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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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RAF Crest
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

Serial: P5314

Code: ?

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.


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!

Burial Details:

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.

KTY 26.11.2016 New information/photographs 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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