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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 635 Squadron
20/21.04.1944 No 635 Squadron Lancaster III ND826 F2-W Sqr/Ldr. Donald William Mansbridge AFC

Operation: Ottignies rail installations, Belgium

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

Unit: No 635 Squadron

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: ND826

Code: F2-W

Base: RAF Downham Market, Norfolk

Location: Dion-le-Mont (Brabant), 4km ESE of Wavre, Belgium

Pilot: Sqr/Ldr Donald William Mansbridge AFC 45151 RAF Age 30. Killed (1)

Fl/Eng: W/O Albert (Titch) Stanley Palmer DFM 643812 RAF Age 24. Killed

Nav: F/O Gerald (Gerry) Herbert Cruwys Croix de Guerre avec Palm 135442 RAF Age 22. Killed (2)

Air/Bmr: W/O William Courtney White DFM 1311804 RAFVR Age 34. Killed (3)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: W/O John Richard Hanson 1284645 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt Ernest (Butch) Hambling DFM 928499 RAFVR Age 22. Killed (4)

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt Ernest Rowe Newton Barrell 992916 RAFVR Age 29. Killed


Lancaster ND826 took off from RAF Downham Market at 21:28hrs on an operation to bomb the rail installations at Ottignies, Belgium. One of 196 aircraft that took off on this operation. Nothing further was heard from the aircraft after take-off and it may have been shot down by a German night fighter or hit by flak. The aircraft crashed at Dion-le-Mont (Brabant), 4km ESE of Wavre, Belgium

This was a very experienced crew who had flown together on many operational flights

Map showing the area of the crash

Lancaster Mk III (courtesy Imperial War Museum) and the railway station at Ottignies (courtesy Wikipedia)

Thought to be the crew, Fl/Sgt Ernest (Butch) Hambling DFM 3rd from the right. (courtesy Hilary Mowles and Donna Burgess)

Left to right: P/O. Challoner, P/O. Wynne DFM, P/O. Cruwys, Sgt. Shearer and Sgt. Colwell all serving with No. 161 Squadron (courtesy Debbie Kennett neice of Gerald Herbert Cruwys). Centr: P/O. Cruwys (courtesy Michal Beckers) Right: Sgt. Hambling (courtesy Hilary Mowles and Donna Burgess)

Burial details:

All the crew were first buried in Le Culot Temporary Burial Ground, Belgium and reburied on the 25 October 1946 in Heverlee War Cemetery. Heverlee War Cemetery (both courtesy Commonwealth War Graves Commission)

Sqr/Ldr Donald William Mansbridge AFC, W/O Albert (Titch) Stanley Palmer DFM, F/O Gerald (Gerry) Herbert Cruwys Croix de Guerre avec Palm, W/O William Courtney White DFM.

W/O William Courtney White DFM, W/O John Richard Hanson, Fl/Sgt Ernest (Butch) Hambling DFM and Fl/Sgt Ernest Rowe Newton Barrell. (all courtesy Marcel Rosveld)

(1) Sqr/Ldr Donald William Mansbridge AFC. Heverlee War Cemetery, Coll. Grave 2. G. 1-7. Son of William and Alice Mansbridge. Husband of Letitia Joyce Mansbridge of Fareham, Hampshire. Donald William Mansbridge was born in Portsmouth in 1913 and completed part of his education at Portsmouth Grammar School. In 1938 Sgt. D W Mansbridge was in the RAF and on the 24 January 1938 was seriously injured in a flying accident. For further details click (here) Donald was commissioned 1 January 1941 as Pilot Officer on probation. He was confirmed as Pilot Officer and promoted to Flying Officer as of 8 January 1942 and to be Flight Lieutenant 8 January 1943. While serving with 19 OTU (Operational Training Unit he was awarded the AFC (Air Force Cross) Donald was promoted to the rank of Squadron Leader. He is remembered on Portsmouth Grammar School War Memorial and the Fareham War Memorial

W/O Albert (Titch) Stanley Palmer DFM. Heverlee War Cemetery, Coll. Grave 2. G. 1-7. Son of Mr and Mrs Albert Palmer. Husband of Florence Rona Palmer of Canton, Cardiff.

