Tag Archives: Alexander Fielding Minnis

Shrewsbury General Cemetery – Sgt. Alan John Francis RAFVR 1815847

DSC02858

Alan Francis was killed on or about the 17th of May 1943 when the Stirling Mk.I that he was  Gunner in suffered a double engine failure whilst on a training flight over Stoke-on-Trent.

On instructions from the Pilot, Leslie Charles Wright, the entire crew baled out. Sgt. Wright bravely stayed at the controls of the aircraft and in doing so, prevented the aircraft from crashing into Stoke-on-Trent. All of the crew landed safely, apart from Alan, who was found 4 days later in a field, one assumes a victim of a parachute failure.

As was common, a training flight sometimes included Ground crew and not a full compliment of Air crew. Certainly on that day, AC1 Bailey was on board. It would appear that Alan was also not regular crew. The Wright crew had only flown 4 Ops so far with 75(NZ) Squadron RAF, but for all of these, the positions of Mid Upper and Rear Gunner had been filled by Fred Crowther and Bert Knox respectively.

Read the post about the crash and the headstone of Sgt. Wright here.

A bit of a puzzle…..

Looking back through the database things seemed to become more, not less complicated……

Interrogating the database under the 2 gunnery positions only identified a ‘J. Francis’ – this individual flying essentially the ‘Stirling Portion’ of the Jackson crew’s tour before continuing, with the majority of the Jackson crew (sans John Jackson) to crew under S/L Frank Andrews.

Referring to the ‘Official’ records, there are 2 Francis’ that are to be considered:

FRANCIS Sgt Alan John RAF (1815847) AG 4 to 17 May 1943, c/w J H R Carey as R/Gnr. Died Monday 17th May 1943, age 19, during a local training flight when his aircraft developed a double engine failure. Died on baling out. Buried Shrewsbury Ceneral Cemetery, England.

and

FRANCIS. F/Sgt J RAF (1319643) A/G x Oct 1942 to 21 Oct 1943. c/w J Jackson as MU/Gnr. then F A Andrews.

The second individual fits perfectly into the record that the database presents and on the face of it – that should be that.

However, for some reason, I didn’t feel comfortable with this…..

“Sgt. Francis” as we shall refer to him arrives after the ‘main’ Jackson crew. The  Squadron is in a period of transition  from Wellington to Stirling bombers and 75(NZ) is negotiating the transfer  of the Squadron by Flights, to Oakington for conversion training. To this end, the Jackson crew take on an extra gunner for the position of Mid Upper Gunner – Sgt. Francis and a Flight Engineer, Bill Riley.

This ‘new’ Jackson crew fly their first Op back on Squadron on the 16th of December 1942 – Operations, Gardening off Bordeaux.

Sgt. Francis undertakes all Ops with the Jackson crew, through the beginning of the new year, as Mid Upper Gunner including on the 18th of February a Gardening trip to the Gironde Estuary.

Now referring back to the database – there is a sudden gap until the 5th of May 1943, for which I have no explanation.

Scanning through the crew movements for April at the end of the Form 540 identifies the following:

page116 francis to 1657

this clearly shows 4 of the Jackson crew – including a Sgt. A. Jackson 1815847 and their movement to 1657 Conversion Unit.

At this point, I would observe that if the two personnel records previously stated are true, there is no way that the Sgt. Francis listed in the above movement could possibly exist – theoretically his service number would not be known to the person typing this record, for another month………

In the equivalent portion of the May 540 the same 4 airmen are recorded as returning back to 75(NZ) Squadron from 1657 CU. Once again, but now with his second initial, A.J. Francis 1815847.

page 158 francis to 1657

Perhaps, on the next page of this record for May there exists a clue to this puzzle:

J Francis and Beaver in from 1657

Sgt. A.J. Francis is listed again, with Sgt. T.E. Beaver – who was part of John Carey’s crew. Now, I believe, this has to actually be Sgt. J. Francis – the irony being that having misidentified Alan all this time as J. Francis, as soon as a J. Francis DOES arrive, they misidentify him as Alan.

FINALLY, in the October Form 540 Sgt. J. Francis 1319643  appears – just as he leaves to go to No.12 O.T.U.

J Francis to OTU Oct 1943

Based on the evidence, I believe that Alan John Francis was Mid Upper Gunner with John Jackson’s crew, from his first Op at the end of December 1942, until , or around the 13th of May 1943 when the crew flew to Bochum.

There is indeed an almost perverse irony that, it would seem that Alan’s replacement after his death on the 17th May was also called Francis.

 

John deserves his portion of the Jackson crew’s Op history to be presented, as do all the other members.

Perhaps finally he has a history – which until now seems to have been lost within the ‘Official’ records of the Squadron………..

John Jackson’s crew arrived at the Squadron, probably at some point early to mid July 1942, their first Op being on the 28th of July to Hamburg.

