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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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Halifax III HR739 NP-U P/O. Ronald William Wildman

Operation: Mönchengladbach

Date: 30/31st August 1943 (Monday/Tuesday)

Unit: No. 158 Squadron (motto: 'Strength in unity') 4 Group

Type: Halifax III

Serial: HR739

Code: NP-U

Base: RAF Lissett, Yorkshire

Location: South of Hechtel-Ecksel, Belgium

Pilot: P/O. Ronald William Wildman Aus/420322 RAAF Age 23. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Colin Charles Gardener 1262922 RAFVR PoW No: 222818 Stalag Muhlberg (Elbe)

Nav: Sgt. Robert Garfield Townley R/125497 RCAF Age 24. PoW No: 222791 Stalag Muhlberg (Elbe) (1)

Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. William Edward Bryden Aus/422121 RAAF Age 22. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Partington 1576778 RAFVR PoW No: 263413 Stalag Muhlberg (Elbe)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. James Sidney Clenton 1817088 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. William Joseph Browne Aus/414914 RAAF Age 29. Killed


660 aircraft detailed to bomb Mönchengladbach and Rheyd. 21 aircraft from 158 squadron took part, with 19 making the primary target with 1 failing to take off.

Bomb load 2 x 1,000 HE, 48 x 30 Lbs, 600 x 4 Lbs, 30 x 4lb IB's.

Weather: 8/10 cloud with top of 10,000 ft. Tending to obscure the target but this disappeared after the attack developed leaving target clear. Fires from the bombing could be seen 120 miles away. Photographs were taken by 17 aircraft.

HR739 took off at 23:49 hrs. Nothing further was heard from the crew.

They were shot down at 03:50 hrs by Oblt. Heinz Strüning of the 3./NJG 1, flying a Bf110 G-4 from Venlo airfield in the Netherlands.

This was the 37th claim for the Luftwaffe ace and 1 of two on this operation. He claimed 56 before he was shot down and killed on the 24th of December 1944. (shown right, courtesy Kracker Archive)

Some of the crew L-R Rear: Sgt. Robert Townley, P/O. Ronald Wildman, Sgt. John Partington.

Front: Fl/Sgt. William Browne and Fl/Sgt. William Bryden.

(1) Sgt. Robert Garfield Townley - Born on the 15th of October 1919 in Ontario - passed away on the 27th of August 1998, age 78. Son of David Raymond Townley (died 12th August 1953, age 59) and Janet Harris Townley (née Harvey - died 29th April 1972, age 81). Husband of Alice Mildred Townley (née Daniel - died 25th January 2002, age 82) of The Beach area of Toronto, Canada.

Burial details:

P/O. Ronald William Wildman. Heverlee War Cemetery. Grave 4.E.8. Born on the 23rd of December 1919 in North Sydney. Enlisted on the 11th October 1941. Son of Harold Ethelbert Wesley Wildman and Jean Bella Suttie Wildman, of Killara, New South Wales, Australia. Epitaph: 'He Only Knew The Singing Season'.

Fl/Sgt. William Edward Bryden. Heverlee War Cemetery. Grave 4.E.9. Born on the 02nd of February 1921 in Campsie, New South Wales. Enlisted on the 25th April 1942. Son of William Henry and Mary Elizabeth Bryden, of Redfern, New South Wales, Australia. Epitaph: 'Sleep On, Beloved Son And Take Thy Rest. Until We Meet Again'.

Sgt. James Sidney Clenton. Heverlee War Cemetery. Grave 4.E.10. Son of Sidney James Clenton and Victoria May Clenton, of Pelsall, Staffordshire, England. Epitaph: 'Rest In Peace'.

Fl/Sgt. William Joseph Browne. Heverlee War Cemetery. Grave 4.E.11. Born on the 25th of April 1907 in Longteach. Enlisted on the 06 December 1941. Son of Joseph (died 01st October 1964, age 90) and Ellen Browne (née Brennan - died 27th August 1947, age 58), of Moogerah, Queensland, Australia. Epitaph: 'Rest In Peace'.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to the Townley family, Air-27-1048/38/39 National Archives. Nachtjagd Combat Archive 1943 part two, Kracker Archive, other sources as quoted below:

KTY 26-10-2022

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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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