Halifax L9512 (24/07/1941)

Halifax L9512 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:

  • Stanley Desmond Greaves (Pilot)
  • John Noel Gibson (2nd Pilot)
  • Wilfred Campbell Walters (Observer)
  • Albert Henery (WOP / AG)
  • Ernest William Constable (WOP / AG)
  • Allan Gillbanks (Air Gunner)
  • Gordon Herbert Frank Ogden (Flight Engineer)

The squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “Halifax L9512 was seen to score a direct hit on the Scharnhorst but in the conflict with enemy fighters and bad visibility caused by AA bursts was not seen again and did not return. It is officially reported missing”

Wartime activities relating to the loss

On 25th July 1941 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 24th / 25th July 1941”.

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.

For the remainder of the war, the Air Ministry Casualty Branch utilised information obtained from radio intercepts and from the German Authorities and prisoners of war (which was supplied via the International Red Cross) to establish whether lost crew had been killed, wounded, imprisoned or were “missing”; the squadron and the relevant families were kept informed.

No. 35 Squadron’s Operations Record Book shows the following information was received relating to the crew:

  • 07/08/1941: Telegram received from International Red Cross states that F/S Greaves and his crew are prisoners of war, although all except Sgt Walters and Henery were wounded.

Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned

All members of the crew survived the crash and were captured, interrogated and imprisoned for the remainder of the war.

Their POW Liberation Questionnaires, which were completed as part of the repatriation process at 106 Personnel Reception Centre (RAF Cosford) in 1945, show the following details:

  • SD Greaves
    • Captured: Ile de Re (Injuries to right leg)  24/07/41
    • Hospitalised: Lucon Jul-41
    • Interrogated: Dulag Luft Oberursel, Frankfurt Aug-41
    • Imprisoned: Stalag III-E, Kirchhain Aug-41 to May-42
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III, Sagan May-42 to Jun-43
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VI, Heydekrug Jun-43 to Jul-44
    • Imprisoned: Stalag 357, Thorn Jul-44 to Aug-44
    • Imprisoned: Stalag 357, Fallingbostel Aug-44 to Apr-45
    • Repatriated: Apr-45
  • EW Constable
    • Captured: La Rochelle 24/07/41
    • Imprisoned: Potier (Hospital?)  Jul-41
    • Imprisoned: Stalag III-E, Kirchhain Aug-41 to May-42
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III, Sagan May-42 to Jun-43
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VI, Heydekrug Jun-43 to Jul-44
    • Imprisoned: Stalag 357, Fallingbostel Jul-44 to Apr-45
    • Repatriated: May-45
  • JN Gibson (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag III-E, Stalag Luft III, Stalag Luft VI, Stalag 357?
    • Repatriated
  • WC Walters  (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag III-E, Stalag Luft III, Stalag Luft VI, Stalag 357?
    • Repatriated
  • A Henery (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag III-E, Stalag Luft III, Stalag Luft VI, Stalag 357?
    • Repatriated
  • A Gillbanks (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured: (Badly injured with head wound)
    • Hospitalised?
    • Imprisoned: Stalag VIII-B, Stalag 357?
    • Repatriated
  • GHF Ogden (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag III-E, Stalag Luft III, Stalag Luft VI, Stalag 357?
    • Repatriated:

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

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.

Cause / Location of Loss

Ile de Ré, France [Crew baled out]

P.4 (Cas) Casualty Branch Files

The following casualty file is available at the National Archives:

AIR 81/7872 Flight Sergeant S D Greaves, Sergeant J N Gibson, Sergeant W C Walters, Sergeant G H F Ogden, Sergeant E W Constable, Sergeant A Gillbanks, Sergeant A Henery: prisoners of war; aircraft crashed during operational flight over La Rochelle against Scharnhorst, Halifax L9512, 35 Squadron, 24 July 1941.

Crew Reunion

A crew reunion at Linton-On-Ouse in 1981

greaves-crew-reunion-raf-mod-uk
Henery , Ogden, Gibson, Greaves, Constable, Walters, Gillbanks [Source: RAF.mod.uk]