G.W. Rowberry crew 21.1.44. †

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The Rowberry crew; Geoff Rowberry 2nd from right, Ernie Schober 3rd from left.
Also within the picture, Graham Hadfield, Brian Simmett, Sid Bishop, Arthur Horner & Ray Davies.
image courtesy of Kevin King.

Geoffrey Rowberry and his crew arrived from 1651 Conversion Unit on January 3rd 1944. A little like the Mayfield crew arriving with the Roberts crew from 1651, Geoff and the boys arrived along with Harold Bruhn and his crew, who were to be lost  just 6 weeks later on the 24th February on a Gardening Op to Kiel Bay.

06/01/1944 – Mining in the Gironde Estuary
Eight aircraft were detailed to carry out the above operation with mines of 1,500 lbs., which were dropped in the allotted area. This was a successful and uneventful operation, some A.A. Fire was encountered but no aircraft received any damage. A few enemy aircraft were seen, and one short combat took place and the enemy aircraft was claimed as damaged. The weather was good with no cloud and visibility was perfect. Navigation was excellent.

Stirling Mk.III EF137 AA-E

F/S Francis Harold Turner, RNZAF NZ415079 – Pilot.
Sgt. Geoffrey Warren Rowberry, RNZAF NZ414567 – 2nd Pilot.
F/O Murray Charles Fearon, RNZAF NZ425190 – Navigator.
F/S Roy John Robert Young, RNZAF NZ425410 – Air Bomber.
F/S Eric Stephen McNamara, RNZAF NZ417220 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. W.J. Todd, RAFVR 546595 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. F. Hulbert, RAFVR 1570894 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. S. Bellis, RAFVR 2215940 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 16:25 – Landed 02:15
Flight Time 09:50

14/01/1944 – Attack against a Special Target
Fifteen aircraft were detailed to attack the above target with bombs of 500 lbs., one aircraft brought its bombs back, owing to a failure of Navigational Aid equipment, and one returned early as it could not maintain height. This attack was successful and concentrated, bombs being seen to drop within the target area. Some A.A. fire was encountered, but caused no trouble. A few enemy aircraft were seen but no combats took place. The weather was good with no cloud and clear visibility. Navigation was excellent.

Stirling Mk.III EF252 ??-?

W/O Desmond George Geddes Horgan, RNZAF NZ39012 – Pilot.
F/S Geoffrey Warren Rowberry, RNZAF NZ414567 – 2nd Pilot.
F/S John Hannah, RNZAF NZ422657 – Navigator.
F/S Leslie Austin Ryburn, RNZAF NZ415238 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. G. Cannell, RAFVR 1376030 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. P. Canning, RAFVR 1030562 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. D. Beaverstock, RAFVR 610905 – Mid Upper Gunner.
P/O Kenneth William Morgan, RAFVR 1159485/ 157998 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 18:15 – Landed 21:20
Flight Time 03:05

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 Ak378 ??-?

F/S Geoffrey Warren Rowberry, RNZAF NZ414567 – Pilot.
F/S Graham Stanley Hadfield, RNZAF NZ426239 – Navigator.
Sgt. Brian Simmett, RAFVR 1392577 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Sidney Thomas Bishop, RAFVR 1322249 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. Arthur William Horner, RAFVR 1641609 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Raymond David Davies, RAFVR 1317623 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. J. Grubb, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 18:20 – Landed 21:35
Flight Time 03:15

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 EF137 AA-E
Four aircraft failed to drop their bombs on targets for unreported reasons.
F/S Geoffrey Warren Rowberry, RNZAF NZ414567 – Pilot.
Sgt. Graham Stanley Hadfield, RNZAF NZ426239 – Navigator.
Sgt. Brian Simmett, RAFVR 1392577 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Sidney Thomas Bishop, RAFVR 1322249 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. Arthur William Horner, RAFVR 1641609 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Raymond David Davies, RAFVR 1317623 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Ernest Schober, RCAF R.192994 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 23:50 – Landed 03:30
Flight Time 03:40

27/01/1944 – Mining in the Heligoland Area
Thirteen aircraft were detailed to carry out the above operation with mines of 1,500lbs., which were all successfully dropped in the allotted area. An uneventful operation, little opposition was met, only slight A.A. Fire and a few enemy aircraft being seen. The weather was good, being clear except for sea haze. Navigation was excellent.

Stirling Mk.III LJ462 AA-O

F/S Geoffrey Warren Rowberry, RNZAF NZ414567 – Pilot.
F/S Graham Stanley Hadfield, RNZAF NZ426239 – Navigator.
Sgt. Brian Simmett, RAFVR 1392577 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Sidney Thomas Bishop, RAFVR 1322249 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. Arthur William Horner, RAFVR 1641609 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Raymond David Davies, RAFVR 1317623 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Ernest Schober, RCAF R.192994 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 17:30 – Landed 22:00
Flight Time 04:30

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 EF513 ??-E
Only one aircraft successfully dropped its mines
F/S Geoffrey Warren Rowberry, RNZAF NZ414567 – Pilot.
F/S Graham Stanley Hadfield, RNZAF NZ426239 – Navigator.
Sgt. Brian Simmett, RAFVR 1392577 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Sidney Thomas Bishop, RAFVR 1322249 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. Arthur William Horner, RAFVR 1641609 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Raymond David Davies, RAFVR 1317623 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Ernest Schober, RCAF R.192994 – Rear Gunner.

