Sg Joseph Marsh 35 sqdn, died July 1943 RAFVR

Discussion in 'War Cemeteries & War Memorial Research' started by ChrisinBlackpool, Mar 5, 2011.

  1. ramacal

    ramacal 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

    Thanks to the Grandson of Ronald Wisson, I have been sent a short history about the crew and the events of that fateful night. This was wriiten by Ronald Wisson.

    "
    TED SAYWELL

    I first met Ted in October 1942 at 15 Operational Training Unit, Harwell, Berkshire. There were about 100 or so newly trained and promoted Sergeant aircrew milling around in a hangar, and we were instructed to form up into crews !!! Ted ended up with Ernie Moore, Navigator, Frank Whittaker, Bomb Aimer, Frank Ward, Rear Gunner, Ginger Hughes, Air Gunner, and myself, Ron Wisson as Wireless Operator.

    At Harwell we trained together as a crew doing circuits and landings as well cross country flights and ground school. Total flying time 82 hours and 45 minutes as a crew, although we all had our initial flying training hours. In December 1942 we were posted to 1652 Heavy Conversion Unit at Pocklington near York, Yorkshire, where we were introducedto the Halifax Mk2 which semed a massive aircraft compared with the Wellington. We also aquired another crew member. Joe Marsh, Flight Engineer.

    On completion of the conversation to the Halifax a fantastic 23 hours and 45 minutes training we were transfered to 102 Squadron on the same airfield and started operational flying. We did 14 operational flights over Germany as you will see from the logbook extracts. We had some very narrow escapes from being shot down, but were gaining in experience and confidence. Most crews were shot down during their first 5 operational flights largely due to lack of training and experience.

    We were selected as an experienced crew to join the Pathfinder Group, and went to the PFF Training Unit at Upwood where we did a magnificent 7 hours and 50 minutes flying learning new techniques and equipment. Our next posting was to 35 Squadron PFF at Graveley, near Cambridge.

    On the 13th July our target was Aachen, and we carried a normal bomb load of HE incendiary bombs, as we were designated as a main force A/C on this our first 35 SQDN operation. The marker aircraft used to drop coloured flares onto the ground to mark the aiming point for the main force which followed. Back up aircraft dropped more flares onto the target indicator flares and also incendiary bombs to start fires which were also used as aiming points. There a several books which have written which describe these techniques in detail, the best is probably Pathfinder written by Donald Bennet who was C in C of the PFF Command.

    On the fateful night we took after dark from Graveley and headed for Germany, the flight was uneventful, with everybody keeping a good look out. We saw one or two searchlights and AA fire in the distance, we did not see the ground as there was partial cloud cover. About 20 or 30 miles from the target the navigator gave Ted a small course alteration towards the target which had not yet been illuminated by the marker aircraft. We were about 2 or 3 miles ahead of the main stream of the force which consisted of about 300 aircraft, as far as I remember.

    The rear gunner called on the intercom enemy aircraft in sight, stand by to corkscrew, this was the basic evasion, to fly in a corkscrew motion, and once started the German night fighter would normally sheer off and look for another target which he could attack before he was sighted. We had experienced this a couple times before on previous ops.

    As we started to corkscrew our gunners started firing, and we were hit by the German firing,which according to the rear gunner was a Messerschmitt 110. None of our crew had been hit, but our starboard wing and inner engine was hit and became a massive fire within seconds. The aircraft rapidly filled with smoke.

    Ted gave the order to bail out, It was obvious that there was nothing the crew could about the fire. I moved forward to the navigator's position, where Ernie had the floor escape hatch open, and was putting his parachute on. He shouted to me to get out which I did, feet first through the hatch. I had to push myself away from the aircraft. Shortly afterwards my parachute opened, though I do not remember pulling the release handle. I was swinging backwards and forwards, but this stopped after a few minutes and I was able to look around. I could not see the burning aircraft from which I had jumped, but then went into a bank of cloud which reduced visibilty completely.

    I had expected to see the aircraft above me as I am sure that Ted would have held it straight and level while the crew got out. His chances would have been much less as he would have been the last to leave the aircraft. I think that the aircraft must have gone into a spin or exploded killing all the crew instantly.

    The ME 110 which attacked us had better armament than RAF bombers which had only .303 calibre machine guns in the rear and upper turrets. The German night fighters had 20mm cannons which were twice as big and had twice the range. So our chances were pretty poor. The night fighters would approach from below and behind where they could not be seen. The bomber was an easy target from that type of attack.

    The area where were shot down was I believe approxinately 20 to 30 miles west of Munchen Gladbach and about 30 miles north of Aachen.

    I seemed to be falling through cloud for quite a long time, and eventually came out and could one or two glimmers of light on the ground, it was very dark. In the distance probably several miles away there was a large fire burning. I feel sure that it was our aircraft.

    I hit the ground with a tremendous thump as I could not see it clearly enough to judge my height. My left ankle was twisted badly and it was very painful to stand. I was in the middle of a cornfield and could hear dogs barking and people shouting in the distance. I pulled my parachute into a bundle and crawled with it to a ditch at the side of the field. I crawled along the ditch for some distance away from the area where the corn had been flattened by my movements.

