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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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617 Squadron
13.02.1944 617 Lancaster 1 DV382 KO:J Sqn.Ldr. William R. Suggitt DFC

Operation: In Transit

Date: 13th February 1944 (Saturday)

Unit: 617 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: DV382

Code: KC:J

Base: RAF Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire

Location: 10 miles N.E. Chichester, Sussex

Pilot: Sqn.Ldr. William Reid Suggitt. DFC J15131. RCAF Age 24. Died of his injuries

Flt.Eng: Flt.Sgt. John Pulford. DFM 652403. RAF Age 24. Killed

Nav: Fg.Off. John Irvine Gordon. DFC 412218. RAAF Age 31. Killed

Air Bmr: Fg.Off. Norman James Davidson. J22514. RCAF Age 23. Killed

WOp/Air Gnr: Fg.Off. Stanley George Hall. 411775. RAAF Age 23. Killed

Air Gnr: Flt.Sgt. John Paul Riches. 1390921. RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Air Gnr: Fg.Off. John McBride Dempster. DFM J17206. RCAF Age 20. Killed

Passenger: Sqn.Ldr. Thomas Williams Lloyd. DSO 84133 RAFVR Age 52. Killed


Returning from an operation on the Antheor Viaduct, Southern France the aircraft landed at RAF Ford, West Sussex to refuel. It took off at 08:20hrs in low cloud and poor visibility to return to its home base at Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire. At 08:30hrs the aircraft crashed into a hillside near Duncton, 10 miles NE of Chichester.

The following description of the events surrounding the loss of the aircraft comes from the Sussex Roll of Honour. (Courtesy John Jones):

After making a three hour stopover for a debrief and a meal the crew took off from RAF Ford to continue their journey to RAF Woodhall Spa. The aircraft took off in very poor morning visibility having waited for their passenger Sqn.Ldr. Lloyd, Sqn Intelligence Officer to complete his business. Within five minutes in low cloud they flew into trees at the top of Littleton Down where the aircraft broke up and burst into flames, scattering wreckage over a wide area.

The impact and explosion was heard at Littleton and Upwaltham Farms and farmer Phillip Chapman ran to help, together with Fred Denyer (cowman), Henry Privett (Bricklayer), George Scutt (Tractor Driver) and Leading Seaman R J Boyd DSM of Bournmouth who joined them. The first man they saw was Sqn.Ldr. Suggitt the pilot. They found him still strapped to his seat. He was alive although very badly burnt. The five men pulled him out of the cockpit and with oil and ammunition exploding all around them, dragged him to safety on a stretcher made from his parachute. He died in St Richard’s Hospital Chichester on 15th February 1944 from his wounds.

Mr Chapman and the men from the valley farms could see several of the crew but they were already dead and the flames and exploding oil and fuel prevented them from getting nearer to the shattered fuselage. The burning fuel had sprayed round the wreckage and they had no idea whether or not there were still bombs on board amongst the widespread devastation. They recovered the body of one crew member before finally beaten back and forced to withdraw by the extreme danger all round them. Mr Chapman and his team, including Leading Seaman Boyd, all whom suffered burns, were later commended fro brave conduct by His Majesty King George VI.

Note: Don Charlwood (wartime RAAF navigator) was a close friend of Johnnie Gordon and refers to his death in his book 'No Moon Tonight' first published in 1956.

In another of his books 'Journeys into Night' he develops the story of the crash a little further and the third edition (2013) refers to the memorial plaque and unveiling ceremony at St. Mary the Virgin church at Upwaltham.

Left: 2nd left Flt.Sgt. Pulford DFM Entering the aircraft of Wg.Cdr Gibson DSO DFM. Right: Debriefing of Wing Commander Guy Gibson's crew after the Dam's operation on the night of the 16/17th May 1943. Flt.Sgt. Pulford is partly hidden on the right of the picture. (both pictures courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

Left: Flt.Sgt Stanley George Hall and 3rd on the left is Flt.Sgt. John Irvine Gordon two of the crew of a Lancaster bomber of 467 Squadron on the 6th May 1943. Right: Sgt. John Gordon on the right, Staffordshire, England 1942. (Both pictures courtesy of the Australian War Museum)Accident report (courtesy LAC Ottawa via David Champion)

The lake in Canada named after Sqn.Ldr. William (Bill) Reid Suggitt. DFC

Flt.Sgt. John Pulford DFM was buried at Hull Northern Cemetery, Yorkshire on the 18th February 1944. Fg.Off. John McBride Dempster, Fg.Off. Norman James Davidson and Plt.Off. John Irvine Gordon were all buried at Coningsby Cemetery, Lincolnshire on the 19th February 1944. A full complement of Officers and airmen represented the Squadron. Relatives of Plt.Off. Gordon and Fg.Off. Davidson attended the funeral

Left to right: Sqn.Ldr. Suggitt DFC, Flt.Sgt. Pulford DFM, Fg.Off. Gordon DFC, Fg.Off. Hall, Fg.Off. Dempster DFM

Burial details:

SqnLdr. William (Bill) Reid Suggitt. DFC Chichester Cemetery, Sussex. Square 159. C. of E. Plot. Grave 2. Son of Thomas and Grace Reid Suggitt of Toronto, Canada.

