Francis Cassidy McIntyre, Wireless Operator – Bateson crew

Francis portrait

Sgt Francis McIntyre, Wireless Operator with Benjamin Bateson’s crew, all who were lost on the 25th of June 1944 during an attack on Rimeux. © Archie McIntyre

Many thanks to Archie for contacting me about his Father, Francis McIntyre, Wireless Operator with the Bateson crew, who were all killed on the  25th of June 1944 during an attack on Rimeux.

The story that Archie bought to me was deeply disturbing regarding the possible fate of the crew  – I would like to thank Kevin and Errol for responding to my request for information on the crew and the information, particularly that Errol was able to provide to perhaps put Archie and his family’s worries to rest regarding the events of the 25th of June.

In Archie’s own words, his Fathers story is a tragic one:
“He was the old man on the plane being 25 when he died. His one year old daughter died in 1942 and his 20 year old wife also died in 1942, yet he still few on for another 18 months. Surely they could have spared him this as he was all I had left. He was by all accounts very depressed at this time.”

Rescue training

A group of airmen during their training undertaking life raft drill (location and date unknown) Francis is sat on the left of the dinghy. © Archie McIntyre

The Bateson crew first met at No. 11 Operational Training Unit on the 16th November 1943, moving to 1651 Heavy Conversion Unit on the 18th March 1944. The crew began their final stage of training at Feltwell at No.3 Lancaster Finishing School on the 19th of May. 8 days later the Bateson crew arrived at their first Operational unit – 75(NZ) Squadron RAF.

29 days later the Bateson crew would be dead.

As was normal at this time, Ben Bateson flew a single Op with Richie Millar and his crew to Trappes on the 31st of May. On the 2nd of June the Bateson crew flew their first Op to Wissant.

The bateson crew

The Bateson crew, stood in front of the rear tail plane of what we must deduce to be ND756. From left to right: Sgt. Maurice Frederick Morgan ( Air Bomber), Sgt. Francis Cassidy McIntyre (Wireless Operator), F/S Bruce Milne (Rear Gunner), F/S Benjamin William Bateson (Pilot), Sgt. Colin Harry Slater, (Flight Engineer), Sgt. Geoffrey Leonard Startin (Navigator) & Sgt. Ernest Lewis Connett (Mid Upper Gunner). © Archie McIntyre

The picture above of the Bateson crew and ND756 is perhaps a little strange and worth exploring. Firstly, there appears to be at least 3 bomb silhouettes that have been painted over – suggesting perhaps that this aircraft had been based elsewhere before arriving at Mepal – in fact, according to ‘Lancaster – the Definitive History’ by Harry Holmes, ND756 came straight to 75(NZ) Squadron on the 13th March 1944. Next, based on Ops in the database, The Bateson crew made their only flight in ND756 on the 10th of June to Dreux – according to records this would have been the aircraft’s 19th Op – and thus, if one assumes the photograph was taken pre-Op, it should show 18, however, even factoring in the apparently rather inaccurate tally of only 9 (rather than I assume the more normal 10) in the second row, the tally sits at 22 – suggesting this is the 23rd Op – which would place it on the 21st of June, or simply a ‘random’ photo opportunity with the aircraft sometime between the 17th and 21st of June.

02/06/1944 – Attack Against Wissant
Fifteen aircraft were detailed to attack a target at Wissant, N. France. Owing to thick cloud over the target, twelve aircraft were unable to identify the markers and brought their bombs back. No opposition was encountered.

Lancaster Mk.III ND752 AA-O (20)

F/S Benjamin William Bateson, RNZAF NZ424788 – Pilot.
Sgt. Geoffrey Leonard Startin, RAFVR 1600846 – Navigator.
Sgt. Maurice Frederick Morgan, RAFVR 1394772 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Francis Cassidy McIntyre, RAFVR 1562888 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Colin Harry Slater, RAFVR 1815706 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Ernest Lewis Connett, RAFVR 1236363 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S Bruce Milne, RNZAF NZ428017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 01:20 – Landed 03:55
Flight Time 02:35

03/06/1944 – Attack Against Calais
Ten aircraft were detailed to attack Calais, and all crews were successful in contributing to a good concentrated raid in clear weather. Defences were slight to moderate and no enemy fighters were seen.

