Tag Archives: Eric Grainger

Basil Broadhead, Wireless Operator, the McKenzie crew – an amazing story

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The fledgling McKenzie crew taken whilst training at No.11 Operational Training Unit. From left to right – A.E West – navigator, B.H. Broadhead- wireless operator, Eric McGonigal- rear gunner, Jack Blank – Bomb aimer, Jim Chrystal- mid upper gunner.© Nesta Ward

A massive thanks to Hub for passing on an amazing story about his father Karel and Basil Broadhead, Wireless Operator with the Max McKenzies crew, one of 5 survivors of the crew, when their Stirling Mk.III BK810 AA-G was first fit by flak, then attacked by a night-fighter over over Holland, whilst returning from a raid on Mülheim on June 23rd 1943.

Regular readers might recall a post I made at the beginning of this year ofter being contacted by Benny, the founder and Chairman of ‘Planehuners’, an aircraft recovery team in Belgium, who had found the crash site of BK810. (read this original post here).

A later post in March of this year contained a significant amount of information about the crew and the night of the crash from Nesta, whose Father’s Brother was Max McKenzie. (this second post can be seen here).

At around the same time I was contacted by Hub – I was amazed to discover that Hub’s Father, Karel had in fact helped Basil Broadhead after the crash and I am no really pleased to present the story of these events that Hub has just completed and sent to me.

The information that relatives now regularly send to me about the boys that flew in the Squadron still amaze me regarding the stoical bravery they showed on a nightly basis, never knowing if they would return. It makes me really proud to now be able to tell a tale of a member of the resistance, whose selfless heroisim in helping allied airmen, essentially signed their own death warrant if ever they were to be caught by the German Gestapo. It humbles me now to understand the appreciation and continuing celebration that the people of Europe show in remembrance of the aircrews that fought to free them.

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Certificate of Appreciation form the Air Chief Marshall of the RAF to Karel, thanking him for his efforts in aiding the escape or evasion of commonwealth forces. © Hub Achten

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A Certificate of Appreciation from Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States of America to Karel for his efforts in assisting allied personnel. © Hub Achten

What follows is Hub’s presentation of the individuals and events that started on the 21st June 1943 and that were to involve Basil Broadhead and Karel Achten, his Father.

21/6/43 Halifax HR799 crashed at Klein Oirlo, Castenray.
On June 21st 1943,  20 year old pilot Bill Hickson and his crew left Graveleyn airfield in Halifax II HR799 heading for the German city Krefeld. When dropping markers over Krefeld , HR799 was attacked by a German fighter plane, an ME110. Bill and his crew had to bail out. The parachute of 2nd pilot Henry Krohn didn’t open and he lost his life. Rear Gunner Maxie Brown lost his life as well probably because he was trapped in his turret. Bill struggled through the escape hatch before bailing out and one of his boots hooked and was torn off in the slipstream. The boot was found by Piet Martens and ended up in the private ww2 collection from Wies Peeters out of Broekhuizen. On request the of Bill Hickson’s son, Wies returned the boot to New Zealand and on his 87th birthday, in 2009,  Bill got his boot back.

The burning plane crashed in a hamlet called Klein Oirlo. Four airmen from his crew were captured by the Germans, but Bill was able to evade capture. In his RAF uniform, wearing only one boot and with scorched hair, he was on the run for 6 weeks. In Veulen he ended up at a farm and he talked to the farmer’s wife, Miss van Staveren. He was lucky because it appeared that her son Cor was a member of the resistance. Bill stayed at the farm with the family van Staveren where he was hidden for a while until the Gestapo searched the area and he was forced to move to the shelter in a nearby wood in Oirlo where he met Basil Broadhead from  BK810 who had already been there for a while.

22/6/43 Short Stirling BK810 crashed at Oostrum
On June 22 1943 at 23:35 left from Newmarket airfield in England the Short Stirling Bomber Mk.III BK810 from  75(NZ) Squadron RAF.  BK810 was part of a massive raid  heading for the city of Mulheim in the German Ruhr area. Involved in this bomb attack were 242 lancasters, 155 Halifaxes, 93 Stirlings, 55 Wellingtons and 12 spitfires.

