Halifax W7885 (13/02/1943)

Halifax W7885 was one of eight No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Lorient on the night of the 13th / 14th February 1943.

It was carrying 5 x 1000lb GP and various Target Indicators.

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • JC Thomas (Pilot)
  • GHF Carter (Navigator)
  • R Martin (Air Bomber)
  • ER Turenne (Wireless Operator)
  • JN Barry (Air Gunner)
  • WJ Freeman (Air Gunner)
  • DC Young (Flight Engineer)

The route was Ile de Groix, Lorient, Bridport

W7885 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “This aircraft took off to attack Lorient after which nothing further was heard from it”

Wartime activities relating to the loss

On 14th February 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 13th / 14th February 1943”.

An example of the telegram that was sent

 

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. 221 (Flight 15/04/1943) reported WJ Freeman as “missing”

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

  • 09/04/1943: Information received that F/O Carter, missing over Lorient on 13th / 14th February 1943 had returned to this country [Reported again on 08/05/1943]
  • 21/07/1943: Information received from the Air Ministry that F/S Barry, missing on 13th / 14th February 1943, arrived in the UK on 14th July 1943
  • 31/12/1943: Information received from the Air Ministry that F/O Thomas, missing on 13th / 14th February 1943, is safe in a neutral country

Crew members who survived the crash and evaded capture

JC Thomas, R Martin, GHF Carter, ER Turenne and JN Barry survived the crash and evaded capture.

  • JC Thomas
    • Evasion Route: France / Switzerland
    • Repatriated: 1944?
  • R Martin
    • Evasion Route: France / Spain / Gibraltar (Oaktree?)
    • Repatriated: Liverpool 24/07/1943
  • GHF Carter
    • Evasion Route: France
    • Repatriated: Coverack, Cornwall 09/04/1943
  • ER Turenne
    • Evasion Route: France / Spain / Gibraltar (Oaktree?)
    • Repatriated: Liverpool 24/07/1943
  • JN Barry
    • Evasion Route: France / Spain / Gibraltar (Oaktree?)
    • Repatriated: Whitchurch 14/07/1943

Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned

DC Young survived the crash and, after evading for a while, he was captured, interrogated and imprisoned for the remainder of the war.

His POW Liberation Questionnaire, which was completed as part of the repatriation process at 106 Personnel Reception Centre (RAF Cosford) in 1945, shows the following details:

  • DC Young
    • Evaded: Feb-43 to Mar-43
    • Captured: 19 Avenue D’Orlean, Paris 03/03/1943
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft I, Barth May-43 to Oct-43
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VII, Bankau Oct-43 to May-44
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft IV, Gross Tychow Jun-44 to Feb-45
    • Imprisoned: Stalag XI-B, Fallingbostel Feb-45 to Apr-45
    • Repatriated: May-45

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 WJ Freeman were located but show that they were concentrated (reinterred) at CARHAIX COMMUNAL CEMETERY as follows:

  • FREEMAN, WILLIAM JOSEPH Flying Officer ‘J/10162’

[Source: FindaGrave]


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)

Theo has advised that there are no claim or flak details available for this raid

Bomber Command Loss Card

  • Hit by flak over target; crew baled out near Spezet in Brittany.
  • Hit by flak over target and port outer engine ….. and two large holes made in fuselage. Fire ….. and could not be extinguished. Crew baled out at Carhaix
  • Crew baled out …… Rear Gunner believed found dead by the crashed aircraft with parachute unopened

Evasion Report Numbers (National Archives)

  • Not Known JC Thomas
  • WO208/3314/1315 R Martin
  • WO208/3312/1155 GHF Carter
  • WO208/3314/1314 ER Turenne
  • WO208/3314/1299 JN Barry

Extract from GHF Carter’s MI.9 Report (Courtesy of Hugh Halliday)

I was navigator of an aircraft which took off from Graveley (Huntingdonshire) about 1830 hours on 13 February 1943 to bomb Lorient. Our aircraft was hit by flak over the target and we baled out about 20.45 hours. The other members of the crew were:- F/O Thomas (pilot) Sergeant Martin (bomb aimer) Flight Sergeant Turner (wireless operator) Sergeant Young (engineer), Flight Sergeant Barry (mid-upper gunner) and F/O Freeman (killed). All landed safely, except F/O Freeman, whose parachute stuck as he was leaving the aircraft. He struck the ground and died 20 minutes later. The rest of us came down within 500 yards of one another in the region of Spezet, about ten miles southwest of Carhaix (Brittany) Flight Sergeant Barry and I joined up almost immediately and the other survivors gathered in a separate group. I fell in a field, about 15 yards from a house (at Koerlescouat [Kerlescoat]) into which Flight Sergeant Barry was brought. Flight Sergeant Barry was given civilian clothes. I was already wearing civilian clothes under my battle dress with the idea (my own) of facilitating evasion. The people in the house kept our uniforms, parachutes and Mae Wests. Barry and I both speak fluent French, and we discussed our plans with our helpers. It was decided we could go through Gourin (southwest of Spezet) as there were no Germans there. We stayed at the farm until 0500 hours next day (14 February). We then walked on secondary roads through Gourin to a farm at Pont Rouge near Priziac. I had with me my own map of France, and we used this and the maps from our escape aids “purse”. We had also studied a map on the back of the telephone directory at the farm at [Kerlescoat] . We spent the night at the farm house at Pont Rouge. At 0700 hours next day (15 February) we started walking to Guemene-sur-Scorff (to the east of Priziac) whence we got a bus to Pontivy. The bus was crowded, but I told the conductor we were Canadians escaping, and he pushed us on. A man on the bus heard us talking to the conductor and at Pontivy he took us to a café, where we stayed a night and two days. Here we got in touch with an organisation, and eventually my journey to the United Kingdom was arranged for me

Crew Information

The following link provides information on JC Thomas’ operational sorties as Captain of a No. 35 Squadron aircraft and the composition of his crew on these sorties