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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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No 9 Squadron
28/29.09.1941 No 9 Squadron Wellington Ic R1279 WS-? Fl/Sgt. Walter Stanley Kitson DFM

Operation: Genoa, Italy

Date: 28/29th September 1941 (Sunday/Monday)

Unit: No 9 Squadron

Type: Wellington Ic

Serial: R1279

Code: WS-?

Base: RAF Honington, Suffolk

Location: Alps, Italy

Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Walter Stanley (Kit) Kitson DFM 580055 RAF Age 25 Killed (1)

2nd Pilot: P/O. John Roy Freeland J/5342 RCAF Age 23 Killed (2)

Nav: Sgt. Ronald Gordon Gove 748724 RAFVR Age 25 Killed (3)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Richard Palmer 957006 RAFVR Age 25 (4)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. James Williamson Lee 638198 RAF Age 21 Killed (5)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Alfred Leslie McLean 920382 RAFVR Age 21 Killed (6)


Fl/Sgt. Kitson and crew took of in Wellington R1279 at 19.34hrs from RAF Honington for an operation on the port of Genoa. Ten other Wellington's from the Squadron took off on the same operation. At 2.08hrs an "S.O.S" message was received from the aircraft stating engine trouble while flying over the Alps. Nothing further was head from the aircraft. It may have been hit by flak or shot down by an enemy night fighter and crashed in the Alps area of Italy. The ten other Wellington's from the Squadron all landed safely back at base. A total of 39 Wellingtons and 2 Stirlings dispatched and claimed a successful bombing

Sgt's Gove, Palmer and Lee had been with No 9 Squadron since 16 May 1941 and had completed 23 operational flights together before joining Sgt. McLean, P/O Freeland and Fl/Sgt. Kitson for this operational flight to Genoa

Bristish Air Raids On Italy. The Headline from The Barrier Miner newspaper (Broken Hill, NSW) Tuesday 30 September 1941 'Port of Genoa was Chief Tartget. Objectives in northern Italy were attacked last night by some of the biggest RAF bombers from Britain, while planes from Middle East bases raided Sicily and Rhodes. They were the most widespread raids yet made on Italy. Principle target in the north was the great port of Genoa. An Air Ministry communique says objectives at Genoa, Turin and elsewhere in northern Italy were attacked. At Genoa industrial areas were bombed and large fires started in the docks. It was the first time that the RAF had attacked Genoa from Britain. The round flight is about 1,400 miles'

Wellington Ic (courtesy of Imperial War Museum)

RAF Honington, Suffolk (courtesy American Air Museum in Britain) RAF aerial reconnaissance photograph of Genoa harbour (courtesy ww2

Map of the area of the crash in the Alps area of Italy

Milan War Cemetery (courtesy Commonwealth War Graves Commission)

Burial details:

Three of the crew (not named, one Fl/Sgt and two Sgts) were first buried in Orbassano Civic Cemetery, Turin, Italy and reinterred in Milan War Cemetery, Lombasdia, Italy 14th November 1945

Fl/Sgt. Walter Stanley (Kit) Kitson DFM. Milan War Cemetery, Lombardia, Italy. Grave Ref: I. E. 6. Son of Walter and Mary Ann Kitson of Wakefield, Yorkshire. Husband of Barbara J Kitson of Wayland, Norfolk (1) Walter was born 1916 and married in 1940. He had been in the RAF for seven years with his first operational flight with No 9 Squadron as 2nd Pilot for Sgt. T Purdy on the 3rd December 1939. His next operational flight was on 18 December 1939 again as 2nd pilot for Sgt. Purdy. They were on a shipping search off Wilhelmshaven flying in Wellington N2981. For further details on this operation click (here Kit Kitson safe) Kit Kitson had completed his first tour of duty with No 9 Squadron. Awarded the DFM as per London Gazette 22 October 1940. He had just returned to No 9 Squadron for the start of his 2nd tour of duty when he was killed on his first operation flight. Walter is remembered on the St. Austin's Church War Memorial

P/O. John Roy Freeland. Milan War Cemetery, Lombardia, Italy. Grave Ref: I. E. 7. Son of John Anderson Freeland and Etta Yarker Love Freeland of Timiskaming, Province of Quebec, Canada (2) John was born in Montreal in 1918 and had completed part of his training at Camp Borden, Ontario. John's first operational flight with No 9 Squadron 26/27 September 1941. He is remembered on the Montreal West War Memorial

Sgt. Ronald Gordon Gove from Find a Grave. (We ask the owner of this photograph to make contact) The article from the Dundee Courier dated 18/02/2016 asking relatives to make contact.