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

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 BK695 AA-X

F/S Geoffrey Warren Rowberry, RNZAF NZ414567 – Pilot.
F/S Graham Stanley Hadfield, RNZAF NZ426239 – Navigator.
Sgt. Brian Simmett, RAFVR 1392577 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Sidney Thomas Bishop, RAFVR 1322249 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. Arthur William Horner, RAFVR 1641609 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Raymond David Davies, RAFVR 1317623 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Ernest Schober, RCAF R.192994 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 17:15 – Landed 00:15
Flight Time 07:00

25/02/1944 – Mining in Baltic Sea
Fifteen aircraft were detailed to lay mines of 1500 lbs, south of Zealand, an island in the Baltic Sea. Thirteen aircraft completed their mission successfully. The weather was good with excellent visibility. One aircraft (Captain NZ421803 F/Sgt. Willis W.) encountered six JU.88s, four of which fired short bursts, our rear gunner and mid-upper gunner returning fire. Our aircraft was not damaged and no claims were made on the enemy aircraft. Two aircraft returned early with engine trouble.

Stirling Mk.III BK695 AA-X

F/S Geoffrey Warren Rowberry, RNZAF NZ414567 – Pilot.
F/S Graham Stanley Hadfield, RNZAF NZ426239 – Navigator.
Sgt. Brian Simmett, RAFVR 1392577 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Sidney Thomas Bishop, RAFVR 1322249 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. Arthur William Horner, RAFVR 1641609 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Raymond David Davies, RAFVR 1317623 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Ernest Schober, RCAF R.192994 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 19:40 – Landed 02:40
Flight Time 07:00

03/03/1944 – Mining off Cherbourg
Eight aircraft were detailed for mine laying as follows:- two off Morlaix, two off St. Malo, two Cherbourg and two off Le Havre. Seven dropped their mines in the allotted areas, but one was off track and dropped somewhat to the west. All sorties were completely uneventful.

Stirling Mk.III BK695 AA-X

F/S Geoffrey Warren Rowberry, RNZAF NZ414567 – Pilot.
F/S Graham Stanley Hadfield, RNZAF NZ426239 – Navigator.
Sgt. Brian Simmett, RAFVR 1392577 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Sidney Thomas Bishop, RAFVR 1322249 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. Arthur William Horner, RAFVR 1641609 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Raymond David Davies, RAFVR 1317623 – Mid Upper Gunner.
W/O C. SkrIpsey, RCAF R.124868 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 19:45 – Landed 22:25
Flight Time 02:40

04/03/1944 – Special Operations – March Moon Period TRAINER 174 (ABORTIVE)
Operation TRAINER 174 (Abortive).
Owing to heavy cloud at target area, no reception was seen. On return journey no incidents were reported.

Stirling Mk.III ??-?

F/S Geoffrey Warren Rowberry, RNZAF NZ414567 – Pilot.
F/S Graham Stanley Hadfield, RNZAF NZ426239 – Navigator.
Sgt. Brian Simmett, RAFVR 1392577 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Sidney Thomas Bishop, RAFVR 1322249 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. Arthur William Horner, RAFVR 1641609 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Raymond David Davies, RAFVR 1317623 – Mid Upper Gunner.
W/O C. Skrpsey, RCAF R.124868 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off – – Landed –
Flight Time no record

07/03/1944 – Special Operations – March Moon Period WHEELWRIGHT 71 (SUCCESSFUL)
Operation WHEELWRIGHT 71 (Successful).
The m/n crew in Stirling III ‘W’ took off at 20.31 hours. The target was reached at 23.31 hrs. and pin pointed. Fifteen containers were dropped from 400′ at 23.50 hrs. There was cloud with 2,000′ base, but it was quite light beneath. Course was set for base at 23.50 hrs, four packages of leaflets being dropped at Mussidan. The aircraft, without further incident, landed at Base at 03.20 hours.

Stirling Mk.III ??-W

F/S Geoffrey Warren Rowberry, RNZAF NZ414567 – Pilot.
F/S Graham Stanley Hadfield, RNZAF NZ426239 – Navigator.
Sgt. Brian Simmett, RAFVR 1392577 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Sidney Thomas Bishop, RAFVR 1322249 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. Arthur William Horner, RAFVR 1641609 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Raymond David Davies, RAFVR 1317623 – Mid Upper Gunner.
W/O C. SkrIpsey, RCAF R.124868 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 20:31 – Landed 03:20
Flight Time 06:49

10/03/1944 – Special Operations – March Moon Period MONGREL 11 (SUCCESSFUL)
Operation MONGREL 11 (Successful).
The m/n crew in Stirling III ‘Q’ took off at 20.30 hours. The target are was reached at 00.04 hours and identified by a field sloping towards a valley. The reception lights were excellent and twelve containers were dropped from 1,000′ at 00.16 hours. The weather was good. Course was set for Base at 00.16 hours, two packages of leaflets being dropped in the Lyons area. The aircraft, without further incident, landed at Base at 04.10 hours.

