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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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76 Squadron Crest
12/13.05.1944 76 Squadron Halifax III MZ575 MP:W Fg Off. Newcombe MiD.

Operation: Hasselt, Belgium

Date: 12th/13th May 1944 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit No: 76 Squadron

Type: Halifax III

Serial: MZ575

Code: MP:W

Base: RAF Holme-On-Spalding Moor, Yorkshire.

Location: Hadschot, nr Geel, Belgium

Pilot: Fg Off. Jack Newcombe MiD 135399 RAFVR Age 22. KiA (1)

Nav: Sqn Ldr. Nathaniel Leslie Shove DFC. 67050 RAFVR Age 29. KiA

Flt Eng: Fg Off. Alan John Crouch DFM. 149983 RAFVR Age 22. KiA

Bomb Aimer: Fg Off. Charles Hume Stewart DFC. 138825 RAFVR Age 21. KiA

WOp/Air Gnr: Fg Off. Harold Downs Reeder DFC. 137595 RAFVR Age 21. PoW * (2)

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Flt Sgt. Roy Reading 988635 RAFVR Age 22. Evaded. (3)

Air Gnr (Rear): Fg Off. Christopher William Saunderson 157140 RAFVR Age 26. KiA

* Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland.


A memorial to this crew was erected on the 27th September 2014. Belgium historian/researcher, Mr. Benny Ceulaers together with his group 'Planehunters Recovery Group' assisted by locals and the family arranged this fitting tribute. In November the family 'Maes', whose property the Halifax crashed on, sent us photographs.


REASON FOR LOSS:

Took off from RAF Holme-on-Spalding Moor, Yorkshire at 22:25 hrs on the 12th May 1944.

The operation, commanded by Sqn Ldr. Nathaniel Shove DFC (2nd Pilot of MZ575 and navigator), was to attack the railway marshalling yards at Hasselt, Belgium. 111 aircraft took part in this raid with 9 Halifaxes and 1 Lancaster lost. The resulting bombing was classed as poor, with many of the bombs landing in open fields.

Above L-R: Sqn Ldr. Shove DFC, Fg Off. Crouch DFM, Fg Off. Stewart DFC, Fg Off. Reeder DFC (see credits)

Sqn Ldr. Nathaniel Leslie Shove DFC at his desk (see credits)

Above: Sqn Ldr. Nathaniel Leslie Shove DFC and right, with his wife, Grace (see credits)

MZ575 was claimed by Oblt. Frederick Tober of 8/NJG2. Combat taking place at 3,800 m. at 00:37 hrs

Oblt. Frederick Tober survived the war with 6 night and 1 day claims. MZ575 was the last claim attributed to him during the war.

The aircraft crashed near the hamlet of Hadschot, nr Geel, Belgium. Those who died were first buried at Antwerpen-Deurne Cemetery on 15th May 1944 then later reburied in Schoonselhof Cemetery.

(1) Fg Off. Newcome reported missing on Operations:

North Devon Journal-Herald. January 25th 1945. Torrington Flying Officer. Believed killed on Operation (Courtesy of Tracey van Oeffelen)

(2) When Fg Off. Reeder was captured on the 13th May he was suffering from a twisted ankle and gashed knee. After the statuary visit to Dulag Luft, Oberursel he was transferred to Stalag Luft 3, Sagan arriving there on the 1st June 1944.

On the night of the 27th January 1945, with Soviet troops only 26 km (16 mls) away, orders were received to evacuate the PoWs to Spremberg which is to the West in Germany. The PoW’s were informed of the evacuation, which was on foot, at about 22:00 hrs the same night and were given 30 mins to pack and prepare everything for the March. The weather conditions were very difficult, with freezing temperatures, and it was snowing accompanied by strong winds. There was 15 cm (6 in) of snow and 2000 PoWs were assigned to clear the road ahead of the main groups.

The marching columns passed through Iłowa, Borowe, Gozdnica, Przewóz, Potok, Łęknica, Bad Muskau, Kromlau, Graustein and to Spremberg which was a distance of some 93½ km (58 mls).

During next days, PoWs were divided up according to Compounds, and they were led to railway sidings and loaded into tightly packed carriages. He was in the group of PoWs from the West Compound that headed to Stalag 3A, Luckenwalde arriving there on the 4th Feb 1945.

Finally, as the Russians approached the guards fled the camp leaving the prisoners to be liberated by the Red Army on the 22nd April 1945. He finally arrived back in the UK and was interviewed on the 21st May 1945.

Harold Downs Reeder was born on the 6th May 1920 who was employed as a Senior Clerk in Stockport, Cheshire prior to enlisting in the RAFVR on the 21st February 1940.

Fg Off. Harold Reeder DFC flew with Plt Off. Stockton Gowland Rawlings DFC. on his previous operations.

Above: The Weston Morning News 16th March 1945

The DFC was awarded to Fg Off. Reeder whilst with 51 Sqn. London Gazette 15th June 1943.

Citation: Plt Off Reeder has completed a number of bombing sorties and 21 anti-submarine patrols in day-light. As wireless operator his technical skills has on more than one occasion ensured the safe return of his aircraft when navigational difficulties have been encountered.

(3) Flt Sgt. Reading’s Evasion statement was short and to the point:

"We took off from Holme-On-Spalding Moor in a Halifax Mark III aircraft at 2225 hrs on 12 May 44, to bomb HASSELG (BELGIUM). A night fighter shot us down after attacking the target and we were ordered to bale out at 0400 hrs (13 May).

I landed in a field near GHEEL and walked across to same people standing near a cottage, who took me to a farm where I was hidden and contacted by the Partisans. I was kept in this district for 14 weeks,

On 10 Aug I was moved to BRUSSELS and stayed there until I contacted British troops on 4 Sep".

Roy Reading born on the 13th November 1921 and married in 1951. He passed away in April 2001.


Above: Reenacting crew of the "Erfgoedgilde" society. The uniforms are police and Gendarmerie uniforms of the WWII period (courtesy Camille Vanhove)

L-R: Speech of the eye- witness and the owner of the place of the crash Mr. Frans Maes, translated in English by Dirk Vanhove chairman of the "Erfgoedgilde”, inauguration by Mrs. V. Celis, mayor of the city of Geel and a member of the council - Mr. Julliams (courtesy Camille Vanhove)

L-R: Mrs. M. Maes, sister of Mr. Frans Maes, children of Vanhove family honouring the crew (courtesy Camille Vanhove)

The beautiful memorial with thanks to the Camille Vanhove family (photo courtesy Mr Bart Julliams of Geel Council and of course to Benny Ceulaers of the tremendous Belgian Recovery Team)


Burial details:


Above: Some of the crew graves (courtesy Benny Ceulaers)

Fg Off. Jack Newcombe MiD. Schoonselhof Cemetery. Collective grave IVa.E. 36-42. Grave Inscription: 'NOT JUST TODAY BUT EVERY DAY WE WILL PROUDLY REMEMBER. DAD, MUM, BABS AND PAT'. Son of Frederick William and Beatrice Margaret Newcombe, of Torrington, Devon, England.

Jack Newcome (Torrington Senior) won a scholarship to Barnstaple Grammar School as reported in the North Devon Journal, May 26th 1932.

Fg Off. Newcombe was Mentioned in Despatched (MiD) which was promulgated in the London Gazette effective 14th January 1944.

Sqn Ldr. Nathaniel Leslie Shove DFC. Schoonselhof Cemetery. Collective grave IVa.E. 36-42. Grave Inscription: 'I THINK OF HEAVEN AS A GARDEN WHERE AGAIN I SHALL MEET THE DEAR ONE WHO MADE MY WORLD.' Son of Nathaniel and Edith Shove, husband of Grace Lilian Shove, of Goodmayes, Essex, England.

The DFC was awarded to Acting Flt Lt. Shove whilst with 102 Sqn. London Gazette 20th April 1943

Fg Off. Alan John Crouch DFM. Schoonselhof Cemetery. Collective grave IVa.E. 36-42. Grave Inscription: '''INTO THE MOSAIC OF VICTORY A PRICELESS PIECE IS LAID" TO OUR BELOVED ALAN'. Son of Henry Ernest and Evelyn Jessie Crouch, husband of Joyce Mabel Crouch, of New Eltham, London, England

The DFM was awarded to 144440 Sgt. Couch whilst with 10 Sqn. London Gazette 13th July 1943. Citation "Sgt. A. J. CROUCH, No. 10 Sqn. Despite the fact that his aircraft was on one occasion attacked simultaneously by three enemy night fighters, and on three other occasions has been heavily damaged by anti-aircraft fire when over the target, Sgt. Crouch has continued to display an admirable and unflagging enthusiasm for operations".

Fg Off. Charles Hume Stewart DFC. Schoonselhof Cemetery. Collective grave IVa.E. 36-42. Grave Inscription: 'WE OFTEN THINK OF HIM AND SPEAK HIS NAME BUT ALL WE HAVE LEFT IS SWEET MEMORIES'. Son of George and Margaret Ann Stewart, of Glasgow, husband of Agnes Stewart, of Dennistoun, Glasgow, Scotland.

The DFC was awarded to Plt Off. Stewart whilst with 78 Sqn. London Gazette 24th May 1943

Fg Off. Christopher William Saunderson. Schoonselhof Cemetery. Collective grave IVa.E. 36-42. Son of Captain William Robert and Mrs Saunderson of Rosebank, Cushendall Road, Ballymena. Christopher is remembered on the monument at Saint Mary's Church of Ireland, Anglesea Road, Donnybrook, Dublin.

Researched by Neil, 51 Squadron historian for Aircrew Remembered. Additional research by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew. Thanks to the family of Sqn Ldr. Shove including his nieces, Ruth and Sally, the family of Fg Off. Charles Stewart, Benny Ceulaers and the 'Planehunter Recovery Group', Thanks to Tracey van Oefflen for the North Devon Journal-Herald cutting (Feb 2024). Other updates and corrections by Aircrew Remembered (Feb 2024).

Other sources listed below:

RS 18.02.2024 - Reviewed, updated and new information added

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Acknowledgements
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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