Stirling W7513 crew – Sgt. David Church on extreme left, Sgt. Patrick Torre Hunter 2nd left, Sgt. Devinder Singh Sidhu 3rd from left, centre Sgt. Keith Halliburton – remainder awaiting identification. (Photo courtesy of David Church and 75 Squadron Association, England branch)
I think its always important to remember that I am not the only person searching for information about a relative – on Saturday morning Dave Church came up to me to let me know that he had just been messaged by his son – with the news that he had found a Danish website that seemed to identify the place (approximately) where his Fathers aircraft crashed on the 28th April 1943 on a mining operation to Kiel.
Here is the Google map with a pin identifying the approximate place of the crash
What made David’s loss all the more cruel was that despite arriving with a crew of his own, for a reason I do not know, he was drafted into the Halliburton for his first and as it sadly transpired, only operational raid – David’s ‘original’ crew, captained by Ronald Hugh Laud (based on information linking individual members from the Squadron nominal roll) were lost 2 months later on the 12th of June on a raid to Dusseldorf, the only survivor being Sgt. M.K. Matthews, the rear gunner who ended up a PoW.
The Loss Card details are as follows for the crew/ raid;
Mission: Gardening (Mine Laying – Kiel)
Date: 28/29th April 1943
Unit: No.75 Squadron (R.N.Z.A.F.)
Type: Stirling I
Base: Newmarket, Suffolk
Location: Unknown – probably over target area.
Pilot: Sgt. Keith Halliburton 415411 R.N.Z.A.F. Age 23. Killed
F/Eng: Sgt. Devinder Singh Sidhu 946455 R.A.F.V.R. Age ? Killed
Nav: Sgt. Patrick Torre Hunter 42297 R.N.Z.A.F. Age 29. Killed
A/B: Sgt. Leslie Thomas Scarfe 1261331 R.A.F.V.R. Age 21. Killed
W/Op: Sgt. David Church 1196564 R.A.F.V.R. Age 29. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Charles Henry George Boxall 1393248 Age ? Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Alexander Clunie Howell 392104 Age 23. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 20.42 hrs from R.A.F. Newmarket in Suffolk. Part of a huge 207 aircraft force on a “Gardening” (Mine laying) operation. A total of 593 mines were laid off Heligoland, in the river Elbe and in the Great and Little Belts. Low cloud base forced the aircraft to fly very low over the German and Danish coasts. Because of this they took very heavy flak and also attacks from Luftwaffe night fighters.
Although this was the largest mine laying operation in one night of the whole war it came at a price. A total of 22 aircraft were lost (75 Squadron lost 4 aircraft alone, with a total of 28 crew members killed) – 9 aircraft were lost by the night fighters and the remainder from the flak.
Stirling W7513 is not on the Luftwaffe claims list for this raid so it is thought that it had been taken down by flak – the aircraft was lost without trace.
Listening to him and the excitement in his voice was actually quite humbling – Dave has been researching his Father for a considerable amount of time and the most agonising part of his search has always remained that a crash site was not known – I can only imagine this need to find a place – and I suppose looking at the bigger picture of my search over the last 14 months, I at least had and knew Bob – Dave was not so lucky.
I was surprised when Dave’s excitement at this new revelation was tempered by the fact that because this was not an ‘official’ identification of the crash site, it would be unlikely that RAF records would be updated, to change the location to a specific place, rather than simply ‘unknown’.