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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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432 (Leaside) Squadron, RCAF
07/08.06.1944 432 (Leaside) Squadron, RCAF, Halifax III LW582, Fg Off. William K. Vickerman

Operation: Achères, France

Date: 7th/8th June 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit No: 432 (Leaside) Squadron, RCAF, 6 Group, Bomber Command

Type: Halifax III

Serial: LW582

Code: QO:N

Base: RAF East Moor, North Yorkshire

Location: Saint-Denis-le-Ferment, 7 km (4¼ mls) NW from Gisors, France

Pilot: Fg Off. William Kingswell 'Bill’ Vickerman J26925 RCAF Age 23. Evader (1)

Flt Eng: Sgt. Walter Edward Dobson 1255769 RAFVR Age 23. Evader (2)

Nav: Fg Off. Earl Carruthers Watson J28858 RCAF Age 34. Id No. 78431 *, PoW No. 8072 ** (3)

Bomb Aimer: Fg Off. Charles Richard ‘Dick’ Hoffman J20263 RCAF Age 23. Id No. 78429 *, PoW No. 8052 ** (3)

WOp/ Air Gnr: Fg Off. Leo Michael O'Grady J29729 RCAF Age? Evader (4)

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Sgt. Noe Edward Joseph Beauchesne R200224 RCAF Age? Evader (1)

Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Frederick William Layton R218634 RCAF Age 20. KiA

* Buchenwald concentration camp established on Ettersberg hill near Weimar, Germany in July 1937.

** Stalag Luft 3 Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).

Above: Sgt. Frederick W. Layton from his service record


On the night of the 7th/8th June 1944 337 aircraft attacked railway targets in France at Achéres, Juvisy, Massey-Palaiseau and Versailles.

632 Sqn detailed 11 aircraft to bomb the railway facilities at Achères, and LW582 was the only aircraft from the squadron that failed to return. The force lost 17 Lancasters and 11 Halifaxes on these missions.

LW582 was claimed by Oblt. Franz Brinkhaus, his 9th Abschuss and third of four confirmed this night, from 6./NJG2, north of Beauvais/Gisors area at 1.500 m at 01:25 hrs. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (12 May 1944 - 23 July 1944) Part 3 - Theo Boiten)

Oblt. Brinkhaus survived war with 13 confirmed Abschüsse. (Luftwaffe ACES - Biographies and Victory Claims (Mathews and Foreman) - Volume 1)

The aircraft was abandoned which then crashed at Saint-Denis-le-Ferment, 7 km (4¼ mls) NW from Gisors.

Three of the crew were on their 6th mission with four on their 4th mission.

(1) The details of the evasion of Fg Off. Vickerman and Sgt. Beauchesne are not known, however, they were almost certainly handed off to a number of safe houses and eventually, which is known, taken to a camp situated in the Forêt (Forest) Fréteval in France.

Note: This camp was part of ‘Operation Marathon’ which was a plan to hide evading Allied airmen in secret camps in France and Belgium. The Forêt Fréteval camp was code named ‘Operation Sherwood’ and eventually held more than 150 Allied airmen.

The camp was being run by Lucien Boussa who was a Belgian national and a Sqn Ldr in the RAF, who along with another Belgian Jean de Blommaert who was the head of Marathon in France, set up the camp.

The camp was liberated on the 11th August 1944 and after being processed they were evacuated by air on the 18th August back to England.

(2) Sgt. Dobson was an evader, however, no information has been found describing his evasion and his return to England.

(3) Fg Off. Watson was sheltered in Saint-Denis-le-Ferment where on the 7th August he was betrayed and arrested. Fg Off. Hoffman crossed the Seine river on the 1st August and was taken to Paris where he was betrayed and captured the next day.

They were then taken to the Fresnes prison located to the south of Paris. This was were French political prisoners were held and ordinarily Allied airmen, after questioning, were moved to a PoW Camp. In the summer of 1944, with the Allies having liberated Paris and closing in, the Gestapo guards started reducing the prison population by execution, and then relocating surviving prisoners to various concentration camps east of France. On the 15th August 1944 they was amongst 169 Allied PoWs and hundreds of French men and women who were packed into a freight train and transported to Buchenwald concentration camp on a journey lasting five days. Buchenwald was located 8 km (5 mls) north of Weimar, in the German province of Thüringen. It was established and administered by the Schutzstaffel (SS).

