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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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50 Squadron Crest
10/11.12.1940 No. 50 Squadron Hampden I X3117 F/O. Eric B.S. Liddell

Operation: Mannheim

Date: 10/11th December 1940 (Tuesday/Wednesday)

Unit: No. 50 Squadron

Type: Hampden I

Serial: X3117

Code: VN-?

Base: RAF Lindholme, Yorkshire

Location: Trier, Germany

Pilot: F/O. Eric Beck Squibs Liddell 40234 RAF Age 24. Killed (1)

Pilot 2: P/O. Ronald George Ash 43278 RAF Age 25. Killed (2)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Eric McConnell 1755215 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Alfred Stanley Atkinson 652440 RAFVR Age 19. Killed


On Thursday/Friday, the 07/08th November 1940 this crew were on an operation to the Krupps works at Essen, taking off at 19:31 hrs in Hampden X2994 with 7 others from the squadron. They set course for Skegness and then crossed the Dutch coast when they altered their course to the target. Heavy anti-aircraft fire was encountered over Rotterdam. The target was pinpointed by the river and the attack was made, dropping 1 x 1,000 lb, 2 x 500 lb general purpose bombs from 10,000 ft at 23:15 hrs. but results could not be observed. The defences were very heavy and accurate anti-aircraft fire which burst all around the aircraft encountered on their return and the aircraft was believed to have been hit.

The pilot found it impossible to fit straight and level. The wireless was found to be unserviceable and no signals could be received. After trying various courses to find landfall the aircraft headed south and eventually discovered searchlights at 2,000 ft. After signalling various beacons were lit which showed the aircraft to be over Holland!

They then flew due west and after an hour landfall was reached near Southwold. Aircraft had sufficient fuel for a further one and a half hours, they searched for RAF Bircham Newton and finally found their beacon and a 'T' signal was given for the satellite aerodrome. The aircraft circled for some time and signalled on Aldis Lamp but a 'red' was given. The aircraft made for West Rannham but received no response to signals. 30 minutes later the starboard engine failed. RAF Bircham Newton again signalled a 'red'.

The pilot ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft, this they did at 3,000 ft. F/O. Liddell was able to keep the Hampden up for a further 25 minutes in the hope to land at dawn. However, the port engine then cut out and the pilot was forced to abandon the aircraft at 07:00 hrs from 1,500 ft as the aircraft went into a stall. All the crew were reported safe with no injuries and eventually reported ar West Raynham.

On another occasion on the 24/25th November 1940 this crew took off at 01:20 hrs on Hampden X3004 detailed to bomb the shipyards at Hamburg. The aircraft was forced to return early due to oxygen failure. The aircraft landed safely at the base with a full bomb load at 03:20 hrs.

On the 27/28th of November, this crew on Hampden X2919 took off at 02:42 hrs on an operation to Cologne. The intercom failed and they encountered high cumulous clouds with severe icing, they returned to base with a full bomb load at 07:25 hrs.

On the 07/08th December flying Hampden X3117 and taking off at 18:00 hrs to bomb the ornaments works at Dusseldorf. After leaving Orfordness the aircraft climbed through clouds over the North Sea to 15,000 ft. They encountered severe icing. After flying through extremely difficult conditions with static and not being able to get rid of ice with starboard de-icer it was decided to return to base. Aircraft landed back at base with a full bomb load at 22:45 hrs.

Taking off from RAF Lindholme in southern Yorkshire at 22:40 hrs to bomb Mannheim - aircraft understood to have been hit by flak and crashed near Trier, Germany. All the crew were lost.

Above: Sgt. Atkinson and in the centre with his older brother Albert - understood to be the day after Albert's wedding (courtesy David Stone)

Bad weather with severe icing only 11 aircraft bombed the target, 2 returned early due to heating failures. Hampden X3117 failed to return. A total of 6 x 500 lb, 6 x 250 lb of general-purpose bombs as well as 360 lb's of incendiaries were released. A search of the North Sea on the 11th December was made by 2 Hampdens and an Anson but found no trace of the aircraft or crew.

Above left: F/O. Eric Beck Squibs Liddell and right: P/O. Ronald George Ash (courtesy Justin Good)

A 44 squadron Hampden I X3049 was also hit by flak the plot Sq/Ldr. Nicholas Henry Joseph Tindal 05225 (see notes below) and his 3 other crew were taken PoW after making a forced landing in France.

When the possessions of Stan Atkinson were returned - a brass model of his aircraft was found - sadly in time this went missing - David Stone managed to find a replica which he presented to Stan's brother.

The pilot, ’Squibs’ Liddell then a Sgt. also escaped an earlier heavy landing in Hampden P4309 at RAF Cottesmore in Rutland, England whilst with 14 Operational Training Unit. Whilst returning to base at 18:30 hrs he overshot the runway and crashed heavily - no injuries to the crew. Aircraft was written off.

