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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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582 Squadron
16/17.01.1945 582 Squadron Lancaster III NE130 Fg Off. Patrick J. McVerry DFC

Operation: Zeitz, Germany

Date: 16th/17th January 1945 (Tuesday/Wednesday)

Unit No: 582 Squadron, Pathfinder Force (PFF), 8 Group

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: NE130

Code: 6O:T

Base: RAF Little Staughton, Huntingdonshire

Location: Saint-Quentin area, some 62 km WSW of the Belgian Border

Pilot: Fg Off. Patrick John McVerry DFC 417081 RNZAF Age 27. Returned (1)

Flt Eng: Sgt. James Anthony Fallon 1572092 RAFVR Age? Unknown (2)

Nav: Fg Off. Warwick George Thorby DFC 157340 RAFVR Age? Returned (1 & 3)

Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt. John Alfred ‘Jack’ Denton 1231184 RAFVR Age? Returned (4)

WOp/Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. James Montgomery Carroll DFM 428491 RAAF Age 21. Returned (1 & 5)

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Sgt. Trevor Myatt 1817083 DFM RAFVR Age? Returned (1 & 6)

Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Nicholas McNamara 1793690 RAFVR Age 21. KiA

REASON FOR LOSS:

On the 16th January 1945, 582 Sqn was detailed to provide seven aircraft for a target marking operation of the Zeitz Braunkohle-Benzin synthetic-oil plant in Germany. NE130 took off from RAF Little Staughton at 18:35 hrs as one of three Blind Sky Markers.

Just before crossing the Netherlands coast the starboard outer engine began to overheat as did the port inner engine. The Captain reduced power to both engines and opened the radiator flaps. The temperature and oil pressure of the port inner engine returned to safe limits, whilst the starboard outer engine temperature remained high and oil pressure low but continued to run well. The rear turret electrics failed some distance before reaching target.

On approaching the target using its radar the aircraft was coned by numerous search-lights for about 6 mins during which the Captain began a series of steep diving turns to break contact. The aircraft was engaged by heavy flak close ahead and astern for about 3½ mins and was hit directly by one shell in the region of the bomb-bay. Steep diving turns were continued and the search-lights were evaded about 2½ mins later. A number of white flares had been dropped just before being hit by flak and the remainder of the bomb-load was jettisoned immediately afterwards.

The flak damaged the hydraulics causing the flaps to drop down by 5o to 10 o and airspeed fell off slightly but the bomb doors were able to be closed. After evading the search-lights the aircraft was flown straight and level and turned for Base on the briefed route.

At about 22:16 hrs, some 106 km (63¼ mls) due west of Zeitz and 42 km (26 mls) NE of Erfurt, without warning the fuselage was raked by Cannon and Machine-Gun fire. Neither the Rear Gunner (RG) nor Mid-Upper Gunner (MUG) had seen the attacker because they had lost their night vision after the aircraft had been coned by the search-lights.

Currently it has not been possible to determine the identity of the German nighter fighter that attacked NE130.

Fishpond was not under observation as the operator, who was the Wireless Operator (WOp), was in the Astro-Dome which he was required to do 10 mins before and 10 mins after after reaching target.

The attack did considerable damage to the airframe, fuel tanks, alerions, elevators, some hydraulic systems and disabled the oxygen system aft of the Mid-Upper (MU) turret. However, rudder control was available and the engines continued to run well. After the attack the aircraft went into a steep dive for about 1500 ft. The control column was slack and ineffective but the aircraft was brought out of the dive with elevator trim.

Level flight could not be maintained and the aircraft switch-backed continuously. The Captain ordered the crew to don parachutes. The RG called on the intercom to say that he was wounded and his turret was jammed. The WOp was sent back to help the RG and with great difficulty, because he was large man, extracted him from the turret.

The FE jettisoned the front parachute exit hatch (located in the nose under the Bomb Aimer (BA) position), returned to his position for his parachute which he donned and then returned to the nose. The aircraft then went into a steep dive and 2 to 3 mins later it was found that the FE was missing and it was presumed that he bailed out. It was estimated that the position was about 32 km (20 mls) NW of Erfurt. Although the Captain had not ordered a bale out he did not consider the FE action unjustified.

