Pilot's Sacrifice

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by canuck, Dec 16, 2016.

  1. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    This thread inspired by Geoff's (Spidge) great thread on the Dambusters and, in particular, the story of Les Knight. He was one of hundreds, if not thousands, of pilots who forfeited their young lives in order to save crew members and/or civilians.
    I think we can find many fine examples of these selfless aviators. Most of these men stayed at the controls of their aircraft in order to save others and the full knowledge that, in doing so, their own survival was unlikely.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2016
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  2. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    F/L Leslie Gordon Knight

    Flight Lieutenant Leslie Gordon Knight RAAF (7 March 1921 – 16 September 1943).
    An Australian pilot, service No. 401449. He was awarded the DSO in 1943 for his part in the Dams Raid, while flying with 617 Squadron. Knight's crew, flying in N-Nan attacked and hit and broke the EderDam, the second dam to be attacked, after his comrades had previously scored one hit and one miss.

    Knight was killed later the same year while taking part in the raid on the Dortmund Ems canal in September. After his Lancaster was damaged by flying into a tree he was able to allow his crew to bail out but was unable to land the aircraft. He is buried in Den Ham General Cemetery, the Netherlands

    "Two port engines gone. May I have permission to jettison bomb, sir?’ It was the ‘sir’ that got Martin. Quiet little Knight was following the copybook procedure, asking respectful permission to do the only thing that might get him home.
    Martin said, ‘For God’s sake, Les, yes,’ and as the bomb was not fused Knight told Johnson to let it go. Relieved of the weight they started to climb very slowly…
    The controls were getting worse all the time until, though he had full opposite rudder and aileron on, Knight could not stop her turning to port and it was obvious that he could never fly her home. He ordered his crew to bale out and held the plane steady while they did. When the last man [Ray Grayston] had gone he must have tried to do the same himself,and must have known what would happen when he slipped out of his seat. There was perhaps a slight chance of getting clear in time, but as soon as he took pressure off stick and rudder the aircraft flicked on her back and plunged to the ground."

    Paul Brickhill

    Knight did not get to the hatch in time, but all seven of the rest of the crew landed safely. Five evaded capture, while two became Pow's. There is no doubt that they all owed their lives to their young pilot, something that they never forgot.

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  3. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    F/L James Andrew Watson

    Flight Lieutenant J.Watson RCAF, died on 28 April 1944 at the age of 21. He is buried at Choloy War Cemetery at Meurthe-et-Moselle France. Son of Robert Scott Watson MC and Mary Kathleen Watson of Hamilton Ontario Canada.

    This story is from notes of Ron Hayes, who was a member of this crew, as Mid-Upper Gunner.

    "On the 27th of April 1944, 622 Squadron, RAF Bomber Command was detailed to attack Fredrichshafen, Germany, flying at about 20,000 feet and bombing the target with high explosives. The aircraft was approaching our turning point before the run into the target when it was attacked from dead astern under. The attack was a complete surprise, there was no moon, just complete darkness. The aircraft was equipped with H2S radar equipment which transmits pulses and the crew and Intelligence was not aware at the time that the Germans were able to home in on the signal. The first attack came from dead astern and under the tail, by three Junkers 88’s night fighters.
    As the aircraft was attacked, from the rear thuds were heard at the rear and flashes and the port elevator was badly buckled. The rear gunner was out of communications and could not direct the pilot on evasive maneuvers, so the Mid-Upper Gunner took control of directing the pilot with evasive direction. From the bursts of fire, they were under attack by at least two attacking aircraft and the gunner could not see them, so he decided to have the aircraft keep on course, rather than attempting to dive away from the attacking aircraft, which was what the attackers would be expecting. A second attack from dead astern upper, hit the starboard elevator and starboard inner undercarriage which burst into flames. As the attacking aircraft was coming in closing in from the starboard quarter level and at about 350 yards the pilot was directed to corkscrew to starboard. The immediate evasive action by the pilot, even with the badly buckled port elevator showed that this experienced pilot had the aircraft under full control. His response to evasive direction was magnificent, but the aircraft was hit about the starboard inner engine and a second later this portion of the wing burst into flames. The first impression was that the starboard inner engine was on fire but from dialogue between crew members in the cockpit, it was determined that the fire extinguisher system had been activated. The pilot was in full control of the aircraft, but the fire did not die out as was hoped for by the crew. The danger of flames was increasing all the time and the captain side slipped the aircraft to keep them away as much as possible, as the aircraft kept losing height at the same time.
    The flames were causing the seam aft of the starboard inner engine to melt and the pilot was informed of this, who then ordered everyone to collect their parachutes. The aircraft continued to lose height and the flames had enveloped most of the wing and half of the seam had melted, the pilot was informed of this and he ordered everyone to bale out. I then plugged into the intercom system and informed the pilot that he was bailing out and that the rear gunner was still in his turret and he would let him know we were getting out. The captain’s last words to me were “Yes, OK, but hurry, we’re at 4,500 feet, if he’s not hit he might make it. So long Ron, good luck.”
    I then opened the bulkhead door leading to the rear turret and saw the rear gunner turn his head towards me, I patted my parachute to indicate that we were bailing out and he understood. The aircraft was now at about 4,000 feet when I bailed out. The pilot had the aircraft under perfect control, it was still losing height in a sinking fashion and the flames had enveloped the fuselage alongside the burning wing."

