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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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35
35 Squadron Halifax III HX270 Fl/Lt. James Henry Wright DFC

Operation: Frankfurt

Date: 20/21st December 1943 (Monday/Tuesday)

Unit: No. 35 Squadron (motto: Uno animo agimus - 'We act with one accord')

Type: Halifax III

Serial: HX270

Code: TL-M

Base: RAF Graveley, Huntingdon

Location: Wellen, Belgium

Pilot: Fl/Lt. James Henry Wright DFC. NZ/414717 RNZAF Age 23. Killed (1)

Fl/Eng: Fl/Sgt. William McRae Sinclair 169194 RAFVR PoW No: 269879 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan (2)

Nav: Fl/Lt. Sydney Colin Rive Mackie DFC NZ/413713 RNZAF Age 23. Killed (1)

Air/Bmr: P/O. Harold Matthews DFC. 149150 RAFVR PoW No: 4797 Camp: Stalag Luft Bankan, Upper Silesia. (1) (2)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. William Robert John Dingle DFM. 169138 RAFVR PoW - Stalag Muhlberg (2) (3)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Winston Barrington 1261885 RAFVR PoW No: 270008 Camp: Stalag Muhlberg (2) (4)

Air/Gnr: P/O. Thomas Andrew Robson DFC. NZ/414893 RNZAF Age 29. Killed


We are indebted to Medals Reunited of New Zealand and Plane Hunters of Belgium for assistance on this article.


REASON FOR LOSS:

A major raid with 650 'heavies' targeting Frankfurt, the weather conditions were favourable over the Continent and, therefore, the Nachtjagd opposition was on a very large scale. The 3. JD Laufende Reportage controller at Deelen opened as early as 17:2 hrs, remarking 'Hostiles now east of Yarmouth, heights 6,000-7,500 metres', followed seven minutes later by 'numerous hostiles 65 km west of The Hague. Course east'.

21 aircraft from 35 squadron took part with HX270 taking off at 17:30 hrs.

(One had to jettison their bomb load due to faulty electronic) Halifax HR847 TL-L flown by F/O. Peter Richard Bales 150127 RAFVR. He was listed as missing believed killed on an operation to Magdeburg with all other 6 crew members, flying Halifax II LV787 TL-K.

Shortly after take-off their airborne, ground scanning radar system (H2S) failed so that they were unable to drop their target markers. Despite this, they continued on to the target area.

No problems all the way to the target and they dropped their 6 x 1,000lb. GP bombs and target indicators and made for home for their customary egg and bacon breakfast. It was not to be.

Shortly after crossing the Belgian border at around 20,000 ft one of the inner engines inexplicably caught fire and despite valiant efforts to extinguish the fire the crew were unsuccessful, the flames spread to the main fabric of the aeroplane close to where the marker flares were stored, the pilot had no option but to give the order to bail-out.

P/O. Matthews, Fl/Sgt. Dingle, Sgt. Barrington and Fl/Sgt. Sinclair survived the crash and was captured, interrogated and imprisoned for the remainder of the war. It appears that two bodies were recovered from the wrecked aircraft but although he had baled out, Fl/Sgt. Mackie his chute failed to deploy and his body was recovered a couple of days later in a field.

The squadron lost another aircraft in the operation:

Halifax HK328 TL-J flown by Sq/Ldr. Douglas Julian Sale J/9929 RCAF (shown left). On returning to base and during the preparations to land a target indicator flare caught fire. The pilot ordered the crew to bale out which apart from the air gunner, Fl/Lt. Robert Lionel Lamb 82718 RAFVR they all did. Sq/Ldr. Sale immediately landed the blazing Halifax which exploded and destroyed the aircraft at 22:17 hrs.

Sq/Ldr. Sale DSO and bar, DFC and Fl/Lt. Lamb were part of a crew on Halifax III HX325.

(1) Awards: 'One night in September 1943, Fl/Lt Wright, and P/O's. Mackie and Matthews were pilot, navigator and air bomber respectively of an aircraft detailed to attack Mannheim. The operation demanded a high degree of skill and the success achieved reflects the greatest credit on the efforts of these members of the aircraft crew who executed their task faultlessly. They have taken part in many previous operations and have always displayed courage, determination and devotion to duty of a high order'.

(2) Fl/Sgt. William McRae Sinclair - Evaded initially but captured at Liege on the 6th January 1944. P/O. Harold Matthews DFC - Evaded initially - captured at Dinant in May 1944. Fl/Sgt. William Robert John Dingle DFM - Evaded initially - captured at Liege on the 6th January 1944. Sgt. Winston Barrington Evaded initially - captured at Liege 24th December 1944.

(3) William Robert John Dingle Born on the 05th November 1920 at home in Stithians, Cornwall, England. The son of William Dingle and Miriam Jane Dingle, (née Reed). Educated locally at the Helston Grammar School and on completion of his education in 1936 he secured a position with the General Post Offce as a sorting clerk and telephonist. Due to the war he enlisted on the 10th October 1940 as an air-craftsman. The following year he re-mustered as a Wireless Operator Air Gunner undergoing training at No 2 Signals School from 01st August 1941 and No 8 Air Gunnery School on the 16th July 1942. On the 31st August 1942 Temporary Sergeant Dingle was posted to No 11 Operational Training Unit where he linked up with three New Zealanders who together formed the nucleus of a bomber crew. On the 19th February 1943 they were posted to 78 Squadron based at Linton-on-Ouse, near York, after spending two and a half months at 1652 Conversion Unit, Marston Moor, training on Halifax bombers. Five operational sorties later on the 20th April 1943, Bob and his crew were posted to No 35 Squadron based at Graveley, Huntingdonshire.

By mid-December 1943 Bob had flown 38 successful missions including six trips to Berlin. By then the crew was highly experienced, highly decorated for awards to Bob’s crew and five, including Bo, had been commissioned, though he was still flying as a Flight Sergeant.

Immediately post-war Bob served with a number of conversion units before joining 46 Squadron as a Flight Lieutenant fying Dakotas out of Stoney Cross. He was demobbed in late November 1946 and re-joined the GPO, taking an accountancy course at Bristol. In 1949 he came to Australia, securing a free berth on the MV Somersetshire. Sponsored by an aunt, who had settled in Grifth after the First World War, she had secured for him a job with the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Commission. On arrival Bob took one look at the set-up and left for Tasmania. He landed at Burnie where he was ofered three jobs - as an insurance agent in Hobart.

A magazine article about Australia’s sub-Antarctic islands - Heard Island and Macquarie Island – fred his interest so that when in March 1950 Te Mercury, Tasmania’s daily newspaper, carried an advertisement from the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology looking for trainee Weather Observers he applied with the express intention of going south.

He underwent a training course in Melbourne and was posted to RAAF Forest Hills near Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, to gain experience. January 1951 saw him on board HMAS Labuan on his way to Heard Island as part of the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions (ANARE) where he spent his frst winter south. With hindsight, Heard Island was Bob’s favourite Antarctic place – it had it all – the mixture of wildlife and vegetation, ice and snow, coastal and mountainous scenery. Whilst there Bob, Nils Lied and Ken Brown completed an epic 16-day trek, circumnavigating the island while doing a seal count (Law & Béchervaise 1957). Tis was a self-supporting expedition, without radio contact – for which they had to carry all their personal equipment, food, cooking stove and utensils, fuel and camping gear. In 1951 the glaciers radiating out from Big Ben fowed down to the sea. Since then the glaciers have retreated inland as a result of global climate change, so that large pro-glacial lakes or lagoons have formed on the land between the glaciers’ snouts and the sea. Te 1951 trip would now be impossible on foot as well as being precluded under health and safety considerations.

Back in Australia at Port Hedland Bob volunteered and was accepted for a second Antarctic tour on Macquarie Island but he was asked to defer this appointment and be part of the team to establish Australia’s frst Continental Antarctic Base, to be called Mawson Station during the 1953–54 summer. In February 1954 Mawson Station was established on an isolated outcrop of rock in MacRobertson Land. Bob was the sole Weather Observer in the party of ten (pl. 3). Te party was relieved just over a year later and in January 1956 the London Gazette announced that:

'The Queen has been graciously pleased, on the advice of Her Majesty’s Australian Ministers, to approve the following awards of the Polar Medal for good services to all members of the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition to Mawson, 1954–55'.

Bob served as a weather observer on Norfolk Island until April 1973 and then spent the next two and a half years attached to the Special Services Section of the Tasmanian Regional Bureau in Hobart. He resigned from the Australian Meteorological Service in December 1975, aged 55 and retired to Swansea, thus beginning a long and happy retirement. Periodically he would take of on bushwalking trips around Tasmania (pl. 8), and while at home he enjoyed listening to his extensive collection of classical symphony and choral music on tape. He passed away in 2016, age 95 at the May Shaw Health Centre, Swansea, Tasmania.

(Information courtesy Herbert J.G. Dartnall)

(4) It was reported that the mother of Sgt. Winston Barrington stayed with her son whilst he was a PoW! In 1935, with her schoolboy son Winston, she went to live in Germany. Winston returned to England in 1938, but appendicitis stopped Mrs Barrington returning to England at the outbreak of war.

A four-part TV series was made in 1985 called 'Jenny's War' (see video below). More can be read about this on the 35 squadron website.

He made friends with an Australian during his stay at Stage Muhlberg. Fl/Sgt. 'Jack' John Robert Bell 404137 RAAF. Shot down on 216 squadron Bombay L5811 on the 23rd January 1942, crashing at Antelat, Libya. They were tasked to deliver supplies and personnel when they were hit by anti-aircraft fire.

The crew:

Pilot: Fl/Sgt. James Nicholas Gordon Bateman 404137 RAFVR (PoW No. 2493 - Stalag Luft Sagan), Pilot: F/O. Frank Edward Wilcox 84295 RAFBR, Obs; Sgt. Anthony Edward Carter 402012 RAAF (killed), W/Op: John Robert Bell 404137, Fl/Mech: AC1. William Hutchison 1125060 RAFVR (PoW No: 77208 - Stalag Lamsdorf), Fl/Mech: LAC. Leonard David Llewellyn 650846 RAFVR (PoW No. 252599 - Stalag Hartmansdorf Chemnitz), Sgt. James Humphrey Price R/67718 RCAFA (PoW No: 39916 - Stalag Luft Heydekrug), Fl/Sgt. R M Wilson (PoW - No further details)

A book was written by Marcus Fielding. 'Jack Bells War' Publisher: Echo Books ISBN: 9780648074595 in 2017. He also gave an interview for the IBCC - see links below.





Burial details:

Originally buried in Brusthem Cemetery in Sint-Truiden (Graves 370 and 371). Identified and reinterred on the 25th March 1947. No epitaphs on graves, for explanation read more.

Fl/Lt. James Henry Wright DFC. Heverlee War Cemetery. Collective grave 5. B. 20-22. Born on the 28th September 1920 in Masterton. Educated at Wairapa Haigh School and Massey Agricultural College in Palmerston North. A receiving clerk for Masterton Co-op Dairy Company. Enlisted at Levin as a pilot under training on the 16th August 1941. With No. 3 Elementary Flying Training School. 27th September 1941. Embarked for Canada on the 17th November 1941. Pilot badge awarded on the 27th March 1942 and promoted to sergeant. Embarked for England on the 01st of May 1942. With No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre 13th May 1942. With 11 Operational Training Unit 18th August 1942. 1652 Heavy Conversion Unit late November 1942. Joined 78 squadron 19th February 1943, carrying out 7 operational sorties. Joined 35 squadron 20th April 1943 and carried out 33 operational sorties. Commissioned on the 19th April 1943.

Son of Scottish born parents, Frederick Henry Wright (died 26th November 1970, age 86) and of Agnes Wright (nee Macdonald - died 16th October 1949, age 64), of Masterton, Wellington, New Zealand.

Fl/Lt. Sydney Colin Rive Mackie DFC. Heverlee War Cemetery. Collective grave 5. B. 20-22. Born on the 26th August 1920 in Masterton. Educated at Takapuna High School and Auckland University College. A school teacher for the Education Department of Wellington. Enlisted at Levin as an air observer under training on the 06th July 1941. Embarked for Canada on the 07th October 1941. Air Observer badge awarded on the 28th February 1942 and promoted to sergeant. Embarked for England on the 01st of May 1942. With No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre 13th May 1942. With 11 Operational Training Unit 18th August 1942. 1652 Heavy Conversion Unit late November 1942. Joined 78 squadron 19th February 1943, carrying out 5 operational sorties. Joined 35 squadron 20th April 1943 and carried out 32 operational sorties. Commissioned on the 08th July 1943.

Son of Sydney Frederick (died 1956, age 77) and Margaret Irene Mackie (née Rive - married December 1919, died 1974, age 76), of 73 Vauxhall Road, Devonport, Auckland, New Zealand.

P/O. Thomas Andrew Robson DFC. Heverlee War Cemetery. Collective grave 5. B. 20-22. Born on the 12th March 1914 in Christchurch. Educated at Christchurch Boys High School and the School of Art, Christchurch. Insurance agent for T and G Mutual Life Assurance Society, Christchurch. Enlisted at Levin as an air gunner under training on the 31st August 1941. Embarked for Canada on the 20th October 1941. Air Gunner badge awarded on the 25th May 1942 and promoted to sergeant.. Embarked for England on the 14th of June 1942. With No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre 25th June 1942. With 11 Operational Training Unit 18th August 1942. 1652 Heavy Conversion Unit late November 1942. Joined 78 squadron 19th February 1943, carrying out 9 operational sorties. Joined 35 squadron 20th April 1943 and carried out 30 operational sorties. Commissioned on the 19th July 1943.

Son of Francis Henry (died 13th June 1965, age 76) and Evelyn Agnes Wllson Robson (née Davie - died 21st May 1984, age 90), of Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand.

Part one 'Jenny's War'.


Part two 'Jenny's War'.


The above videos are courtesy of HTV in association with Columbia Pictures Television. Directed and written by Steve Gethers.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to the extensive research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, New Zealand Cenotaph, Weekly News of New Zealand, Medals Reunited of New Zealand, Bygone Travel Tales, IBCC, Air Museum of New Zealand, Australian Antarctic Programme, Museum of Transport and Technology, Plane Hunters of Belgium, Auckland, National Archive, 35 Squadron.

Other sources as quoted below:

KTY 20-12-2022

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Acknowledgements
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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