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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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144 Squadron crest
09/10.07.1941 144 Squadron Hampden I AD924 Plt Off. Basil J. Rennie MC

Operation: Aachen, Belgium

Date: 9th/10th July 1941 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit No: 144 Squadron

Type: Hampden I

Serial: AD924

Code: PL:?

Base: RAF Hemswell, Yorkshire

Location: Dilsen, Belgium

Pilot: Plt Off. Basil John Allan Rennie MC. 87414 RAFVR Age 26. Evaded (1)

Pilot 2: Sgt. Gordon F. Bottomley 647964 RAFVR Age? PoW No: 39281 * (2)

Obs: Sgt. Edward Roy Berkey R57931 RCAF Age 32. KiA

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Thomas Henry Marquiss 988208 RAFVR Age 28. KiA

* Stalag 357 Kopernikus at Thorn (Toruń) in Poland.

REASON FOR LOSS:

Taking off from RAF Helmswell late in the evening of Wednesday 9th July joining 81 other aircraft on the first large bombing operation to Aachen of the war.

The crew lost on Hampden AD924 - L-R: Plt Off. Rennie, Sgt. Bottomley, Sgt. Marquiss and Sgt Berkey (courtesy Margaret Robertson)

The attack was a general one on the area with 91 commercial premises hit, 19 of them destroyed. 1,698 housing units destroyed or seriously damaged (probably apartment blocks) Sadly the cathedral, town hall and hospitals were also among the seriously damaged properties. 60 people are reported to have been killed with 85 civilians and 21 air-raid workers injured. 3,450 people lost their homes.

144 Squadron Hampdens over Hemswell (courtesy IWM)

The allies lost just 2 aircraft on this operation, the other:
77 Squadron Whitley V Z6743 - Flown by 25 year old Sgt. Peter John McLean 988136 RAFVR from Billingham, Co. Durham, killed with all 3 other crew.

Hampden AD924 was claimed by Oblt. Heinrich Griese, his 5th Abschuss, from 1./NJG1 at 01.05 hrs, 500 metres South East of Dilsen, 20 km north of Maastricht. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (1939 - 12 July 1941) The Early Years Part 1 - Theo Boiten).

Maj. Griese was credited with a total of 13 victories before being shot down and wounded on the night of the 12th/13th September 1944, by a 239 Sqn Mosquito, flown by Fg Off. Breithaupt DFC and Fg Off. Kennedy DFC, at Annweiller near Landau. It appears that his injuries kept him from further combat. He died on the 8th June 1998. (Luftwaffe ACES - Biographies and Victory Claims (Mathews and Foreman) - Volume 2)

It seems that the after the Hampden was attacked, some of the crew baled out. Sgt. Marquiss was killed, possibly by debris from the stricken Hampden, the parachute of Sgt. Berkey failed to deploy and he lost his life. The Observer, Sgt. Bottomley was captured shortly after landing. The Pilot, Plt Off. Rennie landed in telegraph wires but managed to evade capture with the assistance from the local Belgian people.

Another version on the loss of the two aircrew is that they both baled out but were shot by the German pilot whilst descending. Neither of the two scenarios have confirmed.

(1) Plt Off. Rennie evaded via France, Spain and Gibraltar and was in Madrid, Spain by the 28th August 1941. He arrived in the UK on the 4th September 1941.

For this action and for his Escape and Evasion Plt Off. Rennie was awarded the Military Cross (MC). Promulgated in the London Gazette on the 13th March 1942.

Citation: ‘This officer was shot down by night fighters and, escaping by parachute, landed on some telephone wires in Belgium. After overcoming almost unsurmountable difficulties, during the course of which he severely handled a disloyal Belgian, who tried to hand him over to the enemy, and killed a sentry who was about to arrest him, he reached this country and reported for full flying duties. Flying Officer Rennie brought back a considerable amount of valuable information. Throughout his experience he showed the greatest skill, courage and daring’.

Above: Plt Off. Basil John Allan Rennie MC (courtesy Michel Beckers)

Plt Off. Rennie later joined 14 Operational Training Unit (OTU) as a pilot instructor.

Plt Off. Basil Rennie MC tragically died just a few months later. Taking off from RAF Cottesmore on a night navigation exercise, flying Anson I R3310, severe weather and was forced to abandon the aircraft at 23:20 hrs. The aircraft crashed a mile west of Sutton St. James. Although he had baled out, it seems that he may have been seriously injured, for some 16 days later he is recorded as losing his battle for life.

