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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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75 Squadron Crest
17/18.12.1942 75 Squadron Stirling I BF396 AA:X Wg Cdr. Victor Mitchell DFC

Operation: Fallersleben

Date: 17th/18th December 1942 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: 75 Squadron, 3 Group, Bomber Command

Type: Stirling I

Serial: BF396

Code: AA:X

Base: RAF Newmarket, Suffolk

Location: Listed as lost without trace

Pilot: Wg Cdr. Victor Mitchell DFC, Twice MiD. 37755 RAF Age 27. Missing - believed killed

2nd Pilot: WO. Trevor Horace Bagnall 40640 RNZAF Age 26. Missing - believed killed

Flt Eng: Sgt. Robert Hart 523663 RAF Age 28. Missing - believed killed

Nav: WO. Reginald Wiliam Pearson 747858 RAFVR Age 27. Missing - believed killed

Bomb Aimer: Sgt. Gerald Thomas Padden 1041966 RAFVR Age 20. Missing - believed killed

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Stuart John Goff 916785 RAFVR Age 20. Missing - believed killed

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Sgt. Arthur Henry Rider 960489 RAFVR Age 31. Missing - believed killed

Air Gnr (Rear): Flt Sgt. Albert Charles William Parker 909252 RAFVR Age 22. Missing - believed killed

Please see Special appeal and Prologue at the foot of the page of Remembrance.


BF396 was delivered to the Squadron on the 23rd October 1942 from 1657 Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU).

Taking off with four others from RAF Newmarket in Suffolk at around 18:00 hrs to bomb the Opel works at Fallersleben. The commanding officer from 75 Squadron Wg Cdr. Mitchell took up this new crew and led the 5 Stirlings sent from the squadron, sadly only 1 was to return!

This was to be a low-level flight climbing to 5,000 ft to bomb. Anti-aircraft fire was reported to be fairly heavy and night fighters also attacked the bombers. The weather was clear to the target but developed into rain and a 7/10 cloud on return.

16 Stirlings and 3 Wellingtons from 3 Group were detailed to attack Fallersleben (other units also bombed other targets this night) From this force of 19 aircraft only 3 managed to bomb the cloud covered target.

The VW 'People's Car works.

BF396 was claimed by Oblt. Werner Husemann, his first Abschuss, from Stab NJG1, over the sea 5 km west of Bergen Ann Zee at 2.200 m, at 21:10 hrs.

Note: The aircraft was also claimed by Marine flak of 2./M.A.A 201 and Luftwaffe Flak of I. & II./s./lei. Abt. 764 (Hudson sea Camperduin at 20:54 hrs). The victory was confirmed for Oblt. Husemann on the 19th December 1944. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (30 May - 31 December 1942) The Early Years Part 3 - Theo Boiten)

Above: Maj. Husemann shown here in the centre with his crew and ground crew. L to R: Ogefr. Meisolle, mechanic, Ofw. H.G. Schierholz, BF, Husemann, FW. Moller, BS, FW. Fehmannn 2nd BF. (courtesy Kracker archives on this website)

Husemann survived the war as a Maj. and the Kommandeur of I./NJG4 having flown 250 missions with 21 Abschüsse. He passed away on the 2nd of February 2014. (Luftwaffe ACES - Biographies and Victory Claims (Mathews and Foreman) - Volume 2).

The Squadron lost no less than 4 crew during this operation, the others:

Stirling I R9247 AA:W - Flown by Flt Sgt. Henry Edwin Rousseau 1026535 RAFVR, killed with all 6 other crew members.
Stirling I BF400 AA:G - Flown by 27 year old, Fg Off. Gerald Howard Jacobson 41333 RNZAF, was killed with all 6 other crew members.
Stirling I BK620 AA:A - Flown by Flt Sgt. Kenneth John Dunmall 1283701 RAFVR, taken PoW with all 6 other crew members

Above and below: Parts recently recovered from fishnets (courtesy Martijn Visser - see link in credits)

Burial details:

Wg Cdr. Victor Mitchell DFC, Twice MiD. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 64. Son of John Mitchell, and of Isabella Forsyth Mitchell, of Elgin, Morayshire, Scotland.

DFC awarded whilst with 37 Sqn as an acting Flt Lt. London Gazette 22nd October 1940; He was twice Mentioned in Despatches (MiD) as an acting Sqn Ldr. London Gazette 24th September 1941 and 1st January 1942.

Above: Wg Cdr. Victor Mitchell DFC - Runnymede Memorial. Panel 64.

