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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
7 Squadron Stirling I R9270 MG-Q Flt Lt. John Patrick Trench DSO

Operation: Nürnberg

Date: 8th/9th March 1943 (Monday/Tuesday)

Unit No: 7 Squadron (motto: Per diem, per noctem - 'By day and by night'). 8 Group

Type: Stirling I

Serial: R9270

Code: MG:Q

Base: RAF Oakington, Cambridgeshire

Location: Les Souhesmes, France

Pilot: Flt Lt. 'Pat' John Patrick Trench DSO, VM. 68742 RAFVR Age 25. KiA

Flt Eng: Flt Sgt. Frank William Richard Cole DFM. 616283 RAF Age 23. KiA

Nav: Flt Lt. Crofton Lustleigh Selman DFC. 109922 RAFVR Age 23. KiA

Bomb Aimer: Plt Off. Lee Gordon Gosper DFC. 402985 RAAF Age 29. KiA

WOp/Air Gnr: Plt Off. Henry Harwood DFM. 142910 RAFVR Age 26. KiA

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Flt Sgt. William Peel Hudson DFM. 1378108 RAFVR Age 36. KiA

Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Eric Thomas Beney 1277051 RAFVR Age 29. KiA

Page sponsored by way of a donation from Brian Laidlaw in March 2023. Brian has carried out extensive research on this loss and also visited the crash site.

Note: Some publications have this aircraft as MG:T - this was his usual aircraft but on this operation, he was flying MG:Q (Information via Fred Rich, the half-brother of Sgt. Eric Beney)

Above L-R: Flt Lt. 'Pat' Trench DSO, (courtesy Evelyn Empson) Flt Sgt. William Hudson DFM, Flt Lt. Crofton Selman DFC, Sgt. Eric Beney (courtesy Fred Rich) and Plt Off. Henry Harwood DFM (courtesy Gilly Smith)

September 2015: We would like to make contact with the relatives of Plt Off. Harwood (or others) who we know visited the grave in 2013, on the anniversary of the loss. A French local, whose father attended the crash shortly afterwards, recovered a piece of the aircraft's first aid box. His father went on to join the French Airforce and retired as a test pilot on the Mirage jet. This relative has kept that piece and would like to return it to him.

Update April 2016: Relatives of Plt Off. Lee Gosper DFC are meeting with André later this year.

Update October 2023: Relatives of Plt.Off. Harwood contacted us.


Nuremberg was the chosen target for this night's operations - 335 mixed aircraft taking part (170 Lancasters, 103 Halifaxes, 62 Stirlings). Stirling R9270 taking off at 19:08 hrs from RAF Oakington, in Cambridgeshire.

For various reasons only 294 actually bombed and much of that scattered due to industrial haze over the target area. Despite that 600 buildings were destroyed with a further 1,400 damaged including the MAN and Siemen-Schuckert factories.

Also lost from 7 Squadron during this operation:
Stirling I BK610 MG-V Flown by 23-year-old, Plt Off. Lionel Louis Victor Toupin J17295 RCAF from Fabre, Quebec, Canada - abandoned east of Dungeness, Kent during home bound trip. The pilot had ordered the crew to bale out after placing it on autopilot, which they did except one of the Air Gunners, Sgt. Derek Richard Spanton 1323191 RAFVR who failed to hear the order. He realised when over England he was the only person left on board so he too baled out of the Stirling. He survived, the remainder was lost over the English Channel. 3 with no known grave. The aircraft came down in the Thames Estuary. Sadly, 21 year old Sgt. Spanton from Copnor, Hampshire was lost after a further 12 operations just 3 months later on the 25th June 1943. The pilot, 26 year old Sqn Ldr. John Ronald Savage 402882 RAAF from Tullibegerri, NSW, Australia and all the crew on Stirling III EF392 from 7 Squadron was lost during an operation to Wuppertal.