28/07/1942 – Attack Against Targets at Hamburg
Seventeen a/c were detailed to carry out an attack on the above target. Bomb load of 4000lbs, 30lb and 4lb incendiaries was dropped in target area and bursts were seen in dock area. A.A. fire was very accurate, light and heavy predicted. There were many accurate searchlight cones in parts but clear over target. Navigation was good by TR and DR. Six a/c failed to return to base

Wellington Mk.III X.3636 AA-R

Sgt. John Jackson, RAFVR 1204276/ 140920 – Pilot.
Sgt. F.J.G. Tanner, RAFVR – Observer.
Sgt. John Ellis Higgs, RAFVR 1161218/ 155859 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Dunn, RAF? – Front Gunner.
Sgt. S.A. Warburton, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 23:00 – Landed 05:15
Flight Time 06:15

29/07/1942 – Attack Against Targets at Saarbrucken
Ten a/c were detailed to attack the above targets and bomb load of 4000lbs, 500lbs, 250lbs, 30lb and 4;b incendiaries was dropped in target area. Hits were observed in target area. A.A. fire was weak and searchlights scarce. A twin-engined fighter was seen on return route. Well. III, X3396 was attacked by JU88 but was able to evade it. Weather was cloudy. Navigation was TR and DR.

Wellington Mk.III X.3636 AA-R

Sgt. John Jackson, RAFVR 1204276/ 140920 – Pilot.
Sgt. F.J.G. Tanner, RAFVR – Observer.
Sgt. John Ellis Higgs, RAFVR 1161218/ 155859 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Dunn, RAF? – Front Gunner.
Sgt. S.A. Warburton, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 23:59 – Landed 05:35
Flight Time 05:36

31/07/1942 – Attack Against Targets at Dusseldorf
Eleven a/c were detailed to carry out an attack on the above targets. Bomb load of 4000lbs, 30lb and 4lb incendiaries was dropped in target area. Good results were obtained and hits observed. A.A. fire was moderate and search lights although numerous, were ineffective. Well.III, X3396 was attacked by a JU88 but evaded successfully. F/Sgt. Lewis, rear gunner of Well.III, X3646 was struck and injured by a 4lb incendiary bomb falling from another a/c. Weather was good and navigation was by DR and TR

Wellington Mk.III X.3636 AA-R

Sgt. John Jackson, RAFVR 1204276/ 140920 – Pilot.
Sgt. F.J.G. Tanner, RAFVR – Observer.
Sgt. John Ellis Higgs, RAFVR 1161218/ 155859 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Dunn, RAF? – Front Gunner.
Sgt. S.A. Warburton, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 00:25 – Landed 05:10
Flight Time 04:45

06/08/1942 – Attack Against Targets at Duisburg
Eight aircraft were detailed to attack the above target, Bomb load of 4000lb, 250lb, incendiaries and flares were dropped in the target area. A.A. fire was heavy and in some parts scattered, ground haze caused searchlights to be ineffective. No enemy aircraft were seen. The weather was good. Navigation was fairly good bt T.R. and D.R. Wellington X3636, captained by Sgt. Jackson.J. was hit by A.A. fire which caused hydraulics to be unserviceable in his aircraft, he landed successfully on return.

Wellington Mk.III X.3636 AA-R

Sgt. John Jackson, RAFVR 1204276/ 140920 – Pilot.
Sgt. F.J.G. Tanner, RAFVR – Observer.
Sgt. John Ellis Higgs, RAFVR 1161218/ 155859 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Dunn, RAF? – Front Gunner.
Sgt. William George Henry White, RNZAF NZ41717 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 01:50 – Landed 06:00
Flight Time 04:10

27/08/1942 – Attack Against Targets at Kassel
Twelve aircraft were detailed to carry out the above attack. Bomb load of 4000 lb. 500 lb. and incendiaries were dropped in the target area. Numerous fires were seen in the whole area. A.A. fire was moderate, very few searchlights were encountered. Wellington BJ.584 captained by Sgt. Burril met JU88 when about 30 miles from target, combat ensued in which Sgt. Burrill’s aircraft was seriously damaged amid port engine put out of action. The rear gunner, Sgt. Gorman claims to have shot down the JU88 and to have seen it falling in flames to the ground, the bomb load was jettisoned, and he turned for home. The aircraft failed to maintain height and was down to 700ft at the Dutch Coast, being shot at by light A.A. fire. He crossed the sea still losing height and belly landed at R.A.F. Wattisham on return. The weather was fine, navigation was excellent. Wellington BJ.708 captained by F/Lt Osbourn failed to return.

Wellington Mk.III BJ.832 AA-Z

Sgt. John Jackson, RAFVR 1204276/ 140920 – Pilot.
Sgt. Hector Bernard Duffett, RAFVR 1176955/ 141020 – Observer.
Sgt. John Ellis Higgs, RAFVR 1161218/ 155859 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. John David Robert MacGillivary, RAFVR 922684 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Edward McDermot, RCAF R.96960 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 21:00 – Landed 02:50
Flight Time 05:50

16/09/1942 – Operations. Attack Against Targets At Essen
Eight aircraft were detailed to attack the above target. Bomb load of4,000lb. and incendiaries were dropped in the target area, large fires seen. A.A. fire was intense heavy and accurate, searchlights were in heavy concentrations. Wellington B.J.790 captained by Sergt. Blincoe K, was hit by A.A. ire in starboard main plain two minutes prior to bombing, which made a large hole between starboard motor and fuselage, making it impossible to turn to port. Near Dutch coast on return, the aircraft was attacked from underneath by an unseen enemy aircraft, being hit several times and the WOP. Being wounded in the back The enemy aircraft was not seen by any of the crew. On return the aircraft belly landed on the aerodrome with hydraulics unserviceable. Wellington B.J.772 captained by F/Sgt. Wright J.L. was attacked by a JU.88 on return after bombing. The enemy aircraft was fired at by the front gunner; after several bursts it was seen by the captain WOP and front gunner to explode in the air. A few enemy aircraft were seen by other aircraft but no attacks were made. The target area was covered by 8/10 to 9/10 cloud. Navigation was good by TR and DR.

Wellington Mk.III X.3959 AA-L/R

Sgt. John Jackson, RAFVR 1204276/ 140920 – Pilot.
Sgt. Hector Bernard Duffett, RAFVR 1176955/ 141020 – Observer.
Sgt. John Ellis Higgs, RAFVR 1161218/ 155859 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. David Walker Findlay, RNZAF NZ412217 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. L. Newbold, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 20:30 – Landed 02:00
Flight Time 05:30

18/09/1942 – Operations. Gardening of St. Nazaire
Five aircraft were detailed to carry out the above operation. 1500lb. vegetables were successfully planted. Light tracer was encountered over St. Nazaire which appeared to come from the town. A few searchlights were seen operating independently. No enemy aircraft were seen, the weather was very clear at target area, navigation was by D.R. and T.R.

Wellington Mk.III X.3959 AA-L/R

Sgt. John Jackson, RAFVR 1204276/ 140920 – Pilot.
Sgt. Hector Bernard Duffett, RAFVR 1176955/ 141020 – Observer.
Sgt. John Ellis Higgs, RAFVR 1161218/ 155859 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. David Walker Findlay, RNZAF NZ412217 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. W.F. Thompson, RAFVR 962902 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 19:05 – Landed 01:20
Flight Time 06:15

06/10/1942 – Operations. Attack Against Targets At Osnabruck
Fourteen aircraft were detailed to attack the above target. Bomb load of 4,000 lb. and incendiaries were dropped in the target area. Scattered fires were seen, flares were lighting up the whole area. Considerable light and heavy A.A. fire was encountered. Searchlights were numerous and operating mainly in cones. The weather was good with low cloud and slight haze at target area. Navigation was good by D.R. , T.R. visual, pinpoints, loop and fixes. Wellington DF639 captained by Sgt. Rhodes G.W. failed to return.

Wellington Mk.III BJ.832 AA-Z

Sgt. John Jackson, RAFVR 1204276/ 140920 – Pilot.
P/O Alexander Fielding Minnis, RAFVR 126499 – Observer.
Sgt. John Ellis Higgs, RAFVR 1161218/ 155859 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. David Walker Findlay, RNZAF NZ412217 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. E.A. Shaw , RAFVR 1059434 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 19:10 – Landed 01:00
Flight Time 05:50

09/10/1942 – Operations. Gardening off East Frisian Islands
Seven aircraft were detailed to carry out the above operation. 1500lb. vegetables were planted in the allotted area. No A.A. fire was encountered, one searchlight was seen to be sweeping the sea in the area. 10/10th. Cloud was over the allotted area, visibility was poor. Navigation was by D.R., T.R. loops, fixes and map reading.

Wellington Mk.III BK.362 AA-?

Sgt. John Jackson, RAFVR 1204276/ 140920 – Pilot.
Sgt. Hector Bernard Duffett, RAFVR 1176955/ 141020 – Observer.
Sgt. John Ellis Higgs, RAFVR 1161218/ 155859 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. David Walker Findlay, RNZAF NZ412217 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. E.A. Shaw , RAFVR 1059434 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 18:10 – Landed 23:10
Flight Time 05:00

13/10/1942 – Operations. Attack Against Targets At Kiel
Thirteen aircraft were detailed to attack the above target. Bomb load of 4,000 lb and incendiaries were dropped in the target area. Large fires were seen particularly on West side of Fiord. Light, medium and heavy A.A. fire was encountered over a large area, searchlights were also seen on the way to the target. No enemy aircraft were seen. The weather was clear, with no cloud over the target, visibility was good by the light of flares. Navigation was D.R, T.R. visual and pin-points. Wellington X3954 captained by Sergt. Watters failed to return. Wellington BJ837 captained by Sergt. Davey crashed at R.A.F. Station Lakenheath on return owing to shortage of petrol, four of the crew were injured. All taking part considered this to be a very successful raid.