Erfurt was in Allied hands in January 1945.

The WOp then called up from the rear door to tell the Captain that the oxygen point in that position was shot away and he was on the verge of passing out. The MUG went back to help the RG and with great difficulty moved him to the oxygen point just aft of the H2S installation. The RG appeared to have a fractured right wrist and injuries to the right side of his body. He regained consciousness but was unable to talk coherently.

At this point the Captain decided to leave the ordered route to Base to avoid the dangers from further German fighters attacks and headed SW towards Belgium then south and abandon the aircraft. He decided to abandon the aircraft because it was not sufficiently under control for him to attempt a landing.

The MUG, Navigator (Nav) and WOp took about 30 mins to move the RG back to the rear door and attach his parachute to the Dinghy rope as a makeshift static-line. He was pushed out of the rear door at 00:15 hrs at a height of about 15,000 ft some 30 km (16½ mls) NNE of Saint-Quentin.

The BA went out of the front hatch at the same time with the intention of helping the RG when he landed. However, after he had passed though a cloud layer he mistook the snow-covered ground for more cloud and landed heavily on his back on barbed wire which knocked him unconscious. He came-to at 01:25 hrs and then walked about 5 km (3 mls) to the village of Busigny, which is some 24 km (15 mls) NNE of Saint-Quentin, where he contacted American forces. He made a number of telephone calls for search parties to be sent out looking for the RG.

The Nav went out of the front hatch at about 00:25 hrs followed almost at once by the WOp and the MUG from the rear door. The Nav misjudged the height of the ground by 200 - 300 ft and landed heavily on his feet, jarring his spine slightly. He heard the WOp and MUG calling and searched for them, blowing his whistle but without success. He then walked for about 2 hrs and received assistance at Fontaine-Notre-Dame, which is some 36 km (15 mls) NNW of Saint-Quentin.

The WOp also mistook the ground for cloud and landed heavily on his foot and sustained a slight cut on his forehead and bruises. He walked some distance and was picked up by Frenchman in a car and taken to Guise, which is some 24 km (15 mls) east of Saint-Quentin.

The MUG landed in a tree, was suspended for 30 mins, before he managed to climb down. He walked to a village, received help and stayed the night as there was no telephone available. Villagers contacted the Americans in the morning who collected him and took him to Saint-Quentin.

The Captain went out last through the front hatch, after trimming the aircraft into a climb. He landed heavily on his feet and fell forward. He walked about blowing his whistle but could not find any signs of habitation and passed the night wrapped in his parachute. He heard and saw the explosion when the aircraft crashed about 15 km (9¼ mls) away at 01:25 hrs followed by a large fire and another explosion at 01:53 hrs. At 06:25 hrs he heard a train pass near by and walked towards the line. He was directed to Mézières-sur-Oise, some 12 km (7¼ mls) SE of Saint-Quentin, and took a train to Saint-Quentin.

Sgt. Nicholas McNamara, the RG, was later reported to have been found dead. His parachute had not opened.

This crew had flown 31 operations together, with the Captain, FE, Nav, BA, MUG and RG having completed 32 operations. The Captain was on his 2nd tour.

The returning crew members, except for Sgt. Fallon, commenced flying operations again on the 24th February 1945. Their last PPF operation listed in the Sqn ORB was on the 4th/5th April 1945.

(1) Warrant Officer (WO) McVerry was granted a commission and promoted to Plt Off. on the 13th July 1944.

He was posted to 582 Sqn on the 5th November 1944 and was promoted to Fg Off. on the 14th January 1945.

For this operation Fg Off. McVerry and Fg Off. Thorby were awarded the DFC, and Flt Sgt. Carroll and Sgt. Myatt were awarded the DFM. London Gazette 13th March 1945.

