Halifax L9569 (09/12/1941 [Non Op])

Halifax L9569 was being flown by RA Norman and crew (Night Exercise) on 9th December 1941.

The AM Form 1180 (Accident Card) shows “Tail wheel collapsed on landing causing swing; suspected severe tail wheel …………. . Isolated case in this squadron although experienced in 765 Squadron and Conversion Flight; failure to be watched in future.


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

AM Form 78

The AM Form 78 (Movement Card) shows that the aircraft was sent for repair; it was returned to the squadron on 31 January 1942

AM Form 1180

Halifax V9979 (30/12/1941)

Halifax V9979 was one of six No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack the battle cruisers (Scharnhorst and Gneisenau) in Brest harbour on the 30th December 1941 (daylight raid).

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • Stuart Auldjo Middleton (Pilot)
  • Robert Alexander Fisher Frew (2nd Pilot)
  • Leslie John Percival Foster (Observer)
  • John Albert Orton (WOP / AG)
  • Peter Clement Godwyn Maflin (WOP / AG)
  • Matthew George Kipling (Air Gunner)
  • Arthur Stanley Greenwood (Flight Engineer)

The squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “V9979 was observed to receive a direct hit under the port wing, but though its descent was followed well down to within two or three thousand feet evasive action prevented eye witnesses from following it right down, so it is not known whether he was able to regain control and bale out on time”.

V9979 [Source - Linzee Duncan]

V9979 during a raid on the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in December 1941
[Courtesy of Linzee Duncan]

Wartime activities relating to the loss

On 31st December 1941 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 30th December 1941”.

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. 109 (Flight 19/02/1942) reported SA Middleton, RAF Frew, JA Orton, PCG Maflin, LJP Foster, MG Kipling and AS Greenwood as “missing”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 138 (Flight 02/07/1942) reported SA Middleton, RAF Frew, JA Orton, PCG Maflin, LJP Foster, MG Kipling and AS Greenwood “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”

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

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 Runnymede Memorial, which was unveiled in 1953.

CWGC records do not show where the remains of the crew members were located but show that they were concentrated (reinterred) at BREST (KERFAUTRAS) CEMETERY as follows:

  • FOSTER, LESLIE JOHN PERCIVAL, Pilot Officer, ‘68739’,  Plot 40. Row 1. Grave 12.
  • FREW, ROBERT ALEXANDER FISHER, Pilot Officer, ‘104518’, Plot 40. Row 1. Grave 22.
  • GREENWOOD, ARTHUR STANLEY, Sergeant, ‘570897’, Plot 40. Row 1. Grave 11.
  • KIPLING, MATTHEW GEORGE, Sergeant, ‘614312’, Plot 40. Row 1. Grave 6.
  • MAFLIN, PETER CLEMENT GODWYN, Sergeant, ‘911942’, Plot 40. Row 2. Grave 18.
  • MIDDLETON, STUART AULDJO, Squadron Leader, ‘90371’, Plot 40. Row 2. Grave 10.
  • ORTON, JOHN ALBERT, Sergeant, ‘964519’, Plot 40. Row 2. Grave 17.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Location of Loss

Porspoder, NW France

P4 Casualty File

The following Casualty File is available at the National Archives:

AIR 81/11291 Squadron Leader S A Middleton, Pilot Officer R A F Frew, Pilot Officer L J P Foster, Sergeant J A Orton, Sergeant P C G Maflin, Sergeant M G Kipling, Sergeant A E Greenwood: killed; aircraft shot down and crashed near Porspoder, France, Halifax V9979, 35 Squadron, 30 December 1941.

WR Chorley (Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses)

“From eyewitness statements it is reported that the bomber, with one engine ablaze, passed low over the village of Lanildut [Finistere], NW of Brest, pursued by a fighter which in turn was shot down by Sgt Kipling just moments before the Halifax hit the sea, finishing up on rocks at Porspoder a few kilometres to the north of Lanildut. Soon after the crash the Germans requisitioned some seaweed boats and having searched the area returned to the small harbour at Mazou with a number of badly burned bodies though it is believed some were still alive. All were examined by a German doctor but those who had survived succumbed to their injuries. A few days later a teenage girl found the body of the wireless operator whom she identified from his tag as Sgt Maflin”

Halifax V9978 (18/12/1941)

Halifax V9978 was one of six No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack the battleships (Scharnhorst and Gneisenau) in Brest Harbour on 18th December 1941 (daylight).