Wellington Mk.III BK.362 AA-?

F/S John Jackson, RAFVR 1204276/ 140920 – Pilot.
Sgt. Hector Bernard Duffett, RAFVR 1176955/ 141020 – Observer.
Sgt. John Ellis Higgs, RAFVR 1161218/ 155859 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. David Walker Findlay, RNZAF NZ412217 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. E.A. Shaw , RAFVR 1059434 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 18:30 – Landed 01:30
Flight Time 07:00

22/10/1942 – Operations. Daylight Attack on Targets At Lingen
Two aircraft were detailed to attack the above target with bombs of 500lb. 250lb. incendiaries. The bombs were successfully dropped in the target area from a low altitude. One of the aircraft claimed successful hits on a railroad station. No A.A. fire was encountered and no enemy aircraft were seen. The cloud cover was good having a ceiling of 700ft. Navigation was good.

Wellington Mk.III BK.362 AA-?

Sgt. John Jackson, RAFVR 1204276/ 140920 – Pilot.
Sgt Hector Bernard Duffett, RAFVR 1176955/ 141020 – Observer.
Sgt. John Ellis Higgs, RAFVR 1161218/ 155859 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. David Walker Findlay, RNZAF NZ412217 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. E.A. Shaw , RAFVR 1059434 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 12:30 – Landed 17:15
Flight Time 04:45

23/10/1942 – Operations. Attack Against Targets At Genoa
Eight aircraft were detailed to attack the above target. Bomb load of 1,000 lb. 500lb. and 250lb. and incendiaries were dropped in the target area, some aircraft claimed to have also bombed Savona. A few light A.A guns and one or two searchlights were encountered. No combats took place. The cloud base at target was down to 3 to 4,000 feet. The aircraft came below this cloud to bomb. Navigation was good by D.R., T.R., loops and fixes.

Wellington Mk.III BK.362 AA-?

F/S John Jackson, RAFVR 1204276/ 140920 – Pilot.
Sgt Hector Bernard Duffett, RAFVR 1176955/ 141020 – Observer.
Sgt. John Ellis Higgs, RAFVR 1161218/ 155859 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. David Walker Findlay, RNZAF NZ412217 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. E.A. Shaw , RAFVR 1059434 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 18:15 – Landed 03:20
Flight Time 09:05

25/10/1942 – Operations. Gardening of Frisian Islands
Two aircraft were detailed to carry out the above operation. 1500lb. vegetables were successfully planted by one of the aircraft, the other aircraft returned early owing to the Wireless being unserviceable. No. A.A. fire searchlights or enemy aircraft were seen. It was cloudy over the Gardening area, although visibility was fairly good. Navigation was good by D.R. and T.R.

Wellington Mk.III BK.302 AA-?

F/S John Jackson, RAFVR 1204276/ 140920 – Pilot.
Sgt Hector Bernard Duffett, RAFVR 1176955/ 141020 – Observer.
Sgt. John Ellis Higgs, RAFVR 1161218/ 155859 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. David Walker Findlay, RNZAF NZ412217 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. E.A. Shaw , RAFVR 1059434 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 03:00 – Landed 06:30
Flight Time 03:30

There now follows a 3 week hiatus while the Jackson crew

16/12/1942 – Operations. Gardening off Bordeaux
Nine aircraft were detailed to carry out the above operation with 1500lb. vegetables. The take-off was rather cross wind and unfortunately during take-off the wind backed severely so that the flare path was dead cross wind. Three aircraft swung violently on take-off. Then Sergeant Frankin tried to take-off in Stirling I, R.9245, it swung as violently as the other aircraft, but went on, straightened and got airborne, only to crash a mile away from the aerodrome. Two mines exploded and all of the crew were killed. It later transpired that the starboard under carriage wheel had hit Devil’s Dyke, only four feet from the top. The under carriage carried away the oil tank to the starboard inner engine and this is presumed to have seized, causing the aircraft to spin into the ground. No other aircraft took off after this. The three aircraft who successfully took off all planted their vegetables in the allotted area. Some light tracer and a few searchlights were encountered, no enemy aircraft were seen. The weather was variable with heavy rain and hail storms over the gardening area, but clear generally. Navigation was good.