Lancaster Mk.III ND752 AA-O (21)

F/S Benjamin William Bateson, RNZAF NZ424788 – Pilot.
Sgt. Geoffrey Leonard Startin, RAFVR 1600846 – Navigator.
Sgt. Maurice Frederick Morgan, RAFVR 1394772 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Francis Cassidy McIntyre, RAFVR 1562888 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Colin Harry Slater, RAFVR 1815706 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Ernest Lewis Connett, RAFVR 1236363 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S Bruce Milne, RNZAF NZ428017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 00:35 – Landed 02:35
Flight Time 02:00

05/06/1944 – Attack Against Ouistreham
The target for No.3 Group was the coastal battery at Ouistreham in N. France. This target, and others in the same area were attacked by strong forces of Bomber Command aircraft immediately prior to the Anglo-American Invasion of the Continent. Twenty six aircraft from this Squadron participated and all were successful in bombing their target with the aid of markers. Opposition was very slight.

Lancaster Mk.I ME702 AA-Q (7)

F/S Benjamin William Bateson, RNZAF NZ424788 – Pilot.
Sgt. Geoffrey Leonard Startin, RAFVR 1600846 – Navigator.
Sgt. Maurice Frederick Morgan, RAFVR 1394772 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Francis Cassidy McIntyre, RAFVR 1562888 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Colin Harry Slater, RAFVR 1815706 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Ernest Lewis Connett, RAFVR 1236363 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S Bruce Milne, RNZAF NZ428017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 03:45 – Landed 06:50
Flight Time 03:05

06/06/1944 – Attack Against Lisieux
Twenty four aircraft took off, as detailed, to attack a target at Lisieux, in support of the invading forces which were establishing a bridge head in Normandy. All aircraft successfully bombed the target and an accurate attack was reported. Only slight opposition was encountered.

Lancaster Mk.III HK557 AA-P ‘Peter’ (3)

F/S Benjamin William Bateson, RNZAF NZ424788 – Pilot.
Sgt. Geoffrey Leonard Startin, RAFVR 1600846 – Navigator.
Sgt. Maurice Frederick Morgan, RAFVR 1394772 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Francis Cassidy McIntyre, RAFVR 1562888 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Colin Harry Slater, RAFVR 1815706 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Ernest Lewis Connett, RAFVR 1236363 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S Bruce Milne, RNZAF NZ428017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 23:50 – Landed 03:38
Flight Time 03:48

08/06/1944 – Attack Against Fougeres
Twenty aircraft took off as detailed to attack Fougeres in N. France. Nineteen aircraft bombed successfully, one bringing its bombs back owing to the Bomb sight being unserviceable when over the target area. Two aircraft had inconclusive combats with enemy aircraft, but the remainder carried out their mission without incident, there being no opposition in the target area.

Lancaster Mk.III ND753 AA-G (10)

F/S Benjamin William Bateson, RNZAF NZ424788 – Pilot.
Sgt. Geoffrey Leonard Startin, RAFVR 1600846 – Navigator.
Sgt. Maurice Frederick Morgan, RAFVR 1394772 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Francis Cassidy McIntyre, RAFVR 1562888 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Colin Harry Slater, RAFVR 1815706 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Ernest Lewis Connett, RAFVR 1236363 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S Bruce Milne, RNZAF NZ428017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 21:50 – Landed 02:30
Flight Time 04:40

10/06/1944 – Attack Against Dreux
Of the twenty four aircraft detailed to bomb Dreux, twenty two successfully attacked in good weather, the marshalling yards being visually identified until they were obscured by smoke. One aircraft had an inconclusive combat with a JU.88. The aircrafts captained by NZ422098 P/O. L. Bonisch and NZ422267 F/S. Donaghy, T. failed to return.

Lancaster Mk.III ND756 AA-M (19)

F/S Benjamin William Bateson, RNZAF NZ424788 – Pilot.
Sgt. Geoffrey Leonard Startin, RAFVR 1600846 – Navigator.
Sgt. Maurice Frederick Morgan, RAFVR 1394772 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Francis Cassidy McIntyre, RAFVR 1562888 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Colin Harry Slater, RAFVR 1815706 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Ernest Lewis Connett, RAFVR 1236363 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S Bruce Milne, RNZAF NZ428017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 23:00 – Landed 03:20
Flight Time 04:20

21/06/1944 – Attack Against Domleger
Twenty three aircraft were detailed to attack the constructional works at Domleger during daylight. Two aircraft failed to take off and the remainder were unable [to] locate the target, the markers not being visible owing to 10/10th cloud. they were instructed by the master bomber to abandon their mission, and apart from some aircraft which jettisoned their load, bombs were brought back. Opposition was very slight.

