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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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76 Squadron Crest
26.12.1944 No. 76 Squadron Halifax III MZ740 MP-R F/O. Devoe Woolf

Operation: St Vith, Belgium.

Date: 26th December 1944 (Tuesday)

Unit: No. 76 Squadron

Type: Halifax III

Serial: MZ740

Code: MP-R

Base: RAF Holme-on-Spalding Moor, Yorkshire

Location: Nassogne, near Luxumbourg

Pilot: F/O. Devoe Woolf J/86900 RCAF Age 21. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. John Shirra Gray 905574 RAFVR Age 26 Killed

Nav: F/O. Ralph Hay Emerson J/27577 RCAF Age 29 Killed

Air/Bmr: F/O. George Floyd J/24532 RCAF Age 33 Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: P/O. Ari Bergthor Clark J/91164 RCAF Age 21 Missing - believed killed

Air/Gnr: W/O. Thomas Robert William Smith 1273841 RAFVR Age 24. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Oscar Frederick Newton R/103037 RCAF Age 26. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Kenneth Maurice Mason RCAF Age 19. PoW No: Not known Camp: Stalag Luft Barth Vogelsang (L1)


Took off 12:52 hrs. from Holme-on-Spalding Moor to attack enemy troop positions near St Vith. 294 Aircraft -146 Lancasters, 136 Halifaxes, 12 Mosquitos - of all the bomber groups (except No.100 Group). This was the first time since mid-October that aircraft from all the bomber groups had joined together in one raid.

The bombing appeared to be concentrated and accurate. Halifax MZ740 was hit by Flak which completely shattered the nose section. Moments later, the rest of the Halifax crashed into woods near Nassogne,19 km SW of la Roche-Ardenne (Belgian Ardennes).

The only survivor was the mid-upper gunner Fl/Sgt. Kenneth Mason (1). 2 Halifaxes were lost from this operation, the other, a Halifax NR246 ZA-Y of 10 Squadron, piloted by F/O. Bernard Yates was hit by flak and plunged into the sea off the Kent coast near Margate, killing all seven crew.

Above: L-R: F/O. Devoe Woolf, Fl/Sgt. Oscar Frederick Newton, Fl/Sgt. Kenneth Maurice Mason, F/O. Ralph Hay Emerson, F/O. George Floyd, W/O. Thomas Robert William Smith, P/O. Ari Bergthor Clark. (Missing on this photo, Sgt. John Shirra Gray)

Lancaster PB237 (SR-M) was hit by flak over the target killing R/G 917861 Fl/Sgt John Henry Jackson, RAFVR. The skipper, 41884 Sq/Ldr. Trevor John Warner, ordered the crew to "prepare to jump". AUS/433201 Sgt Colin Donaghue, the "spare bod" Air Bomber jumped, spent 51 hours on the run before being captured. Warner landed the aircraft at Reims, France at 16:27 hrs.

Note: Fl/Sgt. Kenneth Maurice Mason from Chippawa, Ontario, Canada. He passed away on the 24th December 2007 age 82.

Burial details:

F/O. Devoe Woolf. Hotton War Cemetery. Grave III. C. 7. Born in Cardston, Alberta, 28th August 1922, the son of Andrew Bates and Mary, née Wright, Woolf. He came from a large family (4 brothers, 4 sisters). He enlisted in the RCAF 29th July 1942. Married to the former Persia Newby and had a son named Phillip.

Above: newspaper clipping submitted by Kevin Woolf - January 2018

Sgt. John Shirra Gray. Heverlee War Cemetery. Coll. grave 5. A. 5-7. Son of George William and Jane Gray, stepson of Annie Gray, of Glasgow, Scotland.

F/O. George Floyd. Nassogne Communal Cemetery. North West Part. Son of Phillip and Lavina Floyd, husband of Margaret Whyte Floyd, of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

F/O. Ralph Hay Emerson. Heverlee War Cemetery. Grave 12.E.9. Son of Malcolm and Ethel Emerson, husband of Eleanor Irene Emerson, of Markham, Ontario, Canada.

P/O. Ari Bergthor Clark. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 249. Born 10th February, 1917 in Foam Lake, Saskatchewan, the son of Charles August and Jonina Gudbjorg née Thorsteinson, Clark. Enlisted in the RCAF, Winnipeg, 5th September, 1941.

W/O. Thomas Robert William Smith. Heverlee War Cemetery. Coll grave 5. A. 5-7. Son of William and Alice Smith, husband of Sylvia Marie Smith, of Harborne, Birmingham, England.

Fl/Sgt. Oscar Frederick Newton. Heverlee War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 5. A. 5-7. Son of Joseph Oscar and Bessie Newton, of Havelock, Ontario, Canada, husband of Myrtle Elizabeth Newton, of Havelock, Canada.

Researched by Mike Harrison for relatives of the crew. With thanks to the following: The Inmemories Project, The RAF Mod UK. Other sources as quoted below. Also thanks to Dave Champion for further crew details and photograph. In January 2018 the nephew of the pilot, Kevin Woolf contacted us with the newspaper clipping as shown.

KTY 31.03.2016 Further information/photo added.

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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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