The group citation: "Flying Officer Thorby, Flight Sergeant Carroll and Sergeant Myatt were navigator, wireless operator and mid-upper gunner respectively in an aircraft piloted by Flying Officer McVerry in an attack on the oil refinery at Zeitz one night in January, 1945. Although two engines became troublesome soon after leaving base. Flying Officer McVerry used them most skilfully and was able to reach the target on time. During the bombing run, the aircraft was hit by fire from the ground defences whilst illuminated in the searchlights. Nevertheless, Flying Officer McVerry held to a steady run until the bombs were released. Shortly afterwards, the aircraft was attacked by a fighter. Serious damage was sustained. The elevator controls were rendered useless and the bomber went into a step dive. Flying Officer McVerry succeeded in levelling out but, for the remainder of the flight he was faced with the greatest difficulty in retaining even a measure of control. The position was most alarming but, with great coolness, Flying Officer Thorby worked out a new course and the aircraft was headed towards allied territory. Meantime, Flight Sergeant Carroll and Sergeant Myatt had gone to the assistance of the rear gunner who lay wounded and trapped in his gun turret. In total darkness, and lacking oxygen, all but one of the supply bottles having been broken, they worked heroically. Although badly hindered by the manoeuvres of the aircraft which was constantly diving and climbing, they succeeded in freeing their comrade. At this point. Flight Sergeant Carroll collapsed. He revived, however, after being given oxygen by Flying Officer Thorby who had carried him forward. When allied territory was reached, Flying Officer McVerry gave the order to abandon aircraft. Before jumping themselves, these crew members prepared their injured comrade for the parachute descent and released him first. Afterwards all came down safely. In circumstances of great peril, these members of aircraft crew displayed the highest standard of bravery, coolness and resolution.”

(2) Sgt. Fallon was posted to 582 Sqn on the 27th November 1944.

On the 21st January 1945 when those crew members who had returned to RAF Little Staughton were interrogated by the Senior Intelligence Officer (SIO) from RAF Warboys the fate of Sgt. Fallon was unknown.

Note: some reference material lists him as Sgt. G. Fallon, however, the interrogation report records him as Sgt. James Anthony Fallon.

Sgt. G. Fallon 3041124 was an Air Gunner posted onto the Squadron on the 3rd November 1944. He was the Mid-Upper Gunner on PB523 6O:J which was lost on an operation to Köln on the 23rd December 1944. He baled out but was injured and became a PoW. It has been reported that he was confined to hospital due to his injuries but managed to escape.

He was not listed in the Squadron Operational Record Book (ORB) as having returned to operations nor that he was posted from the Squadron strength between January and May 1945. From this it can be assumed that he did not return to the Squadron.

He is not listed in the CWGC database nor is there a record of him as a PoW so to date his fate remains unknown.

(3) LAC Warwick George Thorby 1805050 was commissioned and promoted to Plt Off. upon completion of his training on the 14th January 1944. He was promoted to Fg Off. on the 2nd April 1944.

Fg Off. Thorby was posted out of 582 Sqn on the 11th May 1945. He was promoted to Flt Lt. on the 2nd October 1945.

(4) Flt Sgt. Denton was posted to 582 Sqn on the 20th November 1944 and posted out on the 22nd May 1945.

Warrant Officer (WO) Denton was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre 1940 with Palme, London Gazette, 27th June 1947.

(6) Sgt. Myatt was posted to 582 Sqn on the 27th November 1944 and posted out as a Flt Sgt. on the 3rd May 1945.

Burial details:

Above: Grave marker for Sgt. McNamara (Courtesy of the TWGPP)

Sgt. Nicholas McNamara. Clichy Northern Cemetery Plot 16, Row 10, Grave 9. Inscription: "SWEET JESUS, HAVE MERCY ON HIM. OUR LADY OF LIMERICK, INTERCEDE FOR HIM. R.I.P." Son of Nicholas McNamara and of Bridget McNamara (née Liston), of Limerick, Irish Republic.

Researched by Ralph Snape for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of Sgt. McNamara and to those of his crew.

Thanks to ‘The War Graves Photographic Project for their great work.

Other sources listed below:

RS 30.11.2023 - Link to PB523 added.

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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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