The crew of the BK810 consisted of:
P/O. Francis Max McKenzie, 26, Pilot, 41344, RNZAF
F/Sgt. John Frederick Blank, 20, Bomb aimer, 422175, RNZAF
Sgt. A.E. West, Navigator, 421947, RNZAF.
Sgt. E.W. McGonigal, Rear gunner, 421329, RNZAF.
Sgt. R.A.W. Triptree, Flight engineer, 1323983, RAF.
Sgt. J.R.G. Chrystal, Mid upper gunner, 520430, RAF.
Sgt. B.H. Broadhead, Wireless Operator, 415986, RNZAF.

On their way back they were hit by flak. A fire started but was quickly gotten under control by the crew. Shortly after a German fighter pilot slipped underneath the Stirling and fired his 20 mm guns into the wings , which contained the fuel tanks. With a blazing wing and loss of power,  Pilot Officer Max Mckenzie gave the order to bail out. The blazing plane crossed the Dutch border and crashed at Oostrum at 02:10. Max Mckenzie was the last one of the crew who left the plane – but the altitude was too low for the parachute to save his life. His body with his parachute was found one kilometer away from the crash site. John Blank (20 years old) the Air Bomber, did not survive the jump from the plane. He died after the jump but it is unknown what exactly happened.

Navigator Sgt. A.E. West , Flight Engineer Sgt. R.A.W. Triptree and Upper Gunner Sgt. J.R.G. Chrystal survived the parachute jump but were captured by the Germans and sent to a POW camp.

Rear Gunner Sgt. Eric McGonical evaded capture for 2 weeks. The Germans captured him while he was crossing a bridge. He was desperate enough to eat green potatoes.

Wireless Operator Sgt. Basil Broadhead survived the parachute jump and was helped evading capture by a member of the resistance, pilot helper Karel (Kai) Achten out of a nearby village Oirlo. At first Karel hided Basil in his parents’ house and later on in the woods in Oirlo in an underground shelter. In a letter that Basil sent in 1946 to the family Achten he wrote; “I remember the hole in the wood very well”. Later on Basil Broadhead got company in the shelter in Oirlo from Bill (William) Hickson, pilot off the Halifax HR799 of the 35th Squadron Pathfinder Force RNZAF. The Halifax crashed in Klein Oirlo, Castenray.

The escape
From the shelter in Oirlo Basil Broadhead and Bill Hickson were put on an underground escape line to Sittard. There was a new escape line organized by the resistance that runs via the Waddenzee where they would be picked up by an English boat. Later on it turned out that this was a trap put up by traitors and the Germans. This betrayal was part of the notorious “England spiel”. Five airmen and two members of the resistance in Sittard were going to escape to England via this new route. In the beginning of august 1943, the airmen Broadhead, Hickson and Brown from New Zealand and the Englishman Evans were transported to a temporary safe house in Tilburg.

The Group was escorted by Harrie Tobben, a member of the Sittard resistance and Harries fiancée, Jet van Oyen. Jet looked like a schoolgirl and carried a Luger pistol in her handbag. At the address in Tilburg they had to wait for further travel instructions. This small house in Tilburg was located at the Diepenstraat where Coba Hulskens lived. It was a shelter for Jews, resistance people and stranded allied aircrew.

Later on Coba was arrested by the Germans and sent to the Concentration Camp Ravensbruck where she was gassed to death.

The time of waiting came to an end with the message that the Group on august 6th 1943 had to travel by train to Apeldoorn where they would be picked up at the train station. Jet van Oyen decided to travel with Harrie through Holland as far as possible to say goodbye. Paul Gulikers, the second member of the resistance who also wanted to escape to England, was traveling via Venlo because he had to pick up the Polish pilot Morski. He would join the travelling group at the train station in Nijmegen.

The capture
After arriving in Apeldoorn the group were met by  resistance members, Vastenhoudt, Jordens and Van Wesemael. Later on it tramspired that they were infiltrated traitors who worked for the Germans. One of them advised Jet van Oyen to travel immediately back to Coba in Tilburg because the travelling was going to be very dangerous. Transportation was arranged to bring the Group “Englandtravellers” to a shelter where they could stay during the night. After arriving, the five airmen and the two members of the resistance, who were hoping, via an escape line from the Waddenzee, to reach England, were taken by surprise and captured by the Germans. The airmen were taken as Prisoners Of War for interrogation to the Abwehr.

The captivity
Basil Broadhead ended up in POW camp “Stalag 4B” near Dresden. After the war he wrote to Karel Achten; “I was there till the end of the war. However it was not so bad there.”

