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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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No. 57 Squadron
04/05.07.1944 57 Squadron Lancaster III JB723 DX:P Fg Off. Ronald R. Smith

Operation: St-Leu d'Esserent, Oise, France

Date: 4th/5th July 1944 (Tuesday/Wednesday)

Unit No: 57 Squadron

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: JB723

Code: DX:P

Base: RAF East Kirkby, Lincolnshire

Location: Aubermesnil-aux-Erables, Seine-Maritime, France

Pilot: Fg Off. Ronald Richard Smith 420793 RAAF Age 21. KiA

Flt Eng: Sgt. Robert Denholm Mercer 1823010 RAFVR Age 19. KiA

Nav: WO2. Frederick William Hood R153331 RCAF Age 21. KiA

Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt. Charles Frederick Spencer 1387303 RAFVR Age 24. KiA

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Ernest Albert Wood 639067 RAF Age 23. KiA

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Sgt. William Arthur Roberts 1030803 RAFVR Age 27. KiA

Air Gnr (Rear): Flt Sgt. Walter Raymond Moore R195753 RCAF Age 21 KiA


Took off from RAF East Kirkby at 23:22hrs to attack the underground VI flying-bomb site at St-Leu-d'Esserent in order to cut all communications to the lines. The bombing was accurate, but 13 Lancaster were lost with 108 aircrew killed, 8 crew became POW's and 9 managed to evade capture.

The entrances to the subterranean tunnels at St. Leu d'Esserent

JB723 was claimed by Lt. Gerhard Wagner, his 11th Abschuss, from 9./NJG5 - Aumale-Senapont area: 2,500m at 02:00 hrs. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (12 May 1944 - 23 July 1944) Part 3 - Theo Boiten). The aircraft crashed at Aubermesnil -aux-Erables 2km South of Foucarmont.

Above left Mr. Leger Andre, witness to the crash in field shown right.

Left: Flt Sgt. Walter Raymond Moore (courtesy of nephew Steven G. Moore) Right: Sgt. Ernest Albert Wood (courtesy of Ken Hunt)

Above Left to right WO2. Hood and Flt Sgt. Moore from their Service records

Above, Sgt. Roberts with his wife Edna and the mother of Ken Hunt and below his wedding to Edna

Burial details:

All are buried in a collective grave in Aubermesnil Churchyard, Seine-Maritime, France. The graves are a few yards from the south-east corner of the church

Left: the original grave marker for the crew. Right: The collective grave (courtesy of Kate Tame)

Left to right: Plt Off. Hood and Sgt. Mercer, Flt Sgt. Moore, Sgt. Roberts and Fg Off. Smith, Sgt. Wood and Flt Sgt. Spencer, Aubermesnil Churchyard.

Fg Off. Ronald Richard Smith. Aubermesnil Churchyard. Coll. Grave. Grave Inscription: "GOD HAS YOU IN HIS KEEPING. EVER IN OUR HEARTS. MOTHER, FATHER AND SISTER". Born on the 17th March 1923 in Dulwich Hill. New South Wales. Son of Richard Henry and Mary Philomena Smith, of 5 Cleary Avenue, Belmore, New South Wales. Australia.

Previous to enlistment he worked as a bank clerk.

Sgt. Robert Denholm Mercer. Grave Inscription: "TOO DEARLY LOVED TO BE FORGOTTEN". Son of Mrs. R. Mercer, and stepson of Mr. R. Ewart of Penicuik, Midlothian, Scotland.

Plt Off. Frederick William Hood. Grave Inscription: "DEARLY BELOVED SON OF CDR. AND MRS. THOS. HOOD OF HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA, CANADA". Born on the 28th April 1923 in Ottawa, Ontario. Son of Thomas Hood, Lt Cdr. RCNVR and Mabel Agnes (née Wallace) Hood of Bear River, Annapolis Co. Nova Scotia.

Commissioned and promoted to J88657 Plt Off. on the 3rd July 1944

Flt Sgt. Charles Frederick Spencer. Grave Inscription: "A BELOVED SON & BROTHER. A PLACE IS VACANT IN OUR HOME, A VOICE WE LOVED IS STILLED". Son of Frederick and Ada Spencer of Vange, Essex, England.

Sgt. Ernest Albert Wood. Grave Inscription: "LUX ET UMBRA VICISSIM SED SEMPER AMOR". Son of Percy and Mary Ada Wood of Sevenoaks, Kent. At the time of his death Ernest's address was 8 Camden Road, Sevenoaks, Kent, England.

Sgt. William Arthur 'Bill' Roberts. Husband of Edna and from the Chester area, England. Born on the 2nd November 1917 in Chester, Cheshire. Son of William Edward and Harriett Roberts of Chester, Cheshire, England.

Flt Sgt. Walter Raymond Moore. Son of Jasper and Margaret Moore.Born on the 12th September 1922 in Addison, Ontario. Son of Jasper Newton and Margaret (née Thompson) of Addison, Ontario, Canada.

Researched by Kate Tame and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Ken and the family of Sgt. William Arthur Roberts. Updated by Kate Tame (May 2018). Thanks to John Jones for fighter claim details and photograph (Sep 2022). Other updates to NoK details by Aircrew Remembered (Sept 2022)

Other sources listed below

RS 28.09.2022 - Update to fighter claim and NoK details

Pages of Outstanding Interest
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CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
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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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