Operation: Schweinfurt (Ball bearing production factories) Germany
Date: 26th/27th April 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit No: 106 Squadron.
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Metheringham, Lincolnshire
Location: Laneuville-à-Bayard, France.
Pilot: Sqn Ldr. Anthony O'Shea Murdoch 40414 RAF Age 28. KiA
Pilot 2: Flt Sgt. Roy Bradley 1575978 RAFVR Age? PoW No. 3829 * (1)
Flt Eng: Sgt. Leonard George Alfred Izod 1873929 RAFVR Age 19. KiA
Nav: Sgt. Henry David Clark 1122986 RAFVR Age 30. KiA
Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt. William Frederick Evans 902284 RAFVR Age 26. KiA
WOp/Air Gnr: Plt Off. William Frederick Collins 402458 RAAF Age 29. KiA
Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Sgt. Ernest Ambrose Hatch 933266 RAFVR Age 22. KiA
Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. John Howard Rees 1580581 RAFVR Age 31. KiA
* Stalag 357 Kopernikus at Thorn (Toruń) in Poland. Moved in September 1944 to the loosely named Stalag 357 Fallingbostel, Lower Saxony, Germany. Officially the designation was Stalag 357 Oerbke.
REASON FOR LOSS:
On the night of the 26th April 1944 JB601 was one of sixteen aircraft detailed from the Sqn for an operation against Schweinfurt in Germany. The aircraft took off over a 15 min period commencing 21:00 hrs.
Moderate but accurate flak was encountered but there was also many fighters which attacked all then way to the target. Eleven aircraft made successful attacks but the Sqn experienced its most tragic evening ever. No fewer than five aircraft, including JB601, failing to return. Nothing was heard from any of them..
Another huge failure with very light damage done on the ground due to strong head winds making the markers inaccurate from the Mosquito pathfinder force. It is reported that only 2 people were killed on the ground in the target area but a total of 21 Lancasters lost with 125 aircrew killed and a further 28 being made PoW.
JB601 was claimed by Hptm. Helmut Bergmann, his 26th Abschuss and the first of three this night, from 8./NJG4, near Bayard, SE of St. Dizier at 4.800m at 00:47 hrs. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (16 March 1944 - 11 May 1944) Part 2 - Theo Boiten).
Bergman went on to claim a total of 34 Abschüsse before he was killed on the 6th/7th August 1944 when he was shot down by Flt Lt. John Surman in a Mosquito MM449 from 604 squadron.
The other four lost on this operation were:
Lancaster III ND850, ZN:C. Claimed Hptm. Martin Drewes, his 24th Abschuss and second of two this night, from Stab III./NJG1, 1-10km East of Langres (EL 6) at 5,200m at 00:50 hrs. The aircraft crashed near Chauffourt 360 m from a German Radar Station, some 20 km SE of Chaumont. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (16 March 1944 - 11 May 1944) Part 2 - Theo Boiten). Four of the crew were evaders and were transported to Switzerland and three were KiA.
Lancaster III ND853, ZN:J. Claimed by Hptm. Walter Bornschein, his 3rd Abschuss from Fürhrer Kurrierstaffel, 15 km WSW of Schweinfurt at 3.000m at 02:37hrs. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (16 March 1944 - 11 May 1944) Part 2 - Theo Boiten). The aircraft crashed in the Vicinity of Schweinfurt. Five of the crew were KiA and two became PoWs.
Lancaster III JB562, ZN:M. Claimed by Lt. Otto Keller, his 7th Abschuss and the second of three this night, from 9.NJG5, 15 km SE of Heidelberg at 5.000m at 02:12 hrs. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (16 March 1944 - 11 May 1944) Part 2 - Theo Boiten). The aircraft Crashed at Eschelbronn. Five of the crew were KiA and two became PoWs.
Lancaster III ME669, ZN:O. Two of the crew were KiA, five became PoWs. Sgt. Norman C. Jackson, PoW, was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) for his actions that night.
Above and below impressive details showing actual crash location together with detail on how the area was in 1944. Now with many new developments. (courtesy Franck)
A local resident, who was then aged 9, clearly remembers the incident and passed on the following information via his son Franck to Aircrew Remembered in January 2016. Franck also visited and photographed the graves for us.
Above: Villagers cutting away rubber from one of the tyres - a valuable commodity at the time - used mainly for repairing shoes and boots. (courtesy Franck)
“The villagers watched as they heard the aircraft coming in very low, they saw one man jump but as they were very low the parachute slowed his descent but he broke a leg when he landed in one of the trees. At first they thought that it was trying to land in the fields of Ruetz Farm but seemed to have decided it was too small so climbed slightly to avoid trees which the aircraft clipped, losing one of the engines which was found in the garden of a resident. A machine gun was also dropped or sheared from the aircraft during its descent.
The aircraft hit a field but did not catch fire or explode. Villagers were the first on the scene, one woman removed a ring from one of the crew explaining that she wanted to return it to the relatives. Another (now deceased) took a wallet from the ground which was later handed over to the Germans - another villager wanted to take the boots off one of the crew but was ‘asked to leave’!