Lancaster Mk.I ME691 AA-R (26)

F/S Benjamin William Bateson, RNZAF NZ424788 – Pilot.
Sgt. Geoffrey Leonard Startin, RAFVR 1600846 – Navigator.
Sgt. Maurice Frederick Morgan, RAFVR 1394772 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Francis Cassidy McIntyre, RAFVR 1562888 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Colin Harry Slater, RAFVR 1815706 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Ernest Lewis Connett, RAFVR 1236363 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S Bruce Milne, RNZAF NZ428017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 18:00 – Landed 20:50
Flight Time 02:50

23/06/1944 – Attack Against L’Hey
Twenty aircraft were detailed to attack the constructional works at L’Hey. All crews bombed on instructions from the Master bomber, and the glow of fires seen through clouds indicated a concentrated raid. Opposition was very slight, although one aircraft had an inconclusive combat with two enemy fighters.

Lancaster Mk.III ND920 AA-P (22)

F/S Benjamin William Bateson, RNZAF NZ424788 – Pilot.
Sgt. Geoffrey Leonard Startin, RAFVR 1600846 – Navigator.
Sgt. Maurice Frederick Morgan, RAFVR 1394772 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Francis Cassidy McIntyre, RAFVR 1562888 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Colin Harry Slater, RAFVR 1815706 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Ernest Lewis Connett, RAFVR 1236363 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S Bruce Milne, RNZAF NZ428017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 23:15 – Landed 01:35
Flight Time 02:20

24/06/1944 – Attack Against Rimeux
Twenty five aircraft took off as detailed to attack the constructional works at Rimeux. Twenty four crews bombed successfully with the aid of markers, and an accurate raid was reported.   There were numerous searchlights in action, but the A.A. opposition was not serious. The aircraft captained by NZ424788 F/S. Bateson, B. failed to return.

Lancaster Mk.III ND920 AA-P (23)

F/S Benjamin William Bateson, RNZAF NZ424788 – Pilot.
Sgt. Geoffrey Leonard Startin, RAFVR 1600846 – Navigator.
Sgt. Maurice Frederick Morgan, RAFVR 1394772 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Francis Cassidy McIntyre, RAFVR 1562888 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Colin Harry Slater, RAFVR 1815706 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Ernest Lewis Connett, RAFVR 1236363 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S Bruce Milne, RNZAF NZ428017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 23:18 – Landed –
Flight Time MISSING

F/S Benjamin William Bateson – Pilot. Died age 22.
Sgt. Geoffrey Leonard Startin – Navigator. Died age 20.
Sgt. Maurice Frederick Morgan – Air Bomber. Died age 23.
Sgt. Francis Cassidy McIntyre – Wireless Operator. Died age 25.
Sgt. Colin Harry Slater – Flight Engineer. Died age 20.
Sgt. Ernest Lewis Connett – Mid Upper Gunner. Died age 21
F/S Bruce Milne – Rear Gunner. Died age 21.

All are buried in Collective Grave No.7, Fruges Communal Cemetery, France.

As I mentioned at the top of this post. Archie came to me with a shocking and potentially very serious story regarding the fate of the Bateson crew:

“My name is Archie McIntyre, I am 74 years old and living in Falkirk , Scotland. My Father was a wireless operator on a Lancaster which was shot down in Fruges, France, near Pas de Calais where he and the rest of the crew were buried. This was on 25th June 1944. In the early 1960’s his older sister went on holiday to France and visited the grave. While she was standing at the grave a French woman spoke to her and said she saw the plane come down and the local people buried all the crew of whom none had survived. That was the story for 70 years until the sister was on her death bed when she confided in another relative the real details. It appears that the plane came down on the German side, (this was shortly after D-Day) and the Gestapo ran up and shot all the crew. All the crew survived the landing although some were injured. The young New Zealand Pilot, I think 22 years old, must have done an amazing job getting it down.”

I must confess, on reading this, I was speechless and quite shocked – the implication was that clearly a war crime had been committed and suddenly I was acutely aware that my sphere of knowledge simply did not extend to this sort of thing. An email to Kevin bought, as always, sound and good council – the possibility of other relatives coming a cross a post of this nature was far too problematic to simply post to see what came back and, I must confess, Kevin suggested a very obvious (only in hindsight to me) route of inquiry and he contacted Errol Martyn.

