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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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Bomber Command Crest
01.05.1943 No. 1663 H.C.U. Halifax V DG408 Sgt. Eric F. Williamson

Operation: Training

Date: 1st May 1943 (Saturday)

Unit: No: 1663 HCU (Heavy Conversion Unit)

Type: Halifax V

Serial: DG408

Base: RAF Rufforth, Yorkshire

Location: English Channel, off Brest, France

Pilot: Sgt. Eric Ford Williamson 815223 RAF Age 22. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Clive Richard Leonard Thornton 577022 RAF Age 18. Killed

Nav: Sgt. Wilfred John Pelham 1397020 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Nav: Sgt. Dennis Charles Butlin 547514 RAF Age ? Killed

Air/Bmr: Sgt. Dennis William Suffling 1388152 RAFVR Age ? Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Allan John Dunn 1312809 RAFVR Age 27. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Henry Hinett 1520789 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Hunter 652116 RAFVR Age 22. Killed


Took off at 15:20 hrs on a cross country training exercise.

No further details as to what happened, with no Luftwaffe claims having been established for shooting this down (so far). It is possible that due to the probable navigational errors that they were brought down by flak over the French coast. All the bodies were recovered at various places along the French Coast.

1663 Heavy Conversion Unit Halifax V (courtesy IWM)

The body of Sgt. Dennis Butlin was eventually washed ashore on the 2nd June near La Pulente on the island of Jersey.

Newspaper cutting describing the funeral service - very interesting as it shows the stamp from the PoW Camp that it was sent from (courtesy Martin and Christine Jermey)

Sgt. Dennis Charles Butlin shown with his wife (courtesy Martin and Christine Jermey)

The funeral of Sgt. Holden and Sgt. Butlin (courtesy Martin and Christine Jermey)

Left: Sgt. Dennis William Suffling with his younger brother, Terry and mother Alice. (courtesy Amy Woodcock)

On the 5th June his and the body of a Sgt. Abraham Holden from 431 Squadron lay in state in the Hospital Chapel with hundreds of islanders visiting the coffins to pay their last respects, prior to a service on the morning of 6th June.

The coffins were then draped with the Union Jack before being taken to the cemetery.

Again, hundreds of people lined the route but the Luftwaffe prevented them entering the gates of the cemetery.

The Germans provided a full military funeral for Sgt. Holden, together with the other crew member.

Wreaths were laid by the German airforce, the bailiff of Jersey.

In fact there were so many other wreaths that two large lorries were laid on to carry them to the graveside.

Later in the day thousands of islanders filed past the graves in respect and the Germans did nothing to stop them!

Sgt. John Hunter and his grave (courtesy Jackie Campbell via Kate Tame)

Burial details:

Sgt. Eric Ford Williamson. Bayeux War Cemetery Grave XVIII.F.13. Son of Percy Henry Williamson and of Louise May Williamson (nee Ford), of Nottingham, adopted son and nephew of Elizabeth Ford, of Nottingham, England.

Sgt. Clive Richard Leonard Thornton. Barneville-Sur-Mer Communal Cemetery. Son of Richard Alexander and Annie Irene Thornton, of Merstham, Redhill, Surrey, England.

Sgt. Dennis Charles Butlin. St. Helier War Cemetery, Howard-Davis Park, Grave 1. From Leeds, Yorkshire, England.

(Grave of Sgt. Butlin shown left, courtesy Richard Allenby)

Sgt. Wilfred John Pelham. Bayeux War Cemetery Grave VIII.C.5. Son of Frederick Charles and Mary Selina Pelham, of Wyboston, Bedfordshire, England.

Right: The younger brother of Sgt. Suffling, Terry, visiting his brothers grave.

Sgt. Dennis William Suffling. Bayeux War Cemetery Grave VIII.C.3. Son of Bertie Reginald and Alice Rebecca Suffling, of Southtown, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England.

Sgt. Allan John Dunn. Bayeux War Cemetery Grave VIII.C.10. Son of John Joseph and Annie Bessie Matilda Dunn, of Sandleheath, Hampshire, England.

Sgt. Henry Hinett. Bayeux War Cemetery Grave VIII.C.4. Son of Henry and Eliza Hinett, of Sandbach, Cheshire., England.

Sgt. John Hunter. Siouville Churchyard. Son of Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Hunter, of Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Researched for Martin and Christine Jermey (relatives of Sgt Butlin) and also to Jackie Campbell, niece of Sgt John Hunter. With thanks to Kate Tame (Aircrew Remembered, researcher and specialist genealogist) for her ongoing research into this crew, also to Amy Woodcock for photo and details on Sgt. Suffling - June 2017. Richard Allenby (Grave photographs 2013) who runs the website - Yorkshire Aircraft, detailing Air crashes in Yorkshire. Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol's. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vol's. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Pages of Outstanding Interest
History Airborne Forces •  Soviet Night Witches •  Bomber Command Memories •  Abbreviations •  Gardening Codenames
CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
Concept of Colonial Discrimination  •  Unauthorised First Long Range Mustang Attack
RAAF Bomb Aimer Evades with Maquis •  SOE Heroine Nancy Wake •  Fane: Motor Racing PRU Legend
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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