Sqn.Ldr. Suggitt was injured and admitted to St. Richard's Hospital, Chichester where he died of his injuries two days later on the 15th February 1944 at the age of 24

Thomas was born on 2 December 1920 in Toronto, Ontario and lived there prior to the war. William attended the Danforth Park School from 1927 to 1934 before graduating from the East York Collegiate in 1939 with a senior matriculation. After school he took a job with the Robert Simpson Company as an invoice office clerk until 15 October 1940 then William Suggitt joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in Toronto and was posted to No.1 Initial Training School, Toronto. On graduation, 8 December 1940 he was selected for pilot training, promoted to Leading Aircraftman (LAC) and posted to No.9 Elementary Flying Training School in St. Chatharines, Ontario and then to No.10 Elementary Flying Training School at Mount Hope, Ontario on 23 January 1941. On 28 January 1941 he graduated and was posted to No.5 Service Flying Training School in Brantford, Ontario where he graduated on 7 April 1941. On graduation he was awarded his pilot wings and promoted to Sgt. by Group Captain B.F. Johnson. Sgt. Suggitt went overseas arriving in England on 19 May 1941 and was taken on strength to No.22 Operational Training Unit for bomber crew training on Wellington bombers. After completing operational training, Sgt. Suggitt was posted to 405 City of Vancouver Squadron. He was promoted to Flt.Sgt.on 1 November 1941 and a month later transferred to 104 (RAF) Squadron. While flying with 104 Squadron he was commissioned as a Plt.Off. on 5 January 1942. A month later he was transferred to 158 (RAF) Squadron where he finished a tour of operations. Plt.Off. Suggitt was posted to No.26 Operational Training Unit where he trained a new crew on Wellington bombers and while there was promoted to Fg.Off. on 1 October 1942. On 9 December 1942 he was promoted to Flt.Lt. and posted to 428 Ghost Squadron, part of Bomber Command flying Wellington aircraft. He soon rose to the rank of Squadron Leader on 11 March 1943. From May to June 1943 he was attached to 1659 Heavy Conversion Unit in Topcliffe.

While with 428 Squadron, Sqn.Ldr. Suggitt was awarded the DFC , gazetted 9 July 1943. His citation reads as follows: “This officer has a fine operational record which has included sorties to all the most heavily defended centers in Germany and enemy occupied territory. He has recently taken part in raids on the Ruhr Valley including Essen and Duisburg and on the U-Boat bases of North-West Germany and France. Despite intense anti-aircraft opposition, even when the bomber has been hit by shrapnel from very close shell bursts, he has always pressed home his attacks with the utmost determination. He is an ideal operational captain whose example has been an inspiration to all other pilots in the squadron.” He flew a total of eight raids on Hamburg, bombed the Krupp armament works at Essen six times, raided Cologne five times as well as Turin, Bremen, Paris, St. Nazaire, Lorient, Wilhelmshaven and Duisburg. On 26 October 1943 S/L Suggitt was transferred to 617 (RAF) Squadron, the famous Dambusters as a flight commander. They flew special bombing missions on extremely difficult targets. S/L Suggitt flew against such targets as the docks of Pas de Calais, Liege Armaments Factory and Flexecourt. After completing two operational tours he was due to be transferred out of an operational unit but choice to stay with his crew. (Courtesy of Mark Suggitt (not related) for the above information)

Suggitt Lake, Northwest Territories was named after Sqn.Ldr. Suggitt in 1953

Flt.Sgt. John Pulford. DFM Hull Northern Cemetery, Yorkshire. Compt. 263. Grave 77. Son of George William and Ada Elizabeth Pulford of Hull

Flt.Sgt. Pulford was awarded the DFM. in 1943 while serving with 617 Squadron. Supplement to the London Gazette 28th May 1943, John went to London on the 16th November 1943 for the Investiture. Flt.Sgt. John Pulford DFM also served as flight engineer for Wg.Cdr. Guy Gibson in Lancaster ED932 AJ:G on the Dambuster Raid 16/17th May 1943 (Operation Chastise) Wg.Cdr. Gibson's aircraft and four other crews bombed the Mohne Dam and breached it despite intense fire from Flak

Fg.Off. John Irvine Gordon. DFC Coningsby Cemetery, Lincolnshire. Row 64. Grave 1252. Born on the 26th February 1912 in Cessnock, New South Wales. Son of David Irvine Gordon and Mildred Gordon of Cessnock, New South Wales, Australia. Husband of Mary V. S. Gordon of London, England. BA, Dip. Ed.

