AR banner
Search Tips Advanced Search
Back to Top

• Kracker Archive
• Allied Losses
• Archiwum Polish
• Paradie Canadian
• Searchable Lists

Info LogoAdd to or correct this story with a few clicks.
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.
Check our Research databases: Database List


We seek additional information and photographs. Please contact us via the Helpdesk.

15 squadron crest
19/20.09.1942 No. 15 Squadron Stirling W7578 LS-A Fl/Sgt. Russell-Collins

Operation: Munich

Date: 19/20 September 1942 (Saturday/Sunday)

Unit: No. 15 Squadron

Type: Short Stirling

Serial: W7578

Code: LS-A

Base: RAF Bourn, Cambridgeshire

Location: Noyers-le-Val, France

Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Charles Robert Russell-Collins 527236 RAF Age ? Killed

Flt/Eng: Sgt. James Marsden Pye 625225 RAF Age 21. Killed

Nav: Sgt. John Alan Richards 1386264 RAFVR Age ? Killed

W/Op: Fl/Sgt. Percy John Apps 637426 RAF Age 21. Killed

Air/Gnr: P/O Albert Birchall J/15411 RCAF Age 23. Killed (1)

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Ian John Argo Henderson 625247 RAF Age ? Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. George Walter Albert Hamlet Vasil 1383563 RAFVR Age 21. Killed.


68 Lancasters from 9, 44 and 61 Squadrons together with 21 Stirlings from 15, 149 and 214 Squadrons for a combined force of 89 aircraft took off in the early evening hours targeting Munich city centre. The raid was of marginal success as only 40% of the crews dropped their bomb loads within three miles of the city centre, the majority of the bombs falling in the suburbs to the south, east and west.

En-route to the target, Stirling W7578 was intercepted and shot down over eastern France by a Me110C night fighter from 7/NJG-4 flown by StabsFw Reinhard Kollak and his Bordfunker Hans Herman. The aircraft crashed near the small village of Noyers-le-Val, 20 kilometres north west of Bar-le-Duc, killing all aboard.

Left: Sgt. John Alan Richards. Right: Fl/Sgt. Ian John Argo Henderson

The lone Canadian, on an otherwise all-RAF crew, was P/O. Albert (Ab) Birchall who was an experienced air gunner on his second tour having completed 46 missions over enemy-held territory. P/O Birchall enlisted in the RCAF in May 1940. After wireless training in Montreal, he graduated as a W/Op/A/Gnr. with the rank of Flight Sergeant from No.1 Bombing and Gunnery School in Jarvis, Ontario. Prior to enlistment, he was employed as an apprentice by the New York Central Railroad in the repair shops at St.Thomas after graduation from Arthur Voaden Vocational School. He was also a notable athlete and baseball player. Albert arrived in England on Christmas Day 1940 and received his commission as a Pilot Officer on June 21, 1942.

Left: P/O Albert Birchall. Photo courtesy Patricia McTaggart Wilcox

Ten days earlier, on September 9, P/O Birchall, Sgt. Pye, Sgt. Vasil and F/S’ Apps and Henderson were forced to bale out of Stirling BF352 after the aircraft developed engine trouble shortly after take off. The pilot, F/S Russell-Collins stayed at the controls and crash-landed at Waterbeach Airfield, Cambridgeshire.

Tragically for the Birchall family a younger brother Roland would be killed seven months later when his Halifax JB854 crashed returning from a raid on Pilsen within a few kilometres of the site of Albert’s crash.

Update: We have very recently been in touch with Patricia McTaggart Wilcox, a niece of Albert and Roland Birchall, who very kindly sent some photographs from the family collection.

Photo courtesy Patricia McTaggart Wilcox

LAC Albert Birchall during training 1940
Photo courtesy Patricia McTaggart Wilcox

Albert with his parents, Thomas and Emily Birchall, at the family home on Alma Street, St.Thomas, Ontario
Photo courtesy Patricia McTaggart Wilcox

Arthur Voaden Secondary School Football Team. Albert Birchall front row third from right.
Photo courtesy Patricia McTaggart Wilcox

Interestingly, a first cousin of P/O Birchall was S/L Leonard Birchall who was to be named by Churchill as “The Saviour of Ceylon” for warning the Allies of an impending attack by the Japanese fleet. S/L Birchall was captured by the Japanese and became a figurehead for the PoWs taking many beatings for standing up to his captors and demanding fair treatment of the prisoners.