    Because of James Watson’s sacrifice six families have been able to have had three generation’s that they never would have had if he had not kept the aircraft aloft that fateful night so long ago.

    Lancaster of 622 Squadron - Second World War - Diaries, Letters, and Stories - Remembering those who served - Remembrance - Veterans Affairs Canada

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  4. Marks

    Marks Senior Member

    F/L Watson RCAF recommended for the Victoria Cross, awarded Mention in Despatches London Gazette 21/2/1947 !

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  5. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    F/Sgt Albert Andrew Johnson

    F/Sgt Albert Andrew Johnson, RNZAF, 414635, died on November 19th, 1943 at age 27.
    Buried at Heverlee War Cemetery.

    18/19 November 1943, hit by flak over Aachen. Abandoned in the vicinity of Bommershoven (Limburg), 7km W of Tongeren, Belgium

    The 97 Squadron,Lancaster fell from 20,000 to 6,000 feet before Johnson regained sufficient control to allow the rest of the crew time to bail out. In doing so, he sacrificed his own life, as did so many of the bomber pilots. He was killed when his aircraft crashed in Belgium. Two of his crew baled out and were taken prisoner, while the other four who baled out all evaded capture and reached England in March 1944. They had taken off from their base at Bourn at 5.30pm. He had been a last-minute replacement for their usual skipper, an Australian pilot known as Snowy Jones, who had been barred from flying by the Medical Officer because of sinus trouble.

    Johnson crew, lost in Battle of Berlin

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  6. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    S/L Ian Willoughby Bazalgette VC,DFC

    S/L Bazalgette, RAF, died on August 4th, 1944, at age 25. He was flying with 635 Squadron (Pathfinder) and on his 58th sortie.

    On 4th August 1944, Squadron-Leader Bazalgette was master bomber of a Pathfinder squadron detailed to mark an important target at Trossy St. Maximin for the main bomber force.
    When nearing the target his Lancaster came under heavy anti-aircraft fire. Both starboard engines were put out of action and serious fires broke out in the fuselage and the starboard main-plane. The bomb aimer was badly wounded.

    As the deputy master bomber had already been shot down, the success of the attack depended on Squadron-Leader Bazalgette and this he knew. Despite the appalling conditions in his burning aircraft, he pressed on gallantly to the target, marking and bombing it accurately. That the attack was successful was due to his magnificent effort.

    After the bombs had been dropped the Lancaster dived, practically out of control. By expert airmanship and great exertion Squadron-Leader Bazalgette regained control. But the port inner engine then failed and the whole of the starboard main-plane became a mass of flames.

    Squadron-Leader Bazalgette fought bravely to bring his aircraft and crew to safety. The mid-upper gunner was overcome by fumes. Squadron-Leader Bazalgette then ordered those of his crew who were able to leave by parachute to do so. He remained at the controls and attempted the almost hopeless task of landing the crippled and blazing aircraft in a last effort to save the wounded bomb aimer and helpless air gunner. With superb skill, and taking great care to avoid a small French village nearby, he brought the aircraft down safely. Unfortunately it then exploded and this gallant officer and his two comrades perished.

    His heroic sacrifice marked the climax of a long career of operations against the enemy. He always chose the more dangerous and exacting roles. His courage and devotion to duty were beyond praise.

    His grave is at Senantes Churchyard, 13 miles northwest of Beauvais, France.

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  7. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    'Acting' Major Edwin Essery Swales VC DFC was a South African pilot

    "Ted" Swales S.A.A.F. died 23 February 1945 at age 29. He was flying with 582 Squadron (Pathfinder) and on his 43rd sortie.

