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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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31.03.1945 No.419 Squadron Lancaster X KB761 F/L Harry A. Metivier

Operation: Hamburg, Germany

Date: 31 March 1945 (Saturday)

Unit: No.419 RCAF Squadron (Moose)

Type: Avro Lancaster X

Serial: KB761

Code: VR-H

Base: Middleton St. George, Yorkshire

Location: Exact location unknown, thought to be in the North Sea

Pilot: F/L Harry Alfred Metivier, J/24761 RCAF Age 25 Missing presumed dead

Flt. Eng: P/O William Muir Sommerville, J/94593 RCAF Age 26 Missing presumed dead

Navigator: F/O James Todd, J/42181 RCAF Age 21 Missing presumed dead

Air Bmr: F/O Robert Oliver Johnson, J/40077 RCAF Age 23 Missing presumed dead

W. Op: P/O George Matuszewski, J/95402 RCAF Age 19 Missing presumed dead

Air/Gnr: P/O Hayward Selby Tulk, J/95511 RCAF Age 21 Missing presumed dead

Air/Gnr: P/O Earl Edward Morphy, J/95458 RCAF Age 22 Missing presumed dead


At this stage of the war Bomber Command were conducting daylight raids on targets within Germany.

A force of 469 aircraft from Groups 1, 6 and 8 comprised of 361 Lancasters, 100 Halifaxes and 8 Mosquitoes was assembled to attack the Blohm and Voss shipyards at Hamburg where a new type of U Boat was being built.

Of the 361 Lancasters 14 were detailed from 419 Squadron.

F/L Metivier and crew took off from base at 06:29 hours with a bomb load of 2 x 1000lb AN-M65 General Purpose (GP) 4 x 1000lb AN-M59 Semi Armour Piercing (SAP) 8 x 500lb AN-M64 GP, 2 x 500lb Medium Capacity GP, 2 x 250lb GP and 1 x 4 BG152 “Nickels” (Propaganda Leaflets).

The returning crews reported that raid itself was unsuccessful as the force encountered stronger winds than forecasted which effectively split up the formation making them late over the target area by which time was completely cloud covered. When 419’s crews arrived at approximately 09:05 hours, the Master Bomber was leaving the target and so they dropped their bombs by the remaining red smoke puff markers as no visual indicators on the ground could be discerned.

The majority of the bombs fell well away from the shipyards damaging houses, factories, energy supplies and communications over a wide area of southern Hamburg and Harburg. 75 people were killed.

As the bombers were leaving the target area, they were attacked by a number of Me262 jet propelled fighters and were assumed to have brought down six of the total of eleven bombers lost from all squadrons.

After the loss of KB761, which was originally thought to have been one of the six shot down by a Me 262, word was received by the family of Robert Johnson of an entirely different circumstance.

During a hospital stay in 1946, an RCAF Sergeant by the name of Hartley Owen Bonnell related a story to a nurse from Red Deer who had known F/O Johnson.
As it turned out, Bonnell was the mid-upper gunner with the Metivier crew which is supported by 419 Squadron’s Operational Record Book (ORB) for December 1944.
He and the original tail gunner Sgt. J.L. Grierson did not go on the raid to Hamburg due to an accident just prior to the operation, their places being taken by Hayward Tulk and Earl Morphy.

After the loss of Lancaster KB761, Bonnell made enquiries and was told by another gunner, Flt/Sgt. C.F. Blakeney, who was apparently flying in another one of the squadron’s aircraft on the raid that Metivier’s Lancaster collided with a Halifax bomber in mid air sending both of them crashing into the North Sea.

This being the case the only known Halifax on the raid lost without trace is MZ922 6U-C of 415 Squadron captained by F/O G.A. Hyland.

Flt/Sgt. Blakeney (spelt Blakney in Squadron ORB’s) was the rear gunner in F/O B.A. Nichols crew.

While this account of the loss may well be accurate as mid air collisions were not uncommon, the squadron’s Record of Events do not show that F/O Nichols participated in the raid on Hamburg. However, Flt/Sgt. Blakeney could well have been flying as a substitute gunner for another crew much like Tulk and Morphy were doing. Unfortunately, the squadron ORB’s do not show the crew members names that flew with each captain on operations where they successfully returned to base.

In 1947 the mother of F/O Johnson was made aware of a tale being told by a man named “Bonnell” who claimed he was the tail gunner on her son’s aircraft and that he was the only survivor. Wanting to know more of what might have happened to her son, Mrs. Johnson contacted the Air Ministry in order to trace “Bonnell” to hear his story first hand.

The RCAF, upon tracing Hartley Bonnell, who by now had resigned from the RCAF and joined the RAF in England, requested he be interviewed and provide a statement. This was obtained in November 1947 and is reproduced here. It is interesting to note the RCAF notation referring to part of it as “heresay” and not passed on to the next of kin. What was actually stated in the RCAF letter to Johnson’s family is unknown.

Sgt. Hartley Owen Bonnell's Statement

The Crew of Lancaster KB761

Like so many of the young men that enlisted in the RCAF during the war years the crew of KB761 was no different. The thought of the thrill of flying and sense of adventure overseas lured many of them, some barely out of school or working on the family farm or perhaps at other dull and dreary jobs. The recruitment posters glamourized the life and certainly seemed to be more appealing than life in the army which would have been their fate had they not volunteered for the air force. Harry, a trainman and labourer at a steel mill, Bill, a machine operator, James, a clerk, Robert, a farmers son, George, a rope splicer, Hayward, paper mill worker, Earl, a war worker at General Motors. While they all trained at various British Commonwealth Air Training Plan facilities in Canada, the crew came together, as was the practice at the time, in the UK at No.24 Operational Training Unit with the exception of the flight engineer, William Sommerville, who would join them at a Heavy Conversion Unit. From there they would all be posted as a team to an operational squadron.

F/L Harry Alfred Metivier
Born in Webbwood, Ontario on 5 December 1919, Harry attended Sault Ste. Marie Collegiate Institute graduating in June 1939.

After a short period working at the Algoma Steel Corporation he found a position as a Brakeman on the Canadian Pacific Railway until his enrolment in the Canadian Army Reserve in March 1941 spending four months training at Camp Borden, Ontario. In July of that year, he applied for a transfer to the RCAF for flying duties as a trainee pilot.
After spending 5 weeks at No.5 Manning Depot at Valcartier, Quebec he was selected for training as aircrew and posted to No.3 Initial Training School at Victoriaville on 13 September 1941. Here he passed all of his examinations and was recommended for training as a pilot and posted to No.20 Elementary Flying Training School, Course No.42 at Oshawa, Ontario on 10 November 1941. During his training there he accumulated over 65 hours flying De Havilland Tiger Moth aircraft and 11 hours in the Link simulator. Upon the completion of the course on 2 January 1942 he was recommended for further training on twin engine aircraft with the remarks,”Flying has been very good. Instruments average, keen to learn and should make good service material.”
From Oshawa he was posted to No.16 Service Flying Training School (SFTS) at Hagersville flying the twin engine Avro Anson graduating with the awarding of his Pilots Badge on 24 April 1942. His instructor’s comments read,”A conscientious and reliable pilot.”
Following his graduation from SFTS, Harry completed a course at the Central Flying School at Trenton, Ontario from 24 May to 28 June 1942 and then moved on to nearby No.6 Bombing and Gunnery School, Mountain View at Belleville. Here, as a staff pilot, he flew numerous aircraft types such as the Harvard, Crane, Yale and Battle during the 15 months that he was stationed there from 29 June to 12 November 1943. On 22 November 1942, Harry was commissioned as a Pilot Officer. After the customary 14 days embarkation leave, Harry arrived at No.1 “Y” Depot, Halifax on 12 November 1943 and four days later embarked for the UK arriving at No.3 PRC Bournemouth on 24 November.
Following stays at RAF Port Reath and Filey Camp, Harry was taken on strength at No.15 Pilots Advanced Flying Unit, Course No.90 on 24 April attached to RAF Long Newnton and Castle Combe training on the Airspeed Oxford. Upon completion of the course on 11 July 1944 the remarks on his report state, “A pilot who has shown improvement on the course. Is a good steady type who would make a good captain of an aircraft.” From there he was posted to No.24 Operational Training Unit at Long Marston, Warwickshire for training on the twin engine Whitley and Wellington bombers. Harry and the rest of the crew were then posted to No.61 Base at Dalton on 4 October until 1 November when they moved to No.1664 HCU at Dishforth, Yorkshire and then to No.1666 HCU at Wombleton, Yorkshire on 4 December for training on Halifax and Lancaster heavy bombers. While he was at the HCU Harry was promoted to the rank of Flight Lieutenant on 22 November. Their training now complete Harry and his crew joined 419 Squadron at Middleton St. George on 29 December 1944. In the three months that he was with the squadron, F/L Harry Metivier completed 18 sorties against the enemy.

Metivier Lake, Algoma, Ontario was named after F/L Metivier in 1950

P/O William Muir (Scotty) Sommerville
William came to Canada from Scotland at the age of 8 in 1926 with his mother Elizabeth and older sister Helen after the death of

his father in a mining accident, an older brother Jack, having come to Canada several years previously. They settled in London, Ontario where he attended Alexandra Public School and H.B.Beal Technical and Commercial High School. Upon leaving in 1934, he took a job as a machine operator at a hosiery company. In 1939 William married Rachel Mahon. Two years later young Billy was born and Bill and Rae, as she was known, moved into a new house. Always interested in mechanics he saw an opportunity to work as a mechanic at Central Aircraft in 1942 overhauling Fairey Battle aircraft which were being used at various bombing and gunnery training bases in the area. After a year at this occupation, William enlisted in the RCAF Special Reserve at No.9 Recruiting Centre on 4 January 1943 and was placed on unpaid leave. His interviewing officer’s remarks stated,”Has always been a leader in whatever he became associated with. He will likely stick doggedly and stubbornly to whatever he undertakes. Tremendously keen to be a pilot.” On 19 April 1943 he was ordered to report to No.1 Manning Depot, Toronto and then on to No.3 Manning Depot, Edmonton, Alberta to begin his basic training. He remained at Edmonton until 1 June that year when he was posted to No.4 Initial Training School also at Edmonton. To qualify for aircrew, William had to upgrade his educational standing which he did by completing the Pre-Aircrew Education Course and passing the exam on 9 July 1943. Now a Leading Aircraftsman, (LAC) William qualified for aircrew and was enrolled in Course No.84 on 26 July and graduated on 1 October 1943. His stated preference was for training as a pilot and he was posted to No.5 Elementary Flying School, High River, Alberta, Course No.92 commencing on 18 October 1943. Sadly however for William his progress was not up to standard and on 26 November his training as a pilot was suspended. His good qualities though were noted in his report by the Chief Flying Instructor, “Very good service type. Excellent motivation. Absorbs instruction too slowly however to make a service pilot. All flying sequences below average. Very good attitude.” With his civilian work experience as an aircraft mechanic he was re-selected for training as a flight engineer and posted to the Technical Training School at St.Thomas, Ontario on 16 December 1943. William completed the course passing the examinations on 5 May 1944 with the remarks on his report, “Dependable practical worker - keenly interested.” He was awarded his Flight Engineers Badge in a ceremony on 20 May with the rank of Acting Sergeant. To complete his training William was required to complete an emergency gunner’s course at nearby No.4 Bombing and Gunnery School, Fingal, Ontario where he was stationed from 8 May to 3 June 1944. After 14 days embarkation leave he embarked from Halifax for the UK on 16 June arriving at No.3 PRC on 25 June 1944. His next posting, on 4 August, was to No.4 School of Technical Training at RAF St.Athan, Wales for an advanced flight engineer training course on Lancaster bombers. Upon completion of the course his next posting was to 61 Base, No.1664 Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU) at Dishforth on 13 October. On 18 October he moved to the nearby sub station at Dalton until 1 November when he returned to Dishforth. Based at No.1664 HCU for the month of November William next moved to No.1666 HCU based at Wombleton Air Station, Yorkshire, a further 6 Group sub-station for training on Lancasters. It was during this time at the HCU’s that William crewed up with Harry and the rest of the boys. Their training now complete William and the rest of the crew joined 419 Squadron at Middleton St. George on 29 December 1944. In the three months that he was with the squadron, P/O William Muir (Scotty) Sommerville completed 15 sorties against the enemy.

Hartley Bonnell's letter to Rachel Sommerville saying he would try and find out what happened to Scotty and the crew
Courtesy Wm. Sommerville collection

(L) Newspapers sent home to Rachel by William Sommerville with news about the raids he was on although he could not say which ones . (R) Front & back of "Nickel" propaganda leaflet . Courtesy Wm. Sommerville collection

(L) Bill Sommerville collection of memento's from his fathers service in the RCAF (R) Bill holding his fathers flying helmet and portrait

F/O James Todd
Born in Wishaw, Scotland, James enlisted in the RCAF Special Reserve in Montreal at the age of 19. Since leaving Strathearn High School he had been working as a Cost Clerk at the Dominion Textile Company. Following his basic training at No.5

Manning Depot, Lachine Quebec he completed an eight week Pre-Aircrew Education Course at the University of Montreal on 25 June 1943. He was then posted to No.1 Initial Training School; Toronto from 12 July to 17 September 1943 and on completion was selected for further training as a Navigator. The remarks of his Commanding Officer read, “A quiet, steady, dependable airman who has had to work hard to achieve good results. He has a pleasant even personality and good spirit.” He was then posted to No.1 Air Observer School at Malton, Ontario on 4 October 1943 graduating with his Navigators Badge and the rank of Sergeant on 25 February 1944. From Malton, James was posted to No.1 Aircrew Graduates Training School at Maitland, Nova Scotia where he was taught basic survival skills in the event that he was shot down over enemy territory. Posted to Halifax he embarked for the UK on 10 April arriving at No.3 PRC Bournemouth on 19 April 1944. On 4 July he was posted to No.24 Operational Training Unit at Long Marston, Warwickshire for training on the twin engine Whitley and Wellington bombers being promoted to Flying Officer on 24 August. On 4 October, he was transferred to 1664 and 1666 Heavy Conversion Units based at Dishforth and Dalton, Yorkshire for training on Halifax and Lancaster heavy bombers. With the rest of his crew mates he joined 419 Squadron on 29 December 1944. James participated in 16 operations against the enemy.

F/O Robert Oliver Johnson
After graduating from Red Deer High School, Robert worked on the family farm until he enlisted in July 1942. Put on unpaid

leave he was instructed to report to No.3 Manning Depot, Edmonton, Alberta on 17 August 1942. Upon completion of his basic training he was posted to No.4 Initial Training School at Edmonton on 24 October 1942 and then to No.5 Elementary Flying Training School at High River, Alberta with the intention of becoming a pilot on 6 February 1943. He then was passed to No.3 Service Flying Training School, Calgary on 3 April 1943. Unfortunately, he did not gain his pilots wings and on 12 June withdrew from the course and was sent back to the Manning Depot at Edmonton. Robert then re-mustered as an air bomber and was posted to No.8 Bombing and Gunnery School, Lethbridge, Alberta on 10 July 1943. From there he was enrolled in Air Bombers Course 89 at No. 2 Air Observers School, Edmonton from 15 November until 23 December 1943 when he gained his Air Bombers Badge and promoted to the rank of Pilot Officer. In early January 1944, Robert was posted to the Aircrew Graduates Training Schools at Three Rivers, Quebec and Maitland, Nova Scotia respectively until 18 February when he was posted to No.1 “Y” Depot at Lachine, Quebec awaiting embarkation to the UK. On 10 April he embarked at Halifax and arrived at No.3 PRC on 18 April 1944. He was stationed there until 6 June 1944 when he was posted to No.1 Observers Advanced Flying Unit at RAF Wigtown, Scotland until 11 July when he was posted to No.24 Operational Training Unit at Long Marston, Warwickshire with the rank of Flying Officer. Here he crewed up with Harry Metivier and the rest of his crew mates until 4 October 1944 when they were transferred to No.61 Base at Dalton and subsequently to 1664 and 1666 Heavy Conversion Units based at Dishforth and Wombleton, Yorkshire for training on Halifax and Lancaster heavy bombers. With the rest of his crew mates he joined 419 Squadron on 29 December 1944. Robert participated in 15 operations against the enemy.

P/O George Matuszewski
George arrived in Canada from Poland with his Mother to join his Father in 1929 at the age of four. He attended Hugh Beaton

Public School and Windsor-Walkerville Vocational High School, Windsor, Ontario graduating in June1941. After working voluntarily as a delivery boy, George found a job as a Rope Splicer for Canadian Auto Trim until February 1943 when he enlisted in the RCAF. From the recruiting centre at Windsor, George was posted to No.2 Manning Depot, Brandon, Manitoba as an Aircraftsman 2nd. Class. After a short stay at No.5 Bombing and Gunnery School, Dafoe, Saskatchewan, he was posted to No.25 Pre-Aircrew Educational Depot at Brandon, Manitoba on 3 May where he passed the examination for qualification as a trainee wireless air gunner on 10 July 1943. The next day he was posted to Course 73, No.3 Wireless School at Winnipeg where he passed his examination as a Wireless Operator on 28 January 1944. George was then posted to No.2 Bombing and Gunnery School, Mossbank, Saskatchewan on 14 February graduating with his Wireless Air Gunners Badge on 27 March 1944. His Commanding Officers remarks read,” Keen, a good worker. Young shy and quiet spoken.” On the 11 April he was posted to No.1 “Y” Depot, Halifax, for overseas deployment and embarked for the UK on 29 April arriving at No.3 PRC on 8 May 1944. On 23 May he was posted to No.7 Observers Advanced Flying Unit at RAF Bishops Court, Northern Ireland until 11 July when he was posted to No.24 Operational Training Unit at Long Marston. George and the rest of the crew were then posted to No.61 Base at Dalton on 4 October until 1 November when they moved to No.1664 HCU at Dishforth, Yorkshire and then to No.1666 HCU at Wombleton, Yorkshire on 4 December. Their training now completed the crew joined 419 Squadron at Middleton St. George on 29 December 1944. P/O George Matuszewski had flown 18 operations before he was lost.

P/O Hayward Selby Tulk
Hayward enlisted in Halifax, Nova Scotia on 20 April 1943 after working at Bowaters Pulp and Paper Mill in his native

Newfoundland for eighteen months after leaving Corner Brook Public School. His first choice was to be trained as a pilot but was willing to take any position in aircrew that was offered to him. From Halifax he was sent to No.5 Manning Depot, Lachine, Quebec and from there on 13 June 1943 to No.3 Training Command HQ at Montreal. On the 6 August he was posted to No.1 Manning Depot and then to No.1 Initial Training School, Toronto on 4 September 1943. Upon completion of initial training, Hayward was posted to No.4 Elementary Flying Training School at Windsor Mills, Quebec. Unfortunately it was here that he was deemed unsuitable for further training as a pilot and was re-categorized for training as an air gunner on 25 February 1944. He was then posted to No.9. Bombing and Gunnery School, Mont Joli, Quebec, where he graduated as an Air Gunner on 19 May 1944. On 3 June he was transferred to No.4 Aircrew Graduates Training School at Valleyfield, Quebec completing the course on 30 June 1944. After a short stay at No.1 “Y” Depot, Lachine, Quebec, he embarked for the UK on 11 July arriving at No.3 PRC on 19 July 1944. One month later he was posted to No.22 OTU at Wellesbourne Mountford, Warwickshire. Here he crewed up with F/O R.J. Hughes until 15 December when, as a team, they were transferred to No.1666 Heavy Conversion Unit at Womblelton, Yorkshire joining 419 Squadron on 19 March 1945. P/O Tulk was flying on his first operational sortie when he was lost.

P/O Earl Edward Morphy
Earl left Oshawa Collegiate and Vocational institute at the age of 17 and worked at the General Motors Plant in Oshawa

manufacturing military trucks for the war effort until he enlisted in November 1942. Interestingly, the Medical Officer noted in his remarks, “Mother objected strongly to his joining Air Force but now when he might have to go in the Army she OK’d his coming to the Air Force. A good lad who will work hard.”
Put on unpaid leave, Special Reserve, he was eventually ordered to report to No.5 Manning Depot, Lachine, Quebec on 11 March 1943 to begin his basic training. After short postings to No.1 manning Depot, Toronto and No.1 “Y” Depot Halifax, he was posted to RCAF Station Gander, Newfoundland on 13 April 1943. Struck off strength at Gander on 20 October he was posted back to Lachine when on 8 November he was posted to the Technical Training School at St.Thomas, Ontario. One month later he was reassigned to No.16 Explosives Depot, Debert, Nova Scotia. On the 1 January 1944 he was posted to Course 73 at No.10 Bombing and Gunnery School, Mount Pleasant, Prince Edward Island completing the course on 24 March 1944 with the awarding of his Air Gunners Badge. Earl was next posted to No.3 Aircrew Graduates Training School at Three Rivers, Quebec on 8 April before being posted to No.1 “Y” Depot, Lachine on 7 May 1944. Embarking for the UK on 25 May, Earl arrived at No.3 PRC on 3 June 1944 and next posted to No.24 OTU Long Marston on 27 June. Struck off strength at No.24 OTU on 13 September, he was then stationed at No.76 Base Topcliffe, Yorkshire until 11 November 1944 when he joined 419 Squadron. P/O Morphy had flown 30 operational sorties when he was lost.

Burial Details:

F/L Harry Alfred Metivier, Runnymede Memorial, Panel 278. Son of Joseph Ralph and Eva (nee Dupuis) Metivier, of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada.

P/O William Muir Sommerville, Runnymede Memorial, Panel 281. Son of James Stevenson Sommerville, and of Elizabeth D. (nee Dingwall) Sommerville, husband of Rachel Ann (nee Mahon) Sommerville of London, Ontario, Canada..

F/O James Todd, Runnymede Memorial, Panel 280.Son of Samuel Todd and Mary (nee McKenzie) Todd and nephew of Barbara Halliday of Montreal Quebec, Canada..

F/O Robert Oliver Johnson, Runnymede Memorial, Panel 279. Son of John Oliver Johnson and Katie Ann (nee Wilson) Johnson of Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. Husband of Lois Dumont (nee Harper) Johnson of Sorel, Quebec.

P/O George Matuszewski, Runnymede Memorial, Panel 280. Son of Julian and Pauline (nee Jaruga) Matuszewski, of Windsor, Ontario.

P/O Hayward Selby Tulk, Runnymede Memorial, Panel 281 Son of Ralph Wellon Tulk and Winifred Tulk, of Corner Brook, Newfoundland..

P/O Earl Edward Morphy, Runnymede Memorial, Panel 280. Son of Albert Llewellyn and Frances Alice (nee Pires) Morphy, of Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.

Crew portraits courtesy Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) and Library and Archives Canada (LAC). P/O Tulk portrait courtesy Tulk family of Corner Brook, NFL via VAC.

With many thanks to Bill Sommerville for generously sharing his collection and providing the inspiration for the story.

Researched and written by Colin H. Bamford for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to Bill & Sharon Sommerville and all the relatives and friends of the crew of Lancaster KB761.

CHB 2017.04.07

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