115 Squadron
1940 - 1945

21/22 July 1941

Wellington Mk IC - Z8788 KO-H

Z8788
T/o Marham 22u.39 - target Mannheim, Germany. Crashed at Snaaskerke, Belgium.

On this night 37 Wellingtons and 34 Hampdens visited Frankfurt and 36 Wellingtons and eight Halifaxes attacked Mannheim.

Source: 115 Squadron Roll of Honour by D. Bruce, W. R. Chorley, J. G. J. de Haan - The Wellington Bomber by Martin W Bowman, page 111 - (last update 29/11/2018)

John Jones made us aware of this story about the crew of Wellington.
Source text: /www.luchtvaartgeschiedenis.be - photos Fernand Dejonghe.

On the night of 21/22 July, the RAF planned a bombing flight on Mannheim. Of the 36 Wellingtons and 8 four-engine Halixes, one Wellington of the 115 Sqdn would crash along the coast. At 23h45 the machine was again the victim of the Flakbatterij 252 which was placed at the hotel 'Alfa' near Mariakerke.

This time Lucien Rotsaert witnessed the shooting: " Our farm was almost under the guns of four heavy Flakbatteries: those of Lombardzijde, the Alfabatterij in Mariakerke, this in the vicinity of Bredene and the battery in the Schorre on the border with Stene was located closest to our farm. We stood a little shivering by the cool night air and staring at the spectacle with fear, hoping that we would not fall under the hits. We see and hear a series of salvos on a device that comes at a low altitude from the west and shaves above us.

The Wellington is soon caught in a bundle of searchlights, and the German Flak spits steel and destruction in the direction of the plane.
Three to four batteries fire at full power, and a firework of light rail ammunition makes it exactly as hell has erupted. The searchlights kept the plane firmly in their light rays so that escape was impossible.
Immediately we entered our kitchen and threw ourselves down against the walls to seek cover. With a terrible drone of exploding grenades the plane flies somewhere above and next to our farm, you could hear the whining of the coming blocks, and the chipping of debris.
The battery 8.8 Flak in the Schorre shot right along the ground, we heard the blows of the guns, immediately followed by the exploding of the grenades above our heads. Suddenly the artillery stopped, it became even unreal quiet, we also no longer heard the roar of the plane.
Only in the distance did the guns rattle, a few of our cows were laughing. We were anxious and we did not understand what was happening. One by one we stood straight and we opened the door anxiously. The fear that the violence would end up somewhere on a part of our farm, fortunately ended for us.
Only when we looked in the direction of the village center of Snaaskerke did we realize what had happened.
We saw a white glow of a large fire, and soon heard the explosion of ammunition. In the fallen silence we heard here and there an unintelligible voice resounding, people who had come out of their houses and yelled at each other.
We understood that the English bomber was burning somewhere around the village. Although we had terrible fear of those night-time aircraft, it hurt us that our friends were probably killed.
Again other planes came and we went inside. Because we were not allowed to be out on the streets of the Germans at night and for fear of the artillery we did not look that night anymore, what had happened in the village. After a choppy night with little sleep we heard in the early morning where the plane had landed and we went to see it.

The aircraft had first fallen against the ground on the piece of agricultural land between the court of the presbytery and the railway.
After pulling a towing track of a few meters, the bomber rammed an electric pole with his left wing, with the result that the aircraft went up again, deviating in the direction of the station.
With falling fragments, the plane landed partly over the house of the widow Haeghebaert on the station building where it splintered. In the house of the widow, which was a cafe, a heavy fire arose, which cost the life of the son Marcel. His mother could save herself by jumping through the window from the first floor.
The station building, which no one lived in, was completely destroyed.
The plane itself was torn apart and there were no survivors among the crew. It was a terrible sight, body parts of killed crew members lay in the streets and fields on all sides. I only saw one complete body, it was in the wheat field of Farmer Sanders.
The German soldiers shot at dogs and cats, to prevent the animals from coming to the remains. A wheel of the landing gear had penetrated many windows through a window into a bedroom. Later on the hole had to be made larger to get the wheel back outside.
The killed crew were buried in the churchyard of Snaaskerke, where they were later transferred by the competent services to the military cemetery of Koksijde.

Photos: Fernand Dejonghe and more info Aircrew Remembered
The event in the village was canceled and partially forgotten; after the war, the burned-out house and the destroyed station remained a silent testimony. The station was never rebuilt, and an emergency building rose from the rubble."

Johnston Norman Lachlan Johnston Norman Lachlan - Pilot

Sgt - Service No R56091

Age: 22

RCAF

Son of David Ward Johnston and Agnes Milligan Johnston, of Westmount, Province of Quebec, Canada.

Koksijde Military Cemetery - Coll. grave I A.21-26

Source: CWGC - Photo: www.findagrave.com

Payne Frank Stubbington Payne Frank Stubbington - 2nd Pilot

Sgt - Service No 906880

Age: 23 (probably) °1918 (registered Portsmouth June 1918 qtr).

RAFVR

son of Albert E and Marguerite E Payne of Shanklin. Isle of Wight -
Lived at 49 Atherley Road, Shanklin, Isle of Wight, and later in Southsea, Hampshire.
He was recommended for a DFM which was not awarded.

Koksijde Military Cemetery - Coll. grave I A.21-26 - Shanklin War Memorial WW II

Acknowledgements: John Bloodworth for RAF research, Memorials & Monuments on the Isle of Wight.

Saunders Richard Stanley Saunders Richard Stanley - Observer

Sgt - Service No 924676

Age: 23

RAFVR

Son of Frederick Joseph and Ellen Eliza Saunders, of Horsham, Sussex.

Koksijde Military Cemetery - grave I A.21-26

Source: CWGC

Tucker Howard Tucker Howard - WOP/AG

Sgt - Service No 1252293

Age: 21

RAFVR

Son of John Rees Tucker and Edith Tucker, of Risca, Monmouthshire.

Koksijde Military Cemetery - grave I A.21-26

Source: CWGC

Vernon Hubert Vernon Hubert - FG

Sgt - Service No   1165333  

Age: 19

RAFVR

Son of Sydney and Emily Vernon, of Bulwell, Nottinghamshire.

Koksijde Military Cemetery - grave I A.21-26

Source: CWGC

O'Hara Bernard William O'Hara Bernard William - RG

Sgt - Service No 1186872

Age:

RAFVR

Son of

Koksijde Military Cemetery - grave I A.21-26

Source: CWGC