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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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161 Squadron Crest
05/06.07.1944 No. 161 Squadron Hudson IIIA FK780 MA-R Fl/Lt. Menzies DFC

Operation: Operation Fives 1

Date: 05/06th July 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit: No. 161 Squadron

Type: Hudson IIIA

Serial: FK780 (Some publications list the serial as FK790)

Code: MA-R

Base: RAF Tempsford, Bedfordshire

Location: IJsselmeer, Holland

Pilot: Fl/Lt. ‘Ian’ John Watherston Menzies DFC. 108868 RAFVR Age 28. Missing - believed killed (1)

Nav: F/O. Kenneth Ralph Bunney 136328 RAFVR Age 30. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Dennis James Withers 1737508 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Air/Gnr. Sgt. Eric Marshall Eliot 771810 RAFVR Age 32. Killed

Dutch Agents:

2e Lt. Jan Bockma BBO (2) Age 22. (codename: Halma)

Peter Kwint BBO (2) (codename: Fives)

Sgt. Pleun Verhoef BBO (2) Age 22. (codename: Racquets)

Johannes Albertus Walter Netherlands Army (codename: Bowis)


Taking off from RAF Tempsford in Bedfordshire at 23:50 hrs on a special operation to drop 4 Dutch agents in what is thought to have been the area around Exmorra in Holland.

They never made the drop. Also lost were the four Dutch agents that were to be dropped to team up with local resistance groups in Holland.

At 01:21 hrs they were intercepted and shot down by Fw. Heinrich-Karl Lahmann (3) of 7./NJG1 over IJsselmeer. He was operating under the Himmelbett control - probably from station Tiger on Terschelling Island. (see Kracker Luftwaffe Archive on this site)

(1) Fl/Lt. John Watherston Menzies: Previously listed as missing and remembered on the Runnymede Memorial. However, during 1997 the wreckage of the aircraft was recovered with human remains found in the cockpit. Positive identification that this was Fl/Lt. Menzies was made the following year and in October 1998 he was laid to rest, with the rest of the crew. (see recovery photographs)

(2) BBO - Bureau Bijzondere Opdrachten or Office of Special Assignments.

(3) Fw. Heinrich-Karl Lahmann - This was his first of 2 claims for the war - he was killed on the 3/4th March 1945 when he crashed at Sichtigvor, probably due to engine failure. Flying Bf110G-4 Wk No. 160659.

Robert Body has become the leading authority on the 138 and 161 Special Duties Squadrons and has two published two books on the subject:

Runways to Freedom: The Special Duties Squadrons of RAF Tempsford. Published By and available now as an E Book ISBN 9781326098407. The Nazi occupation of much of Western Europe in early 1940 posed many challenges for the British Secret Services. A high priority was to find an effective means of infiltrating and exfiltrating agents and, later, reliable methods for supplying the growing resistance movements with arms and ammunition. The work fell outside the normal duties of Raf squadrons so, in March 1940, RAF Tempsford in Bedfordshire became the base for No.138 Squadron and No. 161 Squadrons. Flying mainly by the light of the full moon, these two squadrons operated throughout the length and breadth of Western Europe, delivering agents and supplies. Without the agents the secret services would have been hamstrung, and without the supplies the resistance movements would have been unable to participate in the armed struggle. By the end of the war, the Squadrons had, between them, lost in excess of 600 men. This Is Their Story.

Taking the Wings of the Morning: ISBN 9781291579116 The story of the search by the author to discover the truth about the death of his uncle, a pilot in one of Churchill's Special Duties Squadrons during WW2. The parallel descriptions of the RAF career of F/Lt John Menzies and his nephew's dogged determination to find out what happened to him culminate in the discovery of the wreckage of his aircraft. Information discovered along the way raises many questions, not all of which have been answered. In the 10 years that have passed since the first publication of this book many other families have found out the truth of the careers of their relatives in the Special Duties Squadrons, largely through the continuing work of the author, who has become an authority on the subject.

Burial details:

Fl/Lt. John Watherston Menzies DFC. Wonseradeel Protestant Churchyard (Makkum) Row O. Grave 35. Son of John and Anne Menzies, of Wallington, Surrey, England.

F/O. Kenneth Ralph Bunney. Wonseradeel Protestant Churchyard (Makkum) Row O. Grave 38. Son of James George and Kate Lilian Bunney of Shortlands, Bromley, Kent, England. Husband of Irene Rose Bunney.

