12.05.1940 12 Squadron Battle B.I P2332, Plt Off. Norman M. Thomas
Operation: Vroenhoven, Belgium
Date: 12th May 1940 (Sunday)
Unit No: 12 Squadron
Type: Battle B.I
Base: Amifontaine, France
Location: Vroenhoven, Limburg, Belgium
Pilot: Plt Off. Norman Maurice Thomas 37659 RAF Age? PoW No. 1401 *
Observer: Sgt. Basil Thomas Pierce Carey 580996 RAF Age 22. PoW No. 13097 **
WOp/Air Gnr: Cpl. Thomas Spread Campion 551696 RAF Age 19. PoW No. 13085 **
* Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).
** Stalag 357 Kopernikus at Thorn (Toruń) in Poland. Moved in September 1944 to the loosely named Stalag 357 Fallingbostel, Lower Saxony, Germany. Officially the designation was Stalag 357 Oerbke.
REASON FOR LOSS:
On the 12th May 1940 the Sqn received an Operation Order which called for six volunteer crews to bomb two road bridges over the Albertkanaal at Veldwezelt and Vroenhoven in Belgium. P2332 was one of five Battles that took off commencing at 08:18 hrs from Amifontaine in France.
P2332 was shot down by a mixture of flak and fighters and crashed landed near Vroenhoven in Belgium, 4 km SE of Maastricht in the Netherlands.
Only a single Battle was listed in the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (OKL) (German Air Force High Command) fighter claims for the West on the 12th May 1940. The Battle was claimed by Fw. Otto Sawallisch, his 1st Abschuss, from 2./JG 27 at 10:35 hrs with the aircraft crashing in the vicinity of Maastricht, Belgium.
The crew of P2332 were uninjured in the crash landing and became PoWs for the duration of the war. Sgt. Carey and Cpl. Campion were both promoted to the rank of temporary Warrant Officer (WO) whilst being held as PoWs.
The Sqn lost all five Battles on this operation with only one managing to return to Base:
Battle B.I L5227 PH:J - Last seen climbing out of control, crashed near Veldwezelt, Limburg, 21 km ESE of Hasselt, Belgium. Sgt. F. Marland, Sgt. K.D. Footner and LAC. J.L. Perrin were KiA and buried in the Heverlee War Cemetery in Belgium.
Battle B.I L5439 PH:N - Hit by flak in main petrol tank and crash landed, on fire, near Neerharen, Limburg, 14 km SE of Genk, Belgium. Plt Off. Ian Alexander Mcintosh, Sgt Neville Tomas William Harper and LAC. Robert Pace MacNaughton became PoWs.
Battle B.I L5241 PH:G - Badly shot about by flak and fighters. Plt Off. Thomas Daniel Humphrey Davy ordered his crew to bale out, after which he flew his damaged Battle back Base and force landed his aircraft. His Observer, Sgt. Gyn Davis Mansel made his way to safety. The 3rd crew member AC1. Gorden Nelson Patterson broke a bone in his left foot and became a PoW (PoW No. 36841 Stalag Luft 6).
Plt Off. Davy was awarded the DFC for this action. London Gazette 31st May 1940.
Citation: "Pilot Officer Thomas Daniel Humphrey DAVY (41383). During May, 1940, this officer was engaged in a bombing attack on bridges over the Albert Canal. In the face of intense machine-gun and anti-aircraft fire the bridges were bombed, but the result could not be observed. After delivering a dive bombing attack on the target, Pilot Officer Davy's aircraft was attacked by a Messerschmitt 109. The attack was broken off when smoke appeared to be emerging from the enemy. The port petrol tank on his own aircraft was thought to be on fire and Pilot Officer Davy gave orders for the crew to jump clear, but he himself continued his flight for the base until compelled to make a forced landing about 8 kilometres away".
Flt Lt. Davy DFC was killed whist fly in Hurricane F.I P3868 of the Merchant Ship Fighter Unit (MSFU) on the 13th September 1942. He is buried in the Liverpool (Anfield) Cemetery, Coll Grave 85, Screen Panel 2.