Stirling Mk.I BK617 AA-D

F/S John Jackson, RAFVR 1204276/ 140920 – Pilot.
Sgt. Hector Bernard Duffett, RAFVR 1176955/ 141020 – Navigator.
Sgt. David Walker Findlay, RNZAF NZ412217 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. John Ellis Higgs, RAFVR 1161218/ 155859 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. William Laurence Riley, RAFVR 994223/ 161701 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Alan John Francis , RAFVR 1815847 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. E.A. Shaw , RAFVR 1059434 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 21:45 – Landed 05:00
Flight Time 07:15

08/01/1943 – Gardening off the North Sea of Denmark
Three aircrafts were detailed to carry out the above operations with vegetables of 1500 lbs.Two of the aircraft successfully planted their vegetables in the allotted area, the other aircraft captured by F/Sgt. Bailey, was forced to abandon the operation, as his port inner engine failed over the North Sea and he lost height. This put him in heavy icing cloud and forced him to jettison his bombs, all Sperry instruments went u/s. He eventually got “Gee” fix near English coast and arrive safely back at base. No A.A fire, searchlights, or enemy aircraft were seen. The weather was fairly good, as was also visibility, navigation was by D.R and T.R.

Stirling Mk.I BK617 AA-D

F/S John Jackson, RAFVR 1204276, 140920 – Pilot.
Sgt. Charles Raglan Davey, NZ413937 – 2nd Pilot.
F/S Hector Bernard Duffet, RAFVR 1176955/ 141020 – Navigator.
Sgt. David Walker Findlay, RNZAF NZ412217 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Edward Henry Gray, RNZAF NZ412878 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. William Laurence Riley, RAFVR 994223/ 161701 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Alan John Francis, RAFVR 1815847 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. E.A. Shaw, RAFVR 1059434 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 17:20 – Landed 22:45
Flight Time 05:25

03/02/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Hamburg
Nine aircraft were detailed to attack the above target with 4 lb. incendiaries. The crews were instructed to return if they hit bad weather, which unfortunately they did. Heavy cloud and icing were experienced forcing five aircraft to return early. Two aircraft attacked the target but they were unable to observe results owing to 10/10ths. cloud. Some A.A. fire and a few searchlights were encountered although low cloud prevented accuracy. No enemy aircraft were seen. Navigation was good. Two aircraft failed to return, they were Stirling 1 BK604 captained by P/O J McCullough and Stirling 1 R9280 captained by P/O K.H. Blincoe. This was a sad loss as they were two of the oldest captains in the Squadron, with them was also lost Sergt. Scott and P/O Henderson, two new captains gaining experience as second pilot. This leaving us with two headless crews.

Stirling Mk.I BK617 AA-D

F/S John Jackson, RAFVR 1204276, 140920 – Pilot.
Sgt. Randolph Ernest Redding, NZ414678 – 2nd Pilot.
F/S Hector Bernard Duffet, RAFVR 1176955/ 141020 – Navigator.
Sgt. David Walker Findlay, RNZAF NZ412217 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Edward Henry Gray, RNZAF NZ412878 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. William Laurence Riley, RAFVR 994223/ 161701 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Alan John Francis, RAFVR 1815847 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. E.A. Shaw, RAFVR 1059434 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 18:25 – Landed 22:00
Flight Time 03:35

04/02/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Turin
Seven aircraft were detailed to attack the above target with bombs of 1,000 lb. 500 lb., and 4 lb. incendiaries. Only five aircraft attacked the target, two returning early, one due to turret and inter comm., trouble and the other as the aircraft failed to climb over the Alps, he therefore bombed and objective in occupied France. The five aircraft attacking the target successfully did so on P.F.F. markers, large fires were seen from their own and other incendiaries. Light and heavy A.A. fire was encountered, which was inaccurate. A few searchlights were also operating. Some enemy aircraft were seen, but no combat took please. Heavy cloud was hit in France but the weather was good with clear visibility at the target area. Navigation was very good, by D.R. T.H., and visual. This /is considered to be a very good and concentrated operation.

Stirling Mk.I W7469 AA-T/C/O?

F/S John Jackson, RAFVR 1204276, 140920 – Pilot.
Sgt. Randolph Ernest Redding, NZ414678 – 2nd Pilot.
F/S Hector Bernard Duffet, RAFVR 1176955/ 141020 – Navigator.
Sgt. David Walker Findlay, RNZAF NZ412217 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Edward Henry Gray, RNZAF NZ412878 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. William Laurence Riley, RAFVR 994223/ 161701 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Alan John Francis, RAFVR 1815847 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. E.A. Shaw, RAFVR 1059434 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 18:45 – Landed 02:25
Flight Time 07:40

13/02/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Lorient
Eleven aircraft were detailed to carry out the above operation with bombs of 1,000 lb. and 4 lb. incendiaries. Nine aircraft are known to have successfully attacked the target, of the other two, one returned early owing to the mid upper and front turrets being u/s and the other aircraft failed to return. Fires were burning fiercely in the target area, although they appeared to be scattered. F/Lt. Trott had his aircraft damaged by flak at the target, the number two tank on the port side was holed, the trimming tab was hit and his aerial was shot off. He preceded to Middle Wallop and landed safely. Both heavy and light flak was encountered which was intense at first but later spasmodic and appeared to be swamped. Searchlights were seen in the early part of the attack but later went out. Some enemy aircraft were seen but no attacks were made. The weather was very good with clear visibility and no cloud. Navigation was very good. The missing aircraft was Stirling 1 R9316 captained by Sgt. R.A. Williams.