Bill Hickson was sent to the POW camp “Stalag Luft 3”in Sagan, near Berlin. There he helped in preparations for the escape of 76 airmen through a tunnel. Later on this was the subject of a well known movie called “The Great Escape”.

The two members of the resistance, Paul Gulikers and Harrie Tobben, were taken to the “Untersuchungsgefangnis” in Haaren (Holland) where they stayed for 2 months. They were sentenced to death because of their assistance of allied airmen. The death penalty was later reduced to imprisonment in a German prison. They ended up as “nacht und nebel” prisoners in the discipline prison in Hameln Germany. Nacht und Nebel was a special punitive measure to pick up resistance people without legal proceedings and vanish them without leaving a trace. Harrie Tobben did not survive; he died on March 15 1945 of a disease. Paul Guliker returned after the war to Sittard where he died on June 5 1975.

The capture in Apeldoorn of the 5 airmen and the two resistance members was kept secret because the Germans planned to use this escape line to arrest more airmen and members of the resistance.

The people behind the “Englandspiel” arranged a coded message on “Radio Orange” saying that the group arrived safely in England. This was of course not true, but was done so that the resistance did not know they had been betrayed.

On September 30th 1943 Jet van Oyen was arrested at the train station in Eindhoven when she was traveling with a Polish Pilot to Coba in Tilburg. She was sent home in November and after her release tok no further part in the resistance.

Karel (Charles, as Basil Broadhead wrote in his letter) Achten was captured on November 14th 1944 and deported to a work camp near Wuppertal. He came back home in May 1945 in a bad shape and very malnourished. Basil Broadhead wrote about him; I am sorry Charles was arrested but I hope he is all right now .

letter from Basil 1946

A letter from Basil to the Achten family, written on the 28th May 1946. © Hub Achten

 

 

 

Wieringermeer (Middenmeer) General Cemetery, Netherlands.

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Thanks Philip for supplying this image of one of the airmen form the McCrorie crew

The target  for Bomber Command on the 22nd of June 1943 was Mülheim – almost in the centre of the Ruhr Valley. A total of 557 aircraft took part, comprising 242 Lancasters, 155 Halifaxes, 93 Stirlings (15 from 75(NZ) Squadron RAF), 55 Wellingtons and 13 Mosquito’s.

35 aircraft, including 4 Stirlings from 75(NZ) Squadron RAF were lost that night.

Stirling MkIII EH889 AA-Z was shot down by a night-fighter (Oblt Lothar Linke, IV /NJG1 (credited with 27 kills before his death)) at 01.58hrs, crashing into the Ijsselmeer. All of the crew were killed, 5 of the airmen’s  bodies later being found, after washing ashore.

Sgt Raymond Anthony Kennedy
RAFVR 1003148 – Rear Gunner. Age 28

The remainder of the crew were buried, one must assume, relative to where they were found.

Hemelumer-Oldeferd (Molkwerum) Protestant Churchyard, Holland.
F/L Thomas Fraser McCrorie,
DFC , RAFVR1365093, 68770 – Pilot. Age 27

Wonsuradeel (Makkum) Protestant Churchyard Netherlands
P/O William Stuckey
, mid, RAFVR 51042 – Navigator. Age 29

Mebemblik General Cemetery, Holland.
WO2 Richard Douglas Tod
, RCAF R.91741 – Wireless Operator. Age 23

WO2 Robert Ernest Tod , DFM, RCAF R.91742 – Mid Upper Gunner. Age 23
Citation DFM (7 May 1943): This airman was the wireless operator of an aircraft which was damaged by anti-aircraft fire during an operational flight over enemy territory. The aircraft gradually lost height and the pilot was eventually compelled to bring it down on the sea. Meanwhile Sergeant Tod coolly worked his apparatus, maintaining contact with base. His excellent work enabled the aircraft to be continuously plotted from the ground and plans for rescue to be made. The entire crew of the aircraft were picked up within 15 minutes of coming down on the sea. This airman displayed great coolness and unswerving devotion to duty throughout. Died Wednesday 23rd June 1943, age 23, during a raid on Mulheim. Buried Mebemblik General Cemetery Netherlands.