    Pforzheim, Germany

    On 23 February 1945, Swales was to locate a target, before the rest of his flight of bombers arrived at the target area. As his Lancaster approached the target, the night sky was illuminated by flashes of exploding anti-aircraft shells. Whilst under attack by a Me-110, Swales remained over the target area, constantly giving bombing instructions to the main bomber force. Whilst Swales’ Lancaster circled over the inferno on the ground, the Me-110 night fighter damaged two of the Lancaster’s engines and caused leaks in its fuel tanks. Nevertheless, Swales refused to abandon his duty until the mission had been successfully completed. In fact, that particular mission turned out to be one of the most concentrated and successful night attacks of World War II. Once the target area was sufficiently saturated with exploding bombs, Swales turned his attention to the safety of his crew. By then the Lancaster had been severely damaged and was constantly losing altitude, but Swales skilfully managed to fly the bomber back to friendly territory. It was quickly becoming increasingly difficult to maintain control over the stricken bomber, so Swales ordered his crew to bail out, whilst he remained in his seat to prevent the Lancaster from stalling. Even without any of his night flying instruments working, ‘Master Bomber’ Swales managed to keep the aircraft steady until the last crew member had bailed out. The bomber then violently snapped out of control and crashed. The wreckage was found in Northern France, with the body of Edwin Swales still strapped in his seat.

    He is buried in the Leopoldsburg War Cemetery near Limburg, Belgium.

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  8. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    P/O James Kingston (‘Joe’) Stellin, CdeG avec Palme

    Pilot Officer James Kingston ‘Joe’ Stellin, RNZAF, was killed on August 18th, 1944, at age 22, flying a Typhoon with 609 Squadron near Falaise.

    On 18 August, 609 Squadron’s Typhoons destroyed at least seven German tanks and 12 vehicles. Stellin flew again that evening, attacking vehicles on the Vimoutiers–Orbec road and setting five alight. On the 19th, 609 Squadron again targeted German transport trying to escape the Falaise pocket. At 8.30 a.m. Stellin took off from Martragny airfield, flying Typhoon JP975. After destroying several tanks and trucks, Stellin’s aircraft was heading home when he asked permission to descend to attack a vehicle. He did not return to his formation and asked for a homing to find his way back to base. He was given a course but later reported that he was short of fuel. It is thought that his plane was hit by flak near Bernay. A teacher at Saint-Maclou-la-Brière, Monsieur Jacobs, described the scene:

    It was 10 o’clock in the morning when the sounds of an aircraft in difficulties first made us look up. The plane was about 1500 to 2000 feet up, and rapidly losing height. Suddenly, on realising the great destruction his plane would cause if it were to crash in the centre of the village, the pilot straightened up his plane with a vigorous and supreme effort, made a half-climb, then turning sharp left at an acute angle, it fell rapidly, crashing less than a mile away.

    "It was 10 o’clock in the morning when the sounds of an aircraft in difficulties first made us look up. The plane was about 1500 to 2000 feet up, and rapidly losing height. Suddenly, on realising the great destruction his plane would cause if it were to crash in the centre of the village, the pilot straightened up his plane with a vigorous and supreme effort, made a half-climb, then turning sharp left at an acute angle, it fell rapidly, crashing less than a mile away."

    Stellin bailed out at the last moment, but his parachute failed to open and he was killed. He was 22 years old. His funeral in Saint-Maclou-la-Brière was attended by 1200 people from the surrounding area. His grave in the local cemetery was later designated a Commonwealth War Grave; ever since it has been decorated regularly with flowers. In 1946 M. Jacobs, who had been active in the local Resistance, wrote a moving letter to Stellin’s parents. The following year the Kiwi pilot was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre avec Palme. The people of Saint-Maclou-la-Brière later engraved Stellin’s name onto the war memorial for the dead of their own village. In 1964 they erected a black marble memorial stone to Stellin outside the gates of their church. In 2001 the area in front of the St Maclou church was named ‘Place Stellin’.

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    Last edited: Dec 19, 2016
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  9. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    F/Lt. John Hopgood DFC Bar

    Flight Lieutenant John 'Hoppy' Hopgood', was killed on May 16th, 1943, at age 21, flying the second plane from 617 Sq to attack the Mohne Dam. He had flown almost 40 sorties.

    AJ-M was the second aircraft to attack. John Fraser recalled, "Gibson got away with it because he had the element of surprise.They (the guns in the towers) crossed up on us and the light flak battery came in on the side. We had to fly through the middle of it. I released the bomb. We were put on fire in the starboard wing. The one engine came on fire immediately. We flew on and the pilot gave the order to abandon the aircraft within about 25 seconds after we passed over the dam. I knelt facing forward over the escape hatch and I saw that the trees looked awful damn close. I thought there was only one thing to do and that was to pull the rip cord and let the pilot chute go out first and then let it pull the chute out and me after it and that's what I did. I rolled out and the tail wheel whizzed by my ear. I swung to the vertical and within 2 or 3 seconds I touched the ground. While I was in the air, before I touched the ground, the aircraft crashed about probably 1500 or 2000 feet away from me."