It was crewed by:

  • Basil Vernon Robinson (Pilot)
  • Harry R Larson (2nd Pilot)
  • Alfred Abels (Observer)
  • Norman Henry Hood (WOP / AG)
  • Walter Harold Mennell (WOP / AG)
  • Richard Charles Rivaz (Air Gunner)
  • [-] Burtonshaw (Flight Engineer)

The route was as follows: Base, Lundy Island, Lizard Point, Lanildut, Target

The squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “Heavy flak burst observed under port wing by other aircraft in the formation. V9978 was repeatedly hit. Port inner engine failed immediately after leaving target, feathered with difficulty. Shortly afterwards starboard outer engine failed and at 12.41 hours a Glycol leak developed in the same engine followed by a small fire and flames were observed in the cowling. The same engine totally failed at 12.50 hours. Propeller boss holed by shrapnel. Port inner engine and port main plane behind port inner engine both holed by shrapnel. Subsequently aircraft made a successful landing on the sea and crew took to dinghy until rescued. Excellent visibility”.

All personnel were rescued; RC Rivaz sustained a slight injury to his ankle.

V9978 [IWM C3046]
Halifax V9978 over the target area during this raid [Source: IWM C3046]

The aircraft of FO Wilkerson circled the ditched aircraft and crew in the dinghy and for half an hour remained in the vicinity, communicating by wireless to the shore stations and did not depart until he was satisfied that everything had been done to ensure the rescue of the crew in the dinghy.



ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Cause / Location of Loss

  • Flak Damage
  • In the sea, 50 miles south of Plymouth

P4 Casualty File

The following Casualty File is available at the National Archives:

AIR 81/11099 Flying Officer R C Rivaz: injured; Wing Commander B V Robinson, Sergeant H R Larson, Flying Officer A Abels, Sergeant N H Hood, Sergeant W H Mennell, Flight Lieutenant F E P Burtonshaw: uninjured; aircraft crashed at sea on return from operational flight over Brest, France, enemy action, Halifax V9978, 35 Squadron, 18 December 1941.

ADM199/2327 Admiral Superintendent’s Office

18 December 1941, the 6th Motor Launch Flotilla operating out of Lowestoft received a report of a Halifax ditching. ML 157 was sent to the area. Seven men in the water, seven rescued.

Extract from Coastal Command Review Vol.1:

An investigation, for Air Sea Rescue, into a forced landing in the sea by an aircraft of Bomber Command has revealed a story of such practical interest as to justify its inclusion in this review, as an example of how the job should be done. It was a Halifax II and it was lost on 18th December 1941. The incident has proved that four-engined aircraft are no more dangerous to ditch than twin, with the aid of previous drill.

While engaged on operations over north-west France, the aircraft had taken off from Linton-on-Ouse at 0959 hours to attack German main naval units. Prinz Eugen, Gneisenau and Scharnhorst.  (Operation Veracity I). Fighter protection was given by 10 Squadron of Fighter Command. Both port motors were struck by flak. Only the port inner airscrew was feathered, the port outer mechanism having failed. Thus the captain was forewarned of the impending ditching. When the aircraft was struck by the flak, at 14,000 ft., considerable difficulty was experienced in maintaining a low rate of descent. Full rudder and aileron bias and full aileron with half rudder was required in order to control the aircraft. At 5,000 ft. all hope of maintaining height was abandoned and preparation for ditching began.

The wireless operator remained at his set, transmitting SOS, and he put I.F.F. to distress signal. Owing to the exertions of the captain in controlling the aircraft, the second pilot was unable to strap him in. The crew moved to the following ditching stations: second pilot prone on the floor between the rest seats, the navigator, rear gunner and engineer lay on the floor with their feet braced against the rear spar, the front gunner lay on the rest seat with his feet against the fore spar. The crew were not anchored to the aircraft.

Six hundred gallons of fuel remained in the aircraft. There were no bombs and the bomb doors were closed. No equipment was jettisoned. The wheels were up. A gradual descent was made at approximately 110 m.p.h. at 2,800 r.p.m. on both starboard engines. Any increase of power above this resulted in loss of control. At about 1,000 ft. the wireless operator moved to his ditching station on the rest seat with his feet braced against the fore spar. Both the mid-upper and the pilot’s upper exit were opened before ditching.

The sea was calm with a very slight swell. The wind was 5 m.p.h. Conditions of visibility were good with warm sunshine and little cloud.