Runnymede Memorial
F/S James Leonard Richards
RNZAF NZ404946 – Air Bomber. Age 25
Sgt Eric Grainger RAFVR 625045 – Flight Engineer. Age 21

Medemblik General Cemetery, Netherlands.

SONY DSC

Thanks Philip for supplying these images of two of the airmen form the McCrorie crew

The target  for Bomber Command on the 22nd of June 1943 was Mülheim – almost in the centre of the Ruhr Valley. A total of 557 aircraft took part, comprising 242 Lancasters, 155 Halifaxes, 93 Stirlings (15 from 75(NZ) Squadron RAF), 55 Wellingtons and 13 Mosquito’s.

35 aircraft, including 4 Stirlings from 75(NZ) Squadron RAF were lost that night.

Stirling MkIII EH889 AA-Z was shot down by a night-fighter (Oblt Lothar Linke, IV /NJG1 (credited with 27 kills before his death)) at 01.58hrs, crashing into the Ijsselmeer. All of the crew were killed, 5 of the airmen’s  bodies later being found, after washing ashore.

Richard Douglas Tod and Robert Ernest Tod were twin brothers from St. Vital Manitoba. They enlisted in the RCAF on the same day, trained to be Air Gunners at the same schools, went overseas together and were assigned to the same unit, No.75(NZ) Squadron RAF. They were, perhaps surprisingly, allowed to fly as members of the same crew. Read a post regarding the action that earnt Robert Tod his DFM here.

WO2 Richard Douglas Tod, RCAF R.91741 – Wireless Operator. Age 23

WO2 Robert Ernest Tod, DFM, RCAF R.91742 – Mid Upper Gunner. Age 23
Citation DFM (7 May 1943): This airman was the wireless operator of an aircraft which was damaged by anti-aircraft fire during an operational flight over enemy territory. The aircraft gradually lost height and the pilot was eventually compelled to bring it down on the sea. Meanwhile Sergeant Tod coolly worked his apparatus, maintaining contact with base. His excellent work enabled the aircraft to be continuously plotted from the ground and plans for rescue to be made. The entire crew of the aircraft were picked up within 15 minutes of coming down on the sea. This airman displayed great coolness and unswerving devotion to duty throughout. Died Wednesday 23rd June 1943, age 23, during a raid on Mulheim. Buried Mebemblik General Cemetery Netherlands.

The remainder of the crew were buried, one must assume, relative to where they were found.

Hemelumer-Oldeferd (Molkwerum) Protestant Churchyard, Holland.
F/L Thomas Fraser McCrorie,
DFC , RAFVR1365093, 68770 – Pilot. Age 27

Wonsuradeel (Makkum) Protestant Churchyard Netherlands
P/O William Stuckey
, mid, RAFVR 51042 – Navigator. Age 29

Wieringermeer (Middenmeer) General Cemetery, Holland.
Sgt Raymond Anthony Kennedy
RAFVR 1003148 – Rear Gunner. Age 28

Runnymede Memorial
F/S James Leonard Richards
RNZAF NZ404946 – Air Bomber. Age 25
Sgt Eric Grainger RAFVR 625045 – Flight Engineer. Age 21

Thomas Fraser McCrorie, Eric Grainger, James Leonard Richards, Raymond Anthony Kennedy, William Stuckey, Robert Ernest Tod, Richard Douglas Tod, Stirling MkIII EH889 AA-Z, 22nd  June 1943 Mülheim, Newmarket, 1943, 75(NZ) Squadron RAF

Wonsuradeel (Makkum) Protestant Churchyard, Netherlands

SONY DSC

Thanks Philip for supplying this image of one of the airmen form the McCrorie crew

The target  for Bomber Command on the 22nd of June 1943 was Mülheim – almost in the centre of the Ruhr Valley. A total of 557 aircraft took part, comprising 242 Lancasters, 155 Halifaxes, 93 Stirlings (15 from 75(NZ) Squadron RAF), 55 Wellingtons and 13 Mosquito’s.

35 aircraft, including 4 Stirlings from 75(NZ) Squadron RAF were lost that night.

Stirling MkIII EH889 AA-Z was shot down by a night-fighter (Oblt Lothar Linke, IV /NJG1 (credited with 27 kills before his death)) at 01.58hrs, crashing into the Ijsselmeer. All of the crew were killed, 5 of the airmen’s  bodies later being found, after washing ashore.