Claimed to have been shot down by Oblt. Hans Autenrieth in a Me110 of 6./NJG4 at 21:45 hrs. Eye-witness to this states that he returned afterwards in a Fieseler Storch to take a look at his night's work (so often done) and after landing, overturned the aircraft in a ditch! This was the 9th Abschuss for Oblt. Hans Autenrieth.

He went on to make a total of 22 Abschüsse, before he was shot down on the 4th August 1944 then taken prisoner. He did manage to evade capture for 2 days, before being caught by the French resistance. Served the remainder of the war as a PoW. Died from cancer on the 8th June 1996, age 75. (see Kracker Luftwaffe Archive on this site).

Hans Autenrieth

On the 28th March 1947 the No. 1 Section of MREU (Missing Research and Enquiry Unit) led by Fg Off. T. Neal reported that they visited the cemetery at Les Souhesmes and found a grave marked with a French Cross inscribed ‘A la memoire de l’equipage allie tomb a Souhesmes le Mars 1943' (In memory of a crew placed in a combined grave in March 1943)

The grave was described as in beautiful condition and also marked by a plaque in the form of a red ensign with the inscription ‘For the liberation of France here lies the crew of an allied aeroplane’. It appears that the locals gathered the remains and buried them in this communal grave. The priest, L’Abbe Watrin took Fg Off. Neal to the crash site and showed him a granite monument he had erected behind the huge water-filled crater left by the exploding aircraft. He submitted a report to confirm that the graves are that of the crew of R9270, closing the case.

Burial Details:

Above: Souhesmes Communal Cemetery, France

Flt Lt. ‘Pat’ John Patrick Trench DSO. VM. Les Souhesmes Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 6-7. Son of Desmond Patrick Trench (died 05th December 1967, age 74) and Elfrida Mary Eliott (née Young - died 27th February 1942) His father remarried Hilda Olive (née Akhurst in 1947. Born in Burma on 2nd December 1918, the family understood to be living in Hampshire, England.

He attended school at Gresham’s Boarding School in Holt, North Norfolk, England. Also commemorated on the War Memorial within the school (shown below) and in Lyndhurst, Hampshire, England. John Patrick Trench, known as ‘Pat’, was in Howson’s boarding house, he was a School prefect, vice-captain of the hockey team, and served as a chapel warden. His headmaster, J.R. Eccles described him as a ‘hard worker, though not a high flier, and an excellent fellow … he was a first-class Henry V in this year’s play … will probably be in the Rugger Team as Three Quarter, is already in the Hockey Team, and nearly broke my front teeth two days ago in Fives.’ Commissioned as a pilot in May 1941. (see credits)

Gresham’s School - World War Two Memorial (courtesy of the school)

DSO awarded to Fg Off. Trench whilst with 7 Sqn. London Gazette 16th October 1942. Citation: Distinguished Service Order. Flying Officer John Patrick TRENCH (68742) Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 7 Squadron. Distinguished Flying Cross. Pilot Officer Crofton Lustleigh SELMAN (109922) Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 7 Squadron. Distinguished Flying Medal. 986411 Sergeant Ivor John EDWARDS, No. 7 Squadron. One night in September, 1942, Flying Officer Trench, Pilot Officer Selman and Sergeant Edwards were captain, navigator and wireless operator respectively of an aircraft of a bomber force which attacked Dusseldorf. Whilst over the target area, the aircraft was repeatedly hit by anti-aircraft fire. The petrol tanks were pierced, while some oil pipe lines were severed. In spite of this, Flying Officer Trench persisted in his mission and the target was bombed successfully. On the return journey, the aircraft lost height. All moveable equipment, even parachutes, were jettisoned in an effort to maintain height and the North Sea was eventually crossed at between 100 and 200 feet. After crossing the English Coast, the aircraft was force-landed and, on impact with the ground, burst into flames. Flying Officer Trench and Sergeant Edwards were rendered unconscious but Pilot Officer Selman, with complete disregard of danger, extricated his comrades and pulled them clear of the burning aircraft. Throughout, these members of the crew of this aircraft displayed great courage, fortitude and devotion to duty in the face of extremely harassing circumstances.

