20.09.1941 No. 16 O.T.U. Hampden I P5314 P/O. Van der Merwe
Operation: Night training exercise
Date: 20th September 1941 (Saturday)
Unit: No: 16 OTU (Operational Training Unit)
Type: Hampden I
Base: RAF Croughton
Location: Near Tusmore Park, Oxfordshire
Pilot: P/O. Nicholas Petrus Van Der Merwe 778400 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Howard Ixer 1283378 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
Obs: Sgt. Derek Alfred John Paine 1259273 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt Robert Leagas 910873 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Update: November 2016 - relatives of the Observer wrote to Aircrew Remembered.
REASON FOR LOSS:
On Saturday 20th September this aircraft together with it's crew of four took off from RAF Croughton which is the satellite airfield for Upper Heyford on a night flying exercise. Unfortunately for this crew they were unaware of a lone German ju88 night-fighter which was sharing the same air space!
Oblt. Paul Semrau (1) of I/NjG2 and his crew had picked out the airfield of Upper Heyford for their next target and released their bomb load which fell in a line across the airfield.
At the same time, Sgt, Van Der Merwe was preparing to land back at Croughton after completing their exercises - it is not known if the pilot had been informed that there was a German night-fighter operating in the area.
Witnesses on the ground heard a burst of cannon and machine gun fire, before they saw a Hampden catch fire in the air. Sadly, the aircraft crashed near the airfield where it was totally destroyed, killing all four crew.
(1) On the 7/8th February 1945, Oblt (now a Major) Paul Semrau died with the rest of his crew when his ju88G-6, Wnr.620562 from Stab/NjG2 was shot down at airfield 1128. Major. Paul Semrau was buried with his crew with full military honours. His final score as a night-fighter ace stood at 46 victories.
Funeral of the crew, with below, same area today!
P/O. Nicholas Petrus van der Merwe. Upper Heyford Cemetery. Sec B, Grave 79. Son of Pieter Jacobus Theron van der Merwe and of Stoffelina Cornelia van der Merwe (nee Maartens), husband of Beryl Gwendolyn van der Merwe (nee du Barry), of Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia. Grave inscription reads “ Greater Love Hath No Man Than This. That A Man Should Lay Down His Own Life For His Friends.”
Sgt. John Howard Ixer. Upper Heyford Cemetery. Sec B, Grave 77. Son of Ernest Charles and Gertrude Agnes Ixer, of Sanderstead, Surrey, England.
Page supported with a kind financial contribution from Lesley P. Swaffield - November 2016.
Sgt. Derek Alfred John Paine. Kingsbury (St. Andrew) Churchyard. Sec H, Grave 10. Son of Alfred Arthur Greenwood Paine and Edith Agnes Paine, of Edgware, England. Grave inscription reads “ Brief, Brave And Glorious Was His Young Career.” The small plaque at the bottom of the grave is inscribed to his parents: "In Loving Memory Of Alfred A.G. Paine 5th April 1892 - 24th May 1965. Edith A. Paine 5th October 1892- 14th June 1975."
Sgt Robert Leagas. Upper Heyford Cemetery. Sec B, Grave 78. Son of Henry Matthew and Louisa Gladys Leagas, of Eastwood, Essex, England. Grave inscription reads “ His Loving Smile, Those Happy Days Live In Our Hearts Forever. RIP.”
With thanks to Lesley P. Swaffield (née Clifton) relative of Sgt. Derek Alfred John Paine - who wrote to Aircrew Remembered in November, 2016 with further information. Also to sources as shown below.