B.W. Bateson crew 2.6.44 †

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 missing
Flight Time missing

Lancaster Mk.III ND920 AA-P was shot down by a German night-fighter near Fruges (Pas-de-Calais), 27 mils South East of Boulogne, probably while en route to attack a V1 flying-bomb site at Rimeaux. 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 civillians in Grave No.7 in the Fruges Communal Cemetery.

F/S Benjamin William Bateson, RNZAF NZ424788 – Pilot.
Killed age 22.
Son of Benjamin and Ethel May Bateson, of Auckland City, New Zealand.
Buried Fruges Communal Cemetery, France..
Grave location – Coll. grave 7. 7

Sgt. Geoffrey Leonard Startin, RAFVR 1600846 – Navigator.
Killed age 20.
Son of Charles Henry and Lily Florence Startin, of Kenton, Middlesex.
Buried Fruges Communal Cemetery, France..
Grave location – Coll. grave 7. 10
‘Always in our thoughts’

Sgt. Maurice Frederick Morgan, RAFVR 1394772 – Air Bomber.
Killed age 23.
Son of Maurice Dennis Victor and Hilda Mary Morgan, of Hythe, Kent.
Buried Fruges Communal Cemetery, France..
Grave location – Coll. grave 7. 9
‘Ever in our thoughts.
Mum, dad, brother and sister’

Sgt. Francis Cassidy Mcintyre, RAFVR 1562888 – Wireless Operator.
Killed age 25.
Son of Archibald and Jeannie Cassidy McIntyre, of Bellshill, Lanarkshire; husband of Agnes Murray McIntyre.
Buried Fruges Communal Cemetery, France..
Grave location – Coll. grave 7. 8
‘Eternal rest
Grant unto him, O Lord;
And let perpetual light
Shine upon him’

Sgt. Colin Harry Slater, RAFVR 1815706 – Flight Engineer.
Killed age 20.
Son of Harry and Ethel Slater, of Fenton, Stoke-on-Trent.
Buried Fruges Communal Cemetery, France..
Grave location – Coll. grave 7. 10
‘Treasured memories
Of our dear Colin.
Mother, dad and Marion’

Sgt. Ernest Lewis Connett, RAFVR 1236363 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Killed age 21.
Son of Herbert and Elizabeth Connett; husband of Teresa Josephine Connett, of Stretford, Lancashire.
Buried Fruges Communal Cemetery, France..
Grave location – Coll. grave 7. 7
‘From the rising of the sun
Unto the going down thereof
We shall remember him’

F/S Bruce Milne, RNZAF NZ428017 – Rear Gunner.
Killed age 21.
Son of Alex Keith and Ruth Milne, of Taupo, Auckland, New Zealand.
Buried Fruges Communal Cemetery, France..
Grave location – Coll. grave 7. 8

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