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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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630 Squadron Lancaster I ME737 P/O. Wilfred Arthur Watt

Operation: Bourg-Leopold

Date: 11/12th May 1944 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: No. 630 Squadron (motto: Nocturna Mors - 'Death by night'). 5 Group

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: ME737

Code: LE-S

Base: RAF East Kirby, Lincolnshire

Location: South East of Herenthout, Belgium

Pilot: P/O. Wilfred Arthur Watt NZ/421800 RNZAF Age 25. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Roy Victor Charles Witham 1851909 RAFVR PoW No. 3840 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus

Nav: Sgt. Leslie St Clair Thompson 1323406 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Keith Angus Michael Stuart NZ/422925 RNZAF PoW - no further details (1)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Philip Amies 1445907 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Air/Gnr: P/O. Alfred Frederick Grant J/89885 RCAF Age 19. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Peter Robert Rowthorn 1853111 RAFVR Age 19. Killed


Took off from RAF East Kirby at 22:28 tp attack the Bourg-Leopold Military Camp. A total force of 190 Lancasters and 8 Mosquitoes.

ME737 carried 1x4,000 lb. 16x500 lb. bombs and was equipped with H25 navigation aid. A total of 6 aircraft failed to return, with two aircraft from the squadron, the other:

Lancaster III ND580 LE-G Flown by P/O. Alfred Thomas Jackson 172175 RAFVR who was killed with all his crew after being shot down by Hptm. Ernst-Wilhelm Morrow at 01:04 hrs.

Claim by Ofw. Vinzenz Giessubel of 2/NJG2 - 30km North East of Brussels at 00:42.

P/O. Watt died at the controls to enable his other crew members to jump. However, for four of them, it was too late (Sgt L Thompson, navigator; Sgt P Amies, Wireless Operator; Plt Off A Grant, Mid Upper Gunner; Sgt Peter Rowthorn, Rear Gunner).

The Air Bomber, Fl/Sgt. Stuart and Flight Engineer, Sgt. Witham were able to jump before their bomber crashed on the Itegemsesteenweg road.

(1) Fl/Sgt. Keith Stuart was born on the 05th of November 1922 in Feilding, New Zealand. Trained at No. 10 Air Observer School, Chatham, New Brunswick and No. 4 Bombing and Gunnery School, Fingal, Ontario. Graduated on the 05th of April 1943. Died on the 25th of June 1980, at the young age of 57. Son of Alexander Stuart of Wellington, New Zealand. (died 27th October 1951, age 56)

Left: Silksheen: History of East Kirkby Airfield. Written by Geoff D. Copeman. Published by Midland Counties Publications. ISBN: 978-0904597684. Includes a section written by Roy Witham on his experience.

In April 2011 the Plane Hunters of Belgium did the full recovery of the crash site, we are trying to put up a memorial for this crew.

Burial details:

The crew except for P/O. Watt was initially buried in Fort 3 British Cemetery Antwerp. Reinterred on the 21st December 1945.

P/O. Wilfred Arthur Watt. Heverlee War Cemetery Plot 5 Row D Grave 17. Born on the 13th July 1918 in Auckland. Educated at the Sacred Heart College, Auckland. Worked as a clerk for the government printing office. Enlisted at Rotorua on the 07th March 1942. Son of Son of George Robert and Lucy Watt (née Perkinson, of Ponsonby, Auckland, New Zealand. A total of 525 flying hours logged and on his 7th operational sortie.

Sgt. Leslie St Clair Thompson. Schoonselhof Cemetery. Grave IVa.D.5. Son of Ernest St. Clair Thompson and Emily Mary Thompson, of Streatham, London, England. Epitaph: 'Greater Love Hath No Man Than This, That A Man Lay Down His Life For His Friends'.

Sgt. Philip Amies. Schoonselhof Cemetery. Joint grave IVa.D.3. Son of Henry Frederick and Mary Amies, of Highgate, Middlesex, England. Epitaph: 'In Loving Memory Of Our Dear Philip. Not Just Today But Always We Remember'.

P/O. Alfred Frederick Grant. Schoonselhof Cemetery Plot IVa Row E Joint Grave 50. Son of Charles Edward Grant and Iley Rebeca Bucknell, Born on the 01st July 1924. Enlisted in North Bay on the 09th of October 1942.

Sgt. Peter Robert Rowthorn. Schoonselhof Cemetery. Grave IVa.D.4. Son of Wilfred Harry and Florence Rowthorn, of Copnor, Portsmouth, England. Epitaph: 'In Sacred Remembrance Of Our Beloved Son Peter. Mum And Dad. Till The Day Breaks'.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Jenifer Lemaire and to the extensive research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Nachtjagd Combat Archives 1944 Part 2 - Theo Boite, New Zealand Cenotaph, Weekly News of New Zealand, Kracker Archive, Air Museum of New Zealand, Paradie Achieve, Museum of Transport and Technology, Auckland, Air-27-2152-13/14 National Archives. Also to John Jones who assisted in compiling this report.

Other sources as quoted below:

JJ/KTY 20-01-2023

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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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