The starboard engines were throttled back and the aircraft was glided down into wind at about 110 m.p.h. with flaps up until close to the surface. The aircraft was then held off and the tail wheel touched with the nose only slightly up. The impact occurred in the neighbourhood of 85 m.p.h. The rate of descent was almost imperceptible. As the aircraft struck the water the nose dug in and all forward speed was immediately lost while a deluge of water surged over the aircraft. When this had subsided the water level in the fuselage was 2 ft. deep and seemed to be the same level as the water outside. A great deal of water entered the aircraft from the broken nose and the upper escape hatches. The front turret was dislodged. It was noted that the propeller tips were bent. In spite of his not being secured the captain was neither thrown forward nor received any injuries. The tail gunner was the only casualty; he sprained his foot, which he considers was due to not bracing it carefully enough.

Immediately the aircraft came to rest the engineer operated the manual releases. The captain escaped by his own upper exit and the remainder of the crew through the mid-upper exit. The dinghy (” J ” type, Mark III) released satisfactorily and the drill was carried out without a hitch ; it had been well practised previously.

The aircraft remained afloat for 40 minutes with the right wing and nose slightly down. The dinghy was punctured while clearing the aircraft but the leak was effectively stopped with the stoppers provided, so that topping up was only required every quarter of an hour.

Throughout the descent the two remaining aircraft in the ‘section kept in touch with base and finally communicated the position of the ditched aircraft, 50 miles south of Plymouth. One and a half hours after ditching, a Lysander appeared and remained circling overhead until visual contact had been established between the rescue boat and the dinghy. A motor launch, with two others in attendance, rescued the crew at 1600 hours.

BBC History Peoples War [Story by WH Mennell]

I served in the RAF from October 1940 to October 1946, as a wireless operator/air gunner in bomber command.

As a newly arrived WOP/AG at Linton-on-Ouse in No. 4 Group, 35 squadron, it was a rude awakening to find myself in the front turret of the C.O’s Mark ll Halifax doing intensive training at formation flying in preparation for a daylight attack on the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau (the german pocket battleships in Brest docks). This was to be a joint effort with 18 Halifaxes from 10, 35 and 76 squadrons of 4 Group, 18 Stirlings from 3 Group. 11 Manchesters of 5 Group, with a fighter escort.

With W/Cdr ‘Robbie’ Robinson as skipper we took off from Linton when we joined up with 10 and 76 Squadrons to rendezvous with the other two groups off Lundy Island.

It was a clear sunny cloudless sky on the 18th December 1941 when we approached the French coast about midday. In the front turret of the leading Halifax I had a front row view as we changed from a vic formation to line astern. Although our escort kept the enemy fighters busy, we met very accurate flak, the first round exploding just ahead of us as we flew through its smoke. As one of our 2000 lbs bombs hung up at the first attack Robbie decided to make a further attack, this time from the land direction when the two port engines were damaged by flak, one of which could not be feathered causing considerable drag and we were forced to lose height to maintain flying speed. It struck me afterwards that although I was unable to swim I was in no way fearful of landing in the sea.

We ditched about 50 miles from Start point and took to the dinghy which inflated just as described in the manual but Robbie immediately clambered back on to the mainplane and back to the cockpit to retrieve his pipe which he had left in the cockpit. He always flew with his unlit pipe poking from the side of his oxygen mask.

F/Lt Rivaz our tail gunner who had broken a bone in his foot with the landing advised us not to open the brandy in the dinghy until we were picked up (He had previous ditching experience!)

Another aircraft in the formation circled us and transmitted our position, but had to leave us. Some time passed and we were beginning to get anxious when we saw the cross trees of a ship on the horizon which proved to be a naval torpedo boat which had been searching throughout the night for a Whitley that had ditched. Once on board we were very well looked after. Each crew member went to his bunk and shared with us his stored tots. We finally arrived in Dartmouth not a little drunk. to find ourselves being ushered into the naval guard room (a room in a pub!}. We were given beds in the Royal Naval college and the following day travelled back to York where we were met on the station by half the squadron singing “Winco’s in the drink”

Back on the squadron we were expecting to get survivor’s leave only to find being on standby for another visit to Brest.

Halifax R9372 (30/12/1941)

Halifax R9372 was one of six No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack the Battle Cruisers (Scharnhorst and Gneisenau) in Brest harbour on the 30th December 1941 (daylight raid).

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • David Scott Shearman Wilkerson (Pilot)
  • Leslie John Nelmes (2nd Pilot)
  • Ian Hewitt (Observer)
  • David Lionel Perry (WOP / AG)
  • Stanley Frank Hazleton (WOP / AG)
  • [-] Sankey (Air Gunner)
  • Donald Harrington Craig (Flight Engineer)

The squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “This aircraft attacked primary at 14.00hrs from 16,000ft. No observation of results was possible as observation plate was hit by flak just after bombs were dropped. Two inner engines were put out of action. Holes in wings, tanks, bomb doors and flaps and tyre punctured; damage being done by flak and fighters. One ME109E seen to dive steeply away after attack with smoke coming from the engine. It was not seen to crash. R9372 landed safely at St. Eval”


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

AM Form 78

The AM Form 78 (Movement Card) shows that the aircraft was classified as FB (AC); it was allocated to Handley Page and returned to the squadron on 9th January 1942

AM Form 1180

There is no AM Form 1180 (Accident Card) for this incident; as such, no further details are available

Halifax L9600 (11/12/1941)

Halifax L9600 was one of five No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Cologne [Special Target “C”] on 11th / 12th December 1941.

