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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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486 crest
24th September 1943 486 Squadron Typhoon Ib EJ915 Fl/Sgt. Saward

Operation: Ramrod 242

Date: 24th September 1943 (Friday)

Unit: No. 486 Squadron (motto: Hiwa hau Maka - 'Beware of the Wild Winds').

Type: Typhoon Ib

Serial: EJ915

Code: SA-Y

Base: RAF Tangmere, Sussex

Location: Honfleur, France

Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Howard Charles Saward NZ/411943 RNZAF Age 23. PoW No. 659, Stalag Luft 6 Heydekrug


Taking off at around 11:00 hrs to escort USAAF Marauders that were to bomb the Luftwaffe airfield at Evreux in France.

Thought possible that he was shot down by Fw .Siegfried Lemke 1/JG 2 (1) - 6km South West of Honfleur: 800m at 12:05 hrs. Fl/Sgt. Saward baled out with slight burns into the sea and taken PoW.

Fl/Sgt. Howard Saward: Front row, 2nd from left.

Held at Dulag Luft on the 25th September 1943. Main purpose was to act as collection and interrogation centres for newly captured aircrew, before they were transferred in batches to the permanent camps.

Transferred to Stalag Luft VI at Heydekrug on the 03rd October 1943. Then to Stalag 357 at Kopernikus in July 1944.

PoW days as written by his daughter Helen:

Each Barrack had a capacity of 552 men with 12 wooden huts each housing 54 POW’s. Men slept in double decker bunks with wood slats if you fell off the top bunk it was 2.5m to the concrete floor there was a few tables, lockers, stools. Ventilation was ery bad shutters had to be closed due to the police dog patrols going all the time. There was a lg laundry and a small church/theatre. The barracks were supposed to hold just over 6,000 men but they held 10,500. Some men were in tents.

Food: German rations were very poor. Potato ration 300 grams and some rotten turnips. Fresh vegetables were unknown. No meat or eggs. Just a bowl of thin soup per man. The prisoners were reliant on Red Cross Parcels, without these the men would have starved to death. These were shared amongst them all. When rations were handed out by the guards off back of a bread wagon there wasn’t much – only so many loaves per barracks, then someone divided it up. It was old, mouldy, dirty and they called it ‘Sawdust Bread’ it had big bits of barley in it – you ate it dry with Kartofflen (potatoes)

Clothing: The RedCross supplied worn out clothing supplied by the Germans. Sewing machines and footwear repairs were badly needed. Men tended to wear their old airforce uniforms if they still had them, all the time.

Medical: With so many people in a small space if one got the flu or other disease they all got it. There were 2 British Doctors no dentist. If you had a rotten tooth, your fellow prisoners took it out with pliers. The small infirmary was supposed to hold 150 beds for the sick – it had 70. Many of the sick just stayed in their barracks in own beds.

Showering: There was an iron pipe coming out of the ground with a little trickle of water coming out this was for washing and drinking but was frozen solid in winter.

Mail: eg. Mail from US took 9 weeks to arrive, airmail took one month. So if your family wrote about a new baby in the family in NZ – the baby would be over 2 months old by the time the PoW heard about it. If family sent books – these would be held up for about 2 months while the censors and other German officials read every word of them in case there was something that should not have been seen by the prisoners. They were only allowed 1 letter or 2 postcards per month.

Recreation: PoW’s played baseball, rugby, football. Entertainment was provided by a band a choir a dramatic theatre group where the men dressed up as women for the plays. The library had 6,000 books. There must have been watercolour paints brought in as my father used them in his diary and musical instruments were brought in also.There were magazines printed by the PoW’s one American one was called ‘The Barbed Wire News’. Cards, Chess, Tiddlywinks,Snakes and Ladders popular.

Work: There wasn’t any. There was nothing to do all day – there was a carpenters shop where you could make wooden clothes pegs. And there was no pay.

German Speakers: Anyone who could speak German was very important as they could relate what the guards were saying – so they would be assigned to bang on the bars and call out in German “Hey give us some blankets and food” not that it did much good. They elected leaders of their groups. One night a German came in and said to a leader - “If you continue to be Camp Leader we’ll turn you over to the Gestapo!”.

Cigarettes: Money was of no use to them as there were no shops and nothing to buy. The currency was cigarettes from the food parcels. You could swap things from the guards – maybe small piece of chocolate or from another PoW. Some guards were completely under their thumb because of cigarettes.