(1) ’Squibs’ Liddell brother, Tord Alvar Quan Lidell MBE (11 September 1908 – 7 January 1981) was a BBC radio announcer and newsreader. During the Second World War his distinctive voice became synonymous with the reading of news. It was during the Second World War that the BBC named its previously anonymous announcers and newsreaders - to distinguish them from enemy propagandists. During the war, "Here is the news, and this is Alvar Lidell reading it" became an inadvertent catchphrase.

In 1943 he served with the RAF as an intelligence officer (some of the time at Bletchley Park, but returned to the BBC a year later. In 1946 he was appointed chief announcer on the new BBC Third Programme, where he remained for six years, maintaining the highest standards, particularly over pronunciation and phrasing. Recordings of Lidell's news bulletins have been included in many films set in Britain during the Second World War, such as 1968's Battle of Britain.

(2) Further research continues into P/O. Ronald George Ash - Australian archives have him as being killed on the 01st June 1941 with 36160 F/O. Aubrey Glen Curtis? The CWWG list him as we have described. Further research verified this is a mistake in the Australian archives. The Blenheim from 8 squadron L8503 crew flown by F/O. Curtis was Sgt. Vernon Harry Frederick Witt 564305, LAC. Harold Joseph McEleavy 541082. (collided with Blenheim L8606 over the Gulf of Aden)

Left, the mother of Sgt. Atkinson during a visit sponsored by the wonderful Dutch people in 1963 (courtesy David Stone)

Burial details:

The crew were initially buried in Macken Cemetery and interned in the Rheinberg War Cemetery on the 04th June 1947.

F/O. Eric Beck Squibs Liddell. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 9. D. 16-19. Son of Hazel Marian Liddell (née Beck - died 02nd May 1968, age 77) and Percival Macdonald Liddell (died 25th July 1960, age 79) of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, husband of Olive Liddell, of Ketton, Rutland, England. Epitaph: 'Lovely Memories Of My Darling Husband "Squibs" In God's Keeping'.

P/O. Ronald George Ash. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 9. D. 16-19. Born on the 14th October 1915 at Queensland, Australia. Son of Fredrick William and Marion Eva Ash, of Tower Street, Albion HeightsBrisbane, Queensland, Australia. Epitaph: 'By Death, To Life Immortal He Was Born And Glorified'.

Sgt. Eric McConnell. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 9. D. 16-19. Born in Bury, Lancashire, England. Also commemorated in St. Annes Church, Belfield, Milnrow, Rochdale.

Sgt. Alfred Stanley Atkinson. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 9. D. 16-19. Son of Alfred Ernest and Ada Atkinson, of Walker, Newcastle-on-Tyne, England. Epitaph: 'His Memory Is Treasured For Ever By His Father, Mother, Brothers And Sisters'.

Researched by David Stone for Aircrew Remembered April 2016. With thanks to Ralph Davidson for information on Sgt. McConnell - February 2017. Air 27 at the National Archives in Kew. Also to Justin Good from Australia - his great Uncle served as a pilot with 50 squadron and is researching this unit. For further details our thanks to the following sources as shown below.

Many thanks to the Caterpillar Club (Irvine QC) for their valued assistance to David on his research.


Nicholas Henry Joseph Tindal (official name Nicolas Tindal-Carill-Worsley)was born on the 07th March 1911 in Dublin. Educated at St John's, Beaumont, Stonyhurst and Trinity College Dublin. While at Trinity in 1930, he applied for and won one of the six commissions in the RAF then open annually to university graduates. During the long summer vacations, he learned to fly Gipsy Moths at Filton near Bristol.

After Flying Training School at Grantham, he went to the Army Air Corps at Old Sarum for further training and soon proved to be so brilliant a pilot that he was posted as an instructor at the central flying school.

Tindal made several escape attempts before arriving at Stalag Luft III and spent many weeks in solitary confinement as a result. On one occasion, when he was at a camp near Bremen, he was free for eight days surviving on iron rations and by drinking water from puddles. He was captured when the goods train on which he managed to hitch a ride ended up in the middle of one of the German army's principal training areas in the Black Forest.

After the war, Tindal was promoted wing commander and posted to Flying Training School, Shrewsbury, for a year. He was then sent to Palestine. He was promoted to group captain and served in Italy and Austria before returning to England as commanding officer at RAF Coltishall. He retired from the service in 1947. Retired to County Donegal in Ireland in 1949, where he bought a country house and farm. He was an early pioneer of fruit farming in Ireland until his orchards were destroyed by Tropical Storm Debbie in 1965. He died on the 28th January 2006 at Dunkirk Memorial House, Bishops Lydeard, Somerset, age 94.

KTY 19.04.2016

KTY 27-05-2022 Liddell/Ash images added

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