Note: We understand that Pat Trench had also been awarded the Polish VM. (with swords) but we are still unable to confirm this. Further research continues.

Flt Sgt. Frank William Richard Cole DFM. Les Souhesmes Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 6-7. Inscription: 'LIFE'S RACE WELL RUN, LIFE'S WORK WELL DONE, LIFE'S VICTORY WON, NOW COMETH REST'. Son of William and Maud Cole, husband of Barbara Edith Cole, of Maida Hill, London, England.

DFM awarded whilst with 7 Sqn. London Gazette 19th October 1943

Flt Lt. Crofton Lustleigh Selman DFC. Les Souhesmes Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 6-7. Inscription: 'BELOVED HUSBAND OF BETTY, DADDY OF DAVID AND SON OF ALFREDA AND LEONARD SELMAN'. Son of Leonard and Alfreda Florence Selman; husband of Betty Selman, of Ferndown, Dorsetshire, England.

DFC awarded to Plt Off Selman whilst with 7 Sqn. London Gazette 16th October 1942. (Note: See see citation for Flt Lt Tench's DSO)

Plt Off. Lee Gordon Gosper DFC. Les Souhesmes Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 6-7. Inscription: 'THROUGH SACRIFICE TO GLORY. LOVED BY ALL'. Born 9th October 1913 in Sydney NSW. Son of Cecil George (died 09th June 1956, age 80) and Hildred Blanche Gosper (née Hurd - died 14th April 1960, age 78), of Lower Portland, New South Wales, Australia.

Prior to service worked as a farmer. Joined Squadron on the 7th of October 1942.

DFC awarded posthumously for service with 7 Sqn. London Gazette 24th April 1945. Citation: Pilot Officer Gosper has displayed exemplary proficiency and keenness as Wireless Operator in heavy aircraft, having completed numerous operational sorties, many of them of a difficult and arduous nature. Throughout these operations he has been a most valuable member of aircrew, always displaying a high sense of duty and commendable enthusiasm.

Above left: Plt Off. Henry Harwood DFM. Right: Plt Off. Harwood DFM in centre, others unidentified (courtesy Gilly Smith)

Plt Off. Henry Harwood DFM. Les Souhesmes Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 6-7. Inscription: 'WE LOVED THEM IN LIFE, LET US NOT FORGET THEM IN DEATH'. Son of Henry and Ellen Harwood, husband of Frances Eleanor Harwood, of Denmark Hill, London, England.

DFM awarded to 1355063 Flt Sgt Harwood whilst with 7 Sqn. London Gazette 12th March 1944

Flt Sgt. William Peel Hudson DFM. Les Souhesmes Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 6-7. Inscription: 'TREASURED MEMORIES OF A DEAR SON AND BROTHER'. Son of Harris Peel Hudson (died 17th November 1945, age 61), of Yeadon, Yorkshire, stepson of Nellie Peel Hudson, of Yeadon, Yorkshire, England.

DFM awarded whilst with 7 Sqn. London Gazette 9th February 1943

Sgt. Eric Thomas Beney. Les Souhesmes Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 6-7. Born 18th December 1913 in Lewes, Sussex. Son of Mr. John Beney and Mary Louisa Charlotte Rich, late Beney, formerly Lawrance from Sussex, England.

For further details our thanks to Andre Odinot the relative of the eyewitness, also to Evelyn Empson, Liz Larby - school archivist of Gresham’s School, Cromer Road, Holt, Norfolk. National Archives of Australia, also to the half-brother of Eric Beney, Mr. Fred Rich (Sep 2015). Gilly Smith for images of Plt Off. Harwood. Missing images and update to narrative by Aircrew Remembered (Feb 2023)

Other Sources listed below:

RS 13.02.2023 - Missing images reinstated and narrative updated.

KTY 06-03-2023 - Page sponsored by Brian Laidlaw

KTY 01-10-2023 - New images added

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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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