Objective: Saint Leu D'Esserent.
On the night of 4th 5th
July 1944, Bomber command sent a force of 231 Lancaster's and 15 Mosquito's
to attack the V1 supply depot at Saint Leu D'Esserent. With the target area
having been identified previously, the air crews mapped their route in order
to miss major towns and known flak installations which they might encounter
over France. What had not been foreseen was the amount of Luftwaffe fighters
which had been assembled to defend the supply depot. This force would have
a serious outcome with no less than 13 RAF Lancaster's being shot down over
occupied territory. Many of the crews would die in their valiant effort to
bring an end to the V1 reign of terror over England. Some crew men would be
taken prisoner by the German forces on the ground, however some very fortunate
crew men would evade capture to then be assisted by local French men and women
who would hide the airmen in their own homes with the ever present danger
of being caught or exposed by fellow country men. At times German soldiers
would visit their homes but not in search of the airmen but for a place to
sleep or for food. These heart stopping moments were lived by both the French
and the airmen. Adding to the fear of being caught, the punishment was execution,
was the lack of food and supplies which the families already endured.
The BBC had sent a rebus
message to the local population of Saint Leu d'Esserent informing them that
the information regarding the base, sent by the Resistance networks had been
Mr & Mrs Bonnaventure worked
as railway line crossing guards opposite the entrance to the base. It would
be their name which translated in to English which was used. Bonne aventure
meaning good adventure was the code used in the following message:
"Ce soir nous irons a la
bonne aventure" ( Tonight we go on a good adventure)
A plaque has been place
on the grandchild's house in Saint Leu d'Esserent, in remembrance of here
grandparents. The couple were taken prisoner by the Germans and interrogated.
The interrogation was short lived, due to the fact in the message Bonne Aventure
was spelt differently to their name. The couple where released with out harm.
The bombing raid over
Saint Leu D'Esserent was planned at night with the 'bombs away' set for 01H45
am. This particular night was a clear sky with bright moonlight. The attacking
force assembled over England between 23h30 and started it journey over the
English Channel and the French coast.
(See Sledgehammers for
tintacks by Steve Darlow)
The following aircraft
from each squadron is detailed below:
9 Squadron sent LL845, W4964, JA957, JA690, LL785, ME833, EE136, LM453, LL884, LL914, DV161, PB146, ME809, DV396
44 Squadron sent;
49 Squadron sent; ED602, NE512, LM207, ND383, ND787, JB701, PB207, LM191, PB231, ND957, ME787, LM541, JB473, LM190, ND647, PB195 (info supplied by Ed. Norman)
57 "can you help?"
61 " can you help?"
97 Squadron sent ND589 (D), PB156 (O), ND746 (L), ND961 (N), ND740 (F), ND452 (S), PA974 (B), JA846 (K),PB133 (C), ND840 (J), ND501 (T)
106 Squadron sent JB663, ME789, LL953, PB191, ME832, ND682, ME668, ME778, LM215, PB144, ME831, JB593, ND339, LL948, JB641, PB122.
207 Squadron sent LL902,ND866, ME814, NE168 LM125, ME805, ND872, LM208, LM218, LM535, ME807, ME681, ND567, ME667, LM1296, ND570.
463 Squadron sent 15 a/c ? HK536, ME614,
467 Squadron sent 16 a/c ? R5868,
617 Squadron, Mustang III, Mosquito NT205, Lancasters, M458(n),ME557(S),ME559(Y),DV391(O),DV385(A),ED763(D),DV393(T),EE131(B),
630 Squadron "can you help?"
With the bomber formation
now over French territory they faced the defending force of German Luftwaffe
fighters. The fighters would harass the bomber crews all the way to the target
and on their return journey. By no means was this a 'milk run'.
The first aircraft to succumb
was 463 squadron's Lancaster HK536 JO-H.
It was shot down over the town of Ellecourt in the Seine-Maritime department
north west of Beauvais. The crew of seven are all buried in the Ellecourt
Communal cemetery. Four of the crew were RAAF. A claim is made by Luftwaffe
fighter pilot Uffz.Grätz 3/JG301 at around 01H15.
F/O A.K.Carter (RAAF),
Sgt B.J.Watts, F/S R.H.Norman, Sgt A.C.Brown, F/S T.F.Maher (RAAF), F/S G.R.Whimpey
(BEM RAAF), F/S G.E.Dowling.
57 squadron would lose
Lancaster JB486 DX-F near the town of
Breteuil. Luftwaffe Pilot, Fw. Martin Schulze of 1/JG301 claims a 4 engine
aircraft in this area (SE) at 01H17. The crew of seven are all buried in Poix
de Picardie churchyard.
F/L A.E.Grubb, Sgt H.Lees,
WO2 J.W.Weyers (RCAF), F/O J.P.Hodges (RAAF), Sgt G.T Osborne, Sgt C.N.Stalker,
The third Lancaster downed
was 106 Squadrons, Lancaster ME832 ZN-J.
