14/15.01.1944 No. 156 Squadron Lancaster III ND357 GT-G W/Cdr. N.R. Mansfield DFC
Date: 14/15th January1944 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: No. 156 Squadron (motto: 'We light the way')
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Warboys, Cambridgeshire (Huntingdonshire circa 1944).
Location: Kolhorn, 7km. ENE of Schagen, Netherlands.
Pilot: W/Cdr. Nelson Reuben Mansfield DFC. 43707 RAF Age 31. Killed (1)
Flt/Eng: W/O. Charles Henry Lawrance DFM. 1268110 RAFVR Age 30. Killed (2)
Nav: Sq/Ldr. Edward Sudbury Alexander DFC. DFM. J/15543 RCAF Age 24. Killed (3/6)
Nav: P/O. Bernard Aidan Trott 169548 RAFVR Age 29. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Lt. Charles Roy Swinney DFC. 52075 RAF Age 26. Killed (4)
Air/Gnr: F/O. George William Penrose DFC. 80423 RAFVR Age 30. Killed (5)
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Victor Norman Cawdery 1315026 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS
Piloted by Wing Commander Mansfield, Lancaster ND357 took at 16:45 hrs, part of a force of 498 aircraft targeting the aircraft component and other armament manufacturing facilities in and around the city of Brunswick. Being an important industrial area the target was heavily defended by flak installations and Luftwaffe night fighters.
Flying almost due east, the bomber stream crossed the North Sea and entered enemy held territory over North Holland. Turning south east toward Brunswick, in the region of Bremen, the bombers were met by many German night fighters infiltrating the stream. In all, 38 aircraft were lost during the raid which turned out to be very unsuccessful in terms of damage to the target and the loss of so many aircrews.
Image of W/Cdr. Nelson Reuben Mansfield DFC courtesy Auckland (New Zealand) Library Heritage Collection: AWNS19440119-22-42.
ND357, on its first operation since delivery to the RAF, became a victim of night fighter ace Oberleutnant Dietrich Schmidt of 8./NJG1 (shown right
) at 20:35 hrs. and crashed into a mill stream on farmland near Kolhorn killing all aboard. Oblt. Schmidt already an ace at this time (11 kills) survived the war with a claimed 38 night kills.
156 Squadron tragically lost 5 Lancasters on this operation:
JA698 GT-C Flown by F/O. D.R. Illingworth 122081 RAFVR - 2 killed 5 PoW.
JA975 GT-N Flown by 33 year old, Fl/Lt. Clifford Robert Stannard 89297 RAFVR - all 7 crew killed.
JB483 GT-M Flown by 21 year old, P/O. George Palmer 155490 RAFVR - all 7 crew killed.
LM344 GT-H Flown by 22 year old, P/O. Edward Christopher Bagot AUS/416645 RAAF - all 7 crew killed.
While the Lancaster was new with only 11 flying hours, the crew were veterans of many operations with five of them previously awarded decorations for past bravery.
Some sixty years after their last mission a memorial to this gallant crew has been unveiled at the site of the crash, above the remains of the aircraft which lies buried beneath the now peaceful Dutch countryside.
(1) Pilot W/Cdr. Mansfield’s citation in the London Gazette on the award of his DFC states:
this officer has undertaken a large number of sorties during which many well defended and far distant targets have been attacked with success. His efforts have been featured by outstanding determination, while on more than one occasion his great skill has been responsible for the safe return of his aircraft in the face of difficulties. Squadron Leader Mansfield has at all times displayed great devotion to duty.’
He had previously served with 218 Squadron and this was his second tour of operations.
(3) Sq/Ldr. Alexander, the lone Canadian member of the crew was twice decorated. On the night of 28 April, 1942, his Wellington of 419 squadron of which he was the observer, was attacked and crippled by a night fighter. The rear turret on the aircraft was badly damaged trapping the wounded air gunner inside. Alexander, although wounded himself, picked up an axe, smashed open the turret doors and dragged his crew mate to safety within the fuselage. For this act of courage he was awarded a DFM
. Two years later, after completing over 50 missions, many as Pathfinder, he was awarded a DFC. "This officer has carried out a total of 51 sorties against heavily defended targets in Germany and enemy occupied territories. He has completed 35 sorties since the award of the Distinguished Flying Medal, eighteen of these being with this squadron on Pathfinder Force duties. Flight Lieutenant Alexander has proved himself to be an outstanding navigator, both in the air and on the ground, his untiring efforts in helping new arrivals being worthy of the highest commendation. The efficiency and high standard of devotion to duty he has displayed in accurately navigating his aircraft to the most difficult targets make him very worthy of the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross."
