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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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427 Squadron Crest
21/22.01.1943 No. 427 Squadron Wellington III X3873 ZL-R F/O. Shead

Operation: Gardening

Date: 21/22nd January 1943 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: No. 427 Squadron

Type: Wellington III

Serial: X3873

Code: ZL-R

Base: RAF Croft, Yorkshire

Location: North Sea off Schlermonnikoog

Pilot: F/O. Derrick Alan Shead 41480 RAF Age 24. Missing - believed killed

Obs: Sgt. Gordon Ray Hoyt J/51021 RCAF Age 25. Missing - believed killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Michael Patrick J/18374 RCAF Age 22. Missing - believed killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. William “Billy” John Oram 1380977 RAFVR Age 19. Missing - believed killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Lewis Sparling R/129739 RCAF Age 19. Missing - believed killed


Taking off from RAF Croft at 17:02 hrs. on a gardening (See Abbreviations) operation to the Nectarines region of the Frisian Island chain. 70 aircraft taking part in this larger than usual operation. Dropping magnetic mines between 18:10 hrs and 19:43 hrs.

Weather conditions for the operation were a full moon, heavy cloud formations with rain and a general poor visibility avoided heavy contact with the Luftwaffe night fighters.

A total of 6 aircraft were lost with two falling victim to the night fighters and the remainder by the Kreigsmarine flak units.

It is thought ‘possible’ that X3873 was the victim of the Luftwaffe ace Major Helmut Lent (1) the commander of Stab IV/NJG1 - his 58th claim of the war, bringing the Wellington down at 20:11 hrs over the North Sea north of Schlermonnikoog.

(1) Major Helmut Lent - went on to claim 102 night fighter kills and a further 8 before on the 7th October 1944 he died after suffering injuries sustained during a crash landing on the 5th October 1944 during a crash landing in his Ju88 G-6 at Paderborn airfield following engine failure and subsequent collision with a high tension cable.

His crew were rescued - injured from the crash. Walter Kubisch (radio operator) and Hermann Klöss (2nd radio operator) died the same day, Werner Kark (War correspondent and Air/Gnr) died the next morning.

Burial details:

F/O. Derrick Alan Shead. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 121. Understood to be from Saskatoon, Canada although serving in the RAF. Next of kin details not available - are you able to assist?

Obs: Sgt. Gordon Ray Hoyt. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 187. Son of Gordon and Susie M. Hoyt of Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada.

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Michael Patrick. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 177. Understood to be from Edson, Alberta, Canada - next of kin details not available - are you able to assist?

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. William John Oram. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 160. Son of William Thomas and Florence Ethel Oram, and brother of Fred of Woodford Green, Essex, England. Born on the 27th of May 1923, his service record shows 27th May 1922, but Billy lied about his age to enable him to enlist in the RAFVR on 21st October 1940.

Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Lewis Sparling. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 187. Son of Percy J. and Miinie M. Sparling of London, Ontario, Canada.

Researched for Aircrew Remembered by Linda Ibrom - June 2017. Special thanks to Fred Oram for the information and photos of his brother Sgt. Oram. For further details our thanks to the following sources.

LI - 04.06.2017

Pages of Outstanding Interest
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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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