‘Pleased’ is wholly not the right word to describe the material that Errol returned via Kevin  – but I was pleased and relieved at what I read, even though the contents of the Missing Research Enquiry Unit (MREU) made very cold and uncomfortable reading.

The Royal Air Force Missing Research and Enquiry Service (MRES) was set up in 1944 to trace the 42,000 personnel who were listed as ‘missing, believed killed’. The demand was so great that the department was expanded in 1945.

These men had no special training, and did not have the benefits that modern technology offers; only a strong desire to bring home those who had not returned. Despite the obstacles caused by the lack of tools, the MRES was able to account for over two thirds of the missing personnel by a thorough combing of the globe. Those found were identified and reinterred in Commonwealth War Graves Commission plots.

Without the commitment shown by the dedicated teams of the MRES, many families would go on not knowing what had happened to their loved one or of the location of their Final resting place. The MRES allowed families the dignity to finally grieve. The unit was disbanded in 1952. (Royal Airforce Museum)

image001

A letter from the New Zealand Air Department to the Father of Ben Bateson. “According to local eye witnesses of the crash, the plane exploded on impact and buried itself in a deep crater, all the members of the crew being instantly killed, such remains as were recovered were buried by French civilians in Grave No.7 in the Fruges Communal Cemetery. Supplied by Errol Martyn

image002

Supplied by Errol Martyn

 

Hopefully this information has bought some closure to Archie and his family – certainly the reportage of the events of the 25th are precise and clinical, but as I said in the email to Archie that contained these documents, at least the boys felt no pain.

I know Archie is keen to try to reconnect with relatives of the crew – so hopefully one, or someone that knows one, might see this post and help Archie reach further closure regarding the loss of his Father

 

8 thoughts on “Francis Cassidy McIntyre, Wireless Operator – Bateson crew

  1. Archie McIntyre

    I have just sent this reply to Simon

    Hello Simon,

    I have just received your e-mail with my full details. I am impressed with the detail and layout which I find very respectful and professional. I have forwarded it to my father’s 91 year old younger brother in Australia which, like me, will set his heart at rest. He also served in Lancasters.

    There are so many casualties in war that they easily become forgotten and are identified as one of a large number. This process has brought my father’s name forward and identified him. He will now have a permanent place on your web site. With your kind assistance I now feel I have done my duty to him. I thank you profoundly.

    He has two grandsons who are a credit to me and him and three lovely great granddaughters. A bit of him lives in all of us.

    Regards

    Archie McIntyre

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    1. G Len Hill

      Your absolutely right about Lesley. I was a Member of the Auckland Branch of the Brevet Club. I was in conversation with another member who had also been in 75 Sqd. I mentioned my meeting with Lesley. He become quite belligerent saying that if Lesley entered the club he would punch him. I met Benny’s (ex) Fiance about 1962 – her photograph is on my desk at this moment.Things did not work out for her. She married had two children. She woke up one morning to find her husband had had a heart attack during the night and passed away. He was only in his mid 40’s. I subsequently lost touch

      I’ve just reread my original post and am embarrassed about some of the errors. 17 Sqd should have of course been 75. The other errors I would have probably picked up the next day had I waited. Extended prose are not one of my strong points.

      Kind regards

      Len Hill

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  2. G Len Hill

    Hello Archie

    My name is Len Hill. I’m the closest living relative of Benny Bateson the Captain of the Bateson crew, my mother Sylvia Hill (nee Bateson) being Ben’s eldest sister.

    My cousin Ben Hogg has forwarded your extraordinary research regarding this crew to me. Cousin Ben has been diligently putting together the Bateson family tree and indefatigable in researching Uncle Ben.

    Regrettably, there is little I can add to your scant knowledge of uncle Ben as I was just turning 4 when he embarked for the UK after completing his wings course. On his final home leave leave – we lived as a family in accommodation over my Grandmothers Haberdashery shop. Although he was an apprentice signwriter he was quite practical and he made me a wooden aeroplane which as I recall he painted with red roof paint.
    Benny was very popular with the extended family and deeply loved by the immediate family, as he was the only brother out of 5 siblings. His achieving pilot status made the family very proud as, you can probably gather, we come from a modest background. Uncle Ben was Born in Sydney Australia but enlisted in the RNZAF as the family lived in New Zealand. Ironically his father whilst born in New Zealand, was actually living in Australia at the outbreak of the First World War and enlisted and served in Australian Expeditionary force. Serving not far from where his son and his crew are now buried – almost 100 years ago – gives one pause for thought.
    Whilst a picture of uncle Ben, a portrait of him in uniform, which was probably taken just after his wings course – was on family mantle pieces and he was talked about through my early life, I remember very little of what was said even if I had understood. My grandfather was a builder and I understand that he anticipated he and uncle Ben would probably go into business together. Uncle Ben had a pilot friend Owen Eagleson who flew Typhoons.
    Owen survived the war and was in business with my grand father for a while before branching out on his own.