P/O William Stuckey, mid, RAFVR 51042 – Navigator. Age 29

The remainder of the crew were buried, one must assume, relative to where they were found.

Hemelumer-Oldeferd (Molkwerum) Protestant Churchyard, Holland.
F/L Thomas Fraser McCrorie, DFC , RAFVR1365093, 68770 – Pilot. Age 27

Mebemblik General Cemetery, Holland.
WO2 Richard Douglas Tod
, RCAF R.91741 – Wireless Operator. Age 23

WO2 Robert Ernest Tod , DFM, RCAF R.91742 – Mid Upper Gunner. Age 23
Citation DFM (7 May 1943): This airman was the wireless operator of an aircraft which was damaged by anti-aircraft fire during an operational flight over enemy territory. The aircraft gradually lost height and the pilot was eventually compelled to bring it down on the sea. Meanwhile Sergeant Tod coolly worked his apparatus, maintaining contact with base. His excellent work enabled the aircraft to be continuously plotted from the ground and plans for rescue to be made. The entire crew of the aircraft were picked up within 15 minutes of coming down on the sea. This airman displayed great coolness and unswerving devotion to duty throughout. Died Wednesday 23rd June 1943, age 23, during a raid on Mulheim. Buried Mebemblik General Cemetery Netherlands.

Wieringermeer (Middenmeer) General Cemetery, Holland.
Sgt Raymond Anthony Kennedy
RAFVR 1003148 – Rear Gunner. Age 28

Runnymede Memorial
F/S James Leonard Richards
RNZAF NZ404946 – Air Bomber. Age 25
Sgt Eric Grainger RAFVR 625045 – Flight Engineer. Age 21

Hemelumer-Oldeferd (Molkwerum) Protestant Churchyard, Netherlands.

 SONY DSC

Thanks Philip for supplying this image of one of the airmen form the McCrorie crew.

The target  for Bomber Command on the 22nd of June 1943 was Mülheim – almost in the centre of the Ruhr Valley. A total of 557 aircraft took part, comprising 242 Lancasters, 155 Halifaxes, 93 Stirlings (15 from 75(NZ) Squadron RAF), 55 Wellingtons and 13 Mosquito’s.

35 aircraft, including 4 Stirlings from 75(NZ) Squadron RAF were lost that night.

Stirling MkIII EH889 AA-Z was shot down by a night-fighter (Oblt Lothar Linke, IV /NJG1 (credited with 27 kills before his death)) at 01.58hrs, crashing into the Ijsselmeer. All of the crew were killed, 5 of the airmen’s  bodies later being found, after washing ashore.

F/L Thomas Fraser McCrorie,
DFC , RAFVR1365093, 68770 – Pilot. Age 27

The remainder of the crew were buried, one must assume, relative to where they were found.

Wonsuradeel (Makkum) Protestant Churchyard Netherlands
P/O William Stuckey
, mid, RAFVR 51042 – Navigator. Age 29

Mebemblik General Cemetery, Holland.
WO2 Richard Douglas Tod
, RCAF R.91741 – Wireless Operator. Age 23

WO2 Robert Ernest Tod , DFM, RCAF R.91742 – Mid Upper Gunner. Age 23
Citation DFM (7 May 1943): This airman was the wireless operator of an aircraft which was damaged by anti-aircraft fire during an operational flight over enemy territory. The aircraft gradually lost height and the pilot was eventually compelled to bring it down on the sea. Meanwhile Sergeant Tod coolly worked his apparatus, maintaining contact with base. His excellent work enabled the aircraft to be continuously plotted from the ground and plans for rescue to be made. The entire crew of the aircraft were picked up within 15 minutes of coming down on the sea. This airman displayed great coolness and unswerving devotion to duty throughout. Died Wednesday 23rd June 1943, age 23, during a raid on Mulheim. Buried Mebemblik General Cemetery Netherlands.