Stirling Mk.I BK602 AA-R

F/S John Jackson, RAFVR 1204276, 140920 – Pilot.
F/S Hector Bernard Duffet, RAFVR 1176955/ 141020 – Navigator.
Sgt. David Walker Findlay, RNZAF NZ412217 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. John Ellis Higgs, RAFVR 1161218/ 155859 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. William Laurence Riley, RAFVR 994223/ 161701 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Alan John Francis, RAFVR 1815847 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. E.A. Shaw, RAFVR 1059434 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 17:45 – Landed 23:15
Flight Time 05:30

14/02/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Cologne
Eight aircraft were detailed to attack the above target with bombs of 1,000 lb. and 4 lb. incendiaries. All of the aircraft, with the exception of one which returned early owing to engine trouble, successfully bombed the target in 10/10ths cloud by means of P.F.F. sky marker flares, so the success of the trip could not be judged, although a red glow was seen on the clouds as the aircraft left the target area. Heavy and light A.A. fire was encountered, mainly predicted. Several enemy aircraft were seen but no combats took place. There was broken cloud from base to enemy coast, which gradually built up to 10/10ths cloud at the target area. Navigation was very good. A stranger from 214 Squadron landed on our runway and made the aerodrome completely unserviceable. Three of our aircraft therefore, had to be diverted to Lakenheath and Waterbeach.

Stirling Mk.I BK602 AA-R

F/S John Jackson, RAFVR 1204276, 140920 – Pilot.
Sgt. Richard Otway French, NZ415756 – 2nd Pilot.
F/S Hector Bernard Duffet, RAFVR 1176955/ 141020 – Navigator.
Sgt. David Walker Findlay, RNZAF NZ412217 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. John Ellis Higgs, RAFVR 1161218/ 155859 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. William Laurence Riley, RAFVR 994223/ 161701 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Alan John Francis, RAFVR 1815847 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. E.A. Shaw, RAFVR 1059434 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 18:25 – Landed 23:55
Flight Time 05:30

18/02/1943 – Mining in the Gironde Estuary
Seven aircraft were detailed to carry out the above operation, with mines of 1500 lb. six of the aircraft successfully dropped their mines in the allotted area and the majority of the parachutes were seen to open. One aircraft met flak at Cherbourg which proved to be quite accurate, but the aircraft was not hit. No searchlights were seen. Three enemy aircraft were seen but no attacks were made. The weather over the mining area was hazy, with visibility fair to good. Navigation was very good.

Stirling Mk.I BK647 AA-M

F/S John Jackson, RAFVR 1204276, 140920 – Pilot.
F/S Hector Bernard Duffet, RAFVR 1176955/ 141020 – Navigator.
Sgt. David Walker Findlay, RNZAF NZ412217 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. John Ellis Higgs, RAFVR 1161218/ 155859 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. William Laurence Riley, RAFVR 994223/ 161701 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Alan John Francis, RAFVR 1815847 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. E.A. Shaw, RAFVR 1059434 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 18:45 – Landed 00:35
Flight Time 05:50

 

 

 

Liverpool (Ford) Roman Catholic Cemetery – S/L Edward Robert Myddleton Appleton Mid RAF 42475

ERM Appleton

It took me a good while to find the gravestone of Squadron Leader Edward Appleton. Whilst I am experienced enough to not automatically expect a Commonwealth War Grave, when I finally did find the stone, I was a little perplexed – this  increased whilst trying to find out what actually happened to Edward on the 31st of August 1943.

Upon finding Edward’s gravestone, I was interested to see it existed as an additive inscription to a stone that already recorded 5 other individuals, all members of the Southwell family. The gravestone read as follows:

Joseph Louis Southwell who departed this life on September 18th 1893 aged 41 years. This stone is erected by his  employers and friends as a token of respect and esteem a trusty servant a loyal friend. R.I.P
Joseph L. Southwell who departed this life on May 25th 1882, aged 9 years.
Also of Humphrey Southwell who died on April 24th 1915 aged 34 years.
Elizabeth Jane Southwell, died 10th December 1929
Lucy Agnes Southwell died 19th February 1931.
S/Ldr Edward Robert M. Appleton killed on active service 31st August 1943 aged 23 years R.I.P

I would obviously be fascinated therefore to understand the relationships and relevance of the inscriptions…….

The details of Edwards death are also a little complicated, relative to the normal post about an airman killed with the Squadron, so thanks to Kevin for pointing me in the direction of a thread on the RAF Commands forum within which the events of the night of Edward’s death were discussed and discovered – so belatedly and indirectly thank-you also to all of those that contributed to this original discussion thread.