Fl/Sgt. Howard Charles Saward standing on extreme left.

Secret Messages: There were a couple of tiny radios at Heydekrug, the prisoners kept them in their pockets day and night. Every night at midnight there was a broadcast from England in 3 parts. First part was for the ‘Underground people in France etc eg. “The Silver Fox Will Run Tonight” might mean there was a drop of airmen to a certain part of France, next part was music, in which there was a code that told you if in the following news broadcast there would be messages for PoW’s. So the guys would be listening for the secret messages. For example they heard in code there would be an invasion in June 1944 and they also heard it had been successful. The Germans broadcast they had sent the Allies back into the sea! The PoW’s knew differently. The biggest thing a prisoner had to learn to do was to keep his mouth shut!

The prisoners got up to mischief any chance they could, purposely hitting balls over the fence so the Germans would have to retrieve them. Someone once stole a picture of a picture of Adolf Hitler off the wall in a guard house and threw it in the latrine (loo). The guards found it floating and made the men stand outside in the cold for hours.

The prisoners were subjected to searches and roll calls twice a day often in freezing cold to make sure no one had escaped and while the ‘ferrets’ as they called them went thru their barracks looking for radios and tunnels. The prisoners had some odd names for the Germans Goons, Ferrets, ‘Squareheads’ (haircuts), Jerrys, Krauts,Hun, Fritz, Heinie, when they were coming the men warned ‘Goonsup’.

My father was in the POW camp till the end of the war then they ran out of food for themselves and the Germans so were forced to go on a forced march across Germany called The Long March that went from Feb 2 till April 26 -1945.

After liberation returned to England on the 08th May 1945.

Also lost on this operation F/O. John Albert Ainge also a New Zealander flying Spitfire LF.IX MH470 with 485 squadron. Further details here.

(1) Siegfried "Wumm" Lemke Born on the 07th April 1921 was a Luftwaffe ace and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. Credited with between 70 and 96 aerial victories. He survived the war and passed away on the 18th December 1995 age 74. (courtesy Kracker Archive on this website)

Post war accident

222 squadron. 11 Group. Meteor F.4. RA450. Thursday 26th August 1948.

4016222 Howard Charles Saward took off on a cine gun exercise from RAF Thorney Island at 16:00 hrs.

Wedding 1947

But very shortly afterwards at 16:13 hrs seemed to lose control and dived into the sea ¾ mile off Shoreham by Sea. The pilot had been performing very steep turns and failed to acknowledge radio calls.

It was thought that he might have been become unconscious while manoeuvring. Despite frantic searches by the Shoreham lifeboat his body was never found. Two Meteors and an RAF Tender also took part in the search only recovering small pieces of debris.

Chichester Observer - Saturday 25th December 1948:

The Chichester Coroner (Mr. G.F.L. Bridgman) on Friday of last week, returned a verdict of death by misadventure, when he held an enquiry, directed by the Home Secretary, into the alleged death of Pilot. Howard Charles Saward. Deceased, who was a native of New Zealand, at the time of the incident resided at 21, Gordon Road, Southbourne, and was the pilot of a Jet Meteor Mk. IV which crashed into the sea off Lancing on August 26th. The body has not yet been recovered.

P/O A.S. Davies, stationed at Thorney Island, said that at about 16:00 hrs on August 26, he and the deceased took off in formation from Thorney Island. After a few minutes in the air he tried to contact Saward but could get no reply. He thought this might be due to R/T failure, and reported the matter to air traffic control.

When on the beach at South Lancing, F/Lt. W.S. Shennan heard an explosion, the screech of a 'plane in a dive and then saw the whole under part of a 'plane crash into the sea. He later contacted the coastguards because he thought the Shoreham Lifeboat, which had already gone out, was searching in the wrong place.

"About 4 p.m. on August 26, I saw a 'plane dive into the sea off Lancing," said Mr. Victor H. Page of Surrey Street, Shoreham, second coxwain of the Shoreham Lifeboat. "We went out in the lifeboat to the spot where the 'plane had crashed and there was a large patch of oil on the water. There was also some debris which I thought came from the 'plane's petrol tank."

After searching round for about 1½ hours, they returned to their station, but were instructed to go out again because they had been in the wrong place. They went out again, this time about a quarter of a mile south from their first site, and there stayed for some three-quarters of an hour. In neither case did they find any trace of the pilot. He added "At the time in question, there was a strong tide running and what came to the surface would not be over the spot where it went down."

