THE TILLER

November 2010

Newsletter of 115 Squadron Association

Secretary Ian Lucas

Lancaster Mk I LL943

At 22.28 hrs on the night of July 18 1944 115 Squadron Lancaster Mk I LL943 KO-C took off from Witchford to take part in a raid on the railway junction at Aulnoye, near Maubeuge, part of a strategy to hinder German troops getting through to support their divisions in northern France subsequent to the D-day landings.

After successfully dropping its bombs LL943 turned for home, but unfortunately was shot down by a fighter operating out of Valciennes and crashed in dense woodland, killing the crew F/O Robert Pellew RAAF (pilot), Australian navigator colleague Eric Tibbits, Canadian BA P/O Fraser Hollenback, and RAF Sgts Edward Wakeman WOP, Albert Morton FE, and air gunners Frederick Allen and Henry Simmonds.

As a 10-year-old living in Hollain near the crash site, retired Colonel Gabriel Bauters of the Belgian army saw the wreckage of LL943. His final military posting was as Commandant of the Engineer School in Tournai (Doornik) and on retirement settled back in his home town.
With a keen interest in his local area Colonel Bauters decided to write a book about LL943, resulting in years of painstaking research and finally the publication of 'L'enigme du Lancaster LL943', a historical record culled from official documents and experiences of witnesses at the time, fully underlining the amazing efforts of the community in July 1944.

Once the book was published it awakened the desire of both the Belgian and French communities to honour the crew with a memorial at the aircraft crash site. A commemoration service to unveil the stone took place over the weekend of September 4/5. Squadron Leader Nick Goodwyn, CO of the Squadron, was invited to attend the memorial weekend, with officers from the Squadron.

The 115 party visited Valciennes St. Roch cemetery on the morning of September 4 to pay their respects and lay wreaths on the graves of the six crew members buried there.
On September 4 the 115 party were invited to a memorial service in the cemetery of the Belgian village of Laplaigne, at the grave of Sgt. Simmonds, the rear gunner, whose body had been found in the tail turret which had become detached and fallen to earth separately.
His grave was close by four others, members of the Resistance. Simmonds' turret was found hanging from the trees and Resistance had to act quickly to get him out and bury him secretly in the wood to prevent the Germans using the body for propaganda purposes. Two of the Resistance were shot for refusing to reveal the site of the grave, and two months later two more were shot as the Germans began to retreat from Belgium.

The ceremony was attended by both French and German local mayors as well as the family of Sgt. Wakeman. The CO laid a wreath at the grave and Sgt. Wakeman's sister, June, made a moving speech acknowledging the role of the local Resistance and affirming the continuing friendship between her family and the local community and villages.

A reception of around 50 people followed at the town hall - and the 115 party were delighted to taste the local 'brew' from St. Martin.

The main ceremony, on September 5, was the unveiling of the slate memorial stone to the crew of LL943. More than 150 local people and military personnel attended. Regional Director of the National Forests welcomed everybody. He and the Mayor of Flines supported the project to erect the memorial which was funded by the Consul General of Northern Belgium.
Colonel Bauters then summarised the history of LL943, the crew and their mission. Group Captain Paul Atkinson, the senior representative of SHAPE gave an address, in French, thanking the local populace for their continuing support for those RAF personnel who gave their lives in both world wars. After the ceremony the CO laid a wreath on behalf of the Squadron, and the service concluded with a minutes silence, the Last Post and Act of Remembrance read by Lt. Hindmarch (RN) of 115 (R) Squadron.
The concluding words and thoughts of the ceremony remembered the 17 inhabitants of Aulnoye who were victims of the bombing of the rail yards, and the nine men of Flines who six weeks after the raid were shot by the retreating enemy. A reception followed hosted by the Mayor of Flines and the Burgomaster of Brunehaut.

The above report comes to you from the CO, Nick Goodwyn, who adds that 'it was an honour for serving officers of 115 (R] Squadron to attend this memorial event and a privilege to meet the family of Sgt. Wakeman, Col. Bauters and his inspirational work, and those from the communities affected by this tragedy, and to be able to pay our own tribute to the crew of LL943. We will remember them.'

TREDEGAR - A BIT NEARER HOME

A letter arrived from Tredegar Town Council in September asking if we would like to attend a special memorial service to mark the 70th anniversary of the sad end of Wellington T2520 of 115 Squadron which crashed into nearby hills on December 9 1940.

According to our records KD-A T2520 took part in a raid on Bordeaux, but strayed from track on the return flight and crashed into the hillside at Cefin-y-strad near Tredegar.
The crew was P/O Albert Tindall the 21-year-old pilot, his second dickie Sgt. David Mills (21], Observer Sgt. Hylton Ellis (26], WOP / AG Sgt. Stanley Howard, 22-year old New Zealander AG Sgt. Reg Brown, and AG David Wallace.

Tindall, Brown and Howard are buried in Lantwit Major cemetery, Mills in Belfast City Cemetery, Wallace in Sutton Road cemetery Southend, and Ellis in North Gosforth burial Ground.

Each year members of Tredegar Town Council place a wreath at the cairn which marks the site. If anybody would like to attend please contact Town Clerk Christine Keane (tel. 01495 722352. e.mail tredegartc@btconnect.com). The service will be held at 7 pm in St. George's Church, Tredegar.

MILDENHALL REGISTER

We've had a letter from John Gentleman, chairrnan of The Mildenhall Register, an organisation set up originally (circa 1979] to bring together a group of people who shared a common bond with one of the Squadrons operating out of Mildehhall in the second world war, viz XV, 90, 149 and 622. Like all Associations numbers are dwindling so as 115 was there from September 1942 to March 1943 anybody serving there on those dates will be most welcome to join.

They meet up in May hosted by USAF. If you would like to join them contact John at 29 Brinkeley Road, Newmarket CBB 9UW.

WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT

As fighters and bombers scrapped high in the sky over London during the blitz, two youngsters aged.9 and 5 sat on the steps of 16 Gueen's Road, Loughton watching the burst of shells, listening to the whine of engines, staring aghast as planes burst into flames and crashed to earth, and occasional pilots parachuted to safety.

Seventy years later they were sitting together again, in Nottingham's Royal Concert Hall, listening to the band of the Royal Air Force Regiment on the 70th anniversary tour which had covered Eastbourne, Blackburn, Portsmouth, Cardiff, Southend, Wolverhampton and Croydon.

Yes, your secretary and his cousin Estelle thoroughly enjoyed the prestigious concert, with guest singer Hayley Westonra. A memorabie occasion for us, in more ways than One.

A LONG SHOT

Paul Hendley of 29 Ash Road, Wednesbury, WS10 9NN is trying to trace his father's wartime record. He was and AG with a Lancaster squadron, but doesn't know which outfit it was. Arthur Hendley lived in Wolverhampton. The only outstanding feature was he lost his wedding finger on operations. This is a long shot - but you never know!

HARRY MADE HIS POINT

Harry Rossiter made his point on the proposed Bomber Command memorial when his local Express & Echo newspaper published letters for and against the project. He pointed out over 55,000 young men from all walks of life from Britain and the Commonwealth had been killed in action. His letter acknowledged that many thousands of civilians had perished through bombing raids, but called upon those castigating this form of destruction to realise it is only one form of human suffering brought about by warfare.

He called upon all readers, and the public at large to remember the 55,000 fathers/husbands/sons who gave their lives to overcome the evil Nazi regime. "We must be positive in our comments so we can all go forward to promote peace in the world and remember our young men who are still serving and dying on our behalf in far off countries." We go along with that Harry. Well done.