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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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500 Squadron Crest
31.10.1941 No 500 Squadron Blenheim IV V5537 MK-M Sq/Ldr. Francis Phipps

Operation: Shipping Sweep

Date: 31st October 1941 (Friday)

Unit: No. 500 Squadron (Coastal Command)

Type: Blenheim IV

Serial: V5537

Code: MK-M

Base: RAF Bircham Newton, Norfolk

Location: Ijsselmeer, Holland

Pilot: Sq/Ldr. Francis Constantine Phipps 36093 RAF Age 27. Missing

Obs: Sgt. Terence Patrick Mowan 921870 RAFVR Age 21. Missing (1)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Allan Arthur Miles 912232 RAFVR Age 21. Missing


Taking off on a shipping strike from RAF Bircham Newton in Norfolk at 22:00 hrs. After an attack on a convoy off the Fresians they crashed into the Ijsselmeer some 4 miles west of Lemmer at 23:50hrs. Neither the crew nor aircraft were recovered.

Above area of loss with insert, Sq/Ldr. Phipps (courtesy Sherborne School, Dorset - see credits)

(1) The family of Sgt. Terence Patrick Mowan also lost their other son, 23 year old Fl/Sgt. Bernard Vincent Mowan 1324290 RAFVR on the 27th August 1944. Flying as a navigator with 297 Squadron.

After returning from a supply drop to resistance fighters in France the runway was blocked during their landing of Albemarle V1782 the pilot aborted and overshot. However, the aircraft then suddenly lost height and crashed at Mill Farm, Busbridge, killing all 5 crew members. A memorial is in place at the crash site today. Shown below.

Sherborne School, Dorset - Any further information that you are able to assist them with fallen former pupils from all wars, we would be pleased to pass onto them.

Burial details:

Sq/Ldr. Francis Constantine Phipps. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 28. Further information: Born 10 October 1914, son of Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Ramsey Phipps, DSO, RA, and Lorna Phipps of Bratton Lodge, Wincanton, Somerset; husband of Eleanor Mary Howard Phipps, of Sutton, Surrey. Attended The Wick preparatory school, Hove, Sussex. Attended Sherborne School (School House) January 1929-July 1933; 6th form. Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, B.A.

Sgt. Terence Patrick Mowan. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 49. Son of Patrick and Gwendoline Mowan, of Peverell, Plymouth, England.

Left: Runnymede Memorial Panels.

Sgt. Allan Arthur Miles. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 48. Only son of Arthur and Christina Miles, of Penang, Malaya.

Submitted to Aircrew Remembered by Christina Padbury (nee Peel-Yates) - January 2018:

Allan Miles, born 5 January 1920, was the uncle I never knew. I was born in 1947, the daughter of Mary Peel-Yates (nee Miles), Allan’s sister. Allan’s parents and his sister were evacuated from Penang on the night of 13th December 1941 knowing that Allan was reported missing. Mary married Eric Jervis Peel-Yates (East Surreys Regiment) in Singapore on the 31st December 1941. Mary and her mother Christina Miles were evacuated from Singapore aboard the Empress of Japan (shown below) on the 31st January 1942. Allan’s father Arthur Hugh Walter Miles became an internee at Changi and my father a PoW on the Thai/Burma railway. They both survived the war.

The only information the family had was dated 4.9.90 - Certified copy of an Entry in the Air Force War Records of Death 1939-1948 relating to the death of Miles Allan Arthur, Rank and Unit Sgt 912232 500 Sqdn, Age 21. Country of Birth Straits Settlement, Date of Death: 31-10-1941, Place of Death: Lost at Sea, Cause of Death: Air Operations.

Allan went to school at Ampleforth and the following obituary appeared in The Antonian Magazine:

'Sergeant Allan Miles RAFVR - Allan Miles, an Australian, came to Ampleforth to St Edward’s House in September 1933. He was at school four years and during that time he showed himself to be a boy of great energy and determination, but by no means a great worker. He seemed to be without fear and to have a real love of adventure. He was good at all games and had he stayed at school he might have represented the school in one or other athletic field. He got into scrapes enough at school, but loyalty and truth were his characteristics'.

