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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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405 Squadron crest
16/17.09.1942 No. 405 Squadron Halifax II W7770 LQ-E Fl/Sgt. William F. Murray

Operation: Essen

Date: 16/17th September 1942

Unit: No. 405 Squadron RCAF (‘We Lead’)

Type: Halifax II

Serial: W7770

Code: LQ-E

Base: RAF Topcliffe

Location: East of airfield at Maubeuge, France

Pilot: Fl/Sgt. William Frederick Murray R/92114 RCAF Age 20. Killed (1)

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Ronald Ernest Hayward Barnicoat 570205 RAFVR Age 22. PoW No: 43097 Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug (L6) (2)

Nav: Sgt. Charles Andrew Paton R/93472 RCAF Age 22. Killed

Air/Bmr: Sgt. William Seaman Grant R/84623 RCAF Age 27. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: P/O. Lorne Edward Kropf J/7931 RCAF Age 27. Evaded capture (3)

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Joseph G St.Louis R/54325 RCAF Age 20. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. 'Bert' Charles Albert Kitson R/101804 RCAF Age 20. Killed


Take off at 20:52 hrs. from RAF Topcliffe. Roughly fifteen minutes before reaching Essen, a flame damper on the port inner engine burnt through and later, on the bombing run, the oxygen supply failed.

In spite of these difficulties, an attack was made and course for base was set. Then a night fighter struck, setting fire to the bomber’s port wing. Unable to quell the blaze, the crew were unable to prevent the Halifax from crashing near the Maubeuge (Nord), France where those who died are buried in Maubeuge Centre Cemetery.

Halifax W7770 was intercepted and shot down by Oblt. Hubert Rauh, (4) of 5./NGJ4 at 00:37 hrs, his fifth abschüss. The aircraft was seen to go down east of the airfield at Maubeuge.

Left: P/O. Lorne Edward Kropf (see credits)

(1) The family of Fl/Sgt. William Frederick Murray lost another son on the October 4th 1944. 20 year old Fl/Lt. John Richard MurrayJ/14668 RCAF, navigator with 524 Squadron, Coastal Command, flying a Wellington MF319. All crew lost and commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
(2) Sgt. Ronald Ernest Hayward Barnicoat was from 24 Cleveland Avenue, Weymout, Dorset, England. Enlisted on the 1st September 1936. After capture he spent 12 days at the St. Giles Hospital in Brussels receiving treatment.
(3) P/O. Lorne Edward Kropf was brought up by his aunt, Miss. S. Betzner of 4 Fisher Street, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada after the death of his parents died in the 1930’s.
(4) Oblt. Paul-Hubert Rauh, already an ace at this time, claimed a total of 31 abschüsse during the war. He survived and died on the 30th August 2005, age 92.

“A Great Escape”. An account by Lorne Kropfe:

At about 21:00 hrs. on September 16th 1942 Lorne and his crew left for Essen in a Halifax bomber with a full load. They reached the target and bombed it. The plane was shot down and the crew was given the order to “bale out”, but the escape hatch was jammed. The plane exploded and Lorne and one other crew member were blown free. He began falling and somehow managed to pull the rip cord (a natural reflex action) but couldn’t remember doing it. He saw the burning plane below him and another parachute floating earthwards.

During the early morning and darkness of September 17th 1942, Lorne landed with a thud, and his knees practically hit his chin, in a field somewhere on the border of Belgium and France. He found a hiding place and slept in his parachute till daylight. He hid the parachute in a fence corner at at daybreak noticed a farmer working in a nearby field. With the use of sign language and the aid of a survival kit map, he was able to make the farmer understand that he wished to know his location. He hid all that day crouched up in a stack of grain. The farmer supplied him with food and clothing to wear over the RCAF uniform.

When the farmer brought food around noon he was informed that five of the crew had been killed and the sixth (whose parachute had been previously spotted) had suffered a broken arm and was taken prisoner. (On arrival back in England some time later Lorne was informed as to the identity of the only other survivor -Barnicoate, the English Flight Engineer).

At night fall Lorne began walking South towards Paris and skirted a town called Mauberge until daybreak, September 18th, then hid in a bush for the day. He met another farmer working in a field. This farmer took him to his home and gave him lodging for the night. On September 19th the farmer took Lorne to a friend, John’s place on a bicycle. John and his wife took Lorne on the train to Charlerol (none of these people could speak English), arrived at Charlerol on September 19th and stayed for the night with relatives of John. On Sunday September the 20th Lorne left Charlerol for Brussels with John and his wife. He was taken to John’s Father in law’s home for the night. These people supplied him with civilian clothes and got rid of the remainder of his uniform.

