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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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37 Squadron Crest
37 Squadron Wellington IA N2888 LF-A F/O. Peter Arabin Wimberley

Operation: Wilhelmshaven Harbour, North Sea

Date: 18th December 1939 (Monday)

Unit: No. 37 Squadron

Type: Wellington 1A

Serial: N2888

Code: LF-A

Base: RAF Feltwell, Norfolk

Location: North Sea - exact location unknown

Pilot: F/O. Peter Arabin Wimberley 39592 RAF Age ? PoW. No. 633. Camps: Stalag Luft I - Barth, Germany. Stalag Luft III - Poland (1)

Obs: Sgt. Leslie Alfred Sheppard 580702 RAF Age 20. Missing

Nav: P/O. Michael Radcliffe 41063 RAF Age ? Missing (2)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: AC1. Alexander Maxwell Hill 544752 RAF Age 19. Missing

Air/Gnr: LAC. Alfred William Walter Lane 541531 RAF Age ? Missing

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Wellington N2888 took off at 09.40hrs with six other No. 37 Squadron Wellingtons from RAF Feltwell to carry out a raid at 14.000ft on Wilhelmshaven harbour to attack any battleships or cruisers. Having rendezvous at 10.30hrs over Yarmouth No. 37 Squadron Wellingtons flew in a diamond formation with 9 aircraft from both No. 149 Squadron and No. 9 Squadron.

The formation were attacked South of Wilhelmshaven at 12.30hrs by approx. 30/40 enemy aircraft and the attack continued until reaching Wilhelmshaven when heavy AA fire was encountered from both shore-based batteries and Navel craft. No suitable enemy battleships or cruisers were seen. After leaving the Wilhelmshaven area the aircraft were followed for some 70/80 miles to the German coast by the enemy fighters. A total of 12 aircraft were shot down on this operation.

The picture above shows the following aircrew who were all prisoners of war (courtesy John Nunn, Heritage Centre in Long Melford, Suffolk)

L-R: 1: Sgt. Herbert Ruse 564376 RAF 37 Squadron Wellington IA N2936 PoW No: 13077 Camp: Stalag Luft Barth Vogelsang and Stalag Kopernikus. 19TH December 1939.

2: F/O. Peter Arabin Wimberley 39582 37 Squadron Wellington Ia N2888 PoW No: 633 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria 18th December 1939.

3: Lt. R.A. Thurston 1071997 803 Squadron Aircraft: Skua L2873 - Fleet Air Arm PoW No: 222789 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria and Stalag Lamsdorf. 14th September 1939.

4: F/O. R.D. Baughan 37922 144 Squadron Hampden I L4126 PoW No: 634 Camp Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria. 30th September 1939.

5: W/Cdr. Harry Melville Arbuthnot Day 05175 RAF 57 Squadron Blenheim IV L1138 PoW No: 37 Camp Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria. 13th October 1939. Part of the great escape and later spared by Hitler himself as it was thought that he was well known and possible “consequences” could emerge if he was murdered.

6: F/O. Michael James O’Brien Casey 39024 RAF 57 Squadron Blenheim I L1141 PoW No: 24 Camp Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria. 16th October 1939. Part of the great escape and later murdered by Lux (killed during the siege of Breslau May 1945) and Scharpwinkel (“died” in a Soviet prison in May 1948).

7: Lt. Guy. B.K. Griffiths 803 Squadron Aircraft L2957 Skua - Fleet Air Arm PoW No: 635 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria and Stalag Lamsdorf. 14th September 1939.

Left: Airmen Sons Saved (courtesy The Daily Mirror Friday, December 29, 1939)

A man walked into a butchers shop in Long Melford, Suffolk yesterday and asked 'Did you get your brother's message last night?' The butcher knew that his brother, Sergeant Herbert Ruse, had been listed as 'missing' after an RAF raid on Heligoland.

But the customer told him that in a broadcast from Hamburg, as reported in the later edition of yesterday's Daily Mirror, Sergeant Ruse had sent a greeting to his mother. Mr Ruse hurried from the shop to tell his mother that the boy she mourned was alive and well in a German prison camp. Last night Mrs Ruse told the Daily Mirror 'I saw my son the night before he was sent out on the raid, but he did not tell me anything about it' It has been an unhappy Christmas for us, but knowing that he is alive has changed everything.

Another mother did not hear the German broadcast. Her son Flying Officer Peter Wimberley, twenty, of Westbourne Avenue, Emsworth, Hants has also been shot down in the raid. She did not know whether she would ever see him again. But now she knows that he is alive and only slightly wounded. 'Not until she opened her paper this morning did she know that Peter was safe' a family member of the family said.

Situated on the island of Wangerooge the Germans had been tracking the bomber force for many miles using the experimental early warning Freya radar system and this information was passed on to the German fighters. Obt. Helmut Lent was credited with the loss of Wellington N2888 5km North of Borkum. (See Kracker Luftwaffe Archive on this site) The total loss for No. 37 Squadron from the operation: 21 killed, 1 injured who died of his injuries and 4 made PoW. Only one aircraft from 37 Squadron returned to base.


Wellington N2904
Wellington N2935
Wellington N2936
Wellington N2889

(1) Peter Arabin Wimberley was granted a short service commission as Acting Pilot Officer on the 8th March 1937 and was confirmed in appointment as Pilot Officer on the 21 December 1937. F/O. Wimberley was taken PoW on the 18th December 1939 and on the 27th December a German station broadcast messages from British airmen who had been taken prisoners of war in the battle of Heligoland Bight. F/O. P.A. Wimberley was one of those airmen to broadcast a message. 1940 - 21 September while still a PoW F/O. Wimberley was promoted to the rank of Fl/Lt. In 1948 Squadron Leader P.A. Wimberley took part in Exercise "Dawn" leading eight Lincolns from RAF Bimbrook. July 1953 Sq/Ldr. P.A. Wimberley attended a celebration of 101 Squadron's "36 years of existence" having been the Squadron's Commanding Officer in 1948. On the 11th November 1958 Squadron Leader P.A. Wimberley retired from the RAF. Peter Arabin Wimberley died in 1972 aged 53. Peter's brother Michael Arabin Wimberley also served in the RAF No. 78 Squadron and lost his life on the 24th March 1944 (Halifax LW510)

Left: Runnymede Memorial Panels (archive)

Burial details:

Sgt. Leslie Alfred Sheppard. Runnymede Memorial, Surrey. Panel 2. Son of Thomas P. and Florence Ethel Sheppard of Eastleigh, Hampshire, England.

P/O. Michael Radcliffe. Runnymede Memorial, Surrey. Panel 1. No further information about next of kin. (2) Michael Radcliffe was confirmed as Pilot Officer on the 27th June 1939 and was posted to No. 9 Squadron from No. 214 Squadron on the 4th December 1939. He is remembered on the Charterhouse School Memorial

AC1. Alexander Maxwell Hill. Runnymede Memorial, Surrey. Panel 3. Son of Sq/Ldr. Charles Batterby Hill RAFVR and Edna Hill of Kensington, London, England.

LAC. Alfred William Walter Lane. Runnymede Memorial, Surrey. Panel 2. No further information about next of kin - can you assist?

Researched by Kate Tame, Aircrew Remembered for all the relatives and friends of the crew. Acknowledgements:

KT. Page updated with PoW picture and names. 05.03.2017

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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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