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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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No 9 Squadron
16/17.05.1941 9 Squadron Wellington Ic R1267 WS-Y Sgt Leslie (Les) Bathy Mitchell

Operation: Dockyard, Boulogne, France

Date: 16/17th May 1941 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit: 9 Squadron

Type: Wellington IC

Serial: R1267

Code: WS-Y

Base: RAF Honington, Suffolk

Location: RAF Honington, Suffolk

Pilot: Sgt. Leslie (Les) Bathy Mitchell 748757 RAFVR Age 22 Killed (1)

2nd Pilot: Sgt Terrence William Sutton. RAFVR Age 22. Survived (2)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. D H Humphrey. RAFVR Age? Survived. No further details as yet. Are you able to help? (3)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Owen Percival John Richards 755634 RAFVR Age? Injured (4)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. S D J Howorth 982328 RAFVR Age? Injured (5)


Sgt Mitchell and crew took off at 22.45 hrs from RAF Honington for an operation to bomb the docks and shipping at Boulogne. All bombs were seen to burst between docks 4 and 6. Fires started and a small explosion were also seen. On returning to base the pilot attempted to land the aircraft with the undercarriage retracted. The aircraft crashed into the main bomb dump and burst into flames

RAF Honington airfield in 1942. Wellington R1267 crashed into the bomb dump on returning to base

Group Captain John Astley Gray, DFC and Acting Squadron Leader Joseph Aidan MacCarthy, MB, Ch. B., BAO were quickly at the scene, entering the blazing bomber and pulling two of the crew who were trapped, to safety. Both were awarded the George Medal for their heroism. The citation for the award appeared in the London Gazette 9th September 1941 reads "Group Captain John Astley Gray DFC. and Acting Squadron Leader Joseph Aidan MacCarthy, MB, Ch. B., BAO.

One night in May, 1941, the pilot of an aircraft attempted to land with the under-carriage retracted. The aircraft crashed into the main bomb dump and then burst into flames. Group Captain Gray and Squadron Leader MacCarthy immediately went to the scene of the accident. Although there was some delay in getting the fire tender to the spot. owing to wire entanglements at the bomb dump. Group Captain Gray and Squadron Leader MacCarthy entered the burning aircraft and between them succeeded in extracting two members of the crew who were trapped. By the time the first man had been extricated the fire had spread from the starboard tanks to the cabin and on to the port tanks. Ammunition, incendiaries and flares were burning in the wreckage, whilst numerous explosions erupted from the tanks. In spite of this, an attempt was made to rescue the pilot who was still trapped at the bottom of the fuselage. He was dragged clear but his harness still held him to the burning aircraft. Before he could be released another petrol tank burst and flames spread to such an extent that any further attempts to rescue him became impossible. Group Captain Gray and Squadron Leader MacCarthy were assisted by two other officers who both displayed great courage in their efforts. Group Captain Gray received severe burns on the head and his uniform was destroyed but he continued his efforts until overcome by the fumes. Squadron Leader MacCarthy suffered minor facial injuries caused by burns but, despite this and the strain to which he had been exposed, he would not retire to his quarters until he was satisfied that everything possible had been done for the comfort of the injured. Both Group Captain Gray and Squadron Leader MacCarthy displayed great bravery in the most appalling circumstances

Wellington Ic of 9 Squadron (courtesy of Imperial War Museum) RAF Honington (courtesy FOLD3)

Burial details:

Sgt. Leslie Bathy Mitchell is remembered on the Roll of Honour Plaque in St Martin's Church, Sherwood (courtesy St Martin's Church, Sherwood)

Sgt. Leslie Bathy Mitchell. Arnold Cemetery, Nottinghamshire. Grave Ref: Class A. Uncons. Grave 2164. Son of Leslie B Mitchell and Margaret Mitchell of Woodthorpe, Nottingham.

Les is remembered on the High Pavement Roll of honour and on the plaque in St Martin's Church, Sherwood where on Remembrance Sunday all names of those who are on the memorial are read out and a candles lit

(2) Sgt. Terrence William Sutton returned to flying duties on the 18th May 1941. He was posted to 23 OTU at RAF Pershore where he trained mostly RCAF pilots there. He was promoted to Fg.Off. date unknown. On 16th/17th September 1942 on a mission to Essen in Wellington III BJ720, and was shot down at Bottenbroich - a village 9.5 miles WSW of Cologne, at 23.47 hours.

(3) Sg. D H Humphrey returned to flying duties on the 18th May 1941. Are you able to help with any further information and photographs?

(4) Sg. Owen Percival John Richards. Sgt. Richards was injured over the eye by shrapnel while over the target area. Flt.Sgt O P J Richards was awarded the DFM in 1941 while serving with 9 Squadron. The citation reads: "As wireless operator - air gunner, this airman has participated in numerous sorties over enemy and enemy-occupied territory, including attacks on Berlin, Hamburg, Kiel, Bremen, Wilhelmshaven and Brest. In one sortie on Berlin. Fl/Sgt Richards was wounded over the right eye by shrapnel while the aircraft was held in the searchlights over the target. Nevertheless, he continued to discharge his duties courageously and efficiently" Flt.Sgt O P J Richards DFM (139469) was promoted to Pilot Officer on probation on the 25th February 1943 and to Flying Officer on probation as of 22nd October 1943

(5) Sgt S D J Howorth returned to flying duties on the 27th May 1941. Are you able to help with any further information and photographs?

Researched by: Kate Tame Aircrew Remembered and for all the relatives and friends of the crew. With special thanks Sylvia Griffiths, St Martin's Church, Sherwood, Nottingham. Thanks to Clive Hardy, the nephew of Sgt. Terence William Sutton, for the additional information.

RS 16.02.2020 - Update to Sgt. Sutton's details

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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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