Halifax L9511 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:
- George Walton Holden (Pilot)
- Henry Anthony Perks (2nd Pilot)
- Alistair William Steven (Observer)
- James Patrick Henderson (WOP / AG)
- JH Smith (WOP / AG)
- Harold Walter Stone (Air Gunner)
- (Possibly) William David Perriment
The squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “Enemy aircraft attacked on approaching target area and accurate heavy AA fire was encountered immediately upon entering the area. The port wheel of Halifax L9511 was burst and the aircraft holed in many places, and although preparation was made to deliver attack the bombs hung up. The aircraft was then attacked by enemy fighters, the first attack with cannon fire killing PO Stone and raking up through the fuselage and wounding both beam gunners Sgt Smith severely and Sgt Perriment slightly. The Captain held steady both his aircraft and his section in the formation. Sgt Perriment although in acute pain kept his post and continued in the defence of the aircraft and Sgt Smith in a state of semi-coma and barely able to see, persisted in remaining by the second operator, supervising the operation of the set and so the aircraft returned safely to England, landing at St Eval.“
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) records show the following burial details:
- STONE, HAROLD WALTER, Pilot Officer, ‘45899’, BRISTOL (GREENBANK) CEMETERY, Screen Wall. UU. 114.
[Photograph © gravestonephotos.com]
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 AM Form 78 shows that the aircraft was allocated to 43 Group (Maintenance Unit); it was returned to the squadron on 3rd December 1941
P.4 (Cas) Casualty Branch Files
The following casualty file is available at the National Archives:
AIR 81/7850 Pilot Officer H W Stone: killed; Sergeant J H Smith, Sergeant W Perriment: injured; Warrant Officer G A Holden, Sergeant H A Perks, Sergeant J W Steven, Sergeant J P Henderson: uninjured; aircraft hit by enemy anti aircraft fire over La Rochelle, France, Halifax L9511, 35 Squadron, 24 July 1941.
W Perriment / JH Smith
Neither W Perriment nor JH Smith appear to have flown operationally with the squadron after this incident