(2) F/O Gerald (Gerry) Herbert Cruwys Croix de Guerre avec Palm. Heverlee War Cemetery, Coll. Grave 2. G. 1-7. Son of Herbert Frederick and Edith Florence Cruwys of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. 'Official news that their son is missing from air operations has been received by Mr and Mrs H F Cruwys, of 238 Gloucester Road, Cheltenham. An Air Ministry Telegram stated: "Deeply regret to inform you that your son, Flying Officer Gerald Hubbert Cruwys, is reported missing as the result of air operations. Any further news received will be immediately communicated to you" Flying Officer Cruwys was awarded the French Croix de Guerre in May of last year, although the reason for the award was not disclosed. He was to have been decorated by General de Gaulle, but the investiture was postponed, Flying Officer Cruwys being given permission to wear the ribbon'

An old hand at flying against the enemy, he has made many operational flights since he joined the RAF in 1940. He received his commission early in 1943. Born in Cork, he came to England in 1934, when he was 12 years old. He studied at St. Paul's Practising School, Cheltenham, and also at the Technical College. He later became a draughtsman at Dowty Equipment, Ltd. He played rugby for the Technical College and Dowty's, and as a member of the St. Stephen's Church Lads Brigade, was a keen boxer. His brother Tom, who is in Africa, is also in the RAF, and brother, Stanley, is a telegraphist in the Royal Navy' Gerry is remembered on the Cheltenham War Memorial

The Cornishman and Cornish Telegraph, Thursday, May 20, 1943 (courtesy British Newspaper Archive)

(3) W/O William Courtney White DFM. Heverlee War Cemetery, Coll. Grave 2. G. 1-7. Son of William Henry and Christian Jane White. Husband of Gertrude May White of West Croydon, Surrey. Born in Germoe, Cornwall. William had been a builder's foreman before enlisting in 1940. Awarded the DFM as per London Gazette 18 May, 1943 while serving with No 49 Squadron. The citation '....Sgt White has taken part in attacks over Germany, French and Italian targets proving a particularly capable and determined member of his crew' William completed his first tour of duty with No 49 Squadron

W/O John Richard Hanson. Heverlee War Cemetery, Coll. Grave 2. G. 1-7. Son of Richard Clarence Hanson and Mabel Violet Hanson of Hucclecote, Gloucestershire

(4) Fl/Sgt Ernest (Butch) Hambling DFM. Heverlee War Cemetery, Coll. Grave 2. G. 1-7. Born in 1922, the Son of Kate and Harry Hambling of Layham Suffolk, England. Ernest was one of seven brothers, all of whom had farming connections and it is believed that his father, Harry was a horse dealer and it is believed that Ernest worked on the land. His brother William and his father went to London to collect Ernest's DFM on behalf of the family, which was presented by King George. It is believed that Ernest was due to collect it in person but sadly lost his life, before this could take place.

Ernest attended the society wedding (shown above, 2nd from right) of his pilot, Squadron Leader Mansbridge when he got married. His brother 26 year old, Alfred Edward Hambling, served in the 5th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment and became a prisoner of the Japanese. He was being transported with a large number of British and Australian prisoners of war, having already survived the “Death railway” in Burma on the 12th of Septemeber 1944, when the Rakuyo Mara ship that he was on was torpedoed by the USS Sealion, an American submarine who were unaware that the ship was carrying prisoners of war. Sadly he drowned. He is remembered on the Singapore Memorial. Both brothers are remembered on the War memorial at Layham, Suffolk.

Fl/Sgt Ernest Rowe Newton Barrell. Heverlee War Cemetery, Coll. Grave 2. G. 1-7. Son of George and Edith Barrell. Husband of Annie Barrell of Prescot, Lancashire (5) Ernest is remembered on the Prescot Civic War Memorial

Researched by: Kate Tame Aircrew Remembered and for all the relatives and friends of the crew. With special thanks to Michal Beckers, Debbie Kennett, Marcel Rosvelds, No. 97 Squadron British Newspaper Archive. Grateful thanks to Linda Ibrom, Donna Burgess, great niece of Ernest and her mother Hilary Mowles, niece of Fl/Sgt Ernest (Butch) Hambling DFM. Also the other sources as indicated below

KT. Page uploaded 30.10.2016

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