Of the crew of seven only F/S O J McNaughton RCAF survived and evaded capture.
Four of the crew are buried at Beauvais-Marissel cemetery and the panels 211
& 232 perpetuate F/S Futcher & Sgt Kearney at Runnymede.The aircraft crashed
fully loaded into the small woodland close to the town of Saint Germain la
Poterie. A claim is made by Fw. Gerhard Koch of 1/JG301 stating he shot down
a Lancaster at 01H30.
F/S S.M.Futcher, Sgt R.Bentley,
F/S F.H.Stokeld, F/S O.J.McNaughton (RCAF), Sgt J.J.Kearney, F/O W.H.C.Ramsay,
recalls: "In 1994 families, of the crew came to Beauvais, looking for the
crash site. We got to meet them. By sharing their and our information we could
determine it was the crash site they were looking for. The memorial was erected
by two members of the museum, Jacques Maillard and I. A contractor and I manufactured
both memorials. A subsidiary was provided by St Germain La Poterie City Hall."
formation now turning to start its bomb run west of Saint Leu d'Esserent having
witnessed the loss of three bombers from the French skies and the long journey
home had yet to start. With the 'bombs away' more night fighters take their
toll on the Bomber group and at this point two Lancaster's are hit.
lost Lancaster LL785 WS-F which crashed
in a pasture next to the small hamlet of Le Tillet killing all onboard. Mrs.
Poulet witnessed the crash but no-one went to the crash site because the German
infantry was at the sceane. Six of the crew are buried at Creil's communal
cemetery whilst Sgt Atkin rests at the Beauvais - Marissel French National
Cemetery. A claim is made by Oblt. Ernst Fischer of 1/JG301 at 01H35.
F/L J.V.Patrick (RNZAF), Sgt H.P.F.Eveleigh, F/S I.A.Buchanan, F/S V.H.Grayson,
Sgt R.J.Atkin, F/S S.E.W.Marshall, Sgt J.T.Theaker.
At more or
less the same time, 207 Squadron lose Lancaster
LM125 EM-G which came down over the small town of Apremont near Chantilly.
The aircraft crashed near to the Faisanderie. The crew of seven are all killed
and are buried in Creil's communal cemetery. Oblt Ernst Fischer claims a second
Lancaster only four minutes from that of his first 01H39.
Sgt J.Matthews, F/S H.G.West, F/S C.M.Firth, Sgt C.A.Hallett, Sgt C.Stapleton,
Roper lies in Creil Communal Cemetery, France. He is also remembered in the
Rolls of Honour placed by 207 Squadron RAF Association in Leicester Cathedral
and All Saints Great Steeping (adjacent to the old RAF Spilsby airfield).
There are memorials to the Squadron on the airfield and in All Saints'. He
is also named in the No.5 Group Roll of Honour in Lincoln Cathedral and in
the Central Church of the Royal Air Force, St. Clement Danes, London, and
is named on the Northallerton War Memorial. Derrick Roper was aged 19 years.
With the bomb
run over, the crews must now adjust their instruments and set course for home
following one of three pre-determined routes.
Lancaster ME699 KM-T would be the next
to succumb to the night fighters in the area. Not unusual but this aircraft
was manned by eight men. The aircraft came down in a ball of flames over the
small village of Laversine near to Beauvais. Two of the crew managed to bail
out and both evaded capture and when Beauvais was liberated both men were
reunited and returned home. Uffz. Günther Schlomberg of 3/NJG2 claims a Lancaster
in the area at 01H49 which is about the time which Mrs.? recalls seeing an
aircraft plough in to a field behind her farm. Sgt Robinson, was picked up
by the Morels family and would soon be joined by another pilot from the third
Saint Leu raid. The other airman F/S J E Wainwright was also helped by a local
resistance group led by the Pelltiers family who hid him at their family home
in Haudivillier. All the airmen returned in 1950/60's to respectively thank
the families who helped them.
P/O W.A.Young (RAAF), Sgt
W.Robinson, F/O F.E.Wareham, F/O H.Braathen (RCAF), F/S J.E.Wainwright, Sgt
T.L.Jackson, Sgt W.W.Rennie (RCAF), Sgt R.Houseman
With the target a far way
off behind them the bomber crews were for ever more getting closer to the
English channel and finally home. However, the final sprint was by no way
630 squadron would lose
Lancaster ME867 LE-N. The aircraft crashed
near the town of Lannoy - Cuillere The crew of seven all died and are buried
at Poix de la Picardie churchyard apart from Sgt F.H.Hard who is buried in
the town of Lannoy. According to a local inhabitant the aircraft crashed between
the D8 & D316. At this point nine Luftwaffe pilots claim the shooting down
of aircraft in the area.
P/O R.N.Taft, Sgt W.J.Goodyear,
Sgt H.Bradley, Sgt F.Hartley, Sgt E.C.Day, Sgt F.H.Hard, Sgt G.H.Tyler.
