Research

How I found what I found - My Research

 

A list of useful sites and links I have used over the years are on a subpage here.

 

I returned to trying to look for some more information on what happened to my Dad's crew on the night of 4th/5th July 1944 for the first time since 1993 as a result of a school project which was tasked to my son James in March 2004.

 

The growth of the internet in years between my last "look around" in 1993 and 2004, suddenly I had Google and the awesome power of its search engine. Simply typing in "Bomber Command" immediately gave me more information than I could have found in weeks of detailed searching in 1993. Sadly several of these sites are not around any more having not been kept up to date or having moved host, an issue with my own site over the last few years as well. Links have bbeen updated in on this page from the original site where I have been able to find equivalents.

 

The first place visited was the official Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary site which gave a wealth of information on the aircraft, men, units and missions flown during the second world war. Here I found the illustrious history of 44 Squadron and it's home in 1944 Dunholme Lodge. The diary section of the site told me the mission of 44 Squadron, part of 5 Group on the night of 4th July 1944. The site has since been archived, but is still accessible here.

 

"231 Lancasters and 15 Mosquitos, mostly from No 5 Group but with some Pathfinder aircraft, continued the attack on the underground flying-bomb store at St Leu d'Esserent with 1,000lb bombs, in order to cut all communications to the site. The bombing was accurate but 13 Lancasters were lost when German fighters engaged the force."

 

This looked like the mission then, and that one of the 13 Lancasters lost that night was my Dad's aircraft. The key to what happened next was finding the serial numbers of the aircraft lost on that raid and then from this finding which of those were with 44 Squadron.

 

Back to Google and on the off chance I typed in "Wainwright 44 Squadron". Up popped as top link 44 Squadron Casualties - U/V/W, on a site maintained by Richard Caville (now defunct). This has a list of losses suffered by 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron throughout the whole of WWII, extracted from "ROYAL AIR FORCE BOMBER COMMAND LOSSES 1939-1945" Volumes 1-6, a list of all Bomber Command losses in WWII published by Midland Counties Publications by author, W.R Chorley.

 

And there were my Dad's details:

WAINWRIGHT JE F Sgt 4-5/07/44 Lancaster I NE699 KM-T DL St-Leu Evd 2300

 

Flight Sergeant JE Wainwright had been brought down on the night of the 4th /5th July 1944 in Lancaster Mark I, serial number NE699 (actually incorrect as I later discovered, it is ME699), squadron designation KM-T. The aircraft took off from Dunholme Lodge to bomb St Leu d'Esserent and 23:00 hours. "Evd" meant that he had evaded capture.

 

You could seriously had knocked me down with a feather at this point in the process. That easy? Well yes, but I was lucky as someone had done the hard work of extracting the data for 44 Squadron from the book referenced above and put it on-line. I doubt that everyone that tries the same will get that leap so easily.

 

Rooting through the rest of the casualty listings for 44 Squadron I got a bit of a surprise in that on board KM-T that night there were eight people, not the usual seven:

 

FO H Braathen, RCAF (Killed)

Sgt R Houseman (Killed)

Sgt T .L Jackson (Killed)

Sgt W W Rennie, RCAF (Killed)

Sgt W Robinson (Evaded capture)

F Sgt J E Wainwright (Evaded capture)

FO F.E.Wareham (Killed)

PO W.A.Young, RAAF (Killed)

 

Digging Deeper

 

My next step was to head back to basics on my search and see what else was out there in terms of information on Bomber Commands missions. Back to Google again and re-insert "Bomber Command". The top link was Bob Baxter's Bomber Command which proved to be a gold mine of useful information and a gateway to lots more.

 

Here I confirmed that Lancaster ME699 (not NE699) attached to 44 Squadron had been lost on the raid on St Leu d'Esserent on the night of the 4th/5th July 1944. I dropped Bob a line about the issue of the eight men on board that night, and the next day back came the following:

 

Hi Mike

 

Thanks for your enquiry and kind comments.

 

Below is my record of your fathers aircraft and crew (View Maximised) It was definitely ME699, (NE series Lancs only went up to NE181)

 

You will note that as yet I have not traced the MI9 report (Intelligence debrief on returning to the UK) on your fathers evasion, any info you have regarding this would be very useful for my records.

 

There is a very good book entitled 'Sledgehammers for Tintacks' by Steve Darlow which covers all raids on the V1 sites in detail. It is published by Grub Street and is probably available from your local library.

 

There were 2 Navigators in this aircraft which is unusual except for Pathfinder marker aircraft, but possibly 44 were marking there own target on this occasion.