(2) W/O. Lawrance was on his second tour with over 46 operations to his credit having been awarded a DFM in October of 1943.
(4) Fl/Lt. Swinney, another veteran of many sorties over enemy territory, was awarded his DFC in October of 1943.
(5) F/O. Penrose had previously won his DFC while serving with 12 Squadron in 1942. His citation in the London Gazette reads:
As rear gunner and wireless operator/air gunner respectively Pilot Officers Penrose and Wheeler have participated in numerous bombing sorties. In August, 1942, during a sortie against Kassel, both displayed high devotion to duty in difficult circumstances. The following night, they were members of the crew of an aircraft which attacked Saarbrucken. On the return flight, the aircraft was intercepted by an enemy fighter. In a series of 15 attacks, the bomber sustained severe damage. A shell which burst in the rear turret exploded some ammunition and eventually rendered the turret unserviceable. In spite of this, Pilot Officer Penrose used his guns effectively and his fire eventually set one of the attacker's engines alight, causing it to break off the combat. Meanwhile, Pilot Officer Wheeler who had been wounded in both hands by shrapnel, continued his duties of fire control without mentioning his injuries. He afterwards rendered first aid to a wounded comrade. In the face of most trying circumstances both Pilot Officers Penrose and Wheeler displayed great courage and devotion to duty.'
(6) Alexander Island in Basnard Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada is named after Sq/Ldr. Edward Sudbury Alexander DFC, DFM.
W/Cdr. Nelson Reuben Mansfield. DFC. Bergen-Op-Zoom War Cemetery, Netherlands. Collective Grave (shown left) 29 B 2. Son of Horace Reuben and Ellen Caroline Rose Mansfield, of Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand. Husband of Pamela Mansfield, of Westminster, London, England. Grave inscription reads: "To The Dear Memory Of My Beloved Husband Who Gave His Life For His Country".
W/O. Charles Henry Lawrance. DFM. Bergen-Op-Zoom War Cemetery, Netherlands. Grave 31 B 1. Son of Alfred and Eliza Lawrance. Husband of Winifred Florence Lawrance, of Brixton, London, England. Grave inscription reads: "In Memory Of My Beloved Husband. "Sleep Peacefully, Dear One, With The Brave".
Sq/Ldr. Edward Sudbury Alexander. DFC. DFM. Bergen-Op-Zoom War Cemetery,Netherlands. Collective Grave 29 B 2. Son of Dare Robertson and Mary Sybil Alexander. Husband of Karenena Rosalia Alexander, of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. Grave inscription reads: "My Love Goes With You My Darling".
P/O. Bernard Aidan Trott. Bergen-Op-Zoom War Cemetery, Netherlands. Grave (shown right
) 31 C 2. Son of Maud Trott, of Broomhill, Sheffield. G.I.P.E, England. Grave inscription reads: "Tranquillity. They Come Back With Honour, Then Fly On".
Fl/Lt. Charles Roy Swinney. DFC. Bergen-Op-Zoom War Cemetery, Netherlands. Collective Grave 29 B 2. Son of Charles Edward Swinney, and of Florence Mary Swinney, of East Keswick, Yorkshire, England. Grave inscription reads: "In Proud Memory Of My Beloved Only Son. Mother".
Fl/Sgt. Victor Norman Cawdery. Bergen-Op-Zoom War Cemetery, Netherlands. Collective Grave (shown above left
) 29 B 2. Son of Herbert Stanley and Elizabeth Maud Cawdery, of Tring, Hertfordshire, England. Grave inscription reads: "Loved And Remembered Always".
F/O. George William Penrose. DFC. Bergen-Op-Zoom War Cemetery, Netherlands. Collective Grave 29 B 2. Son of H. S. Penrose, and of Lilian Penrose, of Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia. Grave inscription reads: "With Your Comrades, God Has You In His Keeping, I Have You In My Heart".
Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and RCAF specialist Colin Bamford for relatives of this crew. Also to Jenifer Lemaire of New Zealand for her great assistance with this report and the Auckland (New Zealand) Library Heritage Collection. For further details our thanks to the following, Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', ‘Bomber Command Database’, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', 'Kracker Luftwaffe Archives'. Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries (Updated 2014 version), 'Paradie Archive'. Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Service Files of the Second World War - War Dead 1939 - 1947. Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Canada.