04/05 July 1944

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 received.

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),

JB139(V),DV402(P),ME562(Z),LM489(L),LM482(W),LM492(Q). ME560(H),E561(R),ME555(C)

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, Sgt J.T.Nixon.

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, Sgt A.Bradley.

Jean Lagouche 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."

The bomber 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.

9 squadron 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.

P/O D.W.Ryan, 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.

P/O J.H.Wilson, Sgt J.Matthews, F/S H.G.West, F/S C.M.Firth, Sgt C.A.Hallett, Sgt C.Stapleton, Sgt A.D.Roper

Derrick 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.

44 squadron, 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 un eventful.

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).

I spoke 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.

Following 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 (TC-TD).

P/O N.WEBB (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)

"L'Avro 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.

Sources:

Theo, fifi, IWM, B.Chorley, Marce Mavre, Jean Lagouche, Mr.Y.Coutard, Mr & Mrs. Graugnad, Mike.Wainwright, Alain Bodel, P.Morel, Mr.Leger, Henri Collignon, G.A. Gray, Raymond Glynne-Owen, Denise & Jean Pelletier, Mrs.Thiou, R.Audis