 

.......

 

If I can help further please let me know

 

Rgds

 

Bob

 

Below is what is in Bob Baxter's records for KM-T:

 

SERIAL ME699

NAME None Known

TYPE Lancaster BI

MAKER Lancaster BI by Metropolitan-Vickers

250 Lancaster M1's ordered from Metropolitan-Vickers in May 1942 and delivered from November

1943 to January 1944

with Merlin 22 engines initially installed up to ME639 and Merlin 24 engines from ME640 except

for ME668-9 with Merlin 22 engines.

SQDN 44 (Rhodesia)

OPERATION FBS - St-Leu-d'Esserent

CODE KM-T

DATE 04-05/07/44

TOOK_OFF Dunholme Lodge

TIME 23:00

CREW

Pilot P/O YOUNG William Archibald 417145 RAAF KIA

Buried in Marissel French National Cemetery. Coll Grave 284

Engr Sgt ROBINSON William Evaded

Report not yet traced

Nav1 F/O WAREHAM Frank Edward 134370 KIA

Buried in Marissel French National Cemetery. Coll Grave 284

Nav2 F/O BRAATHEN Harold J/27500 RCAF KIA

Buried in Marissel French National Cemetery. Coll Grave 284

B/Aim F/Sgt WAINWRIGHT John Edgar Evaded

Report not yet traced

W/Op Sgt JACKSON Thomas Leslie 1681086 KIA

Buried in Marissel French National Cemetery. Coll Grave 284

AG Sgt RENNIE William Wilson R/166835 RCAF KIA

Buried in Marissel French National Cemetery. Coll Grave 284

AG Sgt HOUSEMAN Ronald 159176 KIA

Buried in Marissel French National Cemetery. Coll Grave 284

NOTES

Shot down by a night-fighter.

Crashed close to Beauvais

CAUSE Night Fighter

 

The Lancaster of the BBMF at Southend Airshow, June 2004

I also contacted Rob Davis who has another gold mine of a site, Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command 1939-1945, who confirmed very much the same information.

 

"... the second navigator was probably operating additional navigation equipment or was under training. Known as either Nav/2 or Navigator (Radar)."

 

Rob suggested that for further information it was necessary to head off to the Public Records Office at Kew. He has provided a great "how to" guide about finding the relevant information at the PRO, Reseaching an Operational History, which I'll be printing out and taking with me when I head to West London.

 

A link from Rob Davis' site led me to another, The Nachtjagd Claims Database (which now seems to be defunct), where I could actually find the claim from the German night fighter that shot down KM-T:

 

05.07.44 Uffz. Schlomberg 3./NJG 3 4-mot Flzg (4 engine aircraft) SE-TE (map reference) at 2.500m (height) Beauvais 01.49 2027/II Anerk 106 (confirmation number)

 

A Messerschmitt 110 night fighter (RAF Museum, Hendon)

The data at the Nachtjagd Claims Database was handy as it was searchable by date and individual pilot, however it can be misleading as it does not contain claims by pilots who were not in specialist night fighter units and who occasionally flew at night in what were known as "Wilde Sau" operations. The database is extracted from data at Tony Wood's site which contain all claims made by Luftwaffe pilots and I recommend looking at the source data from here which is still available.

 

Moving on

 

By the middle of 2004 I had enough information to launch this website which was received very well by those that ooked at it. I added a post looking for Sgt Robinson at Len Smith's excellent WWII Ex-RAF site (now sadly defunct) and came back to the subject every so often over the next few months without ever really moving forward much, knowing that my next step ought to be a trip to Kew.

 

Looking through the posts at Len's site I found one looking for word of John Bede Newman, who died on the ill fated raid to Nuremberg on the 31st March 1944. Realising that the crew was one of those in my Mother's pictures. I contacted the email in the post but was told that Bob Moffat had sadly passed away just before. This did solve the mystery of who Don Irving and his crew were and what had become of them. Since then a couple of the other pictures there have elicited some interest and started further interesting dialog.

 

Henry Horscroft of the 44 Squadron Association got back to me with details of the raids which William Young's crew took part in between March and July 1944. Ironically their first raid was the same as Don Irving's last, the ill fated Nuremberg raid The detail was duly added to my Father's page which grew steadily longer.

 

My next step forward was when a young Frenchman, Remco Immerzeel, got in touch in November 2004. His interest was in a particular aircraft from 101 Squadron that had come down in his village on the night of the 5th July 1944 which was part of the diversionary raid on Orleans. Remco had been the driving force behind the erection of a memorial to the crew of the aircraft. Having made contact he became my French interpreter and started a search for the Pelletier family who had looked after my Father in July and August 1944.

