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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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156 Sqn
03/04.02.1945 156 Squadron Lancaster III PB505 Flt Lt. Maurice Spinley DFM, MiD

Operation: Bottrop, Germany

Date: 3rd/4th February 1945 (Saturday/Sunday)

Unit No: 156 Squadron, Path Finder Force (PPF)

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: PB505

Code: GT:F

Base: RAF Upwood, Cambridgeshire

Location: Overpelt and Hechtel, south of Eindhoven, Netherlands

Pilot: Flt Lt. Maurice Spinley DFM, MiD 411466 RNZAF Age 22. KiA

Flt Eng: Fg Off. Laurence Mooney DFM 53786 RAFVR Age? KiA

Nav I: Fg Off. John Henry Lascelles DFM 144444 RAFVR Age 33. KiA

Nav II: Flt Lt. Kenneth Herbert French 168800 RAFVR Age 24. KiA

WOp/Air Gnr: WO. Leslie James Hutson 41590 RNZAF Age 23. KiA

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): WO. Alexander Brown DFM 658085 RAFVR Age 25. KiA

Air Gnr: (Rear): Flt Sgt. Henry Alfred Holmes 1053558 RAFVR Age? Returned.


On the 3rd February 1945, 156 Sqn was detailed to provide nine aircraft for a target marking operation of the Prosper Benzol facility at Bottrop, Germany. PB505 took off from RAF Upwood at 16:46 hrs as one of five Blind Sky Markers.

PB505 was one of two aircraft from the squadron that failed to return. The second was Lancaster III ME366 GT:H (4 KiA, 3 PoW)

After attacking the target in clear weather at about 19:30 hrs from 17,000 ft the aircraft was attacked from below and hit by an enemy aircraft, which was not seen before the attack.

There were a number of German night fighter claims on this night but none of those recorded can be associated with the attack on PB505.

The starboard inner engine was hit and caught fire which spread to the fuselage. The Captain told the crew that the aircraft was out of control and gave orders to bale out. Flt Sgt. Holmes, tried to bale out but he could not open the turret doors because of centrifugal forces, so he turned his turret to the fore and aft position. Almost immediately the aircraft exploded and he was blown out of his turret and found himself falling. He released his parachute, which opened, and he landed safely.

Knowing himself to be in Allied territory, he made for the nearest house somewhere between Overpelt and Hechtel, south of Eindhoven. The family took him in and washed a cut on his head and then informed the nearest Allied troops.

He was with the family for about 30 mins, until a small party of French Canadians arrived and took him by Jeep to St. Joseph’s Military Hospital in Eindhoven. Here he had four stiches put in his cut on the head, which was the only injury he had sustained, and remained in bed for 2 days.

During the time he was in hospital, nobody asked for identification and he was not interrogated. He was told that his aircraft was scattered all over the countryside SW of Overpelt and 4km north of Hechtel, and as far as could be ascertained all other members of his crew had been killed. This was his 55th operation overall.

Burial details:

Above: Leopoldsburg War Cemetery (Courtesy of CWGC)

Above: Flt Lt. Spinley and his grave marker (Courtesy of Michel Beckers)

Flt Lt. Maurice Spinley, DFM, MiD. Leopoldsburg War Cemetery VII.E.2. Son of Charles William and Emma Margaret (née Jordan) Spinley of Wellington, New Zealand.

Sgt. Spinley was awarded the DFM whilst with 37 Sqn. London Gazette 16th February 1943. As a Flt Lt. he was Mentioned in Despatches (MiD) on the 1st January 1945.

This was the 21st operation with the Sqn for Flt Lt. Spinley and his 63rd overall. He had completed a tour with 37 Sqn in the Middle East.

Above: Fg Off. Mooney grave marker (Courtesy of Des Philippet)

Fg Off. Laurence Mooney, DFM. Leopoldsburg War Cemetery I.B.11. No further information

Sgt. Mooney 615997 was awarded the DFM whilst with 101 Sqn. London Gazette 21st January 1944.

This was the 50th operation overall for Fg Off. Mooney.

Above: Fg Off. Lascelles grave marker (Courtesy of Des Philippet)

Fg Off. John Henry Lascelles, DFM. Leopoldsburg War Cemetery VII.E.3. Inscription: "GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. ALWAYS IN THE THOUGHTS OF EVE, LITTLE BRIAN AND MUM". Son of Edwin Thomas and Madeline Eliza Lascelles; husband of Evelyn Martha Lascelles, of Brockley, London.

Sgt. Lascelles 1377291 was awarded the DFM whilst with 61 Sqn. London Gazette 15th June 1943.

This was the 42nd operation overall for Fg Off. Lascelles.

Above: Flt Lt. French grave marker (Courtesy of Michel Beckers)

Flt Lt. Kenneth Herbert French. Leopoldsburg War Cemetery I.B.10. Inscription: "TILL IN THE OCEAN OF THY LOVE WE LOSE OURSELVES IN HEAV'N ABOVE". Son of Ellis Victor d Margaret Elsie French, of Trimley St. Martin, Suffolk, England.

This was 66th operation overall for Flt Lt. French.

Above: WO. Hutson grave marker (Courtesy of Des Philippet)

WO. Leslie James Hutson. Leopoldsburg War Cemetery VII.E.4. Son of George William Hutson and of Emma Mabel Hutson (nee Taylor), of Invercargill, Southland, New Zealand; husband of Pauline Joyce Hutson, of Invercargill.

This was the 66th operation overall for WO. Hutson having previously served in the Middle East with 148 and 108 Sqns.

Above: WO. Brown grave marker (Courtesy of Des Philippet)

WO. Alexander Brown, DFM. Leopoldsburg War Cemetery VII.E.5. Inscription: "TO DWELL IN HEARTS WE LEAVE BEHIND IS NOT TO DIE.". Son of Robert and Clementina Clarke Brown of Dundee, Angus, Scotland.

Sgt. Brown was awarded the DFM whilst with 75 Sqn. London Gazette 13th August 1943.

This was the 47th operation overall for WO. Brown.

He is also listed on the Roll of Honour on the Scottish National War Memorial.

Researched by Ralph Snape for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew.

Other sources listed below:

RS 21.11.2022 - Initial upload

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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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