Halifax L9491 was one of nine No. 35 Squadron aircraft which took off from Stanton Harcourt to attack the Battleship Scharnhorst (anchored at La Pallice) on 24th July 1941 (daylight raid).
Its seven-man crew comprised:
- Alexander Cameron Maxson Millar (Pilot)
- Frank Edward Booy (2nd Pilot)
- (Possibly) Jack Dunthorne Laurie Hall (Observer)
- George Alexander Chalmers (WOP / AG)
- Herbert Reginald Higgins (WOP / AG)
- Donald Fezard Walker (Air Gunner)
- (Possibly) Noel Grimoldby (Flight Engineer)
During the attack, L9491 was engaged in five encounters with enemy fighters, the first attack wounding the tail gunner Sgt. Walker in the leg and rendering his turret unserviceable. He remained in his turret however and continued giving directions to his Captain until a further attack, with cannon fire, completely wrecked the inter-comm. The remaining guns were made full use of and the aircraft otherwise successfully defended during the engagements and returned safely to England landing at St. Eval”.
Journey to the target
The squadron’s Operations Record Book describes the journey to the target as follows:
“The aircraft took off and proceeded via Lizard Point to a point 50 miles west of Ushant and then direct to the target. The journey from base to the turning point was made at a height of 1,000 feet and below, with the climb to the bombing height taking place between this point and the target. 19,000 feet was the intended bombing height but only 15,000 feet was reached before arrival at the target area. The weather was excellent, brilliant sunshine and no cloud, with perfect visibility.
An enemy destroyer was passed in the proximity of the Île d’Yeu, which, apparently believing itself to be under attack, commenced evasive action and opened fire, but did no damage”.
It was assumed that the destroyer warned the authorities of the impending attack and the German defences were fully prepared for the arrival of the aircraft.
The squadron’s Operations Record Book goes on to describe the arrival and subsequent attack as follows:
“As the squadron approached the target area, a very heavy barrage of A.A. fire was immediately put up, and some 30 enemy fighters were observed, some in the air and others taking off from aerodromes in and about La Rochelle.
AM Form 78
The Movement Card shows that the aircraft was allocated to No. 43 Group (Maintenance Unit) after the incident; it was returned to the squadron on 13th October 1941
P.4 (Cas), Casualty Branch Files
The following casualty file is available at the National Archives:
AIR 81/7873 Sergeant W Walken: injured; Pilot Officer ACM Millar, Sergeant FE Booy, Sergeant JD Hall, Sergeant R Frimildby (sic N Grimoldby), Sergeant JI Robinson, Flight Sergeant GA Chalmers: uninjured; enemy action, Halifax L9491, 35 Squadron, 24 July 1941.