Halifax HR848 (21/06/1943)

Halifax HR848 was one of nineteen No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Krefeld on the night of the 21st / 22nd June 1943.

Its designated Path Finder Force role was Backer Up

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • Richard Joseph Quigly (Pilot)
  • John Henry Roy Sarano St. John (Navigator)
  • Francis Ronald Carpenter (Air Bomber)
  • Francis James Williams (Wireless Operator)
  • Jack White (Air Gunner)
  • Reginald Brian Capon (Air Gunner)
  • John Irvine Barrie (Flight Engineer)

The route was 5210N 0137E, Krefeld, Nordwijk, Happisburgh.

HR848 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “This aircraft did not return, nothing being heard from it after taking off”

Wartime activities relating to the loss

On 22nd June 1943 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 21st / 22nd June 1943”.

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.

The Air Ministry Casualty Branch, which was responsible for investigating, monitoring and reporting on the status of missing aircraft and airmen, subsequently published the following information regarding the crew:

  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 273 (Flight 02/09/1943) reported JHRS St. John,  RB Capon and JI Barrie as “missing, believed killed in action”; also J White  as “missing”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 359 (Flight 23/03/1944) reported JHRS St. John, RB Capon and JI Barrie “previously reported missing, believed killed in action” as “now presumed killed in action”; also J White  “previously reported missing” “now presumed killed in action”

Note: Presumption of death enabled a death certificate to be issued; personal belongings could then be sent to next of kin, along with any monies due.

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

  • 06/08/1943: Information received from Air Ministry that F/S Quigly, missing on 21st / 22nd June 1943, is a prisoner of war
  • 24/08/1943: Information received from Air Ministry that Sgt White, missing on 21st / 22nd June 1943, was killed

Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned

RJ Quigly, FR Carpenter and FJ Williams 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:

  • FJ Williams
    • Captured: Uden, Holland (22/06/1943)
    • Interrogated: Dulag Luft, Frankfurt Jul-43 to Oct-43
    • Imprisoned: Stalag IVB, Muhlberg Oct-43 to Apr-45
    • Repatriated: May-45
  • RJ Quigly (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VI
    • Repatriated:
  • FR Carpenter (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VI, Stalag 357
    • Repatriated:

Post War search for the missing crew members

After the war, an investigation officer from the Royal Air Force Missing Research and Enquiry Service (MRES) was tasked with locating the remains of the missing crew member(s).

Original German documents, burial records and eye witness accounts were utilised to establish the location of the crash site, the cause of the loss and the initial fate of the crew; information was recorded in a MRES Investigation Report.

As part of the process, any remains that were located were exhumed, identified (wherever possible) and concentrated (reinterred) at one of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) Cemeteries in the country that they fell, in accordance with Government policy at the time.

Graves were marked with a simple wooden cross, which was replaced by the familiar CWGC headstone during the 1950’s.

Missing airmen who could not be found, or formally identified, had their names commemorated on the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede, which was unveiled in 1953.

CWGC records do not show where the remains of JHRS St. John, RB Capon, J White and JI Barrie were located but show that they were concentrated (reinterred) at UDEN WAR CEMETERY as follows:

  • BARRIE, JOHN IRVINE, Sergeant ‘1010564’  Grave 5. E. 4.
  • CAPON, REGINALD BRIAN, Flying Officer ‘126833’ Grave 5. E. 6.
  • St. JOHN, JOHN HENRY ROY SARANO, Flying Officer ‘126886’ Grave 5. E. 5.
  • WHITE, JACK, Sergeant ‘941955’ Grave 5. E. 7.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)

Nightfighter Claim: Lt. Werner Baake, 1./NJG1, 3 km S Uden (Holland), 3.000m. 01.37 

Bomber Command Loss Card

Sgt Williams states:

(a) Informed by interrogating officer at Dulag Luft that Sgt White was dead. After attack he shouted something over the intercom but do not know what. We were ordered to bale out and to the best of my belief he was alive when I left the aircraft.
(b) Informed by interrogating officer that F/O St John was dead. I handed him his parachute prior to my leaving the aircraft. He nodded to me as I went out at approx 10,000ft; that was the last I saw of him.
(c) Informed by interrogating officer that F/O Capon was dead. I saw and heard nothing of him up until the time I left the aircraft.
(d) Informed by interrogating officer that Sgt Barrie was dead. I did not see him during attack or up to time I left the aircraft

Sgt Carpenter states:

Heard from an authoritative source that there were four bodies in wreckage of the aircraft and that the bodies of the above officers were four of them

Eye witness report (Rough Translation of a Dutch Report)

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS TEXT CONTAINS GRAPHIC CONTENT REGARDING THE AFTERMATH

On the night of 21 / 22 June 1943, an English bomber crashed into the Oak hill. It was a Halifax that was on its way to Krefeld in Germany. The device came down gently, anxiously watched by hundreds of residents of the Oak Hill and the surrounding area. Everyone was afraid that the large object would be crash on a farm but in the end it came down a hundred meters behind the farm of Dort van Driel at the end of a country road in the meadow of Bert Rovers.

German soldiers, who were quartered at Driek Verkuijlen, were quickly on the spot and closed immediately the area around the site. The Uden department of Population Protection also came with some men.

The plane was on fire with four airmen left on board. Their groans of pain were heart wrenching, but nobody was allowed to approach the aircraft. Young men from the neighbourhood including Adam and Verkuilen tried to come closer but as they crawled by a nearby watercourse they were noticed by the Germans and were driven off by warning shots. When comments were made by local residents about the hellish pains of the occupants this was dismissed by the German soldiers with: “The is only a Tommy “. In retrospect, it turned out to be very dangerous in the vicinity of the aircraft because the entire bombload was still present.

Days later when the fire was extinguished and what remained was cooled, the bombs were detonated from a distance. This happened from a silage silo at Driek Verkuijlen. Everyone in the neighbourhood was evacuated. The damage was great, with countless windows broken and tiles blown from roofs.

At Dort van Driel and Bert van den Broek there was a hole in the roof of the farm. Even At Duifhuis, many panes had to be re-laid. Hereafter, the Germans came with five boxes to collect the remains. Dort van Driel was requested the day before to sign up to help. He went early in the morning to his in-laws and got away from the job. People in prison clothes had the remains collected and put into boxes. A chest remained empty.

Bert van den Broek who happened to come by horse and cart was summoned to take the crates to Uden. Farmers still found body parts later, including a part of one hand found. A parachute that the Germans had hidden was taken home by Lambert van Duijnhoven van Duifhuis. The bloody part was cut off because it could not be cleaned and clothes were made from the rest, as the silk fabric was very suitable for this.

The part of the aircraft that had sunk into the ground was dug out and taken away by a scrap metal merchant in the 1950s. Some parts can still be found in the museum at Dorshout (a piece of the airframe and a bomb shard). Willem van Cuijk also has some remains and bullets that he collected.

[Source: eikenheuvel.nl]

Notes:

  1. WR Chorley suggests that the nightfighter claim was by Hptm. Hans-Dieter Frank, 1./NJG1 and that the aircraft crashed at 01.23 near Eikenheuwel