Aircrew Remembered would like to point out that Kate Tame's father was Flight Lieutenant Gerald O'Neill DFM and not as stated in the article above Fl/Sgt. Walter Stanley Kitson

Ronald Gordon Gove: The Courier and Advertiser December 1941 (courtesy British Newspaper Archive) 'Ronald had lived with his brother Charles in Hawkhill, Dundee. Before joining the RAF in 1939 he was a member of the Edinburgh Civil Flying Club. His younger brother is on service with the RAF'

Sgt. Ronald Gordon Gove. Milan War Cemetery, Lombardia, Italy. Grave Ref: I. E. 8. Son of John and Elizabeth Gove of Hillside, Angus (3) Ronald was born on the 29th August 1916 in Montrose, Angus, Scotland and is remembered on the Dundee Roll of Honour and the Montrose Academy School Roll of Honour

Sgt. John Richard Palmer. Milan War Cemetery, Lombardia, Italy. Grave Ref: I. E. 9. Son of Henry Edgar and Matilda Leona Palmer of Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire (4) John is remembered in the Parish Church of St. Peter, Great Berkhamsted

Sgt. James Williamson Lee. Milan War Cemetery, Lombardia, Italy. Grave Ref: I. E. 11. Son of James and Eva Lee of Bishop Auckland, Co. Durham. (5) James's first operational flight with No 9 Squadron was on 5/6 July 1941

Sgt. John Alfred Leslie McLean (courtesy of Jacqui Rochford)

Sgt. John Alfred Leslie McLean. Milan War Cemetery, Lombardia, Italy. Grave Ref: I. E. 10. Son of John and Ellen McLean of Plumstead, London. (6) John's first operational flight with No 9 Squadron was on 29/30 August 1941

In 1938 John had met a young girl called Ida who like John was only 18 years of age. They were to fall deeply in love and secretly got engaged, but the outbreak of war was to change both their lives for ever. By August 1941 John was serving with No 9 Squadron at RAF Honington and Ida had joined her father serving with the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) Their lives changed on the night of the 28/29 September 1941 when John was killed on active service. Ida never forgot him. Ida married in 1942 and even after 62 years of happy marriage she never forgot John, and had kept all his letters and a photograph. Ida had two children, a son who was given the middle name John and a daughter who was given the middle name Lesley (the female version of Leslie) It wasn't until much later in life that Ida's daughter Jacqui was told the story of John

Ida and family had lived in Kent and as a child Jacqui remembers that she and her brother were taken on an arduous journey by public transport to Plumstead to visit Ellen McLean, whom Ida described as a very special friend. It was only many years later that she found out who Ellen was - John's mother. Many years were to pass before Ellen McLean, who was disabled, finally managed to visit Milano War Cemetery. She returned with two small marble chippings from her son's grave, one she gave to Ida. Jacqui says, 'this has now been entrusted to me' and I now remember John for my late mother, on the anniversary of his death, and on Remembrance Day I place a poppy on a war memorial for him. I have never visited John's grave (though I was once close by without knowing) but this is a poem I wrote about John, and how he affected my life

'.... I wish I'd known, then, that you were buried there. I would have visited your airman's grave, from where that precious chip my mother always kept, had come. You were only twenty-one and if not for war, might have become my father, but your plane was torn from the sky, denying you the chance. Each November mother wore a poppy, took me on fog-swaddled Woolwich ferry to see your mother, offering her a grandchild for a while. This ritual helped to keep your memory alive, though every trip, it seemed, dissolved in mist and tears. Father gave me part of your name, but he never came on all those journeys we made across the river' © Jacqui Rochford

Researched by: Kate Tame Aircrew Remembered and for all the relatives and friends of the crew. With very special thanks to Jacqui Rochford and Mike H Van Diggelen, Richard Watt - Dundee Courier

KT. 18/02/2016

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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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