Fg Off. Joel Mathews ‘Tex’ Stevenson C27788 RCAF, the pilot of 419 (Moose) Squadron, RCAF Lancaster X KB727 VR:H escaped from the train and successfully evaded.

Sqn Ldr. Lamason and Fg Off. Chapman succeeded in getting all but two of the Allied PoWs transferred to Stalag Luft 3. Two airmen, 1st Lt. Levitt Clinton Beck Jr. O-736945, US AAF and Fg Off. Philip Derek Hemmens, 152583, RAFVR died in the camp hospital.


For decades the International Red Cross (IRC) had stated that there were no military personnel in Buchenwald despite the overwhelming documentary and anecdotal evidence. It was not until 1988 that the IRC eventually confirmed the airmen were illegally held at Buchenwald.

The Australian, New Zealand and Canadian governments also consistently denied that any of their service personnel were ever held in concentration camps and refused to investigate the claims made by a 'mere’ handful of men.

Reparations were made to the British airmen who had been illegally held at Buchenwald in 1965. Eventually in 1988 the Australian, New Zealand and it is believed the Canadian governments acknowledged that their airmen had been illegally held in concentration camps.

American airmen were among those receiving compensation and the US Air force have acknowledged the Buchenwald airmen with an exhibit at the Air Force Museum, albeit the airmen are shown in uniform rather than in civilian attire. Furthermore, there is no mention of decades-long denial of their experiences by other branches of the government.

They were transferred to Stalag Luft 3 over the period 15th to 20th October 1944.

Just before midnight on the 27th January 1945, because of advancing Soviet forces, the PoW’s were marched out of the camp to Spremberg. From here Fg Off. Watson and Fg Off. Hoffman were part of the column of men that were force-marched to the Marlag-Milag Nord PoW camp arriving there on the 4th/5th February 1945.

Marlag = Marinelager (naval prisoner of war camp) and Milag = Marine-Internierten-Lager (naval internment camp), Nord (North). Located at a former Luftwaffe (German Air Force) barracks near Westertimke NE of Bremen in Germany.

On the 2nd April 1945 the camp commandant ordered that the PoWs were to leave the camp with most of the guards. However, that afternoon a detachment of more than 100 SS-Feldgendarmerie entered the camp and gathered some 3000 of the PoWs and marched them out heading east.

The column was attacked RAF aircraft resulting in the deaths of two PoWs and injuries to several others. The Senior British Naval Officer (SBNO), Capt. J. Thornton was one of the two who were killed.

It is believed that Fg Off. Watson and Fg Off. Hoffman were part of this column but are not on the list of PoWs. However, the list is not comprehensive as only has around 200 names. The column finally arrived at Lübeck, on the Baltic coast, on the 28th April 1945. They where they were liberated by a Spearhead of the 11th Armoured Division around noon of the 1st May 1945.

At the Marlag-Milag Nord camp the guards fled on 9th April 1945 and were replaced by elderly civilian guards. Those remaining at the camp were liberated by the British Guards Armoured Division on the 27th April 1945.

Fg Off. Watson and Fg Off. Hoffman were airlifted to the UK on or about the 15th May 1945.

(4) Fg Off. O'Grady was an evader, however, no information has been found describing his evasion and his return to England except that he was interviewed on the 31st August 1944.

Burial details:

Plt Off. Frederick William Layton. Marissel French National Cemetery Grave 257. Grave inscription: ‘SO FAR AWAY YET ALWAYS NEAR AND LOVING REMEMBERED’. Born on the 12th January 1924 in Gladstone, Manitoba. Son of Frederick George and Alma Irene (née Neilson) Layton, of Fort Garry, Manitoba, Canada.

Sgt. Layton was appointed to a commission and promoted to J90289 Plt Off. on the 6th June 1944.

Researched by Ralph Snape for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew (Feb 2024).

Other sources listed below:

RS 27.02.2024 - Corrections and updates

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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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