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • Gerald Leonard Grigg (Pilot)
  • Hubert Donald Buckley (2nd Pilot)
  • Ian Redmayne Bell (Observer)
  • Frank Wilson Crocker (WOP / AG)
  • Maurice Victor Wakeling (WOP / AG)
  • Laurence William Ketteringham (Air Gunner)
  • Robert William George Kent (Flight Engineer)

The route was: Base, Orfordness, Furnes (Veurne), Tournai, Cologne, Tournai,  Furnes (Veurne), Orfordness, Base.

L9600 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows the following: “Aircraft Missing; nothing heard since leaving base”

Wartime activities relating to the loss

On 12th December 1941, the squadron informed Bomber Command, the Air Ministry and the RAF Records Office that the aircraft and crew were missing.

A telegram and follow up letters from the Commanding Officer were sent to the next of kin of each crew member advising them that he was “missing as the result of air operations on 11th / 12th December 1941”.

IMG_0002(Edit)

Telegram that was sent to family of HD Buckley  [Courtesy of Sue McLachlan]

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

As there was no communication with L9600 during the operation, it is assumed that the authorities were not aware that the aircraft had crashed into the sea and did not initiate air-sea rescue procedures.

On 15th December 1941, the body of LW Ketteringham (Air Gunner) was washed up onto the shore at Bredene, Belgium, near the ‘Home Astrid’.  He was identified by police inspector Henri Verhelst and buried at the local cemetery the following day.

CWGC records show that his remains were buried at BREDENE CHURCHYARD as follows:

  • KETTERINGHAM, LAURENCE WILLIAM, Sergeant, ‘1153499’,  Row C. Grave 528.
ketteringham-grave

Note: It is known that the families were informed of this development as correspondence between them refers to this matter.

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 Communication No. 105 [Flight 29/01/1942] reported HD Buckley, IR Bell, FW Crocker, MV Wakeling, LW Ketteringham and RWG Kent as “missing”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communication No. 132 [Flight 28/05/1942] reported LW Ketteringham “previously reported missing”  as “now presumed killed in action”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communication No. 151 [Flight 10/09/1942] reported GL Grigg,  IR Bell, FW Crocker and MV Wakeling “previously reported missing”  as “now presumed killed in action”

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

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 Runnymede Memorial, which was unveiled in 1953.

The remains of the crew members (other than those of LW Ketteringham) were never recovered and, as such, their names are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial as follows:

  • BUCKLEY, HUBERT DONALD, Pilot Officer, 104512, Panel 31.
  • BELL, IAN REDMAYNE, Flight Sergean,t 581312, Panel 35.
  • CROCKER, FRANK WILSON, Sergeant, 911566, Panel 41.
  • GRIGG, GERALD LEONARD, Sergeant, 1165305, Panel 44.
  • KENT, ROBERT WILLIAM GEORGE, Sergeant, 559083, Panel 46.
  • WAKELING, MAURICE VICTOR, Sergeant, 115220′, Panel 54.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

P4 Casualty File

The following Casualty File is available at the National Archives:

AIR 81/10871 Sergeant L W Ketteringham: killed; Sergeant G L Grigg, Pilot Officer H D Buckley, Flight Sergeant I R Bell, Sergeant F W Crocker, Sergeant M V Wakeling, Sergeant R W G Kent: missing believed killed; aircraft failed to return from operational flight, Halifax L9600, 35 Squadron, 11 December 1941.

wrecksite.eu

Shot down above the Vuurtorenwijk, Ostend and the burning aircraft crashed into the sea in front of the Ostend Lighthouse

Presumption of Death

In the absence of any information on the crew members, the Air Ministry initiated the process of “death presumed for official purposes” in August 1942.

In the case of HD Buckley, this process was hampered by the fact that the family had received the following cable in February 1942 (2 months after the loss), which led them to believe that he was still alive:

Telegram1 redacted.jpg
Letter.jpg

Despite extensive research it has not been possible to establish where the message was sent from or why it was dated 2 months after the loss

Crew Information

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