That Monday, September 21st, a man from the “Resistance or Underground movement” came to John’s father in law. At this time Lorne was informed the Germans had found his parachute and were searching for him. John knew this fact, but he was unable to tell Lorne, as he spoke no English.

This new friend took Lorne to a Pharmacy where he stayed in a small room at the back of the store for about one week. Meals were brought in to him, he was locked in at night, he read many books (English, of course) but most of the time did not know what was transpiring outside.

Right: Oblt. Hubert Rauh, 5./NGJ4

From the Pharmacy Lorne was taken to the home of a Belgian man, Mr. Buy, on Sunday September 27th. Mrs Cleopatra Buy was a Polish-Russian ballet dancer. Mr. Buy had met her during the Revolution in Russia. Cleo. had been hit by a taxi and was bedridden for the full nine days of Lorne’s stay with them. She had a bone from her shin grafted into her back and had to lie on her stomach for about six months. When Cleo was finally allowed to lie on her back, she became violently ill at first. This all was told to Lorne by English speaking relatives and friends who visited her during his stay. Cleo did all the cooking from a hot plate by her bedside. When her husband was at work, Lorne and Cleo used an English-French Dictionary constantly to help them prepare the food for cooking.

On Monday October 5th, Lorne was taken by a woman (was never given her name) to a Cathedral. This was an exchange from one “Underground Movement” to another. A teenage girl waited for him at the Cathedral and took him to Elsie’s (possibly her mother). This girl could speak English but discretion was urgent, and they waited before carrying on a conversation. Elsie was an English woman married to a Belgian and Lorne stayed here for two days. This was where he learned of “the broken link”(another person had paid the supreme sacrifice) in the “underground chain” which was to have taken him through to Switzerland.

They left Brussels by train on Wednesday, October 7th, by way of Lille. Lorne was given a false identity card (Jean Laurent, electrician) and a forged visa to travel to Paris. The train was quite crowded and Lorne stood in the corridor to have a smoke. While he was standing looking out of the window, he realised someone was speaking to him in French. Looking around, he realised it was the conductor and decided he must want his ticket, so he handed it to the conductor. Not another word was spoken.

At a border town before reaching Lille, the train was stopped for a customs check. Both French and Belgian Customs officials made a check at this point. Besides this, the German Security Guards also checked passports and identity cards. However due to the number of people on the train, only a spot check was made and Lorne was fortunate enough to get by without being questioned. The fellow in front of him was taken out for questioning. Lorne asked his travelling companion later what would have happened had he been called out - he just shrugged his shoulders.

Left: Newspaper cutting (see credits)

Lorne stayed at Elizabeth’s in Paris for nine days. Elizabeth and her mother, the Barbiers shared an apartment. A man came several days later and took him on a sightseeing tour of Paris for two afternoons. It was learned that the Germans had been checking passports of people on the streets and anyone not being able to prove their employment was beneficial to the war effort, was shipped off to Germany. This Curtailed all sight seeing and Lorne remained indoors for the remainder of his stay.

On Saturday October 17th, Lorne left Paris with his identity card listing him as a “fisherman” as they were headed for the fishing village of St.Jean de Luis. To travel from the interior of France to the coast was forbidden without a visa, but to travel from city to city within a “forbidden zone” without a visa was permissible. Therefore the initial tickets read “from Paris to Bayonne”. If they had left the train at Bayonne, visas would have been necessary. The underground instead had arranged for two people to get on the train at Bayonne with tickets for all four which read ”from Bayonne to St.Jean de Luis”. Therefore, when they arrived at St.Jean de Luis on Sunday, October 18th, it appeared to their authorities that they had travelled only from Bayonne, and as both of these towns were in the “forbidden zone”, no visa was required.

On Sunday October 18th they got inebriated and slept well.

Monday October 19th-Lorne and travelling companions were thoroughly briefed for the trip which was to follow on foot through the Pyrenees to San Sebastian, Spain. They were to be guided by smugglers carrying their contraband and this necessitated crossing the French-Spanish border and eluding the Spanish border Guards.

Left: Sgt. Ronald Barnicoat at his wedding to Pat - bridesmaid Peggy, sister of Ronald.

They left at 21:00hrs, for the walk through the Pyrenees. They were equipped with rope-soled shoes, denim trousers and shirts (street clothes were carried in their packs) and started walking along a smugglers trail through the mountains. This group of travellers was as follows: A smuggler to lead and an English speaking guide: four escapees-one Russian escaped from the Germans, an Englishman who had bailed out, an Irishman imprisoned since 1940 and escaped from a concentration camp, and Lorne.