Within minutes of the fate
of 630 squadrons Lancaster, 49 squadrons Lancaster
PB195 EA-P was shot down between Gourcelles and Romescamp. killing all
seven aboard. The crew are buried at Romescamp local churchyard.
F/O H.F.Dod, Sgt V.A.Keen,
F/S N.Gordon, F/S J.L.Cox, Sgt L.Horner, Sgt B.R.Scott, Sgt J.R.Truscott (RCAF).
The last Lancaster to succumb
to night fighter action in this area was 57 squadrons Lancaster
JB723 DX-P. The aircraft crashed near Aubermesnil aux Erables and the
crew of seven are buried in the churchyard.
P/O R.R.Smith (RAAF),
Sgt R.D.Mercer, F/S F.W.Hood (RCAF), F/S C.F.Spencer, Sgt E.A.Wood, Sgt W.A.Roberts,
Sgt W.R.Moore (RCAF).
with Mr. LEGER Andre who recalls the crash and pointed out to me the crash
site. He also remembers that Ellecourt was bombed because in the wood land
close to the crash site was a V1 launch ramp. Further down the road was a
fixed FLAK position.
the second of two return paths 463 squadron would lose their second Lancaster
ME 614 that night over the town of Lyon La Foret. Four of the crew have
their names on the Runnymede Memorial, the others are buried in Beauvais-Marissel
French National cemetery. With the help of Henri COLLIGNON who recalled seeing
the aircraft come down, we established the area "les maisons blanches". He
was also able to tell me that it was shot down by a night fighter. According
the Luftwaffe, Fw. Blank 8./NJGF claims and aircraft in this area at 01H53
(RAAF), F/O A.CONNOR (RAAF), F/O E.FLETCHER, W/O L.HARRISON (RAAF), F/O Mcleod,
F/S P.DUNFORD (RAAF), F/S A.GILLETT (RAAF), F/S T.HENDRY ( RAF)
Lancaster ME 614 du Sq 463 a ete abattu la nuit du 04.07.1944 a cote du lieu
dit "les maisons blanches" 2 Kms de LYONS LA FORET ( Eure), il aurait decolle
de Waddington a23h04, bombarde Saint Leu et abattu par la chasse. Je l'ai
vu en flammes au dessus de Lyons un instant avant son crash d'apres les archives
tous les membres d'equipage sont morts, L'Anglais que j'ai vu quelques heures
apres dans un camion allemand a probablement ete montre par la propagande
Nazi et n'etait pas de cet appareil." Henri COLLIGNON
61 squadron lost its only
aircraft that night Lancaster EE186 QR-D. The aircraft came down between the
town of Les Andelys and Harquency. Five of the crew were taken prisoner whilst
two evaded capture. The RAF report states that two of the thirteen aircraft
were shot down by Flak. Taking into account that no claim was made in this
area by the Luftwaffe. It would seem that this aircraft was shot down by Flak.
P/O W.North (POW), Sgt
D.J.Hatchett (EVD), F/S H.E.Crowley (EVD), F/S N.E.Jarvis (RAAF) (POW), G.I.W.Montgith
(POW), D.A.Bartlett (POW), Sgt P.E. O'shea (POW)
106 Squadron would soon
lose their Lancaster ND339 ZN-U that night
but this time to Flak of the Rouen area . The aircraft crashed near the small
village of Sevis, killing the pilot. Only F/O F Crosier died in the crash
and is buried in the Saint Sever cemetery at Rouen. Two of the remaining six,
Sgt T H Perera and C K Churchyard were taken prisoner. The rest evaded capture.
P/O G A Price RNZAF, was one of those who managed to escape. Graemes met up
with another one of his crew and they both were hidden by Mr. Beucamp before
being moved by the Resistance to a Chateau where they hid for several weeks.
Finally being taken to Rouen where they would be liberated by the Canadians
on the 30th August 1944.
F/O F. Crosier, Sgt R.R.Mosley
(EVD), F/S A.G.Ross (RCAF) (EVD), P/O G.A.Price (RNZAF), Sgt T.H.Perera (POW),
Sgt W.J.Hardisty (EVD) Sgt C.Kchurchyard (POW).
The last aircraft to be shot
down was 207 squadrons Lancaster ND570 EM-Z. Which according to the 207 squadron
Association crashed at Abbeville. Only Sgt Edward Ross Inglis RCAF managed to
survive and was taken prisoner. The other members of the crew are commemorated
on the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede. However, according to Steve Darlows
book, the aircraft crashed into the sea near Dieppe. If the aircraft did crashed
over Abbeville on the return journey, it is possible that Lt. Wilhelm Esche,
Luftwaffe pilot of 2/JG301 was the perpetrator. However, if it did crash into
the sea near Dieppe, then it could be possible that Lt. Joachim Plass of 1/NJG5
shot it down.