Edward arrived at  Newmarket on the 16th April 1943. On the 26th of that month he flew as 2nd Pilot in Peter Buck’s crew to Duisburg.

26/04/1943 – Attack Against Targets At Duisburg
Eight aircraft were detailed to attack the above targets with bombs of 1000 lb. and incendiaries of 30 lb. and 4 lb. One aircraft however failed to take-off as the pilot was sick. And two aircraft returned early. The remaining five aircraft successfully dropped their bombs in the target area, which was a mass of flames. Large concentrated fires being seen which were spreading. Very heavy A.A.Fire was experienced in the target area, which was mainly predicted and co-operation with cones of searchlights. Some enemy aircraft were seen and one combat took place. The weather was very good in the target area, but visibility was impaired by haze caused by the large fires. Navigation was very good. Stirling Mk.III BF517, captained by F/O P.J. Buck, was attacked by an unseen fighter when about 30 miles North of the target. The rudder and tail of the aircraft was damaged, and the rear gunner was mortally wounded. The fighter was evaded and by jettisoning all moveable objects height was maintained and the aircraft returned to base where a perfect crash landing was made. Besides the rear gunner who lost his life, minor injuries were also received by two other members of the crew.

Stirling Mk.I BK619 AA-X

P/O Peter John Oswald Buck, RNZAF NZ413377 – Pilot.
F/L Edward Robert Myddleton Appleton, RAF 42475 – 2nd Pilot.
F/O Alexander Fielding Minnis, RAFVR 126499 – Navigator.
Sgt. A.P. Sadler, RAFVR 1379771 – Air Bomber.
P/O John Henry Symons, RCAF R.77568/ J.16507 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. J.W. Jones, RAFVR 1068491 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. J. Watson, RAFVR 1021021 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Brian Arthur Rogers, RAFVR 1384352 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 00:15 – Landed 04:15
Flight Time 04:00

https://75nzsquadron.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/img_0017.jpg

The rear gunner’s turret of a 75(NZ) Squadron Stirling being inspected by S/Ldr. Dick Broadbent and W/Cdr. Wells, a visiting fighter pilot, after damage by a night fighter over Duisburg on 26th April 1943.

Above, a photograph from “The Royal Air Force at Newmarket”. The caption identifies the incident and links it therefore to the attack on the Buck crew and the death of Sgt. Brian Rogers. A post showing Sgt. Roger’s name on the screen wall of the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium and more details by the attack by the Nachtjagd can be read here.

The Appleton crew began their tour on the 27th April with a fairly standard and considered ‘easy’ Gardening Op.

27/04/1943 – Mining off the Frisian Islands
Five aircraft were detailed to carry out the above operations, with mines of 1500 lb. One of these returned early owing to engine trouble and the remainder successfully dropped their mines in the allotted area, and the parachutes were seen to open. No enemy aircraft, A.A. fire or searchlights were encountered. There was heavy cloud and occasional rain storms in the mining area although visibility was good, except for haze. Navigation was excellent.

Stirling Mk.I BK614 JN-H

F/L Edward Robert Myddleton Appleton, RAF 42475 – Pilot.
P/O John Johnston, RNZAF NZ416198 – Navigator.
P/O Selwyn James Clubb, RNZAF NZ414593 – Air Bomber.
F/S Stanley Gordon Cocks, RNZAF NZ404624 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. James Samuel Andrews, RAFVR 634968 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Bernard Arthur Riley Moore, RAFVR 1106308 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Joseph Wykes, RAFVR 1127228 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 01:07 – Landed 05:51
Flight Time 04:44

01/05/1943 – Mining in the Gironde Estuary
Five aircraft were detailed to carry out the above operation with Mines of 1500lb, only two aircraft, however, took-off owing to bad weather. They successfully dropped their Mines in the allotted area, and the parachutes were seen to open. Some enemy aircraft and a few searchlights were encountered, but they were ineffective. There was 7/10th. Cloud over the gardening area, although visibility was good, Navigation was very good.

Stirling Mk.III BK776 AA-R

F/L Edward Robert Myddleton Appleton, RAF 42475 – Pilot.
P/O John Johnston, RNZAF NZ416198 – Navigator.
P/O Selwyn James Clubb, RNZAF NZ414593 – Air Bomber.
F/S Stanley Gordon Cocks, RNZAF NZ404624 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. James Samuel Andrews, RAFVR 634968 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Bernard Arthur Riley Moore, RAFVR 1106308 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Joseph Wykes, RAFVR 1127228 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 21:31 – Landed 05:19
Flight Time 07:48

04/05/1943 – Attack Against Targets At Dortmund
Ten aircraft were detailed to attack the above targets, with bombs of 2000lb 1000lb and incendiaries of 30lb and 4lb. One aircraft, however, failed to take-off owing to engine trouble. The remaining aircraft successfully dropped their bombs in the target area, with the exception of two which returned early owing to engine trouble. Large fires and explosions were seen, which appeared to come from the center of the target area. Some A.A.Fire and searchlights were encountered, but they were ineffective. A few enemy aircraft were seen, but no combats took place. No cloud was prevalent in the target area, and visibility was good, ground detail was obscured by the smoke from the fires. Navigation was excellent.