W/O. Trevor Horace Bagnall. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 117. Born on the 11th November 1916 at Palmerston North. Worked as a clerk for Bagnall and Keeble prior to service. Enlisted on the 13th February 1940 at Levin after being a reserve pilot with Middle District Aero Club. Trained at No. 2 Elementary Flying Training School (08th `April 1940) then with No. 2 Flying Training School (03rd June 1940) Pilot badge awarded on the 09th August 1940 and promoted to sergeant on the 21st September 1940. Embarked for England on the 06th October 1940. Further training with 20 Operational Training Unit (03rd December 1940). Joined 40 squadron on the 13th February 1941, and carried out 29 operational sorties. Posted back to 20 Operational Training Unit as an instructor on the 02nd August 1941. Involved in a ditching after take off in Wellington Ic R1622 (22/23rd August 1941) Hospitalised until 10th September 1941. Attached to 26 Operational Training Unit as an instructor (27th March 1942. Joined 75 squadron on the 11th December 1942from 1657 Heavy Conversion Unit. Son of Henry Gordon Bagnall (died 22nd January 1959, age 84), and of Maud Janetta Bagnall (née (née Ames - died 13th July 1960, age 77), of 84 Te Awe Street, Palmerston North, Wellington, New Zealand. Although on his first tour with 75 Squadron W/O. Bagnall had already completed a full tour with 40 Squadron - a total of 1015 flying hours logged and this was his 30th operation of the war.

Sgt. Robert Hart. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 85. Also on the family grave at Saint Luke's Churchyard, Leicestershire. Son of the late Patrick Joseph Hart (died 09th November 1935, age 52) Phyllis Rose Hart (née Bird - died in 1980, age 87), of Gaddesby, Leicestershire, England.

WO. Reginald Wiliam Pearson. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 72. Son of Mr. and Mrs. William Pearson and husband of Margaret Pearson, of Bilton, Harrogate, Yorkshire, England.

Sgt. Gerald Thomas Padden. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 91. Son of Gerald Luke and Janetta Padden, of Chester-le-Street, Co. Durham, England.

Sgt. Stuart John Goff. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 84. Son of John Thomas Goff and Norah Goff, of Dagenham, Essex, England.

Sgt. Arthur Henry Rider. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 92. Son of Arthur H. and Ellen R. Rider, of Dovercourt, Essex and husband of Ethel G. Rider, of Dovercourt, England.

Flt Sgt. Albert Charles William Parker. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 75. Son of James Christopher and Emma Parker, of Gorleston, Norfolk, England.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Martijn Visser of Stichting Egmond 40-45, Graham Padden for sending in photographs of his Uncle Sgt. Gerald Padden. Also Mandy Bailey from New Zealand for her assistance on research, Other sources as quoted.

"My name is Graham Padden. I'm 50 years old and recently embarked on a mission to familiarise myself with the life of my Uncle "Bunty". A man I never had the pleasure to meet, that was taken from us on the evening of 17th December 1942.

He was the son of a Headmaster, my grandfather, Gerald Luke Padden (BEM) and the brother of 4 others. Brian, Norah, Dennis (my father) and James (Jim) His mother Janetta (My grandmother) died following the complications of childbirth during the delivery of Jim in 1934 and the family were brought up by their father, Aunty and a housekeeper.

My father Dennis is the only remaining sibling and whilst he can of course remember his brother Bunty he left these shores in 1941 when my dad was only 11 years of age to begin pilot training in Canada and America.

My father is now 86, I wanted to try and fill in as many blanks as possible in my dads memory and find out as much as I can about Bunty's fateful first mission when he was assigned to 75 (NZ) Squadron who at that time were based in Newmarket. Scant detail was provided by the RAF Bomber Command which at this time were inflicting heavy losses. Little was known to the family.

In subsequent years, Bunty's siblings set off to find their own way. Norah to Ireland, Brian to Canada, my father and Jim staying in the North East, the world was a big place then. Each of them going on to have there own families.

My grandfather (Bunty's dad) died in 1964, 2 years before I was born, and I do not know what happened to any of the documentation he may have had pertaining to the death of his son back in 1942. It quite possibly could have been distributed amongst the wider family.

A couple of months back a perfectly preserved album appeared, containing a personal scrapbook of annotated pictures covering periods in 1941/42 in which Bunty was training in North America. This really re-ignited my fire to uncover as much as I can, to provide an insight into Bunty's last movements for my father.

With many thanks to people like Pierre Legacè, Glen Turner of 75 (NZ) Squadron association and Kelvin Youngs of Aircrew Remembered, I have been able to make remarkable progress. Many others have assisted too and my aim remains to build as complete a picture as possible. Who were the crew, who were the people he trained with, when I say who? I really mean I want to know there backgrounds, the hardships, the family they left behind.

I'd be eternally grateful to receive any pictures of information pertaining to this.

I thank you for the time you have taken to read this and remind you we have an honourable duty to remember the many thousands of people that will remain ever young."

Lest we forget. Graham Padden December 2016

Contact: [email protected]

RS 14.03.2022 - Update to night fighter claim and narrative

KTY 03-05-2022 - Wreckage photos uploaded

Pages of Outstanding Interest
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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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