    The only event, which I was privy to, took place in 1944. There was knock on the front door which I answered. The person was a young adult in civilian clothes. This made an impression on me because most young men in his age bracket wore some military uniform. He asked to speak to my mother her went to the door. Within minutes the house was in an uproar with crying and sobbing. The young man was delivering the telegram advising my grandparents that uncle Ben was listed as missing.

    The family held hopes that perhaps he was a POW or memory loss. His personal effects where shipped back to NZ including his logbooks.

    Eventually I heard that the War graves commission had established beyond doubt that the crash had indeed killed the entire crew.

    I have in front of me as I write, a photograph of the gravesite before the War Graves Commission erected the present headstones. As I recall this picture was sent to my Grandparents by the mother of another crewmember. There is no date on the photograph. But the names listed are clearly presented

    In 1965 I became an Airline Pilot in the local domestic airline. I was positioning in the passenger cabin to another airport to crew an on would flight. As I was doing up my seat belt, the passenger next to me made some comment about the lap belt being different to a Sutton Harness. A Sutton Harness was the British harness of choice with the RAF for most aircrew positions. It was made of 5 heavy canvas straps lined with brass eyelets for almost, infinite adjustments I started training on Tiger Moths and was very familiar with the harness.

    During the course of the flight the gentleman posited the question “Why did you become a pilot?” “Because I always wanted to be one, suddenly didn’t seem a very insightful answer.

    On reflection, I answered, “Well, my mothers brother was a Lancaster Pilot. So my interest was probably piqued from there” His next Question was “What Squadron was he in?” 75 Squadron” I answered.

    Third question, “What was his name?” I answered “Bateson” he responded, “I remember him”. To say I was sceptical would be an understatement.

    It turned out his name was AAE Lesley his wartime rank was Squadron Leader and he had been Squadron Commander of 75 Squadron.

    When I got home I took out my uncles logbook and after the entry “missing” after their last raid was the signoff AAE Lesley Squadron Commander.

    He invited me to visit him. In his home he had a den set up with all his Airforce memorabilia. It included a Citation from Bomber Command commending 17 Squadron and Lesley in particular for the outstanding performance in its commitment to Maximum effort. I subsequently spoke to ex 75Sqd aircrew who were somewhat less enthusiastic about the achievement – quoting high casualty rates suffered.

    In the 1990’s I was in France. I figured I would probably be the only family to visit the graves and did so – after a bit of a mission. The grave is as shown on line. Well kept and with fresh flowers. The sexton said the local villages supplied them. I found it a very emotional experience. Cathartic even.

    Well Archie that’s about it. I don’t know if what I have to offer is of any great value to you. Pity there aren’t any of Uncle Bens contemporaries about and I must’ve been the most unobservant kid of my generation about.

    The truth is although I flew with pilots of their generation – 1. I didn’t know what questions to ask 2 they weren’t necessarily forthcoming in their responses 3. Who would of thought in my lifetime there would be no WW 1 vetrans left and dwindling and dwindling numbers of WW 2

    It’s New Years day here and coming up New Years day where you are

    May I wish you and your family a happy and healthy New Year?

