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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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51 Squadron Crest
11.08.1944 51 Squadron Halifax III LW588 MH:O WO. Robert A. Garrett

Operation: Somain (Railway Yards), France

Date: 11th August 1944 (Friday)

Unit No: 51 Squadron

Type: Halifax III

Serial: LW588

Code: MH:O

Base: RAF Snaith, Yorkshire

Location: Douai, France

Pilot: WO. Robert Anthony Garrett 1031817 RAFVR Age 23. KiA (1)

Flt Eng: Sgt. Thomas Shaftsbury Cumbor 1591862 RAFVR Age 28. KiA

Nav: Flt Sgt. Ernest William Royal 1531800 RAFVR Age 23. KiA

Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt. Clifford Oliver Victor Hunt 1586187 RAFVR Age 20. KiA

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Eric Ahmed Osman 1602493 RAFVR Age 23. KiA

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Flt Sgt. Henry Brawn 1601100 RAFVR Age 20. KiA (2)

Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Albert Henry Leame 1295928 RAFVR Age 21. KiA

Any further information that you are able to supply will, with your permission, be passed to the historians of 51 Squadron.


Took off at 13:46 hrs. from Snaith to attack rail facilities at Somain. Part of a force of 459 aircraft (270 Lancasters, 169 Halifaxes and 20 Mosquitoes). The only aircraft lost was this Halifax LW588. The cause of the crash has not been established but it was suspected that the aircraft was struck by a bomb or bombs released from another aircraft flying above. This was not an uncommon occurrence during the bombing campaign.

Above, rear : Flt Sgt. Hugh Brenton Jones, Flt Sgt. Clifford Oliver Victor Hunt, Flt Sgt. Ernest William Royal, front: Sgt. Eric Ahmed Osman, WO. Robert Anthony Garrett, Sgt. Albert Henry Leame.

Above L to R: WO. Robert Anthony Garrett, Flt Sgt. Henry Brawn, Sgt. Thomas Cumbor

Training photograph - AC2 (WO) Garrett is on the front row first on the right. WO. Garrett was a pilot so it is probable that this photograph taken during a ground element of his training (i.e. it appears that the four airmen in the middle of the photograph were instructors, L to R: Cpl. non-aircrew, Sgt. Air Gunner, the next two are probably physical training instructors, by dearth of their singlets instead of shirt and tie). Note that the airman kneeling on the left is holding a pickaxe handle (helve) which was issued to recruits who were detailed for guard duty. (Courtesy of Jane Fox).

51 Sqn aircrew photograph. Flt Sgt. Garrett is on the third row from the front, second from the right. The two airmen seated on the left appear to be Fleet Air Arm (FAA) pilots and the aircraft appears to be a Blackburn Skua (B-24), an FAA aircraft. This photograph may have been taken between May and October 1942 during which time the Sqn was transferred to Coastal Command and flew out of a base in Devon with the Whitley Mk V on anti-submarine patrols (Courtesy of Jane Fox).

(1) After the end of the war WO. Garrett’s family visited Douai and met with the gendarme, and his family, who was responsible for the local cemetery where the crew were initially buried. They were told that the local people were very grateful that the village was missed and that they had rushed to the field to help any survivors before the Germans arrived. The villagers believed that it was WO. Garrett that steered the aircraft away from the village.

There were other unsubstantiated stories about the deaths of the crew but what is known was that the entire crew were buried by the villagers in the local cemetery. The Germans ordered that the headstones be removed, however, after the war the Germans were made to replace the headstones. There is no record to be found as to when the crew were reinterred at the Valenciennes (St. Roch) Communal cemetery although from the Graves Registration Report the reinterment was prior to the 12th January 1957.

WO. Garrett had completed his tour and was not detailed to fly this mission but volunteered as a replacement because the detailed pilot was ill.

(2) One of the usual air gunners, Flt Sgt. Hugh Brenton Jones was in hospital on the day this crew were lost hence his survival and had been replaced by Flt Sgt. Henry Brawn. Flt Sgt. Jones was sadly killed on a later operation on the 18th December 1944 whilst on an operation to Duisberg in NP934 MH:J.

