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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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578 Squadron Crest
12/13.08.1944 578 Squadron Halifax III LW383 LK:K Bar, Fg Off. MacPhillamy

Operation: Russelsheim

Date: 12th/13th August 1944 (Saturday/Sunday)

Unit: 578 Squadron

Type: Halifax III

Serial: LW383

Code: LK:K Bar

Base: RAF Burn, Yorkshire

Location: Havelange, 8km WSW of Ath, Belgium

Pilot: Fg Off. Owen Scott MacPhillamy MiD 423850 RAAF Age 21. Killed

Flt Eng: Sgt. Frank Benjamin Newman 1589826 RAFVR PoW No: 8996 *

Nav: Plt Off. John Wensley Humble 170143 RAFVR Age 35. Killed

Bomb Aimer: Sgt. Nigel R. Beamish MiD 179537 RAFVR Evader (1)

WOp/Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. Lancelot Ross Bodey MiD 424313 RAAF Age 31. Evader (1)

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Sgt. George Ernest Ward 1865789 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Leonard Stafford 2221029 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

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


Taking off at 21:37 hrs from RAF Burn in Yorkshire one of 24 aircraft sent from the Squadron - joining some 296 other aircraft flying deep into southern Germany to bomb the Opel works at Russelsheim (The factory was thought to be manufacturing the wings for the V1 flying bombs).

The bomber stream encountered night fighters from Brussels all the way to the target and also on their homeward bound flights. The allies lost some 20 aircraft in the onslaught.

The target was only slightly damaged, most of the bombs landed in open countryside. However the tyre and dispatch departments and powerhouse were hit - some 9 people killed on the ground with a further 31 injured.

LW383 or 640 Sqn Halifax III MZ855 was claimed as a 4-Motor by Uffz. Hermann Möckel, his 1st Abschuss, from 2./NJG4 over Havelange (PL 4, Himmelbett) at 2.500m at 01:30 hrs. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (24 July 1944 - 15 October 1944) Part 4 - Theo Boiten). The aircraft crashed at Chapelle-a-Ois, Hainaut, 8km WSW of Ath.

The Squadron lost another crew on this operation:

Halifax III NA604 LK:T Flown by Fg Off. John Joseph Pearson J89814 RCAF - killed with all 6 other crew.

(1) Flt Sgt. Lancelot Bodey was captured with Sgt. Beamish on the 29th August 1944 by the Gestapo and held in the St. Gilles Prison in Brussels. Both escaped from the “Ghost Train”. These crew members passed away in 1993. Flt Sgt. Lancelot Bodey - MiD in June 1945. Both crew members were offered positions in other theatres as was normal practice for evaders (to protect those that had assisted them in their escape should they be captured at a later date) It is known that Flt Sgt. Lancelot Bodey then joined Transport Command, no details where Sgt. Nigel Beamish was posted.

Right: Sgt. Nigel R. Beamish (courtesy of Michael Beamish, his son - January 2018)

The train itself was a line of 30 or so goods wagons formed up by the German SS troops at Bruxelles Midi Railway Station. It was filled with 1,370 political prisoners and 41 Allied airmen from Saint-Gilles prison, and destined for prison camps in Germany.

The train had been scheduled to leave in the early morning of Saturday 2nd September 1944 but was delayed by railway workers until nearly five o'clock in the afternoon. Further delaying tactics resulted in the train only getting as far at Mechelin/Malines that evening and then diverting to Muizen for water replenishment. On leaving Muizen station next morning, further problems (mostly due to sabotage) were encountered and the train eventually returned to Klein-Eiland/La Petite-Ile at 10:15 hrs Sunday morning. More (deliberate) confusion resulted in the locomotive for the train being detached and no suitable replacement being found. Following negotiations with various officials, including the Red Cross, the political prisoners were released from the train at 12.30 hrs and the Germans took the train over for their own troops that afternoon. The train only got as far as Schaerbeek that evening before it was shunted into the railway yards there. In the confusion, several wagons, including the one holding the PoWs, were derailed and abandoned. The PoWs escaped in small groups throughout the night. The two evaders returned to England on the 3rd September 1944 on a flight from Brussels.

Burial details:

Fg Off. Owen Scott MacPhillamy MiD. Chievres Communal Cemetery. Grave 41. Born on the 28th October 1922, the son of Angus Owen and Isma MacPhillamy, of Rockley, New South Wales, Australia.

Above: Fg Off. MacPhillamy from his Service file

Above: The father of Fg Off. MacPhillamy wrote to the Secretary of Air Melbourne in 1952 after he was advised that his son was awarded the Oak-Leaf-Emblem (MiD)

Plt Off. John Wensley Humble. Chievres Communal Cemetery. Grave 38. Son of Wensley Thomas and Louise A. Humble; husband of Edith Mary Humble. of Woolavington, Somerset, England.

Sgt. George Ernest Ward. Chievres Communal Cemetery. Grave 39. Son of Arthur Thomas Ward and Phyllis Rose Ward, of Leyton, Essex, England.

Sgt. Leonard Stafford. Chievres Communal Cemetery. Grave 40. Son of George W. and Ada Stafford, of Newark, Nottinghamshire, England.

Researched by Kelvin Youngs (Webmaster) and dedicated to the relatives of this crew, with thanks to Michael Beamish who contacted us in January 2018. Thanks to John Burford for highlighting the incorrect German night fighter claim (Jan 2022). Other updates by Aircrew Remembered (Jan 2022). Also to sources quoted.

RS 20.01.2022 - Correction to German night fighter claim

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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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