Halifax L9501 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:
- Robert Fenwick Owen (Pilot)
- Leslie Alec Hayward (2nd Pilot)
- Eric Arthur Fawns Gibb (Observer)
- Douglas Peter Hogg (WOP / AG)
- Herbert Reginald Higgins (Air Gunner)
- Rodney Gordon Mullally (Air Gunner)
- James William Hays (Flight Engineer)
The squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “During the attack, enemy fighters delivered, in all, ten attacks on Halifax L9501, one being claimed as shot down. Great coolness and deliberation was shown by Sgt Higgins, the tail gunner in fighting back and successfully defending his aircraft. On seeing an apparently disabled Halifax being attacked by two ME 109’s he directed his Captain to the scene of the combat and succeeded in drawing off one of the attackers”.
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 1180
The AM Form 1180 (Accident Card) shows that the aircraft forced landed at Weston Zoyland (Somerset) due to fuel shortage
There appears to have been minimal damage to the aircraft as the aircraft remained on charge of the squadron and was operational again (with much the same crew) on 30th July 1941