13.04.1941 149 Squadron Wellington IC T2897 OJ:O Plt.Off. Ronald R. Morison
Operation: Mėrignac, France
Date: 13th April 1941 (Sunday)
Unit: 149 Squadron
Type: Wellington IC
Base: RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk
Location: Saint-Sever-Calvados, France
Pilot: Plt.Off. Ronald Rutherford Morison 86641 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
Pilot 2: Sgt. John Leo Guy Westley 754746 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
Obs: Sgt. Ernest John Holland DFM 751976 RAFVR Age 22. killed
WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Ronald Hutchinson 942328 RAFVR Age 23. killed
Air Gnr: WO. Kenneth Charles Herbert Rawlings 939991 RAFVR Age 27. PoW No: 609 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus, Toruń, Poland (357)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Walter Hugh Wilkinson 755659 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Update June 2018: The people of St Sever Calvados held a remembrance ceremony and unveiled a monument on Saturday, the ninth of June 2018, for all seven airman killed in the St Sever area. Photographs now on the page (courtesy Neil Clennell).
REASON FOR LOSS:
T2897 took off at 21:50 from RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk to attack the Luftwaffe airfield at Merignac near Bordeaux, this being home to the F2 300 long range maritime bombers of Kampfgeschwader 40. Eleven aircraft should have taken part in the raid but only nine became airborne.
Above on crew photo Plt.Off. Morison shown first left.
T2897 was the only aircraft not to return from this operation. The loss of the plane, which crashed on the village of St-Sever-Calvados near Vire in France, was almost certainly due to mechanical failure and not to enemy action as was first believed.
The Wireless Operator, a Sgt. N.T.H. Holland aboard 149 Sqn ("B" Flight) Wellington 1c R2737 OJ-R (Pilot Flt.Lt. Reid) recalled that after O for Orange had dropped its bombs on the target the aircraft then flew back over the target for a strafing run whereupon it sustained flak damage to one of its engines. On the return flight home the O for Orange could not gain altitude to clear the buildings at St-Sever-Cavados near Vire in France. (Courtesy Ian Holland)
In an attempt to find out what happened, members of the Morison family attended a 147 Squadron reunion and were able to meet a crew member of another aircraft in the same flight. This witness said that their flight appeared to take the enemy by surprise that night and met no opposition at all. He also stated that another squadron following on were not so lucky. A little later the Morison family received a message from a relative of someone who was on duty at Mildenhall on that fateful night. In a diary entry he writes that Mildenhall received a signal from T2897 stating that they were suffering engine trouble in the vicinity of the target. This would explain why they then took the most direct route home instead of returning as planned over water, the same way they had come. St Sever Calvados was on that route home. No other signal was received. According to an entry in the diary a search was organised but the search took place in the wrong area.
Above left: Sister aircraft to T2897 OJ-W from 149 Squadron. Right: Poster
Above left: Plt.Off. Morison as a young 18 yr. old. Right: Sgt. Holland DFM (courtesy Loius Richards)
WO Rawlings was seen to bail out of the aircraft in order to light a flare in a field to aid the landing of the Wellington. The crew had decided to try and land T2897 rather than risk ditching at night in the English Channel. The plane flew low over the town of St Sever, waking many townspeople and came back a little while later. A witness has reported seeing the light of a flare. Unfortunately as the aircraft came in, it struck the tall chimney of a bakery in the town and crashed, killing 9 people on the ground. A huge fire then engulfed the crash site. The bakery is still trading and has a remembrance plaque to the crew on the wall above the shop.
WO Rawlings (born 1st January 1914) evaded capture for a few days. In the first few hours he was first helped on his way at a farm close to where he landed. Later he managed to find shelter at a farm in St-Manvieu-Bocage, about 5 miles further on, where the farmer took him in and fed him. It was here that the Germans came and captured him. On the 6th of June 1944 this farmer was executed by the French Resistance. There remains to this day grave doubts as to whether the farmer had anything to do with his capture.
Rawlings was taken first to Vire and from there sent to Stalag Luft I, Barth in Western Pomerania. After being held in 4 different camps, lastly in Stalag 357 at Fallingbostal, Lower Saxony, he was freed in April 1945 and returned to England. Before being sent to Germany however, Rawlings was taken back to the crash-site where he was paraded in front of the townspeople. The intention was to elicit a hostile reaction on account of the civilian deaths but according to witnesses the townspeople remained silent.
It is also known that several thousand people turned out for the funeral of the crew - not encouraged by the Germans of course. In 2018 again the local community come out in hundreds to remember these boys. (memorial also shown below).
Above image is credited to Peter Devine, a Freelance Journalist who covered the unveiling of the wreath in St Sever Calvados
Sgt. Ernest John Holland DFM (courtesy Loius Richards)
Interesting as the famous poster encouraging people to volunteer to work within aircraft production features Sgt. Ernest John Holland DFM who only weeks previous to his loss was asked to attend photographic sittings by the Ministry of Information
Crew graves at St. Sever-Calvados Communal Cemetery (available individually to relatives, samples shown below, - courtesy Jacques Grasset)
Plt.Off. Ronald Rutherford Morison. St. Sever-Calvados Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 2-6. Son of Fred Hughes Morison and Jane Margaret Morison, of St. Boswells-on-Tweed, Roxburghshire, England. Grave inscription reads: "Here, a boy. He dwell and ere the day of sorrow, departed as he came."
Sgt. John Leo Guy Westley. St. Sever-Calvados Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 2-6. Son of Alfred E. and Marie H. Westley, of Sutton, Surrey, England. Grave inscription reads: "We give him back, to thee dear lord, who gavest him to us, they will be done, RIP"
Sgt. Ernest John Holland DFM. St. Sever-Calvados Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 2-6. Son of Ernest and Ellen Holland, of Birmingham, England. Grave inscription reads: "A happy soul, heart of gold, no dearer son, this world could hold, God bless him."
Sgt. Holland's DFM was awarded whilst with 149 Sqn, gazetted 13th March 1942.
Sgt. Ronald Hutchinson. St. Sever-Calvados Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 2-6. Son of Edmund and Margaret Hutchinson, of Sunderland, County Durham, England. Grave inscription reads: "Ever Remembered By his father and brothers."
Sgt. Walter Hugh Wilkinson. St. Sever-Calvados Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 2-6. Son of Walter Henry and Bessie Wilkinson, of Penrith, Cumberland, England. Grave inscription reads: "Among the chosen few, the very brave, the very true."
Above: The wonderful memorial placed by the local community to the boys - June 2018.
Researched by Jacques Grasset who took the first batch of grave photos for Aircrew Remembered. Further information supplied by Anthony Rickerby. To John Reid for visiting and taking the photographs of the graves. Details of the correct crash location our thanks go to Neil Clennell and Andre Laroze ( (local historian who has helped a great deal and continues to do so). Neil is the relative of a Typhoon pilot, Sgt. Dennis Herbert Clennell buried in the same cemetery. Photographs of Sgt. Holland DFM sent by Louise Richards, her mother was a close friend of 'Dutch'. Thanks to Ian Holland, the son of Sgt. Ernest John Holland for the eye witness account (Dec 2019). Corrections and updates by Aircrew Remembered (Jan 2021). With thanks also to the following sources.