At about 05:00 hrs they reached an old inn in the Spanish province. They waited there until a car picked them up and took them to San Sebastian. They were taken to a private home where they had breakfast and went to bed. They slept until evening of October 20th, ate a meal, and met a local representative of the British Embassy. They were told a car would be sent to pick them up at noon the next day, so they slept until morning.

Right: Lorne Edward Kropf relaxing

A car from the Embassy took them to Madrid, arriving about 9:00p.m. October 21st. According to International Law, they should have been interned, but as the Spanish Authorities knew nothing of their presence, and to keep them from knowing, they were confined to the Embassy grounds. Lorne stayed here four days and on Sunday evening, October 25th left Madrid by train and arrived at Gibraltar on Monday noon, October 26th and reported to the Air Force Base where he was free to deliver any messages. Lorne sent a telegram to Soph. (his aunt) to notify her of his safe arrival. J.S.Westman, P.O. of R.C.A., Ottawa, also sent a letter to her.

Left: Sgt. Ronald Barnicoat, who spent the remainder of the war as a PoW.

Lorne left Gibraltar on October 31st, 1942 at 11.30.p.m. by plane and arrived back in England at Portreath around 7.00.a.m. November 1st, 1942. He stayed in England about one month and returned home on 30 days leave. He trained for Pilot for several months (His dream and what he wanted to do when he first joined - informed that he had insufficient academic qualifications) in Canada and returned to England joining 432 squadron (Cougar) and did a tour of operations, awarded the D.F.C. at Buckingham Palace by King George VI, volunteered for the Pacific and returned home on furlough. THE WAR WAS OVER!

The crew he was with during his time at 432 Squadron:

Fl/Lt. Lorne E.J Kropf 7931 - Pilot
F/O. Alan B.J. Sangster 35751 - Navigator (went with Lorne to Buckingham Palace)
Sgt. John A. Hurley R/187136 - Air Bomber
Sgt. Keith Hidgert R/203031 - Wireless Op/Air gunner
Sgt. (Dick) D.R. Machin R/255590 Mid-upper gunner
Sgt. (Bill) J.W. Alwood R/212046 Rear air gunner
Sgt. John Mortimore R/195712 - Flight Engineer

(5) Kitson Lake, northwest of Tadpole Lake was named after Fl/Sgt. Charles Albert Kitson in 1975.

Fl/Sgt. Charles Albert Kitson, Sgt. William Seaman Grant, Fl/Sgt. Joseph G St.Louis, Sgt. Charles Andrew Paton and Fl/Sgt. William Frederick Murray (Aircrew Remembered archive)

Left: Casualty List No 593 for the RCAF listed 5 of the crew as killed in action (courtesy Globe and Mail June 5, 1943)

Burial details:

Fl/Sgt. William Frederick Murray. Maubeuge-Centre Cemetery. Row A. Grave 24. Son of Frederick John and Edna E. Murray, of Armstrong, British Columbia, Canada. His brother, Fl/Lt. John Richard Murray, is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial. Panel 244.

Sgt. Charles Andrew Paton. Maubeuge-Centre Cemetery. Row A. Grave 23. Of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. NoK details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?

Sgt. William Seaman Grant. Maubeuge-Centre Cemetery. Row A. Grave 22. Son of Mr and Mrs Nehemiah Grant of Clifton Royal, King’s County, New Brunswick, Canada.Fl/Sgt. Joseph G St.Louis. Maubeuge-Centre Cemetery. Row A. Grave 25. Son of Joseph and Margaret St.Louis of Renfrew, Ontario, Canada.

Fl/Sgt. Charles Albert Kitson. Maubeuge-Centre Cemetery. Row A. Grave 26. Son of Charles F. and Florence H. Kitson of Macgregor, Manitoba, Canada. Brother to sisters Marie and Gene and his brother, Dennis. Born on the 18th July 1922 on the family farm near Macdonald, Manitoba, Canada. Whilst waiting to be called up for the Navy, which he had applied for, he was accepted for the RCAF on the 16th May 1941.Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew. Special thanks to Gladys Kropf, widow of Lorne Kropf and family and to Ernie Ritz for all his input. Also to Pamela Smith (née Barnicoat - daughter), Kate Tame for grave photo’s and information. Further information from sources as quoted below.

KT. Page updated 28.08.2015

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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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