347/51 Squadron Halifax III LL590/MZ465 L8-Y/MH/Y Adj. E. Jouster / F/O. L. Wilson
Operation: Saarbrücken railway yards
Date: 13/14th January 1945
Unit: No. 347 and 51 Squadron. 4 Group
Type: Halifax III
Serial: LL590 / MZ465
Code: L8-L / MH-Y
Base: Elvington / Snaith
Location: Guerny, Northern France / RAF Ford Airfield, Sussex.
Pilot: Adj. Edmond Jean Jouzier C3870 FFAF Age 33. Killed
Fl/Eng: Adj. M. Humbert FFAF Survived
Nav: Cne. Robert Paul Brachet 000718 FFAF Age 25. Killed
Air/Bmr: Ltn. C. Habez FFAF Survived
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. R. Rigade FFAF Survived
Air/Gnr: Sgt. R. Memin FFAF Survived (1)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Robert Paul Malterre C15486 FFAF Age 25. Killed
Pilot: F/O. Leighton Wilson RAFVR Survived
Nav: P/O. Thomas Stanley Harris Whitehouse 189679 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Thomas Glyndor Parsons RAFVR Age 20. Survived (Died 2003)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. David Llewellyn Hewitt RAFVR Survived
Air/Bmr: P/O. David Hauber 189795 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. G.R. Cole RAFVR Survived
Air/Gnr: Sgt. R.A. Richardson RAFVR Survived
REASON FOR LOSS:
Reports differ on how these two aircraft who were returning back to England collided after a very accurate raid on the railway yards. Some say that LL590 was struck from behind by MZ465 and others say that LL590 flew across the front of MZ45. LL590 crew partially abandoned the aircraft before it crashed with 3 FFAF crew on board.
51 Squadron Halifax III MZ465 MH-Y (courtesy National Archives - via Michael Wright)
Seldom, if ever, during World War 2 did an RAF bomber land on an English airfield with more damage than No. 51 Squadron's Halifax III MZ465 "Y-Yorker" after its bombing attack on Saarbrücken on 13/14th January 1945.
Halifax III MZ465 Crew Left to right: Sgt. Thomas Glyndor Parsons, Sgt. G.R. Cole or Sgt. R.A. Richardson, F/O. Leighton Wilson, Sgt. G.R. Cole or Sgt. R.A. Richardson and Sgt. David Llewellyn Hewitt (Can you assist in identification of the air gunners?) Courtesy Mrs Kathleen Parsons, husband is the nephew of Sgt. Thomas Glyndor Parsons.
Nine feet of the nose was chopped completely off when the Halifax collided with another bomber, but it struggled back to RAF Ford Airfield, Sussex, England with only three of its flying instruments still working, to make a perfect landing. Some of the skin on the nose was bent round and gave some protection against the wind which whistled through the aircraft as it flew home at 7,000 feet.
The captain, Flying Officer Leighton Wilson, of Leicester with the rest of his crew were frozen as they struggled to keep the aircraft flying. (The navigator and the bomb-aimer, neither of whom were then wearing parachutes, had fallen out of the aircraft at the time of the collision).
The four engines continued to function perfectly after the collision, although the propellers were dented, probably by bits of wreckage which shook loose and flew off the fuselage. The radio was still working five minutes after the collision, but had to be shut off because of shorting, blue sparks were playing around the aircraft and there was danger of fire.
In that short five minutes, before the radio was cut off, the operator was able to send out an SOS which was received in England. As a result "Y-Yorker" was given special landing aids when it landed on an emergency airfield. The intercom was unserviceable as well as the ASI, the DR compass, and many other vital instruments for flying and navigation.
"Y-Yorker" dived 1,500 feet after the collision, with the pilot struggling to gain control. He managed to do this and brought the aircraft up to 11,000 feet again. At this height it stalled, but he managed to keep it at 7,000 feet flying back to the base.
(1) Sgt. Robert Memin FFAF died in Tours, France June 2011 - Age 91.
P/O. Thomas Whitehouse. The only commonwealth grave at Berthenonville Churchyard, Northern France. Son of Thomas and Edith Whitehouse, husband of Annie Louisa Whitehouse, of Oxenhope, Yorkshire, England.
P/O. David Hauber. St. Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen, France. Block. S, Plot 1. Row G, Grave 18. Son of Francis Albert and Dora Hauber, of Axminster, Devon, England.
Further information supplied by Neil Smith and Peter Gulliver 51 Squadron History Association. Also to Michael Wright for the Halifax photographs. In remembrance of all the crew that were killed.