StabsFW Reinhard Kollak joined the Luftwaffe in 1933 at the age of 18 becoming a night fighter ace by the end of the war with 49 victories. His was the highest total for a non-commissioned pilot in the Nachtjagdgeschwader which, was in itself, rather unusual, as most were commissioned officers. By all accounts, Kollak was a modest man who shared the credit for his successes with his radio operator Hans Herman which was not the case for most Luftwaffe pilots. After the German surrender in 1945, Reinhard found it difficult to adjust to civilian life working at a number of administrative jobs for several years. Upon the founding of the Bundeswehr in 1956 he rejoined his beloved Luftwaffe where he remained until his retirement in 1967. He died at the age of 65 on 6 February 1980 and was buried with full military honours.

Hans Herman joined the Luftwaffe in 1938 at the age of 19 and served as Kollak’s Bordfunker until war's end. After the war ended he got a job with the German Federal Railroad, a position he held until his retirement. Refer to Kracker Luftwaffe Archive on this site for details on Luftwaffe aircrew.

Burial Details:

Fl/Sgt. Charles Robert Russell-Collins. Noyers-le-Val Communal Cemetery, Meuse, France. Grave 7. Next of Kin details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?

Sgt. James Marsden Pye. Noyers-le-Val Communal Cemetery, Meuse, France. Collective Grave 1-4. Son of Aaron Primrose Pye and Daisy May Pye of Southwick, Sunderland, Co. Durham, England.

Sgt. John Alan Richards. Noyers-le-Val Communal Cemetery, Meuse, France. Grave 5. Next of Kin details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?

Fl/Sgt. Ian John Argo Henderson. Noyers-le-Val Communal Cemetery, Meuse, France. Collective Grave 1-4. Next of Kin details are currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?

Fl/Sgt. Percy John Apps. Noyers-le-Val Communal Cemetery, Meuse, France. Collective Grave 1-4. Son of Cecil Percy and Bessie Victoria Apps, of Blindley Heath, Surrey, England, husband of Evelyn Joan Apps.

P/O. Albert Birchall. Noyers-le-Val Communal Cemetery, Meuse, France. Collective Grave 1-4. Son of Thomas and Emily Birchall, of St.Thomas, Ontario, Canada.

In 1994 Rick McTaggart, nephew of Albert Birchall, visited the gravesite and placed a Canadian flag in memory of his Uncle.

Sgt. George Walter Albert Hamlet Vasil. Noyers-le-Val Communal Cemetery, Meuse, France. Collective Grave 1-4. Son of Emmanuel Vasil, and of Nellie Vasil, of Clyne, Glamorgan, Wales.

Pierre Vandervelden photo

(1) Birchall Lake in northern Ontario is named after P/O Albert Birchall and his brother Roland.

P/O Albert Birchall

Recently a new street in the boy's home town of St.Thomas, Ontario was named after the Birchall brothers.

Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and RCAF specialist Colin Bamford for relatives of this crew. With thanks to Mary Olde, Director of Administration, The Elgin Military Museum, St. Thomas, Ontario, for her assistance in the preparation of this article. Also to Pierre Vandervelden and his website 'In Memory' for the grave photograph. With special thanks to Patricia McTaggart Wilcox for her assistance and the Birchall family photographs.

CHB 17.05.2011
CHB 08.10.2019 Added link to Birchall Lake
CHB 01.08.2021 Added Birchall family photos and Richards & Henderson photos.

Pages of Outstanding Interest
History Airborne Forces •  Soviet Night Witches •  Bomber Command Memories •  Abbreviations •  Gardening Codenames
CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
Concept of Colonial Discrimination  •  Unauthorised First Long Range Mustang Attack
RAAF Bomb Aimer Evades with Maquis •  SOE Heroine Nancy Wake •  Fane: Motor Racing PRU Legend
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.
Click any image to enlarge it

Click to add your info via ticket on Helpdesk •Click to let us know via ticket on Helpdesk• Click to buy research books from Amazon •Click to explore the entire site
If you would like to comment on this page, please do so via our Helpdesk. Use the Submit a Ticket option to send your comments. After review, our Editors will publish your comment below with your first name, but not your email address.

A word from the Editor: your contribution is important. We welcome your comments and information. Thanks in advance.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember them. - Laurence Binyon
All site material (except as noted elsewhere) is owned or managed by Aircrew Remembered and should not be used without prior permission.
© Aircrew Remembered 2012 - 2024
Last Modified: 24 February 2023, 19:14

Monitor Additions/Changes?Click to be informed of changes to this page. Create account for first monitor only, thereafter very fast. Click to close without creating monitor