Burial details:

None, body not recovered.

Son of Charles Arthur (1885-1956 at Timaru) and Alice Rosalind (1885 - 1986 at Timaru) (née Wakelin) Saward and husband to Patricia May (née Harper) Saward, father of Helen Rosemary, of Auckland, New Zealand. A very experienced pilot with a total of 422 flying hours logged with 40 of these solo on the Meteor and having completed 63 operational sorties. Holder of both the 'Goldfish' and 'Caterpillar' Club awards. His brother F/O. Albert Norman Saward also lost his life during service. He is remembered at the Bourail Memorial. Panel 4. Further details on his loss can be read here.

His wife, Patricia May Patricia May passed away on the 23rd October 2012, on the 03rd June 2018 her daughter scattered her ashes in the English Channel over the spot where her father lost his life. The Shoreham lifeboat took her out into the area accompanied by a film crew from the BBC. The RAF also placed a wreath on what was the 100 anniversary of the RAF.

Summary of his career:

Born on the 24th August 1920 at Te Kuiti.

A shop assistant for C.A. Saward at Eureka prior to service.

Enlisted at Levin as airman under training on the 23rd March 1941.

Carried out his first solo flight with No. 2 Service Flying School on the 22nd May 1941.

Embarked for Canada on the 22nd July 1941

Attached to RCAF No. 6 Service Flying Training School on the 18th August 1941.

Awarded his pilots badge and promoted to sergeant on the 07th November 1941.

Attached to RAF and embarked for England on the 20th November 1941 on the Dominion Monarch.

Joined 56 Operational Training Unit on the 23rd December 1941 for conversion training on the Hurricane.

Joined 486 squadron on the 24th March 1942 based at RAF Wittering.

Attached to 44 Ferry Group at RAF Lyneham on the 04th June 1942.

Returned to 486 squadron on the 11th July 1942 as overseas posting was cancelled.

Attached to 266 squadron flying the Typhoon to the Gold Coast on the 17th July 1942 till the 24th August 1942.

Joined Defence Flight at Takoradi, West Africa on the 17th September 1942, then to 128 squadron on the 30th September 1942 flying the Hurricane. Returning to Defence Flight at Takoradi on the 12th December 1942.

Embarked for England on the 24th February 1943.

Joined 486 squadron on the 04th May 1943.

Attended course for engine handling at Napier and Sons from 31st May - 03rd July 1943.

Shot down on the 24th September 1943 - baled out with slight burns, taken PoW.

Held at Dulag Luft on the 25th September 1943. Main purpose was to act as collection and interrogation centres for newly captured aircrew, before they were transferred in batches to the permanent camps.

Transferred to Stalag Luft VI at Heydekrug on the 03rd October 1943.

Then to Stalag 357 at Kopernikus in July 1944.

After liberation returned to England on the 08th May 1945.

Returned to New Zealand on the 05th September 1945, joined northern non-effective pool on the 07th September 1945.

Joined Central Flying School flying the Harvard on a refresher course on the 07th October 1946.

Joined Central Fighter Establishment on the 31st October 1946 flying various aircraft types until 16th December 1946.

Awarded Warrant Officer commission and embarked for England on the 20th September 1947.

Joined 595 squadron on the 26th November 1947 flying the Spitfire then 222 squadron on the 01st February 1948 flying the Meteor.

Attached to 226 Operational training Unit on or about 19th May until 27th May 1948.

Above: New Zealand pilots from 486 Squadron: From left to right: (standing) Harvey Nelson Sweetman 40992 - died 15th January 2015, Leslie Vincent Weir NZ/412294 - killed 31st October 1942, Howard Saward, Frank Murphy NZ/411928, Tommy Thomson, Norman Edward Preston NZ/41937, Killed 16th September 1943, Vaughan Charles Fittall NZ/411873 - Died 08th July 2009, Charles Norman Gall - NZ/411492, Leo Walker - 412290, (sitting on aircraft) Gordon Thomas, Raymond Ignatius Phillips - NZ/402893 - Killed 02nd October 1942, Gerald Edmond Rawson - NZ/404943 - Killed 24th October 1943, Corporal Fairbrother, Curly Moore.

Researched and dedicated to the daughter of this pilot, Helen McFarlane with thanks to Jenifer Lemaire and to the extensive research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Sussex History Forum for newspaper article. Auckland Library Heritage Collection, AWMM, other sources as quoted below:

KTY 11-05-2021

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