Halifax L9524 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:
- Terence Patrick Armstrong Bradley (Pilot)
- Douglas Rowley-Blake (2nd Pilot)
- Thomas Reginald Nixon (Observer)
- Peter George Bolton (WOP / AG)
- Richard Charles Rivaz (Air Gunner)
- Wallace Llewellyn Berry (Air Gunner)
- HE Wheeler (Flight Engineer)
The squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “Halifax L9524 obtained good sight on target but bomb doors failed to open due to hit by anti-aircraft fire. Doors did however open in time to deliver attack on a moving destroyer, south of the target, but evasive action necessary in countering both flak and enemy aircraft attacks did not permit observation of the results. Tail gunner had one gun out of action and another firing spasmodically, but succeeded in defending the aircraft and shot down one enemy. Sgt Bolton, the first wireless operator received injuries to the chest and died instantly and Sgt Rowley-Blake, the second pilot, received slight shrapnel wounds in the left thigh, calf and shoulder. Although the aircraft suffered damage to one propeller and the controls and the other many hits, it returned safely to St Eval.“.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) records shows the following burial details:
- BOLTON, PETER GEORGE, Sergeant, ‘944667’, ST. EVAL CHURCHYARD Row 1. Grave 16.
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 (Movement Card) shows that the aircraft was allocated to 43 Group; it was returned to the squadron on 12th September 1941.
AM Form 1180
There does not appear to be an AM Form 1180 for this incident
D Rowley-Blake was operational again by 7th September 1941
P.4 (Cas) Casualty Branch Files
The following casualty file is available at the National Archives:
AIR 81/7855 Sergeant P G Bolton: killed; Sergeant D Rowley-Blake: injured; operational flight over La Rochelle against Scharnhorst, Halifax L9524, 35 Squadron, 24 July 1941.