Wieringermeer (Middenmeer) General Cemetery, Holland.
Sgt Raymond Anthony Kennedy
RAFVR 1003148 – Rear Gunner. Age 28

Runnymede Memorial
F/S James Leonard Richards
RNZAF NZ404946 – Air Bomber. Age 25
Sgt Eric Grainger RAFVR 625045 – Flight Engineer. Age 21

 

 

Francis Max McKenzie, Pilot – killed 23rd June 1943, on return from Mülheim

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P/O Francis Max McKenzie, posing in front of a Stirling, possibly when he was with 75(NZ) Squadron at Newmarket. © Nesta Ward

Many thanks to Nesta for passing on these images and accompanying information on Max McKenzie, Pilot of Stirling Mk.III BK810, AA-G who was killed on the 23rd June 1943, whilst returning from a raid on Mülheim. After being first hit by flak, then attacked by a night-fighter, all the crew managed to successfully bail out apart from Max and the Air Bomber, Jack Blank. Regular readers might recall a post a made in January, after being contacted by Benny, the Founder and Chairman of ‘Planehunters‘, an aircraft recovery team in Belgium, who had found the crash site of BK810. You can read this original post here.

Subsequent to this initial contact, I made contact with Nesta, whose Father’s Brother was Max McKenzie. After her Father died, her Mother subsequently married the Rear Gunner of BK810, Eric McGonigal. The testaments of those who survived that night, form the following  account of the loss of Max McKenzie, Jack Blank and BK810.

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Max McKenzie with his Canadian buddy Freddy Piper who also did not survive the war. Taken probably during training, at No.11 O.T.U. RAF Westcott. © Nesta Ward

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The fledgling McKenzie crew taken whilst training at No.11 Operational Training Unit. From left to right – A.E West – navigator, B.H. Broadhead- wireless operator, Eric McGonigal- rear gunner, Jack Blank – Bomb aimer, Jim Chrystal- mid upper gunner.© Nesta Ward

On June 22 1943, at 23.35 Pilot Francis Max McKenzie ( known as Max) and his crew of six left Newmarket airfield, Cambridgeshire on their fourth operation. They were flying a Short Stirling Bomber Mk.III BK810 AA-G.

Five hundred and fifty seven Allied aircraft lumbered into the sky that night at precise intervals, heading for the German city of Mulheim, an important centre for the steel industry and a major rail outlet from the Ruhr to southern Germany. It was to be another massive raid in the Battle of the Ruhr involving 242 Lancasters, 155 Halifaxes, 93 Stirlings, 55 Wellingtons and 12 Spitfires. Once over target, according to those who returned that night, the Pilots were looking through a thin layer of stratus cloud on to a spectacular scene of hundreds of search lights massed in cones. Flames and smoke rose to hundreds of feet.

On their third operation four nights previously, Max and his crew had to return with their load of bombs from a raid over Le Creusot because they could not identify their target. But this night over Mulheim, their bombs dropped into a hellish inferno. With their mission accomplished Max made a right curve to reach a position of 5125N, 0630,0 in the vicinity of Huls am Niederrhein, heading towards Nooordwijk.

Suddenly they were hit by flak. Within minutes the crew had the fire under control. Max continued to fly on course. Nearby, Hauptmann Wilhelm Herghet, a German fighter pilot slipped underneath the Stirling and fired his 20mm guns into the wings, which contained the fuel tanks. With a blazing wing and loss of power, Max gave the order to bail out. He held the plane on course till he thought everyone had jumped. The last crew member to leave the plane saw Max struggling to leave his seat. The blazing plane crossed the border into The Netherlands and crashed at Oostrum, just west of Venray at 0210.

Young Jack, the bomb aimer, died after the jump from the plane; no one knows exactly how he died. The rest of the crew, navigator Sgt. Albert West,  Rear Gunner Sgt. Eric McGonigal, Mid Upper  Gunner Sgt. R G Chrystal,  Flight Engineer  Sgt. R.A. Triptree and Wireless Operator Sgt. Basil Broadhead survived the parachute jump.

Eric McGonigal evaded capture for two weeks. He hid in fields by day, foraging for food at night. He was desperate enough to eat green potatoes.The Germans captured him while he was crossing a hump backed bridge-  with his head down  he slowly reached the top and discovered them coming up the other side. Under great pressure, he was interrogated, stripped of his uniform and gear before being sent to a POW camp.

For the rest of his life Eric knew great fear when seeing anyone in uniform- even though he knew this to be completely irrational.

Sgt B M Broadbent evaded capture longer but was caught in Apeldoorn.