Stirling Mk.III BK721 AA-Z

F/L Edward Robert Myddleton Appleton, RAF 42475 – Pilot.
Sgt. Robert Frederick Harvey, RNZAF NZ416483 – 2nd Pilot.
P/O John Johnston, RNZAF NZ416198 – Navigator.
P/O Selwyn James Clubb, RNZAF NZ414593 – Air Bomber.
F/S Stanley Gordon Cocks, RNZAF NZ404624 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. James Samuel Andrews, RAFVR 634968 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Bernard Arthur Riley Moore, RAFVR 1106308 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Joseph Wykes, RAFVR 1127228 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:58 – Landed 03:52
Flight Time 04:54

12/05/1943 – Attack Against Targets At Duisburg
Nine aircraft were detailed to attack the above targets with bombs of 2000lb, 1000lb and incendiaries of 30lb and 4lb. Stirling Mk.III. BK.721 captained by F/Lt. E.R.M. Appleton, whilst taking off failed to clear an obstruction at the end of the runway and crashed almost immediately afterwards, all the crew with the exception of the captain and the wireless operator, F/Sgt. Cocks, S.G. were killed. The captain received severe injuries and the wireless was also injured, both were admitted to hospital. As a result of this crash two aircraft were unable to take-off. One aircraft returned early owing to the Captain being sick. The remaining five aircraft successfully dropped their bombs in the target area, and large concentrated fires and some explosions were seen. Some heavy A.A.Fire, co-operating with searchlights was encountered, but it was ineffective. A few enemy aircraft were seen but no combats took place. The weather was very clear in the target area with good visibility except for ground haze which prevented identification. Navigation was very good.

Stirling Mk.III BK721 AA-Z

F/L Edward Robert Myddleton Appleton, RAF 42475 – Pilot.
Sgt. Robert Frederick Harvey, RNZAF NZ416483 – 2nd Pilot.
F/O John Johnston, RNZAF NZ416198 – Navigator.
P/O Selwyn James Clubb, RNZAF NZ414593 – Air Bomber.
F/S Stanley Gordon Cocks, RNZAF NZ404624 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. James Samuel Andrews, RAFVR 634968 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Bernard Arthur Riley Moore, RAFVR 1106308 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Joseph Wykes, RAFVR 1127228 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 00:37 – Landed –
Flight Time Crashed

It is only writing this that I realise that only a few weeks ago I visited Cheltenham Cemetery to record the headstone of Sgt. Bernard Moore. To read more details of this incident that killed all crew bar Edward and his Wireless Operator, Stanley Cocks click here.

One might speculate as to whether Edward was enjoying incredibly good luck, or those around him bad. Despite surviving the “Devils Dyke” crash Edward was seriously injured. The Form 540 shows that Edward was promoted to the rank of Acting Squadron Leader with effect from the 7th of May, authority dated the  16th. A day later on the 17th May, Edward was posted to Non Effective Strength, Base Head Quarters at Mildenhall, where we must assume he undertook appropriate duties while he recovered from the crash of the 12th of May.

On the 31st of August S/L Edward Appleton was an observer on a B-17F of 422 Night Leaflet Squadron (USAAF), the bomber, 42-5376 coded JJ-X “Eager Eagle” was Piloted by 1st Lt Floyd H. Truesdell, out of Chelveston, Northamptonshire.

The flight plan called for an altitude of 7000 feet. The right waist gunner S/Sgt John E. Breen said that the last report he had heard over the inter-phone before the collision was 7200 feet. The flight plan route was over Foulsham.

At approximately 23:30, a Royal Air Force Beaufighter V8715, collided with B-17F Aircraft, Serial No. 42-5376.

The Beaufighter was evidently in a steep bank to the right hitting the B-17 between the No. 3 and No. 4 engines from the front. The force of the collision split the Beaufighter in half and severed the right wing of the B-17F. The two waist gunners, S/S John E. Breen and Sgt Carl G. Ruehl, both parachuted to safety. The B-17F crashed into a farm building on the Parish Church Farm on the south edge of the town of Foulsham, Norfolk County, England, killing 9 other crew members including F/L E. M. Appleton, an RAF Pilot on Detached Service with the 305th Bombardment Group from Royal Air Force No. 3 Group, riding as Observer. There were no civilian casualties.

The farm building was partially demolished, killing five (5) bullocks.

Under the ‘CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS’ of the subsequent investigation it was noted that both aircraft were flying without navigation lights as they were above 5000 feet and there was a Red Air Raid alert on at that time. The accident was unavoidable.

Squadron Leader Edward Robert Myddleton Appleton, MiD was 23 years old.