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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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420 Squadron crest
20/21.04.1944 420 (Snowy Owl) Squadron, RCAF Halifax III LW692 PT:V Plt Off. Raymond G. Leonard

Operation: Lens, France

Date: 20th/21st April 1944 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: 420 (Snowy Owl) Squadron, RCAF

Type: Halifax III

Serial: LW692

Code: PT:V

Base: RAF Tholthorpe, North Yorkshire

Location: Scie River, Pourville, Dieppe, France

Pilot: WO2. Raymond Gale Leonard R122453 RCAF Age 22. Missing

Flt Eng: Sgt. Patrick Francis Gough 1652948 RAFVR Age 20. Missing

Nav: Plt Off. Alfred Warren 176005 RAF Age 25. Missing

Bomb Aimer: WO2. Herbert Clarke Wilson R152555 RCAF Age 24. Killed

WOp/Air Gnr: Plt Off. Clifford James Wheelhouse 175807 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air Gnr: Sgt. Paul Joseph Hector Jean Paul Bourcier R175496 RCAF PoW No: 4179 * (1)

Air Gnr: Sgt. Robert Allan Anderson R191468 RCAF Age 20. PoW No: 4176 * (2)

* Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria)

REASON FOR LOSS:

Taking off from RAF Tholthorpe, North Yorkshire to bomb the rail junctions at Lens. 175 aircraft taking part on the target, bomb loads - 9 x 1000 lbs, 6 x 500 lbs - raid was a success with crews reporting extensive fires and large explosions on the target.

Halifax LW692 strayed off course, crossing the French coastline near Dieppe, instead of Le Havre as instructed. As soon as they crossed the coast they were hit several times by anti-aircraft fire. The port engines caught fire which rapidly spread to the wing.

The crew of Halifax LW692

Rear left to right: Plt Off. Warren, Plt.Off. Wheelhouse, Sgt. Gough, Plt Off. Wilson. Front left to right: Sgt. Anderson, Plt Off. Leonard, Sgt. Bourcier. (courtesy Bill Anderson)

Images of Plt Off. Leonard and Plt Off. Wilson from their service records (Courtesy John Jones)

The flight engineer called the pilot explaining that he considered they had no option but to abandon the aircraft. Two of the crew managed to bail out, the remainder, it seems could not and went in with the aircraft in the Scie River, Pourville, Dieppe, France.

The following is an extract from the report by Sqn Ldr. G. Wood from No 6 Section, No1 MREU dated 23 August 1946:

In accordance with your instructions in your enquiries dated 25 September 1945 and 29 November 1945, enquiries have been made regarding LW692 and the causalities involved. The scene of the crash has been visited and found to be a marshy small river estuary at POURVILLE. The Maire confirmed from records left by the Germans that two bodies were removed from the wreckage of the plane and were identified. From examination of the wreckage it would appear probable that the aircraft did explode in the air and I consider it impossible that any further human remains will ever be found as the estuary of the stream there is a wide and consists of a large mud flat. The graves referred to in para 4 of your letter dated 29 November 1945, viz 52 and 53, no longer exist but it is considered probable that Plt Off Wilson is in Grave No 32 and Sgt Wheelhouse in Grave No 33. Reasons for this assumption are that they were buried in the next graves to the crew of Halifax LW692 (Casualty Enquiry F.168) and on concentration being effected by the Americans and 57 G.C.U. the original order is presumed to have been preserved.

The two PoW’s were imprisoned at Stalag Luft 3 until May 1945 when they managed to slip past the Russian ‘liberators’ to the American lines at Magdeburg. A short USAAF DC3 flight to Rheims, then onto a Lancaster to Tangemere back in England.