    I hid in the ditch as I could hear voices nearby. Shortly after daybreak a farmer came along the outside of the field standing up in a horse drawn farm cart and armed with a pitch fork. I had obvously been spotted and could not run, so I had to surrender as he had jumped from the cart and was pointing the pitch fork at me in a very menacing manner.

    I was handed over to the police and then to the Luftwaffe. I ended up in a prison camp in East Prussia, Stalag Luft 6. The Luftwaffe told me that the burnt out remains of a 35 Squadron Halifax had been found a few miles from where I was captured. They also told me that the unidentifiable remains of six bodies were in the aircraft.

    I developed a deep sense of guilt finding it hard to come to terms that I was the only survivor. That feeling is still partially with me today 60 years later, though I have accepted the fact that they were all killed. I wrote a letter to Ted's parents which I sent through the RNZAF, I don't know whether they received it as there was no reply."
     
  2. ChrisinBlackpool

    ChrisinBlackpool Junior Member

    I'm not sure how many other families have been helped so much by this forum and the quite amazing people on it, but words fail me as to how grateful we are for all this information..
    Rob you are a gentleman.. thank you again..
    Chris
     
  3. ChrisinBlackpool

    ChrisinBlackpool Junior Member

    Hi to everyone watching this thread.
    I have done a google search and come up with very little so thought I had better go back to the best web site on WW2 and just ask the experts..
    The first question my mum is going to ask, is what did a flight engineer do on a Halifax?
    For 60 years she has been convinced he was a navigator..
    Many thanks for all your replies in advance, I feel there might be one or two..

    Chris
     
  4. ramacal

    ramacal 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

    Chris

    Thanks for your kind words.

    Here is a map showing the location of the crash site. Ronald Wisson had obviously met and talked to a local family. He even found a piece of the aircraft.

    [​IMG]
     
  5. ChrisinBlackpool

    ChrisinBlackpool Junior Member

    Rob,
    Looking at Google Earth.. there is a patch of grass that looks like a small playing field, north of the water... would you say thats the place???
    All the best
    Chris
     
  6. ramacal

    ramacal 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

    Chris

    I have tried to copy a satellite image from Google Earth. It matches a piece of the Wooded area that has been cleared. When the plane crashed, it would have incinerated everything around it. There is a photo, which suggests it is used as a MotoX track. You can see the marks when you zoom in.

    I will try and post an image.

    Regards - Rob
     
  7. ChrisinBlackpool

    ChrisinBlackpool Junior Member

    Just firgured out that if the map is correct.. and the plane did go down where the map above says it did, then they crashed in what is now Germany, and not Holland.. if only by a few feet...
     
  8. ramacal

    ramacal 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

    This is a map on which Mr Wisson traced the route of attack to Aachen and the return journey back across Belgium. Crossing the Dutch coast at Noordwijk and heading South East to Germany. They were shot down before reaching the target.

    I wonder if the allies knew about the Night fighter base at Venlo, as why would you send your force so close to it?

    [​IMG]
     
  9. ramacal

    ramacal 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

    This is the telegram sent to the Pilot E Saywell's Father in New Zealand.

    [​IMG]
     
  10. ramacal

    ramacal 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

    Flt Sjt E Saywell

    [​IMG]
     
  11. ramacal

    ramacal 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

    I would like to thank Dave Wisson, Grandson of Ronald Wisson for giving me permission to show this really great photo of the crew. A nice relaxed and fun picture.

    [​IMG]
     
  12. ramacal

    ramacal 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

    Another photo from Dave Wisson, although Joe Marsh is not in it.

    [​IMG]
     
    von Poop likes this.
  13. Pieter F

    Pieter F Very Senior Member

    A very interesting and fascinating topic. Well done Rob!
     
  14. ChrisinBlackpool

    ChrisinBlackpool Junior Member

    As some one who can build a pretty decent web site I have decided I am going to embark on a project.
    I now have in two word docs a full list of the 23 (not 20) planes that went down during the Aachen raid of 13/14 July 1943. The second document has each plane on its own page, will all the details taken from 'Lost Bombers' web site.

    I understand fully that the information is out there already on different web sites, but as far as I can tell there isn't a page that actually talks about that one raid.
    I plan to rectify that.

    I know that others have posted to this forum about the raid before now, I have found at least one thread and I am hoping they will get involved.

    Not every plane that went down resulted in loss of life, but almost all did.. and if we are only just finding out this information about Joe Marsh, then maybe there are others out there looking for the same thing.

    When I have the project up and running I will post to this thread one more time, or maybe even start a brand new one.

    In memory of my Great Uncle Joe, and the many, many men lost on the night of July 13/14 1943, thank you to everyone here and to Ronald Wisson's grandson Dave.
     
    Pieter F likes this.
  15. ramacal

    ramacal 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

    Chris

    I'm glad you have read the research Ron Wisson put together. I'd be happy to assist you in carrying out this project.

