P B Harris 18 Sqn. 3/1/1940

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by Rich Payne, Jan 23, 2012.

  1. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I came across this image whilst browsing the Belgian archive.

    The funeral of a Blenheim Wireless Operator, killed when the aircraft was shot down over Raeren, Belgium on 3/1/1940. The other two crew were interned.



    Cegesoma reference 33642

    Initials: P B
    Nationality: United Kingdom
    Rank: Aircraftman 1st Class
    Regiment/Service: Royal Air Force
    Unit Text: 18 Sqdn.
    Age: 20
    Date of Death: 03/01/1940
    Service No: 537545
    Additional information: Son of Mrs. G.M.G.Trueman, of Newton Heath, Manchester.
    Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
    Grave/Memorial Reference: Grave 51.

    Last edited: May 10, 2019
  2. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    I take it they were shot down by Belgians? Aircraft or Ground Fire?
  3. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Raeren is well over, they were apparently jumped by ME109s from J/G77 over Aachen and crash-landed in Belgium.

    "The Battle of France, then & now", page 133 may have something if the web is to be believed.

    According to the Belgian link, he was the first fatal RAF casualty of the war to die in Belgium.

    Graf Aircraftman Peter Harris - Blenheim I L1410 WV-B 18 Sqn | Hangar Flying
  4. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    3 January 1940

    Blenheim I L1410 WV-

    Op. Reconnaissance

    Took off from Metz at 0755 hrs. Survived an attack by a Hurricane but was badly damaged when intercepted by Me109s near Aachen, Germany, after which the crew crash landed naer Raeren (Liege) just inside the Belgium frontier 7 km north east of Eupen, Belgium.


    F/O. C M P. Kempster. Interned.
    Sgt. F L. Smith. Interned
    AC1. P B. Harris +

    Extract - 'RAF Bomber Command Losses' Vol.1 - W R. Chorley
  5. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Thanks Peter

    Survived an attack by a Hurricane

    I guess the next question is: Belgium or RAF ?

    I'm sure I've read in a few 1940 books of Belgian aircraft attacking the RAF after flying into Belgian air space.
  6. Peter Cornwell

    Peter Cornwell Junior Member

    Belgian aircraft certainly attacked any aircraft violating their air-space during the period of the so-called 'Phoney War'. I don't know whether the Hurricanes reported were British or Belgian and currently have this aircraft listed thus:

    18 SQUADRON Blenheim I L1410. Escaped attack by Hurricanes undamaged but later engaged by Fw Gotthard Goltzsche of 1./JG77 during photo reconnaissance sortie south of Aachen. Reached the Belgian border where crashed through HT lines and burned out at ‘Hagbenden’ in Eynatten, north-east of Eupen, 9.15 a.m. Flying Officer C. M. P. Kempster and Sergeant F. L. Smith both slightly injured - interned in hospital in Liège. LAC Peter Bothamley Harris baled out too low and killed. Aircraft WV*B a write-off.
  7. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Thanks for the information, Peter.

    Raeren is only just across the border from Germany. I'd be surprised if they had been over Belgian airspace prior to crashing.

    It's quite a co-incidence but I regularly have to visit a supplier in Hagbenden, Eynatten. I wonder if there is a monument there ?
  8. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    This second image from the Belgian archive shows (left to right) Smith and Kempster meeting the RAF Attaché to Brussels outside the hospital in Liege at the time of Harris's funeral.


    It is Cegesoma reference 40792 but I am struggling to link it.
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  9. Pieter F

    Pieter F Very Senior Member

    Interesting stuff Rich.
  10. Peter B

    Peter B New Member

    I have just found this post and I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to find it. My parents knew Peter Bothomley Harris well and he was engaged to my aunt before his premature death. My mother told me about this incident so many times and I was named Peter for him. Apparently, at the time, there was a Pathe News piece covering his funeral in Liege My parents learned that it was being shown at a cinema in Coventry and drove from Banbury hoping to see it. Sadly, because of the blackout they lost there way and arrived too late to see it. A few years back before my mother died I tried to find it in the Pathe Archive. I was told that it had been lost or destroyed when the Pathe archive was taken over (by ITV?) so she never did get to see it. I am so pleased that I have been able to see these photographs. For years I had searched without success because my mother always referred to Peter as Peter Bottomley-Harris, so I assumed it was a double-barrelled name and also had the spelling wrong.. Clearly it was not and I have finally tracked him down and found a number of other references on the internet including the one that linked to this post. To complete the record I am adding a photograph of Peter.

    Attached Files:

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  11. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Global, Find A Grave Index for Burials at Sea and other Select Burial Locations, 1300s-Current
    Name: Aircraftman 1st Class Peter Bothamley Harris
    Death Date: 3 Jan 1940
    Death Place: Liège, Belgium
    Cemetery: Robermont Cemetery
    Burial or Cremation Place: Liège, Arrondissement de Liège, Liège, Belgium
    Has Bio?: N

    Tp complete the circle you could apply for his service records if you wish - forms are here - Request records of deceased service personnel

  12. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Thanks for posting the photograph, Peter. It makes it all worthwhile when thanks to the power of the internet, an image which has been languishing in an archive for the best part of eighty years suddenly becomes relevant. My workplace is fairly close to Liege. I'll pop in and visit him at some point.
    Last edited: May 10, 2019
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  13. alieneyes

    alieneyes Senior Member

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  14. Peter B

    Peter B New Member

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