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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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248 Squadron
30.06.1944 248 Squadron, Mosquito FB.VI HR134, Plt Off. W. Tonge

Operation: Shipping strike, France

Date: 30th June 1944 (Friday)

Unit No: 248 Squadron, Coastal Command

Type: Mosquito FB.VI

Serial No: HR134

Code: DM:Z

Location: Off the coast near Sainte-Marine, Brittany, France

Base: RAF Portreath, Cornwall

Pilot: Plt Off. Walter Tonge 176020 RAFVR Age 30. Survived/KiA (1)

Navigator: Flt Sgt. Richard Rigby 1107517 RAFVR Age 23. Survived/KiA (1)

Note: Fg Off. Tonge and Flt Sgt. Rigby were credited with the destruction of a Ju88 in air-to-air combat on the 10th March 1944.


248 Sqn put up fourteen Mosquitos, including HR134, from RAF Portreath between 12:56 and 13:05 hrs on the 30th June 1944 on an anti-shipping strike. The formation lead by 248 Sqn included seven Mosquito FB.VI of 235 Sqn and twelve Rocket Projectile (RP) armed Beaufighters TF.X of 404 Sqn, RCAF. The Mosquitos were tasked with flak suppression.

At 14:24 hrs the formation sighted at least three vessels 1½ km (1 ml) south of Bénodet Point, and a further four just outside Concarneau harbour which the leader decided to attack.

The three vessels 1½ km (1 ml) south of Bénodet Point comprised, two M-Class Minesweepers and an unidentified vessel, all stationary;

The four enemy ships outside Concarneau harbour comprised, two 216 ft M-Class Minesweepers, one motor vessel of 2-3000 tons and one tanker of 6-800 tons, all stationary.

HR134 was one of five Mosquitos that attacked the first Minesweeper from the port bow and beam in a series of shallow dives with one of the Mosquitos continuing its attack on the second Minesweeper. Heavy and Light flak was experienced which was moderate and not very accurate.

Shore flak batteries were active during the engagement with both Heavy and Light flak although not very accurate. The ships for some reason appeared to hold fire while aircraft prepared to attack, however, later attacking aircraft experienced no return fire at all from the ships.

The after mission assessment claimed that of the vessels outside Concarneau harbour the two Minesweepers were badly damaged and on fire in clouds of greyish smoke. The Trawler type auxiliary and tanker were also badly damaged and left smoking amidships. Numerous RP strikes were registered by the Beaufighters on all vessels above and below the water line.

A Mosquito from 235 Sqn also attacked a Minesweeper off Bénodet Point with machine gun and cannon fire. Light flak from this and other vessels damaged the windscreen of the Mosquito which recovered safely to base. Mosquitos also strafed a train inland and suppressed flak from a house ashore which was reported to explode.

This attack was made by a large number of aircraft on a small number of ships, which was considered largely responsible for the success. The Beaufighters reported little opposition from the ships and a good deal of damage appears to have been done by cannon fire.

Other than HR134 all other aircraft recovered safely to their bases and diversionary airfields with some minor damage to three Mosquitos and to one Beaufighter. Two of the detailed Beaufighters failed to join the mission, one turned back with engine problems the other did not get off the ground also due to engine problems.

Whilst over the targets HR134 was hit in the port wing and a small fire broke out but Plt Off. Tonge maintained control of the aircraft which was seen to guide down in the direction of Beg-Meil and Bénodet Point and make a perfect landing in a calm sea.

During an American investigation into the deaths of Plt Off. Tonge and Flt Sgt. Rigby the questioning of an Oberleutnant (1st Lt) Otto Fuchs, who was the Administrative officer for the Flotilla Commander of the 6. Sperrbrecherflottille (6th Barrage Breaker flotilla), it was claimed that a vessel or unit from the flotilla had shot down the Mosquito.

6. Sperrbrecherflottille was deployed to clear submarine escape routes and river mouths on the western French coast. The flotilla was based at Nantes and Concarneau from July 1941 and disbanded in September 1944.

The crew were seen to exit the aircraft and to get into their dinghy. A small sailing vessel was seen a few hundred yards from the scene of the ditching and it was hoped that they would pick up the crew. The Commanding Officer of the squadron circled the area but was driven off by flak from the shore.

The after mission assessment claimed that the two Minesweepers were badly damaged and on fire in clouds of greyish smoke. The Trawler Auxiliary and Patrol Vessel were also badly damaged and left smoking amidships. Numerous RP strikes were registered by the Beaufighters on all vessels. This attack was made by a large number of aircraft on a small number of ships, which was considered largely responsible for the success. The Beaufighters reported little opposition from the ships and a good deal of damage appears to have been done by cannon fire.

(1) The circumstances leading to the deaths of Plt Off. Tonge and Flt Sgt. Rigby were investigated by successive French, American and British enquiries. The French enquiry was conducted at the request of Mr. Tonge, the father of Plt Off. Tonge, who was convinced that his son and his fellow airman had been murdered.

In August 1948 the position of the investigation of the case included the enquiries initiated by the French authorities, followed by an American investigation of some 70 pages, carried out in early 1945 and before the end of the war. This was followed by an investigation of similar length carried out by Maj (then Capt) Davies, Capt Davison, a pathologist and his assistant together with Captain Bellet of the French War Crimes Liaison Group. Finally following a thorough search of the British, American and French Zones of Germany, four suspects were finally located and interrogated in the summer of 1948 by the British Field Investigation Section who also sent some of their staff back to the St. Marine area where French witnesses were again questioned.

The two main threads of the British investigation were to determine what happened to the airmen and their dinghy prior to and after 1600 hrs:

The suspicion that the airmen and their dinghy were fired upon from shore with effect was disproved when it was concluded that the only damage the dinghy sustained was when it was grappled aboard the motor launch;

What occurred to the two airmen before or after they and their dinghy were hauled aboard could not be determined as there were no independent witnesses.

Witnesses who saw the bodies of the two airmen after they had been brought ashore did not see any injuries from gunshots. Furthermore, the pathologist’s examination of the remains of the exhumed airmen determined that there was no evidence that they had been shot but also that it was not possible to determine the cause of death.

The British Field Investigation Section had examined every possible witness and that although they concluded this was a case of considerable suspicion, there was not and would never be sufficiently conclusive evidence to justify proffering charges against any of the four German suspects they had identified.

As all war crimes investigations were to be concluded by the 17th August 1948 so that British trials could be concluded in September 1948 it was determined that this would be one of the cases in which the whole truth would probably never be known.

Burial Details:

Combrit is the larger community to which Sainte-Marine belongs. The cemetery is not a Military Cemetery but just the local churchyard. The CWGC graves for Plt Off. Tonge and Flt Sgt. Rigby are the only ones in the cemetery.

Plt Off. Walter Tonge. Combrit Churchyard, Finistère, France. Born on the 15th May 1914 in Langley Moor, County Durham. Son to Harold and Catherine (née Boland) Tonge of County Durham, England.

987493 WO Walter Tonge was appointed a commission and promoted to Plt Off. with effect 3rd May 1944

Flt Sgt. Richard Rigby. Combrit Churchyard, Finistère, France. Born on the 31st July 1920. Son to Richard and Hannah (née Thomas) Rigby of Wigan, Lancashire, England.

Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with additional thanks to Traugott for his work on the VitzArchive’.

Other sources listed below:

RS & TV 18.06.2022 - Rewrite and update of 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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