    "Get out you damn fool," Hopgood shouted to the rear gunner, "If only I could get another 300 ft. I can't get any more height." He was struggling to get enough altitude so that some of his crew could escape. He knew that he would not survive. Burcher was struck by the tail plane as he jumped from the crew door. His back was broken but he survived.

    Seconds later the Lancaster's wing fell off and the plane exploded as it crashed to the ground in a field. Hopgood, died instantly.
    At just 100 feet, Hopgood knew he needed to increase altitude to give his crew any chance to escape. He pulled back on the control column and opened the throttles on the two remaining engines.
    Several of his crew had been seriously injured and there was no chance the aircraft could return to England.
    The aircraft inched upwards, when at just 200 feet, and three miles from the dam, the aircraft was just seconds from crashing, when Flt/Lt Hopgood gave the order to abandon the stricken aircraft.

    Bomb aimer John Fraser and tail gunner Tony Burcher managed to bail out - in what were among the lowest successful parachute jumps during World War II.

    On the night of the Dam Busters raid, Flight Lieutenant Hopgood had already recorded more than 1,000 flying hours in his log book and was a veteran of almost 40 missions. He was regarded by many as the best pilot in 617.

    Three of the crew escaped, with two surviving the parachute drop - rear gunner Tony Burcher and bomb aimer John Fraser. Coincidentally, Hopgood was played in the 1955 film The Dam Busters by an actor called John Fraser.
    The five crew members killed were pilot F/LT J.V. Hopgood DFC, flight engineer Sgt G. Brennan, wireless operator Sgt J.W. Minchin, gunner P/O G.H. Gregory, DFM, and navigator, F/O Kenneth Earnshaw RCAF.

    Flt-Lt Fraser named his daughter after the village where his friend was born. He named his two sons, John Hopgood Fraser and Guy Gibson Fraser.

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  10. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER Patron

    Great post Tim.
    I am in touch with John Fraser's daughter Shere. Sadly John Fraser died very early. He worked for the Forestry service. His plane crashed on 2/06/1962 at Saltery Bay, British Columbia, aged just 39.

    Anthony Fisher Burcher finally moved to Cambridge, a suburb of Hobart Tasmania and passed away in Hobart on 9th August 1995 at the age of 73.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2016
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  11. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER Patron

    EDIT thanks to Marks post #17
    The posthumous awards of the Mention in Despatches to the other two crew killed has been adjusted in red.

    RAAF 402745 PO Rawdon Hume Middleton, (VC) Captain (Pilot)

    Citation :

    The Citation for the award of the Victoria Cross to PO Middleton as follows:

    “Flight Sergeant Middleton was Captain and first pilot of a Stirling aircraft detailed to attack the Fiat works at Turin, Italy, one night in November 1942. Great difficulty was experienced in climbing to 12,000 feet to cross the Alps which led to excessive use of fuel. So dark was the night that the mountain peaks were almost invisible.

    During the crossing, Flt Sgt Middleton had to decide whether to press on or turn back, there being barely sufficient fuel for the return journey. Flares were sighted ahead and he continued
    the mission and even dived to 2000 feet to identify the target despite the difficulty of regaining height. Three flights were made over Turin at this low altitude before the target was identified. The aircraft was then subject to fire from light anti-aircraft guns. A large hole appeared in the port main plane which made it difficulty to maintain lateral control.

    A shell then burst in the cockpit shattering the windscreen and wounding both pilots. A piece of shell splinter tore into the side of Flt Sgt Middleton’s face destroying his right eye and exposing the bone over the eye. He was probably wounded also in the body or legs. The second pilot received wounds in the head and both legs which bled profusely. The wireless operator was also wounded in the leg.

    Fli Sgt Middleton became unconscious and the aircraft dived to 800 feet before control was regained by the 2nd pilot who took the aircraft up to 1500 and released the bombs. There was still light flak, some very intense at times and the aircraft was hit many times. The three gunners replied continuously until the rear turret was put out of action.

    Flt Sgt Middleton had now recovered consciousness and when clear of the target ordered the second pilot back to receive first aid. Before this was completed the latter insisted on returning to the cockpit as the captain could see very little and could only speak with loss of blood and great pain.

    The course was set for the base and the crew now faced the Alpine crossing and homeward flight in the damaged aircraft with insufficient fuel. The possibilities of abandoning the aircraft or landing in Northern France were discussed but Flt Sgt Middleton expressed the intention of trying to make the English coast so that his crew could leave the aircraft by parachute. Owing to wounds and diminishing strength he knew that by then he would have little or no chance of saving himself.

    After four hours the French coast was reached and here the aircraft flying at 6000 feet was once more engaged and hit by intense light anti-aircraft fire. Flt Sgt Middleton was still at the controls and mustered sufficient strength to take evasive action.