    Kind regards

    Len Hill

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    1. Archie Mcintyre

      Hi Len,
      Sorry I have not replied to your comments sooner. For complicated reasons I have not looked at the squadron website for many months. Thank you for sharing your memories of Ben Bateson. He was obviously an able young man who would have went far.
      I too have a feint memory of the day the family got the sad news. Granny ( Dad’s mum) and her older daughters were standing at a table in the living room reading a letter which had just arrived. There was no hysteria that I remember. I think they had already been informed that Dad was missing and had exhausted their grief and this was the expected letter confirming the fatality. I do distinctly remember the oldest daughter saying, angrily, ”You will have to tell him.” She was obviously referring to me. By the time I was 12, granny had died and this auntie and I (she never married and was slightly disabled) ended up facing life together. I observed later that she reacted to grief with anger.
      It occurred to me that given the youth of the crew and Dad being a bit older at 25, that I may be the only offspring from any of them.
      I have one connection with the crew which I have tried to investigate. My father was close friends with F/S Bruce Milne, Rear gunner, and I have a letter from his mother to my Granny, dated 6th October 1945. The address is 57 Argyle Street, New Zealand. I have tried looking at the address on Google Street View but it appears to be business premises now. Mrs Milne communicated with me for some time, through granny, of course. She sent me a little woollen pullover, which she knitted, and two New Zealand half crowns i.e. old money. This was obviously a very kind lady. Her letter is well written suggesting she was well educated or may have been a professional person. My Dad must have talked to Bruce quite a bit about me and he passed it on to his mum. Once again Len thank you for bringing these memories back to me.

      Regards,

      Archie McIntyre

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    2. Archie McIntyre

      Hello Len,
      Some months have gone by since we last corresponded. In October 2015 my wife and I visited the graves of the crew in Fruges, France. After some investigation into how we would travel we decided the best way would be by car from central Scotland to Dover, England, then by ferry to Calais, and then to Fruges. That way we would have our own car with Sat. Nav. (GPS) when driving about France. We booked Bed and Breakfast with a local farmers wife who by coincidence was British and spoke perfect French. We told her the reason we were coming and to our surprise and delight she arranged for us to speak to a local historian.

      When the day came she went to his house with us to translate. We arrived at the house, which was impressive, and were duly invited in. The historian was Jean-Pierre Ducellier, a retired Doctor who has written 26 books. He asked when my father was killed and he then produced a 600 page book he had written about the night of 24th June 1944, he exact night my father’s crew were shot down. It appears that the Germans had arranged to start firing V1 and V2 flying bombs from the launch sites at Rimeux near Fruges at about the 8th of June 1944, of course not knowing when or when D-day would take place. When the flying bombs started landing on London it became a priority to destroy the launch sites, hence a 700 bomber raid was arranged for 24th June. The book details every bomber and lists every crew and with diagram and photographs showing details of the launch sites and how they operated. There to my astonishment were the names of the crew of Lancaster ND920. Jean-Pierre also had maps showing me where Rimeux was in relation to Fruges and exactly where the plane came down, i.e. in La Vierge de Senlis between Senlis and Fruges. He also pointed out that there was night fighter in the area at that time and as the flak was light at that time he was certain that the night fighter was responsible. He then indicated a page in his book where he had details of the engagement and there was the name of the night fighter pilot. He was Leutnant Delakowicz of 11NJG4 Squadron of the Luftwaffe. I can feel no animosity for this young German as he was doing his duty to his country in a conflict arising out of political circumstances for which he had no responsibility. During this exchange Madeline, our B and B Host translated furiously as Jean-Pierre and I had a lot to discuss, much to the amusement of our wives. We are eternally grateful to Madeline. The whole visit felt like a spiritual experience.

      Our visit to the area was met with nothing but utter kindness. We visited the grave which was well kept and in its own area of Fruges Cemetery and my wife thought it would be good idea to leave a bunch of flowers. However it was a Monday and France closes down on a Monday so no shops were open. We went to the little Tourist Office and asked where we could buy flowers. The young lady in the office spoke some English and was very helpful. She picked up the phone and spoke for ages in French eventually putting it down and saying that the local flower shop would open especially for us and it was about 200 metres away. She shop owner was delightful and saying that if we bought a real plant she would look after it for us. We thanked her for her kindness and said we would prefer artificial flowers which would last forever. She recommended textile flowers which we purchased. We then returned to the grave and took photos with the flowers. We have developed a great admiration for the empathy and kindness of the French people.

      We spent three nights in Frances and made friends with Madeline and told her we intend to return in warmer weather and spend more time with her. It was a wonderful visit

      Regards,
      Archie

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  3. Chris Newey

    Thanks for sharing your memories Len, they create a truly valuable personal perspective on your Uncle and his legacy. I’m sure they will also help the McIntyre family in their search for information and contact with families of the other crew members. You were very privileged to meet Jack Leslie, a controversial, but unquestionably effective leader of the squadron under extremely demanding circumstances. They were an amazing generation, and its so important that they are remembered. Thanks again.

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