Halifax DT488 was one of eight No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Turin on the night of the 18th / 19th November 1942.
Its seven-man crew comprised:
- BV Robinson (Pilot)
- JG Middlemass (Navigator)
- NM Halliday (Air Bomber)
- FE Solway (Wireless Operator)
- TM Bruce (Air Gunner)
- EF Butler (Air Gunner)
- W Potter (Flight Engineer)
The squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “When the Alps were reached on the return flight, one of four flares which hung up caused a fire in the bomb bay. As the fire appeared to be spreading the crew were ordered to bale out and did do quite successfully at approximately 22.30 hours, position 45 degrees, 27 minutes / 7 degrees, 10 minutes. Before the Captain had time to leave the aircraft the fire abated and finally was extinguished, so he brought the aircraft back alone, landing at Colerne, damage to the aircraft being found to be only slight”.
Wartime activities relating to the loss
On 18th / 19th November 1942 the squadron informed Bomber Command, the Air Ministry and the RAF Records Office that some of the 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 18th / 19th November 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.
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:
- 20/11/1942: Information received that the Italian Wireless had revealed that five RAF aircrew, including one officer, had been captured as a result of the raid on Turin on 18th November 1942. These prisoners were almost certainly members of the crew of BF Robinson’s crew as no other casualty occurring on the raid
- 22/12/1942: Information received from Air Ministry that JG Middlemass, NM Halliday and EF Butler, missing on 18th / 19th November 1942, are prisoners of war in Italy.
- 31/12/1942: Information received from Air Ministry that FE Solway, TN Bruce and W Potter, missing on 18th / 19th November 1942, are prisoners of war in Italy
- 29/06/1944: Information received from Air Ministry that EF Butler, missing and taken prisoner on 18th / 19th November 1942, has been repatriated
- 14/07/1944: Information received from Air Ministry that NM Halliday, missing on 18th / 19th November 1942, has returned to the UK
Crew members who were captured / imprisoned
EF Butler and NM Halliday were captured, interrogated and imprisoned until 1944 when they were repatriated.
Their POW Liberation Questionnaires, which were completed as part of the repatriation process, show the following details:
- EF Butler (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Camp 59
- NM Halliday (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Camp 59
JG Middlemass, FE Solway, TH Bruce and W Potter were captured, interrogated and imprisoned for the remainder of the war.
- JG Middlemass (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Camp 78
- FE Solway (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Camp 57
- TM Bruce (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Camp 70
- W Potter (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Camp 52
The AM Form 1180 (Accident Card) shows “Aircraft caught fire in the air due to ignition of a flare which caught in the rear of the bomb bay. Crew abandoned aircraft but flames died down and fire extinguished itself. Pilot returned to England but was forced to land at Colerne airfield”
The AM Form 78 (Movement Card) shows that it was classified as FB/E on 19th November 1942, but the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows that it was operational on 20th November 1942 and was not struck off charge until May 1943 when it failed to return from operations
London Gazette (05/01/1943)
BV Robinson was awarded the Bar to Distinguished Flying Cross as a result of his actions. The citation reads:
One night in November during an operational sortie against Turin, this officer displayed great gallantry and determination when a dangerous fire broke out in his aircraft. Owing to the intensity of the flames and smoke which filled the cockpit, Wing Commander Robinson saw no hope of bringing the fire under control and therefore ordered his crew to abandon the aircraft. While preparing to follow them himself, the fire abated. Undeterred by the difficulty of the flight which involved crossing the Alps and flying many hundreds of miles over enemy occupied territory, Wing Commander Robinson continued alone, completed the return journey, and landed his large 4 engine aircraft successfully in this country despite very adverse weather., accomplishing a most praiseworthy and skilful feat of airmanship.