One of the villagers travelling in a hay cart found Roy Bradley picked him up with a view to assisting his evasion but he was in too much pain and asked for treatment from the Germans. This they did, sending him first to the hospital at St. Dizier and then on to the hospital at Chaumont.
After the aircraft had crashed the Germans lined up the men of Laneuville-à-Bayard on the following day, for two hours as a machine gun from the aircraft could not be accounted for. (The Germans knew that the French resistance were very active in the area) At one stage it was thought the German officer was about to have them all shot. A Mr. Pierre Chatel, director of the village foundry and also the Mayor left the Town Hall to calm down the situation which after discussions with the Germans and villagers he managed to do. It was suggested that the machine-gun maybe in the canal. This was then partially drained and found with men in a boat probing the bottom.”
An anniversary memorial service was held a year after the crash by the Mayor and people of the village, members of the French Patriotic Group, an RAF representative also attended.
During an investigation into a crash of an RAF aircraft on the 2nd March 1945 a member of the Missing Research & Enquiry Service (MRES), Paris section, noticed seven RAF graves marked as ‘Unknown’ in the parish of Laneuville-a-Bayard.
Further enquiries of the Mayor of Laneuville-a-Bayard determined that they were victims of a Lancaster crash on the night of the 26th/27th April 1944. Seven members of the drew were killed and one escaped with a broken leg and taken prisoner by the Germans. This was Flt Sgt. Bradley.
The investigator was handed the only piece of identification which it was possible to retrieve from the aircraft owing to the aggressive presence of German personnel. The item was the Flight Engineer’s log with Sqn Ldr. Murdoch’s name as the Captain and other particulars of the aircraft.
(1) Roy Bradley, the sole survivor from the crew returned to the village several times over the years. Sadly he passed away in 1995.
The family of Plt Off. William Collins also came to visit in June 2004. (courtesy Franck)
The original funeral for the crew that were killed - an impressive number of locals attending the event. (courtesy Franck)
The church and cemetery at Laneuville-à-Bayard, France. (courtesy Franck - who also supplied photographs of the graves in high resolution - Franck has provided permission for copies to be sent to any relative who contact us)
Sqn Ldr. Anthony O’Shea Murdoch. Laneuville-A-Bayard Churchyard Coll. Grave 1-7. Son of William Thomas Murdoch and Ellen Catherine Josephine Murdoch, of Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand.
Sgt. Leonard George Alfred Izod. Laneuville-A-Bayard Churchyard Coll. Grave 1-7. Inscription reads: "GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS, THAT HE GAVE HIS LIFE FOR THOSE HE LOVED". Son of Edmund Joseph Charles and Florence Rachel Izod, of Southend-on-Sea, Essex, England.
Sgt. Henry David Clark. Laneuville-A-Bayard Churchyard Coll. Grave 1-7. Inscription reads: "EVER REMEMBERED BY LOVING WIFE AND DAUGHTER". Son of Thomas and Agnes Clark; husband of Sarah H. Clark, of Ayr, Scotland.
Flt Sgt. William Frederick Evans. Laneuville-A-Bayard Churchyard Coll. Grave 1-7. Inscription reads: "HE GAVE THE LIFE HE LOVED FOR THOSE HE LOVED. HE SHALL NOT HAVE DIED IN VAIN". Son of William Thomas Evans and Doris Evans, husband of Jocelyn Marion Evans, of Ealing, Middlesex, England.
Plt Off. William Frederick Collins. Laneuville-A-Bayard Churchyard Coll. Grave 1-7. Inscription reads: "RESTING IN THE PEACE OF GOD. MY BELOVED SON, AU REVOIR". Born on the 6th December 1914 in Goondiwindi, Queensland. Son of Harold and Elizabeth Collins, of Burleigh Heads, Queensland, Australia.
Sgt. Ernest Ambrose Hatch. Laneuville-A-Bayard Churchyard Coll. Grave 1-7. Inscription reads: "MAY THE SUNSHINE HE MISSED IN LIFE'S HIGHWAY BE FOUND IN GOD'S HAVEN OF REST".Son of Ernest George and Edith May Hatch, of Mile Cross, Norwich, England.
Sgt. John Howard Rees. Laneuville-A-Bayard Churchyard Coll. Grave 1-7. Inscription reads: "SILENT THOUGHTS AND SECRET TEARS KEEP HIS MEMORY EVER DEAR. REMEMBERED BY WIFE". Son of David John and Harriet Rees, of Llanelly, Carmarthenshire; husband of Nancy Rees, of Llanelly, Wales.
Dedicated to all relatives of this crew. With thanks to Franck for his detailed maps, photographs and first hand information on the crash as witnessed by his father. Reviewed and updated by Aircrew Remembered (Dec 2022)
Other sources listed below:
RS 24.12.2022 - Reviewed and updated narrative
Original upload details unknown
RS 24.12.2022 - Reviewed and updated narrative
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember
them. - Laurence
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