419 Squadron Halifax II HX189 VR-J F/O. Charles A. Thomas
Date: 22/23rd April 1944 (Saturday/Sunda)
Unit: No. 419 Squadron (motto: 'Beware the moose'). 6 Group
Type: Halifax II
Base: RAF Middleton St. George, North Yorkshire
Location: Couvron-et-Aumencourt, France
Pilot: F/O. ‘Chuck’ Charles A. Thomas T-223104 USAAF Age 22. Injured but evaded capture
Fl/Eng: Sgt. John Dawson Thompson 1593760 RAFVR PoW No: 3679 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus
Nav: Fl/Sgt. Robert Paul Lindsay R/161450 RCAF Evaded capture
Air/Bmr: P/O. John A. Neal J/25125 RCAF Evaded capture
W/Op/Air/Gnr: W/O1. Patrick Jerome Murphy R/109696 RCAF Injured PoW No: 3638 Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Winfred Arnold Green R/200862 RCAF Evaded capture
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Victor Alfred Knox J/92327 RCAF Age 21. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
HX189 took off at 20:36 hrs from RAF Middleton St. George, to bomb the railway yards at Laon. 8 aircraft from 419 squadron took part. Each carried 4x1,000lb.. 11x500lb. bomb load, they crossed the French coast at 10,000 ft.
A bomber stream made up of 181 aircraft including 69 Halifaxes, 52 Lancasters, 48 Stirlings and 12 Mosquitoes. The raid caused massive destruction after the attack had been made in 2 waves.
The Halifax flying at 6,000ft. was on the approach to the flare-outlined drop zone. The visibility was described as moderate with no moon. As the Bomb Aimer had his finger on the release button the aircraft was hit. Before any evasive actions could be put in place the aircraft was hit again a number of times by louder bangs. The damage done had both port engines on fire and flames spreading along the port fuselage.
The pilot ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft and bale out. Fl/Sgt. Lindsay and P/O. John Neal left by the nose hatch, Neal smacking his chin on the hatch as he moved to jump out. W/O. Patrick Murphy and Sgt. John Thompson left the aircraft from the other escape hatch. Sgt. Winfred Greene jumped from the rear. Sgt. Victor Knox was left on board, it is thought that he had been killed during the night fighter attack
W/O. Patrick Murphy and Sgt. John Thompson who had both found each other once on the ground were captured by a German patrol.
Robert Lindsay, Charles Thomas, John Neal and Winfred Greene became evaders. John Neal worked with the French Marquis and eventually made it back to Britain, Charles Thomas made his way through Spain and was already in an Army hospital in Florida by the time John Neal had made it back to Britain. Bob Lindsay returned to Britain in September of 1944 while Greene was home long before the others, 23rd of June 1944.
It is reported that this was most of the crew's first and only operational sortie of the war, except John Neal - this was his 8th and Charles Thomas who was on his 5th operational sortie.
A total of 9 aircraft were lost on this operation and 46 crewmen were killed with a further 3 made PoW, 15 managed to evade capture and return to England.
Attacked and shot down by Oblt. Dietrich Schmidt of 8./NJG1 at 23:33 hrs, his 17th abschüsse of the war from which he survived having a total of 38 confirmed claims. He was imprisoned by the British at the end of the war - released in August 1945. Attended Heidelberg University obtaining a doctorate in Chemistry - retired in 1984. (See Kracker Luftwaffe Archive on this site for further information)
Oblt. Dietrich Schmidt reported: 'About this time we had 3-m forward-firing cannon. The effect of these shells was indescribable. I have seen their explosive effect at one of our Abschüsse near Couvron. The bomber's fuselage had been ripped open wide enough to take the body of a man. So it was not surprising to have fragments from an Abschuss flying about our ears. It's a funny feeling to have the coolers damaged by small splinters. The result was a coughing engine, single-engined flight, perhaps a passable belly landing or baling out. Because of this we belly-landed twice and had to bale out once'.
Above: The second farm which Fl/Sgt. Robert Lindsay hid (Courtesy Lindsay family)
‘The Lucky Pigeon”. Written by John Neal - survivor of HX189. ISBN 13: 9781681621807. Published by Turner, United States, 1997 - A print on demand publication - 72 pages.
Sgt. Victor Alfred Knox. Couvron-et-Aumencourt Communal Cemetery. Row B. Grave 1. Born on the 29th November 1922 in Toronto. Son of James (died 29th February 1940, age 52) and Letitia Knox (née Owtrim - died in 1949 age 60), of 189 Rosethorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Epitaph: 'On Earth He Nobly Did His Best, Grant Him Jesus, Heavenly Rest'.
Robert Paul Lindsay: born on the 13th July 1923 in Southwold, Ontario, Canada. Passed away on the 21st January 2005, age 81 in Picton Ontario, Canada.
With thanks to Theo Boiten and Nachtjagd Combat Achives, Kracker Archives, Charles Thomas Evasion report, family of Robert Lindsay, National Archives, Steve Murphy son of W/O. Patrick Jerome Murphy who contacted us in October 2015.
For further details our thanks to the sources shown below.