    After crossing the Channel there was only sufficient fuel for five minutes flying. Flt Sgt Middleton ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft while he flew parallel with the coast for a few miles after which he intended to head out to sea. Five of the crew left the aircraft safely while two remained to assist Flt Sgt Middleton. The aircraft crashed in the sea and the bodies of the front gunner and flight engineer were recovered on the following day. The gallant captain was apparently unable to leave the aircraft and his body has not been traced. (at that time).

    Flt Sgt Middleton was determined to attack the target regardless of the consequences and not to allow his crew to fall into enemy hands. While all the crew displayed great heroism of high order, the urge to do so came from Flt Sgt Middleton whose fortitude and strength of will made possible the completion of the mission. His devotion to duty in the face of overwhelming odds is unsurpassed in the annals of the Royal Air Force.”

    Air Marshal Sir Arthur T Harris, C-in-C Bomber Command, sent this signal to Middleton’s father.
    ”In the annals of the RAF there is not yet been found a more gallant episode than that which Flt Sgt Middleton laid down his own life deliberately to save some of his crew, and if possible, his aircraft. On behalf of Bomber Command I offer you my sympathy in the loss of your son, whose stirring example of devotion to duty to the end has inspired not only the crews in the Bomber Command, but will forever remain an inspiration wherever there are white and blue roundels of the King’s Air Forces overhead.” The father replied: “My son did his duty”, then thanked the crew and Bomber Command, and sympathised with the relatives of the other two men lost.

    First RAAF VC of World War 2 and 53rd of the war.

    Flt Sgt Middleton :
    Born 22 July 1916 at Waverley, NSW 5 feet 11 inches.
    Joined RAAF at Sydney, 14th October 1940. Educated Dubbo High School, NSW. Unmarried. Lived at Yarrabandai, NSW prior to joining RAAF.

    His father was manager of a grazing property at Wee Wang Station, Brogan Gate, in the middle west of NSW. Before joining the RAAF, Flt Sgt Middleton was a jackeroo (horse riding stockman) working with his father, riding the range, looking after the stock.

    Left Australia 22nd February 1941. In Canada until 23rd August 1941.
    Posted to 149 Sqn 26th February 1942; then to 7 Sqn 25th August 1942; then back to 149 Sqn 2nd September 1942. Most of his flights had been over the Ruhr and other German target areas. He had also been on several bombing flights to Italy. His trip to Turin was Middleton’s 29th trip. His tour would have been completed at thirty trips and he would have been due for a rest.
    Appointed to commission with rank of Pilot Officer, 14 November 1942, but unaware of this at the time of his death. Middleton stayed with the aircraft, which crashed into the Channel.

    His body was washed ashore on 1 February 1943.

    Pilot Officer Rawdon Hume Middleton VC is buried at Beck Row, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

    402745 Pilot Officer MIDDLETON, Rawdon Hume, VC

    Source :

    AWM 237 (65) NAA : A9300 Barcode 5259727 (Digitised) Micro Film No 463

    OAFH Commonwealth War Graves records W R Chorley : RAF Bomber

    Command Losses of the Second World War, Page 266, Volume 1942.

    Aircraft Type: Stirling

    Serial number: BF 327

    Radio call sign: OJ – H

    Unit: ATTD 149 SQN RAF


    Stirling BF327 took off from RAF Lakenheath at 1814 hours on the night of 28/29th November 1942, detailed to bomb Turin, Italy.

    Crew :

    RAAF 402745 PO Rawdon Hume Middleton, (VC) Captain (Pilot) Killed

    RAF 1366018 Flt Sgt Leslie Anderson Hyder (DFM) (2nd Pilot) Uninjured

    RAF 576050 Sgt James Ernest Jeffery (MiD) (Flight Engineer) Killed

    RAF 118604 PO George Reicher Royde, (Navigator) (DFC) Uninjured

    RAF 118084 FO Norman Edward Skinner (DFC) (Wireless Operator) Uninjured

    RAF 994362 Sgt John William Mackie (MiD) (Front Gunner) Killed

    RAF 971446 Flt Sgt Douglas Cameron (DFM) (Mid Upper Gunner) Uninjured

    RAF 1130087 Sgt Harold Wray Gough (DFM) (Rear Gunner) Uninjured

    PO Middleton, Sgt Jeffery and Sgt Mackie were killed, Flt Sgt Hyder and PO Skinner

    Sgt Gough, FO Royde and Flt Sgt D Cameron were uninjured.

    PO Middleton is buried in the Beck Row (St John) Churchyard, near Mildenhall, UK.

    His body was found near Shakespeare Beach Dover on 1st February 1943

    Sgt Jeffery is buried in the Poole Cemetery, UK. Sgt Jeffery is from Parkstone, Dorset.