 

Again it went quiet for a while until Graham Taylor, an Englishman living in France got in touch in February 2005. His interest was the caves at St Leu d'Esserent and he is campaigning for a museum to the V1 Flying Bombs that were stored and assembled there (website here). Graham put me in touch with Alain Bodel who is part of a volunteer team running an aviation museum near Beauvais, Musee de L'Aviation de Beauvais-Warluis.

Wreckage that may be ME699 in Laversines from a newspaper article

Alain and Graham quickly pinpointed where ME699 had crashed, in a small hamlet called Laversines a couple of kilometres East of Beauvais and armed with this Graham went knocking on doors to find people that remembered the crash and the airmen that survived. The location of the crash then gave Remco what he needed to finally track down the Pelletuer family and what has happened to them since my Father passed away in 1978, information reconfirmed by Alain Bodel days later.

 

Another Breakthrough

 

In September 2005 I had an email out of the blue from the daughters of Bob Routledge who had come across the crew picture here and recognised their father in it. Bob had been the regular Rear Gunner with Bill Young's crew but had missed the mission to St. Leu d'Esserent on the 4th/5th July having been taken ill shortly before take off.

 

Unfortunately Bob passed away in June 2005 but his wife Jennie, who knew the crew, is still alive and could provide names for the crew picture at last. I have met up with the family and we have exchanged pictures and memorabilia from 1944. Jennie was kind enough to write up Bob's story for me which can be found here.

 

Remco has recently informed me that Unteroffizer Schlomberg's christian name was G√ľnther which was new to me (Source: Foreman, Matthews and Parry: Luftwaffe Nightfighter Combat Claims (2004) ISBN: 0 9538061 4 6). Many thanks again Remco. This is now online at the Kracker Luftwaffe archive.

 

My contacts in France are still trying to get me more information on what happened to Sergeant Bill Robinson, the other survivor of ME699 and I am now in touch with, and have met members of the Pelletier family in France.

 

I have also discovered that the crews skipper, Bill Young, was the best mate through training of Aussie cricket legend Keith Miller, indeed that "Nugget" named his first son Bill after him. The details on this and how I traced the story is now contained in a page about Bill Young which can be found here.

 

I am also in touch with Bill Rennie's brother Dick in Canada who wrote up his memories of Bill which are here. Dick has a number of photographs and Bill's logbook which I hope to have sight of soon and with permission will publish these also.

 

Finally!!!

Ongoing Progress

 

With this website now relaunched I have managed to succesfully apply for my Father's "Bomber Command Clasp" through the Ministry of Defence, despite the many hoops they put in the way.

 

Most recently, contact with Keith Janes at the WWII Escape and Evasion Information Exchange has indicated that my father's and Bill Robinson's IS9 evasion debriefs are available at the National Archives. Further exploration indicates that in fact Bill Robinson's is actually missing from the National Archives, although could be in the associated appendices to the actual reports. I now have a copy of my father's report and the text of his debrief is up at the top of the page about his time in France.

 

This route also led me to the American equivalent of the archives, NARA, and their evader records, which have allowed me to finally find out the identity of the American fighter pilot who was hidden with my dad, known only as "Guy Petit", as well as the other airmen that were assisted by the Pelletier family. Some of this information is now up on the page about my father's time in France with more to come when I have time.

 

It takes time, but step by step we are getting there... and I still need to take that trip to Kew!

 

INFORMATION I STILL NEED HELP WITH

 

I am now in touch with the families of most of the crew of ME699 but have yet to find any significant information about Thomas Leslie Jackson and William (Bill) Robinson. If anyone can help with this I would be very grateful.

 

Thomas Leslie Jackson (left), RAF service number 1681086, was Wireless Operator and was I believe from Hull. I understand that he was an only child so may not have any close relatives left alive.

 

William (Bill) Robinson (lright), RAF service number 1777532, was the Flight Engineer and was the second man, with my Father, to survive the aircraft being shot down. He also evaded capture having been looked after (I believe) by the Morels family in France. I have been told that he was a Scot, and also that he was yet another Yorkshireman. So far I have had no trace of what happened to Bill after his return to the UK in 1944.

 

Any information you can find on the Night Fighter pilot who shot the crew down would also be much appreciated. All the information I have so far indicates that this was Unteroffizer Gunther Schlomberg of 3./NJG3, a night-fighter unit based in Vechta in northern Germany.

 

If you can help in any way please email me!

 

 

 

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