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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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RCAF 405 Vancouver Squadron
26.09.1944 No.405 Squadron Lancaster III PB129 LQ-A W/C Palmer DFC

Mission: Cap Gris Nez

Date: 26 September 1944 (Tuesday)

Unit: No.405 Squadron RCAF (Vancouver)

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: PB129

Code: LQ-A

Base: Gransden Lodge, Cambridgeshire

Location: Audinghen, Pas de Calais, France

Pilot: W/C Charles William Palmer DFC. J/15818 RCAF Age 30. Killed

Flt/Eng: F/L Hugh John Anderson DFM. C/17844 RCAF Age 32. Injured

Nav: F/L Wilfred Goddard 145387 RAFVR Age 35. Killed

Bmr: P/O Albert James Wilcock DFC. J/85391 RCAF Age 25. Injured

2nd. Bmr: F/O Wilfred George Peacock DFC. J/18009 RCAF Age 22. Killed

W.Op: F/O Charles Edwin Laishley 158131 RAFVR Age 31. Killed

A/Gnr: P/O Frederick John Alec Frey J/85493 RCAF Age 30. Killed

A/Gnr: P/O Irvin Leroy Lauckner DFM. J/16969 RCAF Age 20. No reported injuries


In September 1944, as the allied armies swept eastwards following the Normandy invasion that June, a key target was the recapture and liberation of the ports at Boulogne and Calais. The area was heavily defended along the channel coast by four 380 mm Krupp artillery guns encased in reinforced concrete bunkers known as the Todt Batteries.

As a precursor to the operation by Anglo-Canadian land forces, the RAF conducted a daylight bombing sortie by 531 aircraft targeting the four gun emplacements.

After taking off at 12:00 hours, W/C Palmer and crew were soon over the target area making a low level bombing run when the aircraft was hit by anti aircraft fire engulfing it in flames. Upon orders to bale out, three members of the crew were able to safely escape the doomed Lancaster albeit for Anderson who suffered a broken ankle upon hitting the ground and Wilcock who had broken some ribs and was burnt around the face. From later RAF reports, after the burning aircraft with its full bomb load intact had crash landed, it was subsequently bombed some four minutes later by a fellow Main Force aircraft mistaking it for a target despite warnings from the Master Bomber.

Three days later on 29 September 1944, the Todt batteries surrendered to the North Nova Scotia Highlanders.

L-R: W/C C.W. Palmer, F/L H.J. Anderson, F/L W. Goddard

L/R: F/O C.E. Laishley (1), P/O F.J.A. Frey, P/O I.L. Lauckner

Burial details:

W/Cdr. Charles William Palmer, DFC. Calais Canadian War Cemetery, Leubringhen. Collective grave 5 C 9. Son of Mr. & Mrs. D.H. Palmer of Dundalk, Ontario, Canada. Further details: Upon completion of high school, Palmer worked as a farm labourer and milk truck driver from 1933 until 1940 when he enlisted in the RCAF. After short stays at No.2 Manning Depot and No.1 Air Navigation School he completed his initial training at No.2 ITS Regina graduating in March 1941. By August of that year he had graduated from elementary flying training at St.Eugene, Ontario and from service training at Moncton, New Brunswick and was on his way overseas that September. Posted to 405 Squadron in early June 1942, he completed 21 sorties against enemy targets in four months gaining his commission and earning his DFC in the process. His Majesty King George VI presented his DFC to him at Buckingham Palace on 15 December 1942. Steadily gaining promotions he achieved the rank of Wing Commander in November 1943. His commendation for his DFC reads:

"This officer has participated in many operational missions. One night in October 1942, he captained an aircraft detailed to attack Flensberg. In spite of intense searchlight activity over the target area, Pilot Officer Palmer pressed home his attack from a low level. After his bombs were released, he dived and enabled his gunners to machine-gun searchlights, several of which were damaged. On his return journey he flew at a low altitude to allow his gunners to fire at a variety of ground targets. This officer has at all times displayed skill and gallantry in the execution of his tasks."
Fl/Lt. Wilfred Goddard, Calais Canadian War Cemetery, Leubringhen. Collective grave 5 C 9. Son of Wilfred and Gertrude Goddard of Openshaw, Manchester. Further details: Wilfred was born on the 18 November 1908 in Openshaw in Manchester, England to parents Gertrude and Wilfred Goddard. Wilfred senior was a Grocer's Assistant. They only had one child, that being Wilfred Junior who worked as a Shipping Clerk before he joined the war effort.