    Sgt Mackie is buried in the Alva Cemetery, Clackmannanshire, UK.

    RAAF 402745 PO Rawdon Hume Middleton, (VC) Captain (Pilot) Killed Aged 26, Son of Francis Rawdon Hamilton Middleton and Faith Lillian Middleton, of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia.

    RAF 576050 Sgt James Ernest Jeffery (MiD) (Flight Engineer) Killed
    Aged 19, Son of Charles J. and Elsie Jeffery (nee Maidment) of Poole, Dorset, UK

    RAF 994362 Sgt John William Mackie (MiD) (Front Gunner) Killed Aged 30, Son of Alexander and Marion Mackie, of Alva, Clackmannanshire, UK

    Beck Row St John Churchyard 402745 Middleton_RH Victoria Cross.jpg Beck Row, Mildenhall Church.jpeg Middleton-vc Photo.jpg Middleton Funeral Photo 3.JPG Middleton Funeral Photo 2.JPG Middleton_at_Narromine Photo 2.jpg Middleton Funeral Photo.JPG Middleton-vc Photo Full Military Honours 2.jpg Middleton-vc Photo Full Military Honours.jpg MiddletonStirling OJ-H.gif Middleton-vc Photo 2.jpg Middleton_at_Narromine Photo 2.jpg

    PO Middleton in Training and the group photo at Narromine Australia, he is far right.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2017
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  12. alieneyes

    alieneyes Senior Member

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  13. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER Patron

    Thanks Dave. NOK details added.
  14. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    F/O Wilfred Demarco

    Flying Officer Wilfred Tarquinas 'Foxy" Demarco , RCAF, aged 24, was killed on April 25, 1945, flying his 29th sortie with 619 squadron, in an attack on Berchtesgaden.

    The pilot of the Lancaster S/N LM756 F-Freddie was 24-year-old Wilfred DeMarco from Timmins, Ontario.

    Flight number 29 began for DeMarco's crew at 4:19 on the morning of April 25, 1945. They were one of 300 bombers heading for Berchtesgaden -- Hitler's lair in the Bavarian mountains.

    Hitler's mountain fortress was a very difficult target. It was heavily defended and superbly camouflaged. DeMarco's job was to fly in low and very slow (for accuracy) to bomb the SS barracks. In the book Flying into Hell by Mel Rolfe, this last flight of bomber S/N LM756 F-Freddie is documented.

    By the time DeMarco brought his plane in low over the target, the defenses were heavily engaged. He had to stay over the heavy flak long enough in order to ensure that bombs hit the barracks. As DeMarco attempted to pull up, the plane was hit multiple times in a vicious crossfire. Navigator Norman Johnson was killed by shrapnel. The rear of the plane was on fire and there was no word from the trapped gunners Gordon Walker and Ed Norman.
    DeMarco was badly wounded and ordered his crew to bail out. He tried to keep the plane steady while they escaped. Jack Cole, Art Shannon and Jack Speers managed to bail to safety. Soon after, DeMarco's plane exploded into the mountain. They were the last four men killed out of the 55,573 Bomber Command casualties of the war.
    F/O W.T. De Marco, RCAF, killed.

    Sgt F.J. Cole, pow.

    WO2 N.H. Johnston, RCAF, killed.

    F/Sgt A.H. Shannon, pow.

    F/Sgt J.W. Speers, RCAF, pow.

    Sgt E.W. Norman, killed.

    WO2 G.V. Walker, RCAF, killed.

    All those who died are buried in Klagenfurt War Cemetery, Austria.
    Jack Speers, the wireless operator, recalled tapping the pilot’s knee on April 25, 1945 — standard procedure to alert him that the rest of the crew were bailing out — and getting no response. Maybe Foxy DeMarco was already dead. Maybe he was unconscious. Maybe he just wanted to get that plane home to England.

    “I shall never forget the loss of those boys whom I look back on as brothers,” Mr. Speers said

    Freddy Cole, the flight engineer, describes “Wilf” DeMarco as “a brilliant pilot…with a terrific sense of humour.” He was an outsized personality, a sucker for a good gag, who would hand the controls over to Mr. Cole and walk to the rear of the bomber pretending to the rest of the crew that no one was flying the plane. On his leaves he headed to Liverpool to coach and play hockey. To prove his strength he would scoop up a crewmen beneath each arm and heave them around like laundry sacks.