Flt Sgt. Brawn was the brother of Sgt Leonard Thomas Brawn who was with 76 Squadron. His brother amazingly survived 2 crashes - Halifax DK174 MP:W on 3rd July 1943 during a crash landing at Hartford Bridge, Hampshire after being hit by flak over the target and again with 76 Squadron flying a Halifax DK175 MP:T on the 13th July 1943 operation to Aachen - crashed immediately after take off. He was killed on 22nd October whilst on operation to Kassel LK664 MP:U.

Burial Details:

Above: The burial party for the crew. The gendarme at the front lived at graveyard where the crew were first buried, believed to be at Douai. The grandparents of Jane Fox went to the re-burial at Valenciennes after the war. (Courtesy of Jane Fox)

(Above Courtesy of Jane Fox)

WO. Robert Anthony Garrett. Valenciennes (St. Roch) Communal Cemetery Plot 1, Row A. Grave 11. German PoW records document that a Sgt. Robert Anthony Garrett 1031817, of 51 Sqn, date of death 11th August 1944, was born on the 7th March 1921. A probate record shows that Robert Anthony Garrett was living at 47 Highfield Road in Kidderminster and left effects to a George William Garrett.

Research has found that George William Garrett was his father. The date of birth of the 7th March 1921 results in a birth registered in Auckland, Durham with a mother’s maiden name of Blenkin. George William Garrett married an Ellen ’Nellie’ Blenkin in 2nd Qtr of 1920 in Auckland, Durham, England.

Sgt. Thomas Shaftesbury Cumbor. Valenciennes (St. Roch) Communal Cemetery Plot 1, Row A, Grave 13. Born on the 23rd December 1915 in Sedgefield, Durham. Son of Joseph William and Abigail May (née Simpson) Cumbor of Stockton, Durham, England.

Flt Sgt. Ernest William Royal. Valenciennes (St. Roch) Communal Cemetery Plot 4, Row AB, Grave 3. Grave inscription: 'I MISS YOUR LOVING WAYS; WITH YOU I SPENT MY HAPPIEST DAYS. DEVOTED WIFE, DAUGHTER JEAN'. Son of Ernest and Mary Elizabeth Royal, of Sunderland, Co. Durham, husband of Margaret Royal, of Sunderland, England.

(Above : Courtesy of Jane Fox)

Flt Sgt. Clifford Oliver Victor Hunt. Valenciennes (St. Roch) Communal Cemetery, Plot 4, Row AB, Grave 1. Grave inscription: 'SWEETEST THOUGHTS SHALL EVER LINGER ROUND THE SPOT WHERE MY DARLING BOY LIES'. Son of William James Hunt and Annie Mary Hunt, of Twickenham, Middlesex, England.

Sgt. Eric Ahmed Osman. Valenciennes (St. Roch) Communal Cemetery, Plot 1, Row A, Grave 14. Grave inscription: 'TO OUR DEAR BROTHER, BELOVED BY ALL. MAY HE REST IN PEACE. HIS SISTERS & BROTHER'. Born in 3rd Qtr of 1921 in Fulham, London, Son of Ahmed (deceased) and Dorothy Evelyn (née Greer) Osman of Fulham, London, England.

Flt Sgt. Henry Brawn. Valenciennes (St. Roch) Communal Cemetery, Plot 4, Row AB, Grave 2. Grave inscription: 'AT THE GOING DOWN OF THE SUN AND IN THE MORNING WE WILL REMEMBER THEM'. Son of Alfred Charles and Emily Brawn, of Walthamstow, Essex, England.

Sgt. Albert Henry Leame. Valenciennes (St. Roch) Communal Cemetery, Plot 1, Row A, Grave 12. Grave inscription: 'NO EARTHLY TREASURE CAN EVER REPLACE HIS LOVING SMILE AND HAPPY FACE'. Son of Henry and Lily S. Leame, of Nottingham, England.

Researched by Peter Lord for Aircrew Remembered. With thanks to the niece of Flt Sgt. Royal Kathryn Rowe neé Royal, for the correction of names in crew photograph (Oct 2015). Thanks to Jane Fox, the niece of WO. Robert A. Garrett, for the additional information and photographs (Oct 2019). Next of Kin details for Sgt. Cumbor updated by Aircrew Remembered (Apr 2024). Next of Kin details for WO. Garrett added by Aircrew Remembered (May 2024).

Other sources listed below:

RS 14.05.2024 - Next of Kin details for WO. Garrett

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