Left: Wilfred and Ethel in 1931 Right: Wilfred and Ethel's wedding, 1933

Wilfred married Ethel on the 21 October 1933 and had three children, Jean, Barry and Anthony (whom he never met as he was born some months after the crash). Wilfred joined the Reserve Command unit 3RC [No.3 Recruit Centre, Padgate, Cheshire] on the 23rd October 1941 as an Aircraft Hand and started his training in March 1942. He was sent to South Africa for his air training in September 1942, and in December 1942, he was listed as a Flight Observer. He sat an exam in Combined Navigation and Bomb Aiming Course in May 1943 and achieved 85%, so his commissioned service then started in June 1943 with the rank of Flying Officer and his movements from his training records are listed as follows:
No.7 Personnel Reception Centre, Harrogate. Area 54. 3 September 1943 Supply Pilot Pool.
No.2 (Observer) Advanced Flying Unit, Millom, Cumbria. Area 25. GPP 25 January 1944 Nav. B for advance.
Pathfinder Navigation Training Unit, Upwood/Warboys, Cambridgeshire. 8 Group 14 March 1944 Nav. B.
RCAF 405 Sqdn. 8 Group 16 April 1944 Nav. B.
RCAF 405 Sqdn. 8 Group Pathfinder Force 22 June 1944 Nav. F/L.

F/O. Wilfred George Peacock, DFC. Calais Canadian War Cemetery, Leubringhen. Collective grave 5 C 9. Son of George Edward and Margaret Bernetta (nee Reid) Peacock of Everett, Ontario, Canada. Further details: After enlisting at Toronto in January 1941, Wilfred attended No.2 Wireless School, Calgary, graduating that September. He was then posted to No.7 Bombing & Gunnery School, Paulson, Manitoba, graduating in October that same year. Commissioned in may 1943, he was awarded his DFC to be effective 25 September 1944, one day before he was killed. His recommendation reads:

"Flying Officer Peacock as bomb aimer has completed numerous operations against the enemy in the course of which he has invariably displayed the utmost fortitude, courage,and devotion to duty."

Peacock Island in Georgian Bay, Lake Huron, Ontario was named after F/O Peacock in 1960

F/O. Charles Edwin Laishley, Calais Canadian War Cemetery, Leubringhen. Collective grave 5 C 9. Son of Edward Frank and Ethel Milly (nee Coventry) Laishley of Winchester, Hampshire. Further details: The youngest of three brothers and a younger sister, Charles spent his early years in the village of Twyford before moving with the family to Winchester. After completing his schooling, Charles worked as a gardener for Colonel Murray at Twyford House before enlisting in the RAF at the Combined Recruit Centre, Euston House, London, in October 1940.

Left: Preparing for war, Charles Laishley, Winchester 1939 (3) Right: Charlie with his Mother and Father, 1941 (2)

After passing his preliminary fitness test at Euston he was given instructions to report for examination by the selection board at No.2 Recruit Centre at RAF Cardington . Upon undergoing and passing a thorough medical and fitness test for aircrew as well as intelligence testing and an interview by RAF officers, Charles was recommended for training as a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner. Three months of initial training at 10 Signals Recruit Centre at Blackpool were followed by a three month course at No. 2 Wireless Signals School, Yatesbury. It was then off to No. 7 Bombing and Gunnery School at Stormy Down in Wales until the end of July when he was posted to 15 OTU for training on Wellingtons prior to joining 70 Squadron of 205 Group for a tour of operations in Egypt. On retuning to England in August 1942, Charles spent two years as an instructor at 23 OTU Pershore and Atherstone as well as 10 OTU Abingdon during which he was promoted to Pilot Officer, 16 September 1943, and Flying Officer six months later before returning to operational duty with RCAF 405 Squadron Pathfinders, Gransden Lodge, at the end of April 1944.

P/O Frederick John Alec Frey, Calais Canadian War Cemetery, Leubringhen. Collective grave 5 C 9. Son of Carl and Florence (nee Easterbrook) Frey of Brantford, Ontario, Canada. Husband of Joan Elsie (nee Williams) Frey of Bridgend, Glamorganshire. Further details: After completing his schooling at Dufferin Public School and the Collegiate Institute in Brantford, Frederick was selected by the Brantford Board of Parks Management to take a course in gardening at the Agricultural College in Guelph, Ontario. Following the course he worked for the Board as well as at Slingsby's textile manufacturing company. During his youth he was involved with the Boy Scouts and a member of the local YMCA where he enjoyed swimming. An adherent of St.Pauls Anglican Church, Frederick enlisted in the RCAF in December 1940 and completed his training as an Air Gunner at No.3 Bombing and Gunnery School, MacDonald, Manitoba. Posted to England in 1941 Frederick would complete 29 operations against the enemy and celebrate his wedding before returning home for a short leave in May 1944. On his return overseas he joined the prestigious Pathfinders of 405 Squadron.

Frey Lake, District of Parry Sound, Ontario was named after P/O Frey in 1958.