    "Two Lancasters had gone down and their crews were missing. One of them was Freddie Cole, Flt Engineer in the plane piloted by Canadian F/O Wilf De Marco which Peter Marshall had seen hit in front of him. They had just released their bombs and were in that most nervous of moments waiting for the automatic camera to record their performance on the target when they were hit by cross fire. Arthur Shannon the Bomb Aimer recalled "I had watched the bombs fall and was pleased to see one hit the SS Barracks. The photoflash had just gone off when there was a big explosion. It was clear we only had a short time to get the hell out of it" He clipped on his parachute and was first out of the escape hatch. Navigator Norman Johnson was dead. He had for once, left his sae cubby hole as curiousity had got the better of him and he wanted to see this particular target. He was standing beside the Pilot when gunfire hit a propeller and sent a sliver of metal shrapnel smashing through the windscreen and into his face. As he fell, he flung is hand out and caught the D-ring of Coles parachute, lying on a seat.The silk spilled ot into the ****pit. Flames were shoting from the back of the Lancaster and there was a yell for everyone to get out. Cole gathered up the folds of his parachute into a big untidy bundle and headed for the escape hatch. Wireless Operator Jackie Speers , another Canadianwas supposed to exit from the rear but the flames forced him forward. He reckoned the two gunners behind him must be dead. He saw the Navigators body, then hit the Pilot's knee hard, the usual drill as you evaccuated to alert him to follow. "There was no response" Speers recalled "The front of the ****pit had been blown away. He could not have survived"

    Speers found Cole sitting on the edge of the hatch wrestling with his parachute. He made sure the harness was clipped on and then gave his friend a mightly shove in the back and out of the falling plane. Speers followed immediately.

    As the silk billowed out and held him, Cole saw the blazing Lancaster he had just left fly into the side of a mountain and explode. "That was a truely horrendous sight. I knew some of my mates were still on board. As I floated down I was hit hard by the realisation that they were dead. But there wasn't time for tears. They came later. For nowI had to think about my own survival. I came down in a meadow and was immediately captured by SS soldiers. They were very hostile until an officer came along and calmed them down. He stopped them from shooting me"

    Cole was taken by truck to Salzburg and imprisoned in the Police Station. Meanwhile Shannon had landed in a fir tree and slid to the ground breaking a leg. "I was lying on the ground in agony with no chance of getting away when the Germans arrived. They kicked me down the mountainside. Once they levelled their guns at me and I thought I was going to be shot"

    Speers was picked up by German civilians. At first they treated him well. He had shrapnel in his left legand could not walkand they caried him on a ladder to a farmyard. There he was put in a haycart to be taken to the village and handed over to the Police. On the way, Allied Fighter planes roared into the valley and began shooting up the area with rockets. The people escorting him scattered but when they came back they were angry and women shrieked at him and threatened him with pitchforks. Fortunately for him, soldiers came to his rescue.

    "I was taken to a building where Freddie (Cole) and Art (Shannon) were being held, though I was not allowed to see them. Then I was taken to a different town and held captive for two weeks with other wounded prisoners, most of whom seemed to be amputees who had lost hands, feet, ears, noses, legs or arms from frostbite, I think. I was interrogated many times by the SS, who did not believe we could fly all the way to Bertchtesgarten from England. They insisted we must have taken off from one of the Allied airfields in Italy. By this time my leg was badly infected and I thought I might end up like those other poor sods. But then the Americans arrived and everyone was running around saying Hitler Kaput"

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    Last edited: Dec 27, 2016
  15. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    F/L Charles Prichard Lesesne
    Sumter, South Carolina, USA

    Flight Lieutenant Charles P. "Chuck" Lesesne, of RCAF 425 "Alouette" Squadron, was killed on 31 March 1945, flying Halifax Bomber (KW-C; MZ-418) on a daylight sortie to Hamburg. F/Lt. Lesesne's was one of 379 Americans to die while serving in the RCAF.

    Charles Lesesne's ancestors were French Huguenots and the family settled in South Carolina where Charles was born in 1911. After attending the University of South Carolina, he worked as an aviation writer before World War II, he was reporting on the exciting and new aviation technology and had a syndicated newspaper column called "Wing-Overs." Just before becoming an flying instructor in the RCAF, he was part of the editorial staff of the Charlotte Observer in North Carolina from 1935 until 1939 and the Sumter Daily Item during 1940 and 1941.

    Although his motivation is not known, Chuck Lesesne joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in February, 1941 and received his wings at No. 16 SFTS at Hagersville, Ontario.
    Upon landing he felt really exhausted and decided to lie down and rest a bit. Unbeknownst to him, he had come down near a flak battery operated by women. They saw him lying there and proceeded to beat him quite severely. Sometime later, Lesesne's battered body was thrown in the same cell as some of his crewmates. He was clearly near death so they called the guards and demanded medical help for their skipper. The reply they received was that every doctor in Hamburg had his hands full that night. Lesesne told the story to his crewmates before he died. He was the last member of No. 425 Squadron to die on operations in World War II.

