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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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214 Squadron Crest
02/03.08.1943 No. 214 Squadron Stirling III EF409 BU-V Sgt. McGarvey

Operation: Hamburg

Date: 02/03rd August 1943 (Monday/Tuesday)

Unit: No. 214 Squadron (Motto: Ultor in umbris - "Avenging in the shadows")

Type: Stirling III

Serial: EF409

Code: BU-V

Base: RAF Chedburgh, Suffolk

Location: Wadden Sea

Pilot: Sgt. Alexander Alistair Robertson McGarvey 1345818 RAFVR Age ? PoW No: 1325 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus

Fl/Eng: Sgt.John Peter Taylor 1434892 RAFVR Age 21. Missing believed killed

Nav: Sgt. A.B Grainger 1060146 RAFVR Age ? PoW No: 222407 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus

Air/Bmr: Sgt. Gilbert Dalton Loveridge 1388965 RAFVR Age 21. Missing believed killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt .Albert Samuel Biffin 1313932 RAFVR Age 21. Missing believed killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Charles Dennis Curtis 549252 RAF Age 23. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. John James Evans 619407 RAFVR Age ? Missing believed killed


Leaving RAF Chedburgh in Suffolk at 23:36 hrs on an operation to bomb the port of Hamburg - 740 aircraft taking part. 19 aircraft were claimed by by night fighters during the bombing operation. Some were intercepted and shot down over Heligoland, others over Schleswig-Holstein with several over the target area. The bomber stream were scattered suffering a fierce thunderstorm once they reached the target.

At least 4 allied aircraft were lost over the target due to the weather, icing, turbulence or struck by the lightning. Several turned back. As the bomber stream was scattered so was the bombing with many other towns over a 100 mile radius receiving hits. A large portion of the raid was caused by a house fire in Elmshorn (some 12 miles from the target) it was thought had been struck by the lightning, resulting in the bombers thinking this was the target, released their bombs. Some 57 people were killed in the town with 254 houses destroyed.

It is thought that Stirling EF409 is understood to have been hit by anti-aircraft fire and in addition due to the atrocious weather conditions forced the pilot to ditch the aircraft off Wilhemshaven in the Wadden Sea. 5 of the crew were lost. The details of the George Medal award to the pilot explains what happened to the two survivors:

For his actions after the ditching the pilot was awarded with the George Medal. London Gazette 14th August 1945:

"In August, 1943, this airman was pilot of an aircraft returning from an attack on Hamburg. His aircraft was hit and became uncontrollable. At approximately 02:00 hours he gave orders to abandon the aircraft. He alighted in the sea near to his navigator, who was a poor swimmer and had been wounded. Despite his own wounds, which rendered his legs almost useless, Warrant Officer McGarvey swam towards the navigator, who was blowing his whistle. Searchlights were being played on them and they tried to swim to the nearest shore position, Warrant Officer MoGarvey towing the navigator who, after a time, could barely help himself along and relapsed into periods of unconsciousness. When dawn broke they set course for a light vessel which could be seen in the distance. The tide was, however, carrying them away from the vessel. The navigator was only just conscious and Warrant Officer McGarvey, discarding his "Mae West", swam to the light vessel to obtain assistance. At 10.30 hours the navigator was rescued in an unconscious condition but recovered after artificial respiration had been applied. Warrant Officer McGarvey had assisted him for over 8 hours, eventually saving his life in most difficult and dangerous circumstances".

The brother of the pilot, Sgt. R.R. McGarvey was also shot down later on the 09th October 1943. Both ended up in the same PoW camp. For additional details see here.

Burial details:

Sgt.John Peter Taylor. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 166. Son of George John Williams Taylor and Kathleen Ann Taylor, of Brighton, Sussex, England.

Sgt. Gilbert Dalton Loveridge. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 157. Son of Gilbert Harold and Emily Loveridge, of Eastleigh, Hampshire, England.

Sgt .Albert Samuel Biffin. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 142. Son of Mr. and Mrs. Samual Charles Biffin, of St. Denys, Hampshire, England.

Sgt. Charles Dennis Curtis. Becklingen War Cemetery. Grave 27.J.3. Son of Walter and Florence M. Curtis, of Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, England. Grave inscription reads: "It's Not The Words, They Are Few, But Beautiful Memories Are Kept Of You. M.V.S.E".

Sgt. John James Evans. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 149. No further details - are you able to assist?

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to sources shown.

KTY 19.12.2018

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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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