Right: Memorial placed to the crew in the village of Exmorra.

Sgt. Dennis James Withers. Wonseradeel Protestant Churchyard (Makkum) Row O. Grave 34. Son of Cyril Henry and May Withers, of Leicester and husband of Joan Edith Withers, of Leicester, England.

Sgt. Eric Marshall Eliot. Wonseradeel Protestant Churchyard (Makkum) Row N. Grave 32. No further details, are you a relative and able to assist?

2e Lt. Jan Bockma: Initially buried at Wonseradeel. Grave 35, but reinterred after war end in his home town. Loenen Military Cemetery, Netherlands. Further information: Jan Bockma, aged 22, was the son of a prominent resistance leader, and did much to aid the efforts of the resistance, but felt that he could do more. He decided to come to England; his father wanted him to stay in Holland, but Jan's mind was made up. On 16th May 1942, he left to come to England; having travelled first to Spain, he came in contact with the Foreign Legion, which he joined. Sometime later he deserted, and managed to get to the UK on board a Norwegian boat, arriving in England a year after he had left Holland, on 16th May 1943. After a time in the Navy (Dutch?) he joined the BBO and trained as a wireless operator.

Peter Kwint: Further information: Peter Kwint studied at the University of Amsterdam When he was required to sign a declaration of loyalty to the Germans, he went into hiding and joined the underground movement. After a while he decided to come to England. On 8th November 1943 he left Amsterdam for Paris, where he stayed for a while before moving on. Later, whilst on Spanish soil, he was arrested and jailed: kept in overcrowded and dirty conditions, and without medical assistance, Peter was passed from one jail to another. Release came on 19th January 1944, when he was put on a train to Madrid. After reporting to the Dutch consulate, and buying clothing and shoes, he was, with about 100 others, transported through Spain to Portugal. From here, Peter was put on a ship, the Ondura, bound for Liverpool.

Following interrogation at the Patriotic School he was asked to join the Secret Service and to return to Holland. He joined the Dutch BBO and, after training, was given the rank of 2nd Lieutenant on 3rd July 1944. Two days later he died trying to return to his country. No further details. Are you able to assist?

Sgt. Pleun Verhoef: Initially buried at Wonseradeel. Grave 37, but reinterred after war end in his home town of Vianen, Netherlands. Son of Bastiaan Verhoef and Hendrika Meijwaard. Further information: After the surrender of the Dutch Army, of which he was a member, Pleun Verhoef managed to escape to England, by way of Belgium and France. After being placed in a tented camp at Porthcawl, Pleun was moved to Congleton, and then on to Wrottesley Park (near Wolverhampton). At Wrottesley Park, Queen Wilhelmina issued the colours of the Royal Dutch Brigade Princess Irene on 27th August 1941. Pleun joined one of the units within the brigade, the parachute unit. He passed through his training, getting good marks for his five training jumps. He progressed, earning his corporal's stripes on the way, to training with explosives during October 1941. On 2nd April he left the brigade to go on for training wit the SOE as an agent, but ended up working for the Dutch BBO organisation.

2E Lt.Johannes Albertus Walter: Wonseradeel Protestant Churchyard (Makkum) Row O. Grave 33. Further information: Following interrogation at the Patriotic School he was asked to join the Secret Service and to return to Holland. He joined the Dutch BBO and, after training, was given the rank of 2nd Lieutenant on 3rd July 1944. Two days later he died trying to return to his country.

Born in Java (Dutch East Indies), Johannes Walter served in the Navy from 1st January 1942, until he arrived in England on 3rd May. He was detached from the Navy, and sent on wireless training with the RAF in Blackpool, and then based with 320 Sqdn. Around June 1943, he was approached by the SOE which wanted him as a wireless operator; he was discharged from the Navy on 12th June 1944.

Whilst in England he married an English girl, Margaret. When he left for his mission to Holland, she was expecting their child.

Researched by Bob Body and used with permission - April 2017. Page dedicated to the relatives of this crew. With thanks to the wonderful people of the Kazematten Museum, the village of Exmorra and the Dutch people. Also to Forscher for information on Verhoef. Rik Van Beveren and Des Philippet for information on Bockma.

KTY - 04.04.2017

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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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