    A daylight raid, the target being the prefabricated submarine base at Hamburg, Germany. The flight to Hamburg did not proceed as planned as the substitute navigator appeared to be lost when they neared Hamburg (there was a solid overcast).They were outside the bomber stream and flying alone when the Halifax sustained fatal damage, believed first to be by anti-aircraft fire. The kite was hit in the bomb bay by flak, but the bombs did not explode. Almost simultaneously the aircraft was attacked by three ME-262s. All the crew bailed out, but the pilot, Lesesne, remained at the controls of the crippled bomber until all crew had sufficient time to leave the aircraft. He died later from the wounds he received before leaving the aircraft.
    "F/Lt. Lesesne's surviving aircrew were Canadians, F/S Robert Villiard, 22, navigator; P/O Lucien Pigeon, 29, from Montreal, Radio Operator; F/O William B. Cable, 21, from Winnipeg, Bombardier; F/S Frederick Henry King, 35, Rear Gunner; W/O Raymond Trudeau, 23, Rear Gunner; Sgt John Tame, 20, Flight Engineer, son of M.G. Tame, 49 Blackmore Grove, Teddington, Middlesex, England;"

    No. 425 Squadron RCAF Halifax NR-271 was marked "KW-N" and based at Tholthorpe in Yorkshire. Following her first two operations, "KW-N" was assigned to F/O Chuck Lesesne. The crew chose the name "Nuts for Nazi's" with artwork that featured a monkey wearing flying gear and spitting out engineering nuts, one for each operation flown. Halifax "KW-N" flew a total of 43 operations, 19 of them by F/O Lesesne.
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    Last edited: Dec 28, 2016
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  16. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    F/L Harold Kevin Hornibrook

    Flight Lieutenant Harold Kevin Hornibrook, RAAF, was killed on 24 August 1943, at age 21, flying a 158 Sqn Halifax II HR979 on a raid to Berlin. He is buried in the 1939-1945 War Cemetery, Berlin, Germany

    IT was an act of selfless bravery that gave others a fighting chance but ensured he would never see home again.
    It was August 1943, and the Halifax bomber, badly shot up on a raid over Berlin, was going down, giving its crew no option but to bale out.
    But the escape hatch was jammed until the pilot, an Australian in his early 20s, forced it open and the surviving members of the crew quickly got out.
    When it came to his turn, however, the plane was too low and F/Lt Kevin Hornibrook died in the crash, his body later being buried in the city he had attacked alongside the rear gunner and mid-upper gunner who had already being picked off by German fighters in a ruthlessly efficient tactic that left the Halifax defenceless.
    Yorkshire Post

    "The story of how I ended up there is as exciting as my subsequent bid for freedom. I was the bomb–aimer in a Halifax shot down by a German night fighter over Berlin.
    As the plane spiralled down, the pilot and I struggled to open a jammed escape hatch. The pilot sacrificed his own life by pushing me out first but unfortunately was not able to escape himself. My parachute opened and two seconds later I landed, as the aircraft exploded on the ground barely 200 yards away. I was subsequently captured and taken to Stalag Luft 3, in Upper Silesia in present day Poland.
    Years later, when my only son was born, I christened my baby Kevin – the pilot’s name."
    P/O Alan Bryett

    His brother, Albert Keith HORNIBROOK RAAF, was killed on 23-9-1944 in No.61 Sqn Lancaster III ED470

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  17. Marks

    Marks Senior Member

    P/O R.H MIDDLETON V.C 149 SQN Crew


    Both awarded Mention in Despatches London Gazette 2 June 1943

  18. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER Patron

    Thanks Marks,
    The only award they could receive I thought however I was told it was not available to them at that time so let it drop. Glad to see this.
    Do you possibly have a link to the gazette page? Every time I look for something on the gazette I cannot find it.
    This has made my day!

  19. Marks

    Marks Senior Member

    London Gazette 28-5-1943 Supplement 36033 Page 2465 & 2466

    Page 2465 | Supplement 36033, 28 May 1943 | London Gazette | The Gazette

    Page 2466 | Supplement 36033, 28 May 1943 | London Gazette | The Gazette

    This topic reminded me of another Pilot's sacrifice, I came across a very late WW2 award on the London Gazette 28-9-1951 !

    423850 F/O O.S MacPHILLAMY RAAF
    Page 5051 | Issue 39344, 25 September 1951 | London Gazette | The Gazette

    KIA 13-8-1944 578 Sqn Halifax LW383 Target Russelheim. Shot down by a nightfighter 4 crew KIA, 1 POW and 2 evaded

    I reckon his crew must have recommended him for an award. For his MID to take until 1951, it must have taken some paper trail !

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  20. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member Patron


    A thoroughly great post.
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