POW Camps
Sgt A. E. West – POW Camp 357               Kopernihus / Germany
Sgt E.W. McGonigal POW Camp 357       Kopernihus / Germany
Sgt R.A Triptree POW Camp 357              Kopernihus / Germany
Sgt Y.R. G Chrystal POW Camp L6            Luft 6 Heydenhrug
Stg B.M Broadbent POW Camp  UB         Muhlber /  Elbe

Until 2012 the McKenzie family assumed that Pilot  Max McKenzie had gone down with the plane. But the release of a local Dutch policeman’s ‘Proces-Verbal’ in 2007, after official documents were declassified , told a different story. He witnessed the bomber coming over and subsequently crashing. He found Max’s body with his parachute, lying one kilometre from the wreckage. Max had managed to get out  but the altitude was too low to save his life. Thirty- five allied aircraft did not make it home that night and 198 men lost their lives, this included 4 aircraft and 23 airmen from 75(NZ) Squadron. In Mulheim and Oberhausen 578 people died and 1174 people were injured. Sixty- four percent of Mulheim was destroyed.

MAx comped portrait and gate

P/O Francis Max McKenzie, RNZAF NZ41244. Killed on the 23rd June 1943, age 26. © Nesta Ward

 

 

Mülheim 23rd June 1943 – some more information

EF408 Loss cardCRP

Many thanks indeed to Adrian for passing on some more information about the Mülheim Op that I posted about a few days ago. Adrian’s Uncle, Edgar Reader, who was the Wireless Operator with Ben Wood’s crew, one of 4 aircraft lost by 75(NZ) Squadron on the Mülheim raid on the 23rd of June 1943.

Adrian passes on the loss cards for EF408 AA-P, the aircraft his Uncle was flying that night (all crew lost) and also, for EH889 AA-Z that had Tom McCrorie’s crew on board (all crew lost).

EH 889crp

Based off the target coordinates included on these documents Adrian has plotted out the route the aircraft would have taken to and from Mülheim. In Adrian’s own words;

I’ve attached some bits that may be of interest. Firstly the loss cards for EF408 and EH889 which although gives little new information, do at least give the recorded route to and from the target.
I have plotted this on the other attachment and noted the location of the 4  Stirlings lost from 75(NZ) Sqdn. If all this is correct then it seems a little odd that EH889 and EF399 were so off route. I also question the time of crash of EH889 as being 00:20. With a take-off time of 23:48, I can’t see, even if flown directly, it would have been there 200 miles later within 25 mins. I have in my notes the time as being 02:20 which would seem a bit more realistic especially if the aircraft sustained damage on route to the target and crashed whilst attempting to  get back home.
As ever these things raise more questions than they do answer!”

img075crp

I share Adrian’s surprise regarding the apparently errant locations of the 2 aircraft (EH889 and EF399) – the only thing that springs to mind is a documentary i saw a while ago about ‘Operation Chastise’ which suggested that the a number of the aircraft from 617 Squadron were victim to the then unknown jet stream – blowing a number off course when approaching the Dutch coast and ultimately over flak positions. On one level, I am confused with this basic premise as my understanding is that the aircraft came in and maintained a low approach to the Dam targets, however, I would imagine that the 75(NZ) Squadron aircraft were flying considerably higher at this point and thus might have been more susceptible to strong winds – as Adrian notes, of course, we probably will never know……

Adrian also has provided another reference to the ditching of the Rothschild aircraft on their return from Frankfurt on the 11th of April 1943.

NEW ZEALANDERS SAVED
(Special Correspondent.)
LONDON, April 12.
“The air search and rescue organisation sent out a Walrus which picked up the crew of a New Zealand Stirling bomber almost immediately after they had crashed in the Channel while returning from bombing Frankfurt.

The crew included Flight Sergeant G. K. Samson, Wellington. Sergeants J. Richards, Methven, W. Hardy, Wanganui, and three Canadians. Flight Sergeant Samson said: “We bombed Frankfurt all right, but were shot up badly while returning, the petrol tanks being holed and the rear turret badly damaged. Our Canadian skipper tried to hang on and reach England, but just as dawn was breaking and the coast was four miles away, he had to make up his mind to ditch the kite.

“We had sent out a message and we were no sooner in the dinghy than an escort of Spitfires appeared over us to keep off any Huns who might look in. Then in a remarkably short time the Walrus appeared and landed so near us that the dinghy was capsized by the wash, but that did not worry, us.

“We were soon aboard and flying home. It was certainly an excellent organisation.””

The final twist of this story was that George Samson, quoted in this report, was drafted into the crew of Adrian’s uncle for that fateful Mülheim Op……….