Fg.Off Gordon was awarded the DFC in 1943 while serving with No. 467 Squadron as per Supplement to the London Gazette 10th December 1943. Fg.Off. was awarded the DFC after 30 operations with No. 467 Squadron. He bacame a navigator with 617th (Special Duties) Squadron, RAF known as the "Dambusters" (Picture courtesy of the Australian War Memorial)

Fg.Off. Norman James Davidson. Coningsby Cemetery, Lincolnshire. Row 64. Grave 1253. Son of James and Henrietta Elizabeth Davidson of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Born on the 11th June 1920 (shown right - courtesy LAC Ottawa via David Champion).

Fg.Off. Stanley George Hall. Wickham Market Cemetery, Suffolk. Row Q. Grave 31. born on the 21st June 1920 in Saxtead, England. Son of Edith Hall of Wickham Market, Woodbridge, Suffolk

Stanley enlisted in Sydney on the 25th May 1941. (formally from Richmond New South Wales). He served with 467 Squadron and completed 27 operations. Plt.Off. S. G. Hall was posted to No 617 Squadron from 1668 Conversion Unit on the 9th November 1943 and while with 617 Squadron he completed 9 operations. Stanley was commissioned on the 10th July 1943 (Above Right: Courtesy of Australian National Archives).

Right: Flt.Sgt. John Paul Riches. (courtesy of Special Forces Roll of Honour). Lingfield (SS. Peter and Paul) Churchyard Extension, Surrey. Grave Ref. East Part (Family grave) Son of John Harvey Riches and Alice May Riches of Lingfield. Husband of Lily Riches.

John had been a member of Sqn.Ldr. Suggitt's crew since 1943

Fg.Off. John McBride Dempster. DFM Coningsby Cemetery, Lincolnshire. Row 64. Grave 1254
Son of John Gass Dempster and Margaret Dempster of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

John was awarded the DFM while serving with No. 57 Squadron as Flt. Sgt. As air gunner this airman has participated in numerous sorties, including an attack on Milan. One night in December 1942 during the flight to Duisburg, Flt. Sgt. Dempster shot down an enemy fighter which attempted to attack his aircraft. One night in January 1943 he took part in an attack on Essen. During the return flight his aircraft was attacked by an enemy fighter, but Flt. Sgt. Dempster drove it off with devastating fire, which caused it to fall towards the ground with one of its engines alight. (As per Flight Magazine April 1st 1943) Posted to No 617 Squadron on the 9th November 1943 from 1485 Bomber and Gunner Flight.

Dempster Creek British Columbia was named after Fg.Off. McBride in 1951

Sqn.Ldr. Thomas (Tommy) Williams Lloyd. DSO Cheltenham Crematorium, Gloucestershire. Panel 1. Son of Walter Edmund and Annie Lloyd Lloyd. Husband of Alice Joan Lloyd. At the time of his death, Thomas's address was given as 46 Lowndes Square, London

Sqn.Ldr. Thomas (Tommy) William Lloyd. DSO was the Intelligence Officer for the squadron and after de-briefing the crew after their mission he was offered a lift back to his home base at Woodhall Spa. Thomas William Lloyd served with the 4th Battalion, King's Liverpool Regiment in WW1 and was wounded in 1915 while serving in France. He was awarded the DSO for distinguished services during the Great War. London Gazette 3rd June 1918. MiD 1st January 1943 and 8th June 1944. At the age of 52 Sqn.Ldr Thomas William Lloyd DFC was the oldest officer to be killed in Bomber Command in 1944

Please also see: The memorial plaque for Lancaster DV382 placed at the site of the crash (courtesy of Traces of

Researched by: Kate Tame for all the relatives of the crew. With special thanks to: Mark Suggitt, Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - Bomber Command War Diaries, The Chichester Observer, The Australian War Memorial, Steve Sale Gravestone Photographic Resources, Imperial War Museum, Tobin Jones - transcript of No 617 Squadron Operational Record Book, Special Forces Roll of Honour. Also to LAC Ottawa and David Champion for additional information. Aircrew Remembered for Links to Canadian Commemorative Place Names (Oct 2019). Thanks to John Jones for the Sussex Roll of Honour extract (Dec 2019). Thanks to Richard Maddox for the book mentions (Nov 2020).

RS 24.11.2020 - Addition to book references

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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