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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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836 Naval Air Squadron
03.03.1943 836 Naval Air Squadron Swordfish II HS272, Sub-Lt. (A) John ‘Crash’ Lisle

Operation: Le Havre, France

Date: 3rd March 1943 (Wednesday)

Unit No: 836 Naval Air Squadron (NAS)

Type: Fairy Swordfish II

Serial: HS272

Code: K

Base: RAF Thorney Island

Location: 3¼ km (2 mls) off the mouth of the Le Havre estuary

Pilot: Sub-Lt. (A) John ‘Crash’ Lisle RNVR Age 23. PoW No. 250 * (1)

Observer: Sub-Lt. (A) Roy Stuart Allen RNVR Age 21. KiA

Telegraphist/Air Gunner: LA. (A) P. Slowey FAA/JX.212202 RNVR Age? PoW No. 27659 **

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

** Stalag 8B, in 1943 renamed Stalag 344, Lamsdorf (now called Łambinowice) in Silesia, Lamsdorf (now called Łambinowice) in Silesia.

REASON FOR LOSS:

In March 1943 the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) deployed the 833 NAS and 863 NAS from HMS Daedalus, also known as Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Lee-on-Solent, to RAF Thorny Island to support operations by 16 Group, RAF Coastal Command. Each Sqn was established with nine aircraft of which seven were available from 833 NAS and six from 863 NAS.

The station was already occupied by RCAF Sqns flying Hudsons and Hampdens which were carrying out nightly radar sweeps to Le Havre and Cherbourg and it was the task of 836 NAS to attack any shipping that was sighted by these aircraft. The second task involved mine laying sorties, probably as a result of intelligence sources in France, and usually concentrated on Le Havre and Cherbourg.

These missions entailed flying across the English Channel at a maximum altitude of 150 ft to avoid detection by radar and enemy aircraft. Pilots required incredible concentration to fly on instruments for over 3 hrs at very low altitude.

On this day HS272 was on such a minelaying operation and flew into the sea 3¼ km (2 mls) off the mouth of the Le Havre estuary. Sub-Lt. (A) Lisle and LA. (A) Slowey were rescued and became PoWs whilst Sub-Lt. (A) Allen sadly drowned. (Ref 1. p.80).

(1) After he was rescued from the sea he was transferred to Dulag Luft, Oberursel where was held in solitary confinement for 13 days from the 5th March 1943 until the 17th March 1943. During this period he refused to complete a bogus Red Cross form, was threatened with being handed over to the Gestapo and also with further solitary confinement.

He was then transferred to Oflag 21B on the 21st March 1943. The camp was located at Szubin a few miles SW of Bydgoszcz in Poland. On the 9th April 1943 camp was cleared of all PoWs and he was transferred to Stalag Luft 3 arriving there on the 11th April 1944.

Whilst at Stalag Luft 3 he was involved with the digging of six tunnels dug all of which were found by the Germans.

On the night of the 27th January 1945, with Soviet troops only 26 km (16 mls) away, orders were received to evacuate the PoWs to Spremberg which is to the West in Germany. The PoW’s were informed of the evacuation, which was on foot, at about 22:00 hrs the same night and were given 30 mins to pack and prepare everything for the March. The weather conditions were very difficult, with freezing temperatures, and it was snowing accompanied by strong winds. There was 15 cm (6 in) of snow and 2000 PoWs were assigned to clear the road ahead of the main groups.

He was part of the column that was sent to Marlag und Milag Nord at Westertimke arriving there on the 5th February 1945.

Milan = Marinelager (naval prisoner of war camp) and Milag = Marine-Internierten-Lager (naval internment camp), Nord (North). Located at a former Luftwaffe (German Air Force) barracks near Westertimke NE of Bremen in Germany.

On the 2nd April 1945 the Commandant announced that he had received orders to leave the camp with most of his guards. Only a small detachment of guards was left behind to hand over the camp to Allied forces, who were already in Bremen.

However, that afternoon a detachment of over a 100 SS-Feldgendarmerie entered the camp, mustered over 3,000 men, many others hid in surrounding fields and in the camps, and marched them out, heading east.

Over the next few days the column was attacked from the air several times and a number of PoWs were killed or wounded. Finally the Senior British Naval Officer (SBNO), who himself was later killed in a strafing attack by RAF aircraft, offered the Germans the PoW’s parole, in return for being allowed to rest during the day and march at night to which the Germans agreed.

On the 9th April 1945 the guards at Milag-Marlag moved out and were replaced by older men, presumably local Volkssturm. Meanwhile, the column slowly headed east, finally crossing the River Elbe, north of Hamburg, on the 18th April.

On the 27th April the camps at Milag-Marlag were liberated by elements of the British Guards Armoured Division.

On the 28th April, the column finally arrived at Lübeck on the Baltic coast. They were liberated by the British 11th Armoured Division on the 1st May 1945.

It is not known if Sub-Lt. (A) Lisle remained in the camp or was force-marched to Lübeck, however, what is known is that he was interviewed on the 3rd May 1945.

John Lisle was born on the 11th January 1920 in Basingstoke, Southampton and was employed at a clerk prior to enlisting in the RNVR on the 3rd October 1939. He was appointed to a commission in the RNVR on the 15th December 1941 (Seniority 3rd May 1941).

His sister, Doreen Isles, served in the WRNS (Clerical) at Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Eastleigh.

Note: According to Royal Navy customs, bases are ships, therefore, RNAS Eastleigh became HMS Raven on 1st July 1939.

Much to the amusement of the RAF, German propaganda later reported HMS Raven had been sunk.

Burial details:

Sub-Lt. (A) Roy Stuart Allen. Lee-On-Solent Memorial, Hampshire, Bay 4, Panel 6. Born on the 10th June 1921 in Cardiff, Glamorgan, Wales. Son of John Purser Stuart and Aileen Valentine Phoebe (née Gibbons) Allen of Newton Abbot, Devon, England.

Researched by Ralph Snape from Aircrew Remembered as dedicated to this crew and their families (Feb 2024).

Other sources listed below:

Reference:

1. The Effectiveness of Merchant Aircraft Carriers - John R. Mably - May 2004.

RS 02.02.2024 - Initial Upload

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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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