Flt Sgt. Glyn Davis Mansel MiD 561305 was reported MiA on the 2nd July 1941 when 12 Sqn Wellington II W5419 was lost on a mission to Bremen (4 MiA, 1 KiA).
AC1. Patterson was awarded the DFM for this action. London Gazette 31st May 1940.
Citation: “612426 Aircraftman 1st Class Gordon Nelson PATTERSON. This airman volunteered for duty as wireless operator-air gunner in the aircraft piloted by Pilot Officer Davy in a low level bombing attack on bridges over the Albert Canal in May, 1940. Intense opposition from the ground was met and two attacks by enemy fighters were countered by this airman but, as the port petrol tank appeared to be on fire, the pilot ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft and Aircraftman Patterson sustained injuries”.
Battle B.I P2204 PH:K - Shot down in flames by flak and crashed near the bridge. Fg Off. Donald Edward Garland, Sgt. Thomas Gray and LAC. Lawrence Royston Reynolds were KiA and buried in the Heverlee War Cemetery in Belgium. For his outstanding courage in leading his section through the curtain of enemy fire Fg Off. Garland and Sgt. Gary were awarded the first air VCs of the war.
London Gazette 11th June 1940: The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the Victoria Cross on the under-mentioned officer and non-commissioned officer, in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:- Flying Officer Donald Edward GARLAND (40105), 563627 Sergeant Thomas GRAY.
Citation: “Flying Officer Garland was the pilot and Sergeant Gray the observer of the leading aircraft of a formation of five aircraft that attacked a bridge over the Albert Canal which had not been destroyed and was allowing the enemy to advance into Belgium. All the air crews of the squadron concerned volunteered for the operation and, after five crews had been selected by drawing lots, the attack was delivered at low altitude against this vital target. Orders were issued that this bridge was to be destroyed at all costs. As had been anticipated, exceptionally intense machine gun and anti-aircraft fire was encountered, and the bridge area was heavily protected by enemy fighters. In spite of this the formation successfully delivered a dive bombing attack from the lowest practicable altitude and British fighters in the vicinity reported that the target was obscured by the bombs bursting on it and in its vicinity. Only one aircraft returned from this mission out of the five concerned. The pilot of this aircraft reports that in addition to the extremely heavy anti-aircraft fire, through which our aircraft dived to attack the objective, they were also attacked by a large number of enemy fighters after they had released their bombs on the target. Much of the success of this vital operation must be attributed to the formation leader; Flying Officer Garland, and to the coolness and resource of Sergeant Gray, who navigated Flying Officer Garland's aircraft under most difficult conditions in such a manner that the whole formation was able successfully to attack the target in spite of subsequent heavy losses. Flying Officer Garland and Sergeant Gray unfortunately failed to return from the mission".
Three brothers of Fg Off. Garland VC also died in Service:
Plt Off. Desmond William Garland 115223 RAFVR. KiA aboard 50 Sqn Manchester R5833 took off from RAF Skellingthorpe on the 5th June 1942 at 22:27 hrs on a Gardening mission in the Gorse region (Quiberon). It was reported (unconfirmed) that the aircraft was shot down by a Kriegsmarine Flak ship. (6 MiA, 1 PoW);
Flt Lt. John Cuthbert Garland 101796 RAFVR. Served at RAF Marham. He resigned his commission on the 26th January 1943 due to ill health and passed away on the 28th February 1943;
Flt Lt. Patrick James Garland 49602 RAFVR. KiA on the 1st January 1945 when his Spitfire XIV RM803, returning to Gilze-Reijen (B.77) from a Tactical Recce sortie, bounced on landing, stalled and crashed. Earlier on the 22nd August 1944 Fg Off. P.J. Garland flying 168 Sqn Mustang I, AG401 ran out of fuel and crash landed in Allied territory 10 mls SE of Troarn.
None. This crew survived the War.
Original narrative and acknowledgment details lost because of a web site issue. Story researched again and reconstituted by Ralph Snape - Aircrew Remembered (Nov 2022). Updated with new detail for the Garland brothers (Sep 2023).
Other sources listed below: