Daily Archives: December 22, 2014

Eric Wilkes, Navigator – Bruhns crew. Request for information

Eric portrait

Sgt. Eric Arthur Wilkes, RAFVR 1575513, Navigator with the Bruhns crew. Lost without trace February 24th 1944 whilst mining in the Kiel Bay area.

Many thanks to Helen for reaching out to us regarding information about her Great Uncle, Eric Wilkes, Navigator with Henry Bruhn’s crew, all of whom were lost on the night of the 22nd of February 1944 on a Gardening Op to Kiel Bay.

Like many relatives, Helen knows very little about Eric’s time with the Squadron and it was quite humbling to hear back from her after I had sent the Op history below, to realise that this was more of Eric’s Wartime career than any of the family knew of.

As always in these request for information posts, fingers crossed that someone, perhaps another relative of the crew might see this and be able to tell us all a little more about the Bruhns crew.

The Bruhns crew arrives from 1651 Conversion Unit:
NZ42367. F/S. PIL. BRUHNS, H. Posted from 1651 C.U., w.e.f. 3/1/44. (Authy.P/N.3G/3580/43 dtd. 20/12/43)
NZ421672. Sgt. A/B. BUTLER, L. Posted from 1651 C.U., w.e.f. 3/1/44. (Authy.P/N.3G/3580/43 dtd. 20/12/43)
1575513. SGT. NAV. WILKES, E. 1395702. SGT. W/AIR. SUMMERS, W. 1601839. SGT. F/ENG. HARRY, J. 1392121. SGT. A/G HALL,R. Posted from 1651 C.U. w.e.f. 3/1/44. (Authy. P/N.3G/3580/43 dated 23/12/44)
AUS447521. SGT. A/G. SAWTELL, A. Posted from 1651 C.U. w.e.f. 3/1/44 (Authy. P/N. 3G/3580/43 dtd. 22/12/43).

Harold Bruhns undertook 2 ‘2nd Dickie’ Ops before becoming skipper of his own crew. On the 6th of January 1944 he flew with S/L James Climie, Gardening in the Gironde Estuary and 8 days later on the 16th of January with David Gibb’s crew to a ‘Special Target’.

4 days later, the Bruhns crew began their operational tour with 75(NZ) Squadron.

20/01/1944 – Mining off the Frisian Islands
Seven aircraft were detailed to carry out the above operation with mines of 1500 lbs. One aircraft was withdrawn but the remainder successfully dropped their mines in the allotted area. No opposition was met and the trip was uneventful. The weather was good and visibility clear except for slight sea haze. Navigation was excellent.

Stirling Mk.III BK695 AA-N (9)

F/S Harold Henry Bruhns, RNZAF NZ42367 – Pilot.
Sgt. Eric Arthur Wilkes, RAFVR 1575513 – Navigator.
Sgt. Laurie Licence Butler, RNZAF NZ421672 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Woolf Jack Summers, RAFVR 1395702 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Piers Trevor Stevens, RAFVR 1813627 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Robert Ewen Hall, RAFVR 1392121 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S Arthur Hertley Sawtell, RAAF AUS.417521 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 17:00 – Landed 20:00
Flight Time 03:00

21/01/1944 – Attack against a Special Target
Twenty aircraft were detailed to attack the above target with bombs of 500 lbs. All of the aircraft successfully dropped their bombs in the target area, large bomb bursts and some fires being observed. Very little opposition was encountered and this proved to be negligible. The weather was good with no cloud and clear visibility. Navigation was excellent.

Stirling Mk.III BK695 AA-N (10)
Listed as BK605, but no record of this A/C – I suspect its actually BK695

F/S Harold Henry Bruhns, RNZAF NZ42367 – Pilot.
Sgt. Eric Arthur Wilkes, RAFVR 1575513 – Navigator.
Sgt. Laurie Licence Butler, RNZAF NZ421672 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Woolf Jack Summers, RAFVR 1395702 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Piers Trevor Stevens, RAFVR 1813627 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Robert Ewen Hall, RAFVR 1392121 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Arthur Hertley Sawtell, RAAF AUS.417521 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 18:20 – Landed 21:30
Flight Time 03:10

25/01/1944 – Attack against a Special Target
Twenty aircraft were detailed to attack the above target with bombs of 500 lbs. One aircraft failed to take-off, & four brought their bombs back. The remainder however, successfully dropped their bombs in the target area. This operation did not appear to be very successful, the bombing being rather scattered, some large explosions were seen, however. The weather was good with no cloud and clear visibility. Navigation was very good.

Stirling Mk.III EH945 ?-? (1)

F/S Harold Henry Bruhns, RNZAF NZ42367 – Pilot.
Sgt. Eric Arthur Wilkes, RAFVR 1575513 – Navigator.
Sgt. Laurie Licence Butler, RNZAF NZ421672 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Woolf Jack Summers, RAFVR 1395702 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. James William Harry, RAFVR 1601839 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Robert Ewen Hall, RAFVR 1392121 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S Arthur Hertley Sawtell, RAAF AUS.417521 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 23:44 – Landed 04:00
Flight Time 04:16

30/01/1944 – Mining in the Gironde Estuary
Six aircraft were detailed to carry out the above operation with mines of 1,500lbs. Five of the aircraft brought their mines back as bad visibility prevented them from finding the mining area. One aircraft successfully dropped its mines in the allotted area although the parachutes were not seen to open. No opposition was met and the trip was uneventful. The weather was bad and there was 10/10ths cloud in the mining area. Navigation was good.

Stirling Mk.III EF948 ?-? (1)

F/S Harold Henry Bruhns, RNZAF NZ42367 – Pilot.
Sgt. Eric Arthur Wilkes, RAFVR 1575513 – Navigator.
Sgt. L. Buckley,   – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Woolf Jack Summers, RAFVR 1395702 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. James William Harry, RAFVR 1601839 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Robert Ewen Hall, RAFVR 1392121 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Arthur Hertley Sawtell, RAAF AUS.417521 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 17:00 – Landed 01:45
Flight Time 08:45

19/02/1944 – Mining in Kiel Bay
Fifteen aircraft were detailed to lay mines of 1500 lbs from a high level, but two aircraft failed to take off owing to engine trouble. The remaining thirteen aircraft completed their operation without incident, and the pathfinder markers were dropped accurately for the final run, being identified by all.

Stirling Mk.III EF217 ?-? (12)

F/S Harold Henry Bruhns, RNZAF NZ42367 – Pilot.
Sgt. Eric Arthur Wilkes, RAFVR 1575513 – Navigator.
Sgt. Laurie Licence Butler, RNZAF NZ421672 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Woolf Jack Summers, RAFVR 1395702 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. James William Harry, RAFVR 1601839 – Flight Engineer.
F/S Arthur Hertley Sawtell, RAAF AUS.417521 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Robert Ewen Hall, RAFVR 1392121 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 23:50 – Landed 05:50
Flight Time 06:00

22/02/1944 – Mining in Kiel Bay
Fifteen aircraft were detailed to lay mines of 1,500 lbs in Kiel Bay. After being airborne for one hour all of the aircraft were recalled owing to unsuitable weather conditions.

Stirling Mk.III EH948 AA-Q (15)

F/S Harold Henry Bruhns, RNZAF NZ42367 – Pilot.
Sgt. Eric Arthur Wilkes, RAFVR 1575513 – Navigator.
Sgt. Laurie Licence Butler, RNZAF NZ421672 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Woolf Jack Summers, RAFVR 1395702 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. James William Harry, RAFVR 1601839 – Flight Engineer.
F/S Arthur Hertley Sawtell, RAAF AUS.417521 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Robert Ewen Hall, RAFVR 1392121 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 16:45 – Landed 19:20
Flight Time 02:35

24/02/1944 – Mining in Kiel Bay
Fifteen aircraft were detailed with a large force to lay mines of 1500 lbs in Kiel Bay, and fourteen returned after completing their mission successfully. One aircraft (Captain NZ42367 F/S. Bruhns H.) is missing, and no news was heard after take-off.

Stirling Mk.III EH948 AA-Q (16)

F/S Harold Henry Bruhns, RNZAF NZ42367 – Pilot.
F/S Eric Arthur Wilkes, RAFVR 1575513 – Navigator.
Sgt. Laurie Licence Butler, RNZAF NZ421672 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Woolf Jack Summers, RAFVR 1395702 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. James William Harry, RAFVR 1601839 – Flight Engineer.
F/S Arthur Hertley Sawtell, RAAF AUS.417521 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Robert Ewen Hall, RAFVR 1392121 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 18:10 – Landed MISSING

It is presumed that EH948 crashed in the target area – nothing being heard from it after take-off. Of the 7 crew, only the body of F/S Athur Sawtell was recovered.

F/S Harold Henry Bruhns – Pilot. Died age 22.
Commemorated on Panel 263 Runnymede Memorial.

F/S Eric Arthur Wilkes – Navigator. Died age 22.
Commemorated on Panel 240 Runnymede Memorial.

Sgt. Laurie Licence Butler – Air Bomber. Died age 22.
Commemorated on Panel 253 Runnymede Memorial.

Sgt. Woolf Jack Summers – Wireless Operator. Died age 22.
Commemorated on Panel 238 Runnymede Memorial.

Sgt. James William Harry – Flight Engineer. Died age 20.
Commemorated on Panel 231 Runnymede Memorial.

F/S Arthur Hertley Sawtell – Mid Upper Gunner. Died age 19.
Buried Aabenraa Cemetery Denmark.

Sgt. Robert Ewen Hall – Rear Gunner. Died age 25.
Commemorated on Panel 230 Runnymede Memorial.

 If anybody has any more information on the Bruhns crew, I know that Helen would love to see it.