Halifax W7701 was one of ten No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Essen on the night of the 8th / 9th June 1942.
Its seven-man crew comprised:
- Joseph Thomas Pack (Pilot)
- Roy Blackwell Chadwick (Observer)
- William Edgar Pilborough (WOP / AG)
- (Possibly) John Andrew Catley (WOP / AG)
- John McKinstry (Air Gunner)
- William John Hopkins (Air Gunner)
- John Ralph Storey (Flight Engineer)
W7701 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “took off from Linton for Essen; nothing was heard of this aircraft after it left base”
Wartime activities relating to the loss
On 9th June 1942 the squadron informed Bomber Command, the Air Ministry and the RAF Records Office that the aircraft and crew were missing.
A telegram, along with a follow up letter from the Commanding Officer, was sent to the next of kin of each crew member advising them that he was “missing as the result of air operations on 8th / 9th June 1942”.
The crew’s kit and personal belongings were removed from their lockers and catalogued; kit was returned to stores and personal belongings sent to the RAF Central Depository at RAF Colnbrook.
The Air Ministry Casualty Branch, which was responsible for investigating, monitoring and reporting on the status of missing aircraft and airmen, subsequently published the following information regarding the crew:
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 172 (Flight 12/11/1942) reported RB Chadwick, WE Pilborough, WJ Hopkins, J McKinstry and JR Storey as “missing, believed killed in action”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 233 (Flight 20/05/1943) reported RB Chadwick, WE Pilborough, WJ Hopkins, J McKinstry and JR Storey “previously reported missing, believed killed in action” as “now presumed killed in action”
Note: Presumption of death enabled a death certificate to be issued; personal belongings could then be returned to the next of kin, along with any monies due
Crew members who survived the crash and evaded capture
JT Pack baled out and evaded capture as follows:
- Evasion Route: Germany / Holland / Belgium / France / Spain (Comet Line 33)
- Repatriated: Londonderry 25/08/1942
Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned
JA Catley baled out and was captured, interrogated and imprisoned for the remainder of the war.
His POW Liberation Questionnaire, which was completed as part of the repatriation process at 106 Personnel Reception Centre (RAF Cosford) in 1945, shows the following details:
- JA Catley (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III, Stalag Luft VI, Stalag 357
Post War search for missing crew members
After the war, an investigation officer from the Royal Air Force Missing Research and Enquiry Service (MRES) was tasked with locating the remains of the missing crew member(s).
Original German documents, burial records and eye witness accounts were utilised to establish the location of the crash site, the cause of the loss and the initial fate of the crew; information was recorded in a MRES Investigation Report.
As part of the process, any remains that were located were exhumed, identified (wherever possible) and concentrated (reinterred) at one of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) Cemeteries in the country that they fell, in accordance with Government policy at the time.
Graves were marked with a simple wooden cross, which was replaced by the familiar CWGC headstone during the 1950’s.
Missing airmen who could not be found, or formally identified, had their names commemorated on the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede, which was unveiled in 1953.
CWGC records show that the remains of Chadwick, Pilborough, Hopkins, McKinstry and Storey were located at Brusthem Airfield (St Trond).
They were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) on 31st January 1947 at HEVERLEE WAR CEMETERY as follows:
- PILBOROUGH, WILLIAM EDGAR, Flight Sergeant, ‘R/56441,’ Coll. grave 7. E. 1-5.
- CHADWICK, ROY BLACKWELL, Flight Lieutenant, ‘77909’, Coll. grave 7. E. 1-5.
- McKINSTRY, JOHN, Sergeant, ‘1040701’, Coll. grave 7. E. 1-5.
- HOPKINS, WILLIAM JOHN, Sergeant, ‘636602’, Coll. grave 7. E. 1-5.
- STOREY, JOHN RALPH, Sergeant, ‘571845’, Coll. grave 7. E. 1-5.
WR Chorley (Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War)
Believed shot down and crashed at 01.50 Meeuwen-Gruitrode (Belgium) (Note: Bierwart has also been quoted as the crash location)
Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)
No nightfighter or flak claims relating to this loss
Bomber Command Loss Card
JT Pack: Aircraft on fire and diving steeply with all crew aboard except Catley who left at 500 feet
Evasion Report Number (National Archives)
WO208/3310/817 JT Pack
Extract from JT Pack story on ww2peopleswar
“We had got ourselves boxed in with searchlights and Ack Ack . Diving, climbing and, turning steeply would not free us. I could smell cordite and hear the sound of exploding shells. It was all very unpleasant. We eventually cleared the Ruhr at 21,000 ft. No-one saw the fighter which shot us down. Within seconds it seemed there was a large burning hole where my instrument panel had been. The plane was on fire and four of the crew were killed.
A little later I was swinging across the skies on my parachute, like a huge pendulum. 20 to 30 minutes later I hit the ground. I expected to be immediately arrested, but there was complete silence. I discovered later that I had landed to the west of Aachen”
Citation for Mention in Despatches (JT Pack)
JT Pack received a Mention in Despatches for his efforts. The citation reads:
The above airman was captain of the crew of an aircraft which raided Essen on 8th June 1942. They were attacked by night fighters and compelled to bale out. Sergeant Pack came down in the region of Kirchoven, near Heinsberg, in Germany. Evading capture on landing, he succeeded in making his way to the Belgian frontier which he safely crossed. After a period of hiding he continued on his way, finally crossing France into Spain, when he was repatriated on 20th August, 1942. This airman displayed great coolness and resource in effecting his escape.