16.07.1942 No. 15 Squadron Stirling I W7524 LS-D P/O. Robert L. Melville
Date: 16th July 1942 (Thursday)
Unit: No. 15 Squadron
Type: Stirling I
Base: RAF Wyton, Cambridgeshire.
Location: River Sneum, South East Esbjerg, Denmark
Pilot: P/O. Robert Lorraine Melville 400637 RAAF Age 25. Killed (1)
Pilot 2: Sgt. Dennis Robert Barrett 1254392 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Robinson Nicholls 525236 RAF Age 25. Killed
Nav: P/O. Kenneth Arnott 126850 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Henry James Ian Lockhart 991121 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt.George Alfred Donovan RAFVR Survived - injured. PoW No: 25041 Camp: 344 - Stalag Lamsdorf, Poland.
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Evan Francis Waylan 963167 RAFVR Age 31. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Lancelot Charles Masfen Masfen 798462 RAFVR Survived - injured. PoW No: 25671 Camp: 344 - Stalag Lamsdorf, Poland. (enlisted January 1941 in Rhodesia)
REASON FOR LOSS:
21 Stirlings trying a daylight operation using the cover of cloud and dusk. The submarine works at the Lübecker Flenderwerke AG the chosen target. 6 Stirlings were sent from 15 Squadron, 3 from 7, 3 from 149, 3 from 214 and 6 from 218 Squadron. Only 7 of the force reported bombing the target.
Above: Pilot, P/O. Robert Lorraine Melville (courtesy Roger Leivers)
Reported to have been hit by flak between 21:20 - 21:27 hrs, whilst flying very low at about 300 mts. crashing in the estuary of the River Sneum. The two surviving crew members were picked up and treated for burns prior dispatch to Stalag Lamsdorf.
The following is taken from Airwar Over Denmark:
At 2115 hrs the Stirling was seen flying at 200 meters over the Skallingen heading for Femhøje and the 10.5cm and 2cm flak of 1./204 opened fire. The Stirling turned south and passed the harbour of Esbjerg. The 2cm flak from 1./204 and 6./204 as well as 4cm flak of 6./204 and II/Zuges 1/Lei Flakabteilung 836 and the 88cm batterie Fanø now joined in as did machine guns of the 4./204, Esbjerg Hafenschützflotille, various boats and the steamer "Heinrich Peters" resulting in the Stirling being hit several times.
The Stirling started smoking and dived to about 5 meters above the water. The IV. Zuges 2/lei. Flak abt 844 started firing and the Stirling dropped two bombs while trying to gain height. She now came under fire from 2cm flak from 1./204 based at Halen on Fanø and from 4cm flak of I/Zuges 1/lei. Flak abt 836. Fire broke out in one of the left left hand engines while the aircraft climbed away to the south.
At 2131 hrs the aircraft left the flak area while the fire in the left hand engine and wing enlarged. The Stirling turned east and crashed at 2131 hrs into the sea. A fire started and kept going for 2½ hrs. On Fanø, the crash had been observed and four members of the lifeboat crew of Sonderho set out a flat-bottomed dinghy, since the life boat could not be used due to low tide. Due to the low tide they did not manage to get to the Stirling, and when the tide came back in they had to return to Fanø.
At 0800 hrs the next morning the Receiver of Wrecks Jens Johannes Jensen tried once more, and this time he managed to get across to the Stirling. Here he found Air Gunner Sgt Donovan and Air Gunner Sgt Masfen both suffering from burns. He got them into the dinghy and rowed them to Esbjerg where they were taken over by the Wehrmacht. They were treated for their burns at the German lazarett and later on shipped off for Dulag Luft and eventually POW camp Stalag VIIIB/344 Lamsdorf. and later on shipped off for Dulag Luft and eventually POW camp Stalag VIIIB/344 Lamsdorf.
Another aircraft also lost on the same operation. 149 Squadron Stirling I BF312 OJ-A. Piloted by P/O. J.M.F. Forward who was taken pow, along with 4 other crew. 2 others were killed.
Above and below as described (courtesy - Michel Beckers)
Above: damage to the Lübecker Flenderwerke after the operation
An excellent extensive research paper, compiled by Carsten from the 12 o’clock High Forum
is available here
, or emailed to you.
P/O. Melville had escaped an earlier incident just a few months earlier on Stirling I N6067 LS-E.
Grave photographs taken by the webmaster during a visit in 2013 with the relatives of a 75 Squadron, Stirling III BF506 AA-P.
P/O. Robert Lorraine Melville. Esbjerg (Fourfelt) Cemetery. Grave AIII.11.20. Son of William Charles and Mabel Maud Melville, of Coogee, New South Wales, Australia.
Sgt. Dennis Robert Barrett. Esbjerg (Fourfelt) Cemetery. Grave AIII.10.3. Son of William Robert and Edith Emma Barrett, of Pitsea, Essex, England.