Above: Anson the type as flown by Plt Off. Rennie shortly before he lost his life

However, Basil Rennie’s death was not attributed to any injuries sustained from baling out of the aircraft but for a bizarre and tragic reason. Aircrew remembered has been contacted Emma Williams whose grandfather was at RAF Saltby on 144 Sqn and was best friends with Basil Rennie. He wrote a note to Emma’s father explaining that Rennie died from poisoning after accidentally drinking cleaning fluid that had been left by his bed at the camp. He recalls taking Emma’s grandfather to visit the grave at RAF Cottesmore.

(2) Sgt. Bottomley was promoted to Warrant Officer (WO) whilst being held as a PoW. Gordon Bottomley passed away in 2012.

Sgt. Thomas Henry Marquiss shown 2nd from right. The chap with the pipe at rear of photograph has been identified as that of Sgt. Edward Roy Berkey - it is thought that Sgt. Gordon Bottomley is standing fourth from left, next to Sgt. Marquis.(courtesy Margaret Robertson)

Pictured during training L-R: LAC Berkey of Port Coquitlam, instructor - Cpl. McClellan, LAC D.B. Babineau of Saskatoon, LAC W.A. Casey of Ridgetown, Ontario, Canada. (courtesy Barbara Kinsella)

Plt Off. William Aloysius Casey J3270 RCAF (Son of John D. and Helen McNally Casey, of Ridgetown, Ontario, Canada) was KiA on the night of the 16th/17th August 1941 with 99 Squadron. Flying with 26 year old Plt Off. Geoffrey Lloyd Wells 40477 RAAF (Son of Henry Leslie and Elsie Irene Wells, of Auchenflower, Queensland, Australia) as pilot, when their Wellington IC X9700 LB:B was shot down by a night fighter over Holland. (5 KiA, 1 PoW).

Burial details:


Original crew graves, on the left that of Sgt. Thomas Marquis, right: Sgt. Edward Berkey (courtesy Barbara Kinsella)

Plt Off. Basil John Allan Rennie MC. Cottesmore Churchyard, Rutland, England. Compt. 16. Grave 16. Further information: Son of George and Margaret Eleanor Rennie, of Parktown Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa.

After school at Aberdeen he worked for awhile at the London Stock Exchange, later with his father in Johannesburg prior to joining the RAF.

Above: Sgt. Edward R. Berkey (courtesy Barbara Kinsella)

Sgt. Edward Roy Berkey. Dilsen Churchyard, Belgium. Grave 2. Row 14. Born on the 14th November 1908. Son of Eli (died 1937) and Emma Elizabeth (née Bixler) Berkey (died 1949), brother of George, Paul, Wilbur, Glen, Myrl, Hettie, Oma and Cleo of Herbert, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Prior to enlisting he was a teacher at Fox Valley and Neidpath. Moved with his family to Coquitlam in 1939. Edwards nephew was KiA on the night of the 23rd/24th April 1944 aboard 405 (Vancouver) Sqn, RCAF Lancaster III JB684 on a mission to Laon, France.

Sgt. Thomas Henry Marquiss. Dilsen Churchyard, Belgium. Grave 1. Row 14. Son of the late John Thomas Marquiss (died 30th May 1944), and of Hannah S. Marquiss, of Heighington, Co. Durham, England.

Further information supplied by Margaret Robertson: “When war was declared my grandma (Hannah S. Marquiss) went to stay with her eldest daughter Mrs. Sarah Ellen Thompson in Heighington nr. Darlington Co. Durham for the duration of the war. The family are from Barnard Castle, County Durham and her other children were away. Tom's twin sister Charlotte had died age 9 in 1923. His younger brother John, my father, was serving in France with Royal Army Service Corps whilst his youngest sister Margaret was a state registered nurse”.

Researched for Margaret Robertson, niece of Sgt. Marquiss, and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Michel Beckers. Thanks to Emma Williams for the additional information regarding the death of Plt Off. Rennie (Jun 2024). Reviewed and updated by Aircrew Remembered (Jun 2024).

Other sources listed below:

RS 05.06.2024 - Additional information about the death of Fg Off. Rennie MC and other updates 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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