Stirling Mk.III ??-Q

F/S Geoffrey Warren Rowberry, RNZAF NZ414567 – Pilot.
F/S Graham Stanley Hadfield, RNZAF NZ426239 – Navigator.
Sgt. Brian Simmett, RAFVR 1392577 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Sidney Thomas Bishop, RAFVR 1322249 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. Arthur William Horner, RAFVR 1641609 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. William Bryce Campbell, RCAF R.176432/ J.86746 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt Raymond David Davies, RAFVR 1317623 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 20:30 – Landed 04:10
Flight Time 07:40

13/03/1944 – Mining off St. Nazaire
Sixteen aircraft were detailed for mine laying off St. Nazaire, Lorient, La Rochelle, and Brest. One aircraft (Captain NZ414567 F/Sgt. Rowberry T.) failed to return. Another aircraft (Captain NZ42999 P/O. C. Baker) returned early with aileron trouble and crashed at Castle Comb, without injury to the crew although the aircraft was burnt out. The remaining fourteen successfully laid their mines, one aircraft landing at Woodbridge on return.

Stirling Mk.III LJ462 AA-O

F/S Geoffrey Warren Rowberry, RNZAF NZ414567 – Pilot.
F/S Graham Stanley Hadfield, RNZAF NZ426239 – Navigator.
Sgt. Brian Simmett, RAFVR 1392577 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Sidney Thomas Bishop, RAFVR 1322249 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. Arthur William Horner, RAFVR 1641609 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Raymond David Davies, RAFVR 1317623 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt Alfred Newnham, RAFVR 1172993 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:00 – Landed –
Flight Time – Missing

No official account of the loss of the crew exists, or is officially accepted and as such the Rowberry crew are recorded as lost without trace. The loss of an entire crew is a tragic occurrence, perhaps made more poignant by the loss the crew’s Rear Gunner, Alf Newnham.

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Alf Newnham, Rear Gunner with the Burke crew and Rowberry crew. Lost 13th March 1944 whilst on the St.Nazaire Op.
© Kevin King

Two days after returning from a special Operations Op with W/C Roy Max as Pilot, Alf was sitting on his bed when Alfred Venn, Rear Gunner with Jim Climie’s crew came in and informed him the Rowberry crew were down and a Rear Gunner.

F/S Venn, ironically, had volunteered himself, only to then discover his crew had been put on Battle Orders. Saying there was now a ‘trip’ going spare, Alf should get himself down to the Flight Office, fatefully, he did…………

Kevin has spent many hours trying to ascertain the exact circumstances and location of Alfred’s and the rest of the Rowberry crew’s loss. In 1984, he received a letter from John Hannah, Navigator with Des Horgan’s crew, who were also on the St. Nazaire Op.

John Hannah

A letter from John Hannah, Navigator with the Horgan crew, detailing the events of the night of 13th March 1944 and the loss of the Rowberry crew. When Kevin met Des Horgan, 12 years later, he confirmed the story.
© Kevin King

P/O Geoffrey Warren Rowberry, RNZAF NZ414567 – Pilot.
Lost without trace age 24.
Son of Charles William and Violet Florence Rowberry, of Wellington, New Zealand.
Commemorated Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, England..
Grave location – Panel 263.

F/S Graham Stanley Hadfield, RNZAF NZ426239 – Navigator.
Lost without trace age 23.
Son of Albert and Emily Ellen Hadfield, of Birkenhead, Auckland, New Zealand.
Commemorated Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, England..
Grave location – Panel 264.

Sgt. Brian Simnett, RAFVR 1392577 – Air Bomber.
Lost without trace age 22.
Son of Dudley V. and Norah K. Simnett, of Norwich.
Commemorated Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, England..
Grave location – Panel 237.

Sgt. Sidney Thomas Bishop, RAFVR 1322249 – Wireless Operator.
Lost without trace age 22.
Son of Henry Edward and Edith Ethel Bishop, of East Acton, London.
Commemorated Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, England..
Grave location – Panel 225.

Sgt. Arthur William Horner, RAFVR 1641609 – Flight Engineer.
Lost without trace age 24.
Husband of Gladys Rhoda Horner, of Coventry.
Commemorated Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, England..
Grave location – Panel 231.

Sgt. Raymond David Davies, RAFVR 1317623 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Lost without trace age 21.
Son of Margaret Davies, of Porth, Rhondda, Glamorgan.
Commemorated Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, England..
Grave location – Panel 228.

Sgt. Alfred Newnham, RAFVR 1172993 – Rear Gunner.
Lost without trace age 24.
Son of John Lionel and Mary Newnham, of Sittingbourne, Kent.
Commemorated Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, England..
Grave location – Panel 235.