    Regards - Rob
     
  16. ChrisinBlackpool

    ChrisinBlackpool Junior Member

    Chris

    I'm glad you have read the research Ron Wisson put together. I'd be happy to assist you in carrying out this project.

    Regards - Rob

    You may live to regret that my friend.. ;) cause I have so many ideas I'm going to need help... for a start... lol... no seriously...

    Anyone still reading this thread.. I'm going to need high res, NON copyrighted photos, bombers - Halifax, Lancaster, Sterling, Wellington.. I'm going to want the same of different airfields that the planes took off from, and the list goes on and on.. but there is no rush.. I have the rest of my life.

    Rob, Re the articles.. yes I read them.. but can we talk some time about you explaining them to me please.. :) cause I'm not sure I follow all of it... :huh:
    Off for an early night....
     
  17. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    Just to say that it is a worthy tribute to the Forum members who utilise their skills and knowledge to provide as much information as can humanly be gathered to help others so selflessly.
    That's our small tribute to what these men gave for us.
    I am so pleased that, from it's initial scrap of enquiry, we have restored some "flesh" to the memory of these men.

    As regards Venlo, the RAF were well aware of Luftwaffe bases and routed the bomber stream away from known danger areas, so the "simplified" route shown may actually have had some doglegs in it to avoid flak and night fighter concentrations.
    However, at night, knowing precisely where you are seems easy nowadays, but back then, it only needed a slight miscalculation or a stronger than forecast wind and you could easily stray into a danger zone. Whilst this crew had 14 previous Ops under their belt, it was still their first time in a Pathfinder Squadron and they were ahead of the bomber stream, so an "ace" night fighter with a more powerful armament would have been able to lock onto them. Once the bomber stream crossed the enemy coast, it would be fairly easy to plot potential targets (which "Window" used later in the War was designed to confuse) and for the night fighters to be vectored to likely areas that the stream would be passing through.
    From the description of the attack, it seems as if the Me110 was fitted with the angled "Schrage Musik" upward firing cannon so, keeping the silhouette of the bomber outlined against the stars in the summer sky above him, he was able to sneak underneath out of sight of the gunners and then concentrate his fire into the wing fuel tanks. They had learned fairly rapidly that firing into the fuselage would probably result in a huge instantaneous explosion capable of destroying the attacker as well. Hitting the fuel tanks would at the very least, leave the aircraft so short of fuel from the damaged tanks that it would not reach its base. More likely, the fuel would ignite causing it's destruction.

    One aspect puzzles me and that is the contradiction as to where Rob Wisson said they were attacked, 20 miles east of Munchen Gladbach and 30 miles North of Aachen, yet the crash site is apparently on the edge of Venlo airfield. The crash site can't be disputed, if that's definitely their aircraft.

    Moreover, if they crashed on the edge of a Luftwaffe base, I'd expect their graves to be known....... so why Runnymede, having crashed on land?

    Do we now ask "the Authorities" as to what became of the crew and why they appear to be "Known Unto God" rather than the dignity of a shared grave?
    The location is known, the aircraft and crew are known, the date of their deaths is known.....
     
  18. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    Just to say that it is a worthy tribute to the Forum members who utilise their skills and knowledge to provide as much information as can humanly be gathered to help others so selflessly.
    That's our small tribute to what these men gave for us.
    I am so pleased that, from it's initial scrap of enquiry, we have restored some "flesh" to the memory of these men.


    Moreover, if they crashed on the edge of a Luftwaffe base, I'd expect their graves to be known....... so why Runnymede, having crashed on land?

    Do we now ask "the Authorities" as to what became of the crew and why they appear to be "Known Unto God" rather than the dignity of a shared grave?
    The location is known, the aircraft and crew are known, the date of their deaths is known.....

    Kevin,

    I have to second your remarks which I have highlighted.
    This kind of work is really what sets this forum apart from most.

    As for the crew being "Known unto God", this is not unusual.

    I personally know that there are similar cases and concluded that as the bodies could not be positively identified, even though they must be part of the crew, the remains were buried as "Known only to God".

    I realize that this is not good for the families involved, but only bodies that were identified, by whatever means available, were provided Named headstones. The other remains of the crew were usually interred in a common grave ajacent to the named member(S).

    Regards
    Tom
     
  19. Pieter F

    Pieter F Very Senior Member

    Kevin and Tom, the same for Sergeant Eric Groves (see my thread about the Wellington Z1321). All six bodies were recovered, but only five buried and Groves is mentioned at the Runnymede.
     
  20. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    Smudge: IF (and I stress IF) the crash site of their aircraft is known and positively identified as theirs, then it has often been the practice to bury the crew together in a communal grave. It may well be that INDIVIDUAL identities cannot be ascribed to any one set of remains, but (unless there is a crew man unaccounted for) the number of crew and the number of remains should tally, ergo all the crew ARE known, just not which one is which....
    I haven't gone back to check if all crew have been accounted for, so as Pieter states, if one is missing then that's why Runnymede. However, if the rest of the crew are also Runnymede, then it does seem strange that they couldn't associate a specific crew to a wreck.
     

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