Left: Letter sent home from Bob Anderson whilst a PoW reads:

30/04/1944
(Received July 20th 1944)
"Dear Folks,
Well how is all in Brandon? All is ok here and I’m not fooling. You must be glad to know I’m here and someday I’ll come home alive and unwounded. If you knew the joy in my heart right now for I’m with Don Macdonald. I spent the day with him and I’m going to have supper with him tonite, he sure looks fine and we really talked things over. Write to Mrs Alex Bourcier, Châteauguay village, Quebec. You remember Paul, well we’re still together thank God. I guess we’ll be pals till we die. The rest of the crew weren’t so lucky. I only got a nose bleed when I bailed out. I’ve been treated good and fed well so please don’t worry. In fact you should be relieved for now you know I’m O.K. whereas it was doubtful when I was operating. (That address I gave you is Pauls folks) My biggest burden is worrying about you because I know you are worrying about me, My spirit is high and I can sure you I’ll come home as young and wild as when I left.

All my love. God bless you, Bob."


Above left to right: Paul Bourcier, Monsieur Alexandre Bourcier (Paul’s father), Robert Anderson, Madame Eda Bourcier (Paul’s Mother) - Post Liberation (Credit: Bill Anderson)

Above Paul Bourcier and Robert Anderson with a friend - Post Liberation (Credit: Bill Anderson)

A great photograph taken, we understand, at Stalag Luft Sagan in 1944. We have details on most of the incidents representing the aircraft losses of these chaps - all from Manitoba, Canada. (courtesy Bill Anderson) See Featured story for details of the PoWs

(1) Sgt Bourcier's PoW statement to the International Red Cross dated 19 January 1945.

“Our aircraft was directly hit by (censored) and set on fire over (censored). Plt Off. Leonard gave the order to abandon and I was first to leave the aircraft. I was informed by the Germans who captured me that WO. Wilson had been drowned and that Sgt Wheelhouse had been found with his parachute unopened. They are buried at Bourgdun Dieppe. I regret I have no information as to the fate of Sgt. Gough, Plt.Off. Leonard and Sgt. Warren”.

Sgt. Bourcier was commissioned and promoted to Plt Off. (J86241) whilst as a PoW. Paul Bourcier passed away on the 16th February 2008.

(2) Sgt. Anderson was commissioned and promoted to Plt Off. (J92326) whilst as a PoW. Bob Anderson passed away on the 17th March 1979

Burial details:

The two crew whose bodies were identified, were originally buried at Riquire-es-Plains, later at Grandcourt War Cemetery, after the end of war.

Plt Off. Raymond Gale Leonard. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 251. Born on the 24th September 1921 in Red Deer, Alberta. Son of Charles and Lillian (née Asher) from Red Deer, Alberta, Canada.

WO2 Leonard was posthumously commissioned and promoted to Plt Off. (J85859) with effect 14th February 1944

Sgt. Patrick Francis Gough. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 230. Son of Patrick Francis and May Gough, of Barry, Glamorgan, Wales.

Plt Off. Alfred Warren. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 212. Son of George Arthur and Elsie Warren, husband of Winifred Warren, of Oldham, Lancashire, England.

Plt Off. Herbert Clarke Wilson. Grandcourt War Cemetery. Grave E.5. Inscription Reads: "THROUGH ADVERSITY TO THE STARS". Born on the 17th April 1920 in Elm Creek, Manitoba. Son of henry Herbert and Mary (née Ferguson) Wilson from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

WO2 Wilson was posthumously commissioned and promoted to Plt Off. (J86417) with effect 14th February 1944

Plt Off. Clifford James Wheelhouse. Grandcourt War Cemetery. Grave E.4. Inscription Reads: "REMEMBRANCE IS OUR GIFT TO HIM WHO GAVE HIS LIFE FOR THE CAUSE OF FREEDOM". Son of John Henry and Emily Alice Wheelhouse, of Stockton-on-Tees, Co. Durham, England.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Bill Anderson (son of Air Gunner, Sgt. Robert Anderson) Les Allison and Harry Hayward - 'They Shall Grow Not Old', Capt. Fred Paradie - 'Paradie Archives'. Tom Kracker - 'Kracker Luftwaffe Archives'. Oliver Clutton-Brock - 'Footprints On The Sands Of Time'. Aircrew Remembered own Archives. Thanks to John Jones for the two statements, other details and the images of Sgt. Leonard and Sgt.Wilson. Thanks to Bill Anderson for the update photograph of his father and Paul Bourcier's family (Jul 2021).

RS 11.07.2021 - New photograph and other updates

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', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', 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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