It was typical of such a boy that he volunteered for the RAF. the day war was declared, and his one desire was to get into action at once. He could do this soonest by becoming an air gunner, and so as an air gunner he enlisted. He was a sergeant wireless operator / air gunner when he went on his last operation. He was loyal to his religion, and was often to be met on the steps of the Oratory after Mass. He received Holy Communion the morning of the day he died, October 31st 1941. It was not till nearly a year later that the Air Ministry wrote presuming Allan’s death.'

I have letters written by my mother Mary, from Penang, between May and December 1941 to her then boyfriend, also in the RAF. They were returned to her after his death. They make mention of Allan:

3.6.41: We had a cable from Allan yesterday. He joined his squadron on the first of this month. He never said whether this was a fighter or bomber squadron. Considering that he has been fully trained since 1st March it seems as though he has been waiting a terribly long time, which rather makes me think we must still be short of planes at home.

17.6.41: Allan was down at a RAF Station in Devon doing operational training. He was terribly happy as he was near friends and saw them quite often.

15.7.41: I had a cable from Allan for my birthday. He is now at Bircham Newton, Norfolk, but as we’ve still had no letters we know no details.

3.8.41: Allan is now in Squadron 500 and when he wrote they seemed to be doing convoy work and reconnaissance over the North Sea.

10.8.41: We had a marvellous letter from Allan by Clipper this week. He is in Squadron 500 and he tells us that they have one week’s leave in every six weeks, while they are on operational work. He has bought himself a Sports Car and besides the usual civilian’s ration he gets an extra allowance to go another 300 miles every three months (because he’s in the services) so he should do quite well. He says the North of France now looks like a heaped mass of debris.

3.10.41: Extract from a letter written by Allan's mother and enclosed with Mary's letter. Allan writes very happily about air battles and the thrill of them. He gets a great deal of enjoyment out of his car even though it only goes all out 65 miles an hour, slow after the speed of airplanes.

17.11.41: Allan is reported missing. He was lost over the sea on 31st October. I know our lads are picked up but its now seventeen days later and I think if he was going to be picked up by British hands, he would have been rescued by now. I can’t believe that a Hun would rescue a British airman in the sea though perhaps they do. This has all been a dreadful shock to us. Allan was so cheery and bright it seems unkind of God to take him from us though I know we should not dispute the wisdom of God’s plans. If only all you lads knew a little of how marvellous we think you are. I realise so well that all our futures are in your hands and all that we ever have, or are, is ‘thanks to you’. Don’t ever forget this.

26.11.41: Another extract written by Allan's mother and enclosed with Mary's letter - My beloved Allan is missing and so the bottom has dropped out of my world. We can only hope and pray, it is a great comfort to know he did what he wanted to and was happy doing it and wouldn’t be afraid to die should it happen so.

Finally, an extract from a letter from my cousin Peter Howe, a contemporary of Allan’s, writing to me.

6.8.2005: Allan often stayed with us and when war broke out he decided to become a pilot in the RAF. However, there were too many applicants so he was offered a gunner’s role. Dad told him that sitting in the tail of a bomber and shooting a gun at the enemy planes was the most risky job. He should continue studying at the Royal School of Mines until the RAF accepted him as a pilot. However Allan did not want to wait and joined the RAF. On one of his plane’s bombing missions he was reported missing and never was found. We were all very upset because he was like part of the family. Of course Mary and her mum were also very upset. We were all good family friends.

Christina Padbury (nee Peel-Yates) 9 January 2018

(1) Fl/Sgt. Bernard Vincent Mowan. Plymouth Cemetery (Ford Park) Grave Gen.Sec.L. Row 25. Grave 23. - next of kin details as above.

With thanks to Sherborne School Archives for additional information. Also to Christina Padbury (nee Peel-Yates) for photograph and detailed information on Sgt. Allan Miles - January 2018. For further details our thanks to the following sources shown below.

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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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