Sgt. Robinson Nicholls. Esbjerg (Fourfelt) Cemetery. Grave AIII.10.2. Born in September 1917. Burnley, Lancashire, England. The son of William Joseph and and Jane Elizabeth (née Robinson) Nicholls of Burnley, Lancashire, England.
P/O. Kenneth Arnott. Esbjerg (Fourfelt) Cemetery. Grave AIII.10.1. Son of Elsie Arnott, of Monkseaton, Northumberland, England.
Sgt. Henry James Ian Lockhart. Esbjerg (Fourfelt) Cemetery. Grave AIII.10.4. Son of John and Ethel Agnes Lockhart, of Wavertree, Liverpool, England.
Sgt. John Evan Francis Waylan. Esbjerg (Fourfelt) Cemetery. Grave AIII.10.5. Son of Augustus Francis and Edith Frances Waylan, of West Ewell, Surrey, England.
List of aircraft sent on this operation:
No. 7 Squadron
Stirling Mk. I N3764 MG-J Fl/Sgt. Bishop 19.03-02.02 (1)
Stirling Mk. I W7535 MG-G W/O. Black 18.59-02.12 (2)
Stirling Mk. I W7529 MG-H P/O. Gwillian 19.02-02.03
No. 15 Squadron
Stirling Mk. I N3758 LS-V W/Cdr. Lay 18.40-02.05
Stirling Mk. I R9351 LS-R Fl/Lt. Barr 18.45-02.45 (3)
Stirling Mk. I W7504 LS-A F/O. Bennitt 18.35-02.35 (4)
Stirling Mk. I W7525 LS-E P/O. Shoemaker 18.45-02.25 (5)
Stirling Mk. I W7518 LS-U F/O. King 18.45-00.45 (6)
Stirling Mk. I W7524 LS-D Fl/Sgt. Melville 18.40 - FTR
No. 149 Squadron
Stirling Mk. I BF312 OJ-A P/O. Forward 19.02 - FTR
Stirling Mk. I BF320 OJ-H Sq/Ldr. Watt 19.07-00.45 (7)
Stirling Mk. I R9143 OJ-O Fl/Sgt. Hockley 19.04-01.39
No. 214 Squadron
Stirling Mk. I BF318 BU-H Sgt. Fleming 18.55-01.40
Stirling Mk. I R9141 BU-G Fl/Lt. Simich 18.55-00.55
Stirling Mk. I R9358 BU-A P/O. Massey 18.50-00.35
No. 218 Squadron
Stirling Mk. I N3763 HA-Q W/Cdr. Holder 18.55-01.45 (8)
Stirling Mk. I W7562 HA-R P/O. Sanderson 19.00-01.30 (9)
Stirling Mk. I N6072 HA-P P/O. Farquharson 19.00-01.05 (10)
Stirling Mk. I BF319 HA-C Sq/Ldr. Oldroyd 19.05-01.10 (11)
Stirling Mk. I BF315 HA-F P/O. Abberton 19.07-02.10 (12)
Stirling Mk. I W7475 HA-H P/O. Bullock 19.10-01.10 (13)
From these aircraft, the following were lost on later operations:
(1) N3764 - - Lost on an operation to Hamburg, 15 Squadron, 09.11.1942 - all crew killed
(2) W7535 - - Lost on an oeration to Gennevilliers, 218 Squadron, 12.07.1943 - all crew killed
(3) R9351 - - Lost on a Gardening operation, 15 Squadron, 19.09.1942 - 6 crew killed, 1 x PoW
(4) W7504 - - Badly damaged by flak on an operation to Hamburg, 15 Squadron - all crew safe
(5) W7525 - - Lost on a training operation, 15 Squadron, 22.08.1942 - 4 crew injured 1 x killed
(6) W7518 - - Lost on an operation to Berlin, 15 Squadron, 02.03.1943 - 6 crew killed, 1 x PoW
(7) BF320 - - Lost on an operation to Saarbrucken, 149 Squadron, 30.07.1942 - 8 crew killed
(8) N3763 - - Lost on an operation to Lubeck, 218 Squadron, 02.10.1942 - 7 crew killed
(9) W7562 - - Lost on an operation to Frankfurt, 218 Squadron, 24.08.1942 - 8 crew killed
(10) N6072 - - Lost on an operation to Duisburg, 218 Squadron, 07.08.1942 - 4 crew killed 3 x PoW
(11) BF319 - - Lost on a Gardening operation, 218 Squadron, 21.08.1942 - 7 crew killed
(12) BF315 - - Lost on an operation to Kassel, 218 Squadron, 28.08.1942 - 5 killed, 2 x PoW
(13) W7475 - - Lost on an operation to Hamburg, 218 Squadron, 09.11.1942 - 7 crew killed
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Roger Leivers for his assistance, Carsten on the 12 o’clock High forum for operation details, Michel Beckers for crash photographs, Dave Ingham (Burnley and District at War) for photograph of Sgt. Nicholls. To Dave Champion for additional details - May 2019. Thanks to John Jones for the account from Airwar Over Denmark. Other sources as quoted.