brunswick on the night of 14th January 1944. Between then and early June, he participated in two strikes on Berlin and survived Bomber Command’s mostly costly raid of the war, the attack on Nuremburg on the night of 30th March, when no less than 95 aircraft were lost, in addition to trips to other German and French targets, the latter in support of the pending Normandy Landings.
On the eve of D-Day itself, Fg Off. Marpole’s crew was detailed to attack Caen, but two nights later, en route to a target in Massy, his Lancaster was shot down by an enemy night fighter.
After his escape and return to England Fg Off. Marpole was awarded the DFC which was promulgated in the London Gazette on the 22nd May 1945. However, it was not until July 1949 that HM Consul finally tracked him down in New Caledonia, where he was working after being demobilised in April 1946, to make arrangements for the presentation of his DFC.
The recommendation for his DFC reads: “Acting Flight Lieutenant Marpole was the Flight Engineer in Squadron Leader Lamason’s crew. He has completed 14 operational sorties totalling 238 hours, including such targets as Essen seven times, Cologne four times, Berlin twice and Pilsen twice. On his first operational tour with 218 Sqn he completed 30 operational sorties on Wellington and Stirling aircraft. Since joining 15 Sqn he has completed 14 operational sorties, in all of which he has shown skill and courage of a high order in assisting his captain to press home all attacks to a successful conclusion. On his 15th sortie with the Squadron, he was reported missing. He succeeded in escaping and has since returned to this country. In addition to his duties as Flight Engineer, he took over the duties of Engineer Leader, being granted the acting rank of Flight Lieutenant. These duties he performed with merit and distinction, gaining the confidence of his Commanding Officer by his efficiency. By his zeal, determination and consistent devotion to duty, he has set a very fine example, which will be an incentive for others to follow. He is recommended for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross.”
Fg Off. Marpole was promoted to Flt Lt. on the 19th January 1945 which was promulgated in the London Gazette Supplement on the 9th February 1945.
John Marpole was believed to have passed away in December 1991 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire aged 70.
(3) Fg Off. Musgrove was awarded the DFC whilst with 15 Sqn, promulgated in the London Gazette on the 12th December 1944.
(4) Sgt. George 987519, was commissioned and promoted to Plt Off. on the 30th October 1942 with effect 13th November 1942, promulgated in the London Gazette Supplement 12th February 1943. Plt Off. George was promoted to Fg Off. on the 13th May 1943, promulgated in the London Gazette Supplement 13th July 1943.
Fg Off. George was awarded the DFC whilst with 15 Sqn, promulgated in the London Gazette on the 19th May 1944.
Citation reads: "This officer has completed numerous sorties on his second tour of operations. In the course of his activities he has participated in attacks on a wide range of targets, including four attacks on Berlin and seven on Essen. He is a wireless operator of high merit and his skill has contributed materially to the success of the operations in which he has taken part. He has displayed great courage, determination and devotion to duty."
Researched by Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew (Mar 2021). Thanks to John Jones for the photograph of the crew (Mar 2021). Update to include further detail of the two airmen that died at Buchenwald (Mar 2021). Reviewed and updated (Nov 2023).
Other sources listed below: