Operation: Vohwinkel Germany
Date: 1st/2nd January 1945 (Monday/Tuesday)
Unit: 115 Squadron
Type: Lancaster I
Serial No: NG332
Base: RAF Witchford, Cambridgeshire
Location: Emines, Belgium
Pilot: Sqn Ldr. Anthony Alan Frank Mills 118465 RAFVR Age 28. Killed
2nd Pilot: Plt Off. Joseph Darcy Keith Sterling 421540 RNZAF Age 23. Killed
Flt Eng: Sgt.. Charles David Bassett 1819449 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
Nav: Plt Off. Gordon David Long 435171 RAAF Age 19. Killed
Bomb Aimer: Fg Off. Joseph Donald Booth 148926 RAFVR Age 35. Killed
WOp/Air Gnr: Flt Sgt.. John Edward Willoughby Fenwick 1850790 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. Earl Donald Mathison R75106 RCAF Age 27. Killed
Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. John William McLeod R255871 RCAF Age 20. Killed
Above: the crew of NG332 posing on tail section of their aircraft (Credit: Clare George)
The naming of the crew was not provided. What can be determined is that 1st from the left is a Pilot and so is the airman 7th from the left. Tentatively identified are: 2nd from left, Sgt Bassett and 4th from the left, Flt Sgt. Fenwick.
Above Sgt. Charles D. Bassett (Credit: Clare George)
Reason For Loss:
The Lancaster took off from RAF Witchford at 16:10 hours on 1st January 1945 to Vohwinkel, Landkreis Mettmann, Nord Rhein, Westpahalia, to bomb railway yards.
After bombing the target area, NG332, on the return trip, whilst flying over Belgium it was hit by Flak, believed to have been fired by the 184th American Gun Battalion, which brought it down and crashed in a field on farmland at Emines (Namur) at 20:10 hrs. killing all the crew members.
From: Officer I/C No.2. Section (Belgium) N.W. and N. Service. RAF.
Reference your letter CANR253871/P.4.Cas Can CII dated 29th January,1945 and CANR75106/P.4.Cas/MRE dated 30th April,1945, I visited the Mairie at Emines on 29th August 1945 and the following information was given to me by the Burgermaster:
1. Two large four engined bombers crashed in the same area at 20:00 hours, both had, as far as could be ascertained, been shot down by American anti-aircraft fire.
2. The first plane was shot down at 20:00 hours and crashed in a field facing the Mairie of Emines and as far as the Mairie could state, five bodies had been recovered. He could not give an indication as to identities. The only verification I could get of the actual wreckage which I inspected was the Squadron markings XH. Roundel B. All other means of identification had been carefully removed.
3. The second plane Lancaster NG.332 fell in a field belonging to Monsieur Jean Van Marsenville, Ferme de Samoy, Near Emines and blew up with terrific force. From this crash only small pieces of the aircraft were found and no bodies. The following information given at the time by Dvr. Thurstin of 33 C.G.S. RAMC. St Servals helps considerably in clearing the case. He delivered the human remains to the American Grave Service and it is on his assumption that there were seven members of the crew that the American Authorities have buried the remains in one grave and assigned to it seven unidentified members.
4. I visited the Ferme du Manoir and there I saw Monsieur Henro Jadin who was the first on the scene of the crash. There was absolutely no trace of a grave in respect of Fg Off. Booth at any spot around the whole area. The identity card and £1.00 note are all we found on the 21st February,1945. I would point out at this juncture that the name of L. Ladivion is completely unknown in that district and no other construction could be put to it, in an endeavour to trace any person whose name may resemble it. It would be appreciated if, when names are given, the address of the individual be given as well, as signatures are often unread.
5. Whilst searching the wreckage I found a small piece of blue grey battle dress with the New Zealand shoulder badge. This would confirm that I was dealing with the correct aircraft as Flt Sgt. Sterling was a New Zealander.
6. The crew of Lancaster NG332 are buried in the American Military Cemetery at Fosse, date 01.01.45 Plot P. Row 5 allotted seven unidentified members. I have see the grave and verified the records at the Cemetery office.
Sqn Ldr. Anthony Alan Mills. Leopoldsburg War Cemetery. Collective grave. VIII. C. 9 to 16, at Leopoldsburg, Belgium. Son of George and Gladys Mills of Coventry, Warwickshire, England. Husband of Joan Olivia Mills.
Plt Off. Joseph Darcy Sterling. Leopoldsburg War Cemetery. Collective grave. VIII. C. 9 to 16, at Leopoldsburg, Belgium. Son of Joseph and Jeannie Lamberton Sterling, of Matakohe, Auckland, New Zealand.
Sgt. Charles David Bassett. Leopoldsburg War Cemetery. Collective grave. VIII. C. 9 to 16, at Leopoldsburg, Belgium. Inscription Reads: ""O VALIANT HEARTS WHO TO YOUR GLORY CAME"". Son of Walter and Elizabeth Bassett, of Ilam, Staffordshire, England.
Plt Off. Gordon David Long. Leopoldsburg War Cemetery. Collective grave. VIII. C. 9 to 16, at Leopoldsburg, Belgium. Inscription Reads: "THEY GAVE THEIR TODAY FOR OUR TOMORROW". Son of Percy Edward and Elva Jane May Long, of Hawthorne, Queensland, Australia.
Fg Off.Joseph Donald Booth. Leopoldsburg War Cemetery. Collective grave. VIII. C. 9 to 16, at Leopoldsburg, Belgium. Inscription Reads: "FOREVER IN OUR HEARTS". Son of William Scorigie Booth and Gertrude Booth, husband of Barbara Annie Booth, of St Anne’s Bristol, England.
Flt Sgt. John Edward Willoughby Fenwick. Leopoldsburg War Cemetery. Collective grave. VIII. C. 9 to 16, at Leopoldsburg, Belgium. Inscription Reads: "FOR GOD IS LIGHT AND IN HIM IS NO DARKNESS; THE TRUE LIGHT NOW SHINETH". Son of Henry Fenwick and of Sarah Fenwick, of Gosport, Hampshire, England.
Plt Off. Earl Donald Mathison. Leopoldsburg War Cemetery. Collective grave. VIII. C. 9 to 16, at Leopoldsburg, Belgium. Inscription Reads: "DIED FOR HIS HOME AND HIS COUNTRY". Born on the 7th September 1917 in Bounty, Saskatchewan. Son of Donald Covert 'Don' and Erma Bernice (née Lunn) Mathison of Bounty, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Flt Sgt. Mathison was posthumously commissioned and promoted to Plt.Off (J90601) with effect 22nd December 1944.
Plt Off. John William McLeod. Leopoldsburg War Cemetery. Collective grave. VIII. C. 9 to 16, at Leopoldsburg, Belgium. Born 26th December 1924 in Canmore, Bighorn, Alberta. Son of William Joseph and Annie (née Whittle) McLeod of Canmore, Bighorn, Alberta, Canada. His mother predeceased him in February 1943. His father served with the 29th Company of the Veterans Guard of Canada in Medicine Hat, Alberta. He is also commemorated on Page 544, of The Second World War, Book of Remembrance, Canada.
Flt Sgt. McLeod was posthumously commissioned and promoted to Plt.Off (J95353) with effect 31st December 1944.
Researched by Bob Wilton. With thanks to John Fenwick Rogers (nephew of Flt Sgt. John Fenwick) for further information and crew photographs. Also thanks to Patrick Mills son of Sqn Ldr. Anthony Mills. We would also like to thank other relatives who have supplied information to John for this article. Thanks to Patricia Allon, the niece of Plt Off. McLeod, for his NoK details (Apr 2021). Further updates by Aircrew Remembered (Apr 2021). Thanks to Clare George for the photographs of the crew and Sgt. Charles D. Bassett. The photographs were in the possession of Clare’s stepmother, who passed away in March 2021 aged 96. It appears that Charles Bassett may have been her sweetheart (Jul 2021)
RS 19.07.2021 - Addition of photographs for crew and Sgt.Bassett
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember
them. - Laurence
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