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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 139 Squadron
07/08.05.1941 No 139 Squadron Blenheim IV P4860 XD-P Sgt. William James (Bill) Middleton

Mission: Night Shipping Sweep

Date: 7/8th May 1941 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit: No 139 Squadron

Type: Blenheim IV

Serial: P4860

Code: XD-P

Base: RAF Horsham St. Faith, Norfolk

Location: Wadden Sea, Netherlands

Pilot: Sgt William James (Bill) Middleton. 968144. RAFVR Age? Wounded. POW No 26857. Camp 344 (1)

Nav: Sgt Kenneth Robert (Bob) Coles. MBE. 751124. RAFVR Age? Wounded. POW No 6 Camps 18A. L2, 8B, L3, L6 and 357 (2)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt H R (Bob) Hale. 755144. RAFVR Age? Wounded. POW No 31. Camp 18A. L2, 8B, L3, L6 and 357 (3)


     RAF Horshan-St. Faith, Norfolk (courtesy American Air Museum in Britain) Blenheim IV (courtesy Imperial War Museum) 

                                                                      Map showing the area of the crash in the Wadden Sea, Netherlands


Took off at 22.04hrs. from RAF Horsham St Faith for night shipping strikes along the Dutch coast. Flying at a very low level the tail wheel of the aircraft hit the water causing it to flip over several times and crashed into the sea at 00.13hrs. The injured crew eventually reached the shore using the aircraft's dinghy only to be met by some Germans and were taken to a Luftwaffe hospital. The aircraft was recovered by the Dutch Air Force in 1979


     Guard standing outside the prisoner of war camp and one of the watch towers at Sagan (courtesy Imperial War Museum)                           
Camp 334. Stalag 344, Lamsdorf Hospital, Germany. Camp 18A. Stalag VIIIA, Wolfsberg, Austrian Tyrol, Camp L2. Stalag L2, Litzmannstadt, Poland, Camp 8B. Stalag VIIIB, Lamsdorf, Germany. Camp L3. Stalag Luft 3, Sagan and Balaria, Germany (now Poland), Camp L6. Stalag Luft 6, Heydekrug, Lithuania, Camp 357. Stalag 357, Kopernikus, Poland

(1) Sgt William James (Bill) Middleton was repatriated in 1943. Supplement to the London Gazette 30th January 1945 - RAFVR General Duties Branch. Appointment to Commission as Pilot Officer on probation 5th December 1944. 968144 William James Middleton (189099) Supplement to the London Gazette 13th July 1945. RAFVR General Duties Branch. Confirmation and promotion. Pilot Officer (prob) confirmed in appointment and to be Flying Officers 5th June 1945. W J Middleton 1890990. It is believed that Bill Middleton came from Aberdeen

Prisoners of war dividing up the potato peelings at Stalag 357 Fallingbostel (courtesy National Library NZ)

(2) Sgt Kenneth Robert (Bob) Coles MBE was also known as "Smudge" Coles. He was a persistent POW escaper and was awarded the MBE as per Fourth Supplement to The London Gazette of Friday 28th June 1946. The citation reads - "Warrant Officer Kenneth Robert Coles 751124 RAFVR No 139 Squadron. Warrant Officer Coles was captured and taken to a Luftwaffe hospital at Amsterdam after his aircraft had crashed into the sea on the 8th April 1941. A few days later he and a friend, dressed in uniforms stolen from the Luftwaffe patients, climbed through a window on the first floor and over the boundary wall, making their way to the outskirts of the city. They were recaptured the next day having been betrayed by a man who had offered to help them. In June 1941 when being transferred to Litzmanstadt by rail, he and four others prised open the door of the truck and jumped from the train while it was travelling at about 30 m.p.h. For the next ten days they walked towards Switzerland, eventually reaching Regensburg, where they planned to steal an aircraft, but this proved impracticable, so they continued walking south. On the 7th July they were recaptured by the police while attempting to board a goods train, and taken to Stalag Luft VIIIB at Lamsdorf. During the summer of 1942 Warrant Officer Coles took part in several tunnelling operations which were discovered before completion. He also assisted the escape committee by making dummy heads to cover the absence of escapers, and he did valuable work in reproducing identification papers etc. Warrant Officer Coles and a friend escaped from a marching column on 15th April 1945 and 3 days later made contact with the Allied forces". Bob returned to Holland to be reunited with his recovered aircraft in 1998. In 2002 Bob returned to Amsterdam to visit the building (Luftwaffe Hospital) that he, Bill Middleton and Bob Hale had been admitted to in 1941. Sadly Kenneth Robert (Bob) Coles died on the Isle of Wight on July 12th 2013 aged 94

Prisoners of war hard at work in Lambsdorf camp (courtesy Australian War Memorial)

(3) Sgt H R (Bob) Hale. It is believed that Bob Hale came from Coventry. No further information as yet

Researched by: Kate Tame for aircrewremembered and for all the relatives and friends of the crew

Acknowledgements: With special thanks to  Isle of Wight - County Press, American Air Museum in Britain 

KT August 13, 2015

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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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