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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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7 Squadron Crest
15/16.06.1944 7 Squadron Lancaster III JB455 MG:N Plt Off. Thomson

Operation: Lens

Date: 15/16th June 1944 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: 7 Squadron

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: JB455

Code: MG:N

Base: RAF Oakington, Cambridgeshire

Location: Anzegem, Belgium

Pilot: Plt Off. Hugh Wallace Thomson 175967 RAFVR Age ? Survived - evaded (1)

Flt Eng: WO. John Devlin 627399 RAF Age 23. Killed

Nav: Plt Off. Douglas Reginald Cooles 177978 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt. Cyril Nicolson 1134746 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

WOp/Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. Cyril John Weston 1437390 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. James Edward Watts 1163515 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. Stewart Donald Muir 16967 RNZAF Age 22. Killed


Four operations mounted by Bomber Command during this night:

The first two raids to Fouillard and Chatellerault were hardly opposed by night fighters, one Lancaster crashed at Chatellerault, probably a victim to flak. 31 year old, Plt Off. Edmond Jack Goodyer 424451 RNZAF from Nelson, New Zealand, flying Lancaster I ME783 QR:E from 61 Squadron - killed with all 6 other crew.

110 aircraft bombing Valenciennes railway yards - some 5 aircraft lost. 29 aircrew killed, 3 PoW with 3 others evading capture.

107 to Lens railway yards - 6 aircraft lost. 36 aircrew killed, 1 PoW with 5 evading capture.

Lancaster JB455 was intercepted and shot down by Hptm. Hermann Greiner of 11/.NJG1 (2) - his 33rd victory of the war. Combat taking place at 2.000 metres 00:54 hrs

The pilot was thrown clear from the aircraft and managed to evade capture with the help of the De Bosschere family, he then sheltered near Tournai until liberated. He returned to his unit on the 12th September 1944. The body of Flt Sgt Muir was discovered on 21 June 1944 in a potato field.

Above crew photographs (Credit Tony Bowden) Top L-R: Flt Lt. Hugh Thomson, Flt Sgt. James Watts, Flt Sgt. Cyril Nicolson. Below: Plt Off. Douglas Cooles, Flt Sgt. Cyril Weston, WO. John Devlin and Flt Sgt. Stewart Muir.

Burial details:

WO. John Devlin. Anzegem Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 14-18. Son of Mary Elizebeth Devlin, of Blyth, Northumberland, England. Epitaph reads: “Heart Of Jesus, Once In Agony, Pity The Dying. RIP" .

Right: In June 2014 a memorial was erected to the crew lost, Jef Bogaert, Dirk Decuypere, Johan Durnez and Filip Santens being the people who organised this.

Plt Off. Douglas Reginald Cooles. Anzegem Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 14-18. Son of Reginald Henry and Mabel Alice Cooles and husband of Florence Alice Cooles, of Morden, Surrey, England. Epitaph reads: “Into The Mosaic Of Victory Was Laid This Precious Piece. RIP.”

Flt Sgt. Cyril Nicolson. Anzegem Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 14-18. Son of William and Alice H. Nicolson, of Staveley, Derbyshire, England. Epitaph reads: “At Rest But Not Forgotten.”

Flt Sgt. Cyril John Weston. Anzegem Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 14-18. Son of Ben Weston, and of Florence Ann Weston, of Knighton, Leicester, England. Epitaph reads: “He Did His Best And Then Left Us To Remember RIP.”

Flt Sgt. James Edward Watts. Anzegem Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 14-18. Son of Frederick and Elizabeth Watts, of Camberley, Surrey, England. Epitaph reads: “Deuteronomy. Chapter 31. Verse 6.”

Flt Sgt. Stewart Donald Muir. Anzegem Communal Cemetery. Grave 13. Son of William Thornton Muir and Lily Ellen Muir, of Lyttleton, Canterbury, New Zealand.

Researched with great information and photographs from Tony Bowden - September 2017 also to Jef Bogert and the team who honoured the crew lost, page dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to sources shown below.

(1) Awarded the MC for evasion and then the DFC for number of operations completed. Sadly, during the Berlin Airlift on the 19th September 1948 Flt Lt. Hugh Wallace Thomson was killed. During take off from RAF Wunstorf the Avro York CI MW288 suffered engine failure (later air crash investigators revealed that eight incorrect spark plug caps failed, damaging the flame traps) the pilot tried to maintain control of the aircraft to avoid buildings. However at 300 ft the aircraft banked left and stalled, crashing in a huge explosion - killing all the 5 crew members. (With thanks to Dr. C.D.E Morris for correcting the correct Wunstorf - December 2017)

The other crew members:

Flt Lt. Geoffrey Kell 166759 - co-pilot. Laurence Edward Hope Gilbert 1604758 - navigator, Sidney Mark Lewis Towersey 1577861 - signaller, Ernest William Watson 1881703 - Flight Engineer.

(2) Hptm. Georg Hermann Greiner survived the war with 47 claims. Following the conclusion of the War, Greiner and close friend Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer were arrested illegally crossing the German-Swiss border attempting an escape to Argentina. Both Greiner and Schnaufer were detained in an Allied prisoner of war camp and released in 1947. Greiner went on to study law and returned to service in the West German Luftwaffe in 1957, retiring with the rank of Oberstleutnant in 1972. He died on the 22nd September 2014.

With thanks to Tony Bowden for the photographs and also to Jef Bogaert, Dirk Decuypere, Johan Durnez and Filip Santens for the organisation of the memorial. Also to Dr. C.D.E Morris for correction of York crash. Thanks to John Jones for the information regarding the discovery of Flt Sgt Muir (Apr 2021). Other sources as quoted below.

RS 08.04.2021 - Update to the narrative

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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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