Left: The original grave site. (4) Right: The grave as it is today at Leubringhen

Calais Canadian War Cemetery

The Survivors:
Fl/Lt. Hugh John Anderson, DFM. of Grimsby, Ontario enlisted in May 1940 as an Aero Engine Mechanic and was posted to the School of Technical Training, St.Thomas, Ontario that June. Following attendance at No.2 Bombing and Gunnery School, Mossbank, Saskatchewan, Anderson was sent to No.6 Repair Depot at Trenton before being sent overseas in February 1942. That July he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant upon acheiving the status of Flight Engineer earning his commission in April, 1943. Presented with his DFM at Buckingham Palace in November 1943 upon completion of 27 sorties his citation reads:
"Sergeant Anderson has taken part in numerous operational sorties against targets in the heavily defended industrial areas of Germany. He has also flown a number of anti-submarine patrols. In October 1942, while engaged in a low level attack on Flensburg, Sergeant Anderson's aircraft was illuminated by searchlights and subjected to a heavy concentration of anti-aircraft fire. Although wounded in the leg, with calm courage he continued with his duties saying nothing of his wounds until half way home. This airman has been acting as flight engineer leader for some months and is largely responsible for the high standard attained by his fellow flight engineers."
Fl/Lt. Anderson died in 1965 at the age of 53 years.

P/O. Albert James Wilcock, DFC. of St.Vital, Manitoba enlisted in October 1941 and graduated from No.6 Initial Training School, Toronto, Ontario in June 1942. His training was completed at No.2 Air Observer School, edmonton, Alberta in October 1942. Following his posting overseas Wilcock flew 34 sorties between 30 August 1943 and 18 June 1944. His DFC was presented on 17 July 1947.

"Pilot Officer Wilcock is a very efficient Bomb Aimer. He has completed 34 operational trips against such heavily defended enemy targets as Berlin, Stuttgart and Frankfurt. He has invariably displayed great courage and determination in pressing home his attacks. The skill and devotion to duty displayed by this officer has been an example to the squadron."
After the war he remained in the RCAF until 1966 when he retired with the rank of Squadron Leader. Upon his retirement from the airforce he joined the staff of the Imperial Life Insurance Company and in his spare time was an avid boating enthusiast becoming a training officer with the North York Power Squadron.
Squadron Leader Wilcock died in 1981 at the age of 62 years.

P/O. Irwin Leroy Lauckner, DFC. was born in Detroit, Michigan and emigrated to Canada with his parents as an infant, enlisting in the RCAF in February 1941 at London, Ontario. Knicknamed "Lucky," he trained at No.2 Bombing and Gunnery School, Mossbank, Saskatchewan and No.1 Wireless School at Montreal. It is believed that his first operation against the enemy was the raid on Bremen on the night of 25/26 June 1942 whilst he was undergoing training at 22 OTU, Wellesbourne Mountford. This was the third of the so called "1000 bomber raids" although in actuality only 960 aircraft could be made serviceable employing every type available to Bomber Command and then only with the use of the well worn Wellingtons and Whitleys of the training units. Of the 48 aircraft lost on the raid some 28 to 30 of these were from the OTU's.

Later that year P/O Lauckner would join 405 Squadron which was then loaned out to Coastal Command for anti-submarine patrols. It was during this time that he would be awarded his DFC effective 3 June 1943, the medal being presented to him at Buckingham Palace on 23 November, 1943.

"This officer is an exceptionally efficient rear gunner who has proved his steadiness and coolness in the face of enemy opposition. He has inspired complete confidence in his ability among the other members of his crew. In November 1942, while on an anti-submarine patrol, this officer pressed home a telling attack on a U-boat, despite very heavy fire from two enemy minesweepers. In attacks over heavily defended areas in German and Italy, P/O Lauckner has also given evidence of his outstanding ability in directing evasive action."
P/O. Lauckner survived the crash relatively unscathed and was returned to his base in England two days later.
Upon returning to Canada in 1945, he married Irene Thornton Blott but sadly died at the young age of 39 years in 1959.

Aircrew Remembered would like to acknowledge and thank the relatives of the crew who so generously provided family details and photographs.
Deborah Ward, grandaughter of F/L Goddard. Emma Saunders, great niece of F/O Laishley. Darlene Kerruish, daughter of P/O Lauckner and Lorna Cosper, his niece.

Researched and written for Aircrew Remembered by Colin Bamford and dedicated to the families of the crew of Lancaster PB129.

References: Chorley, W.R. Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War Vol.5 1944. Hinckley: Midland, 2007. Middlebrook, Martin and Chris Everett. The Bomber Command War Diaries. Hinkley: Midland, 2011. Air Force Association of Canada Kinsmen Club of Brantford. Album of Honour for Brant County World War II 1939 - 1945. 1946. Calais Canadian War Cemetery [Photograph] from Commonwealth War Graves Commission website: F/O. Charles Laishley photographs (1), (2), (3) & Original Grave Site photograph (4) all Copyright Checker Graphics 2011. Used with permission. Grave Marker [Photograph] from Veterans Affairs Canada website:

CHB 21.02.2012
CHB 04.01.2020 Commemorative feature link to Peacock Lake added.

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