Halifax W7906 was one of eight No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack St Nazaire on the night of the 28th February 1943.
Its six-man crew comprised:
- Donald Frederick Edgar Charles Dean (Pilot)
- Dudley Peter David Archer (Navigator)
- Alfred Edward Ralph Bexton (Air Bomber)
- Allan Roland Ball (Wireless Operator)
- James Russell Griffin (Air Gunner)
- Donald Harrington Craig (Flight Engineer)
The squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “During the outward journey, when the aircraft was flying at 13,000 feet, the port outer engine coolant temperature rose dangerously and the propeller was feathered, the aircraft gradually losing height down to 9,000 feet. However, St Nazaire was attacked in good visibility. Just after setting out for base, the starboard inner engine failed, flames shooting out of the air intakes, and the aircraft slowly lost height to 3,000 feet. All preparations were made for ditching and the return journey was made through cloud. The aircraft was “homed” by searchlights and after further difficulties reached the aerodrome at Harrowbeer, the flare path of which was extremely feeble. The Captain landed the aircraft halfway along a runway, 1100 feet in length; the aircraft overshot, the undercarriage collapsed in rough ground where the aircraft came to rest, no casualties occurring.
Note: The Record Book shows the aircraft serial as W7877, but this is incorrect
DFEC Dean Citation
DFEC Dean was awarded the Bar to Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions during this incident. The citation reads:
“One night in February 1943, this officer captained an aircraft, detailed to attack St. Nazaire. Whilst crossing the Channel, on the outward flight, one of the port engines failed. Nevertheless, Sqn. Ldr. Dean continued his mission. Whilst over the target area his aircraft was held in searchlights and subjected to heavy fire from the ground defences. Despite this, he pressed home a vigorous attack. Shortly after, the aircraft was headed for home, one of the starboard engines failed. Sqn. Ldr. Dean succeeded in maintaining height and eventually reached an airfield in this country where he effected a masterly landing in difficult circumstances”