• Plage Bonaparte à Plouha (Côtes d'Armor) - Haut-lieu de la Résistance

  • Sacy-le-Grand (Oise) - Mémorial en souvenir du F/O H. H. MacKenzie (RCAF)

  • Supermarine LF Mk.Vb Spitfire EP120 - G-LFVB - (The Fighter Collection)

  • Le Cardonnois (Somme) - Stèle à la mémoire de l'équipage du Boeing B-17 #42-31325, 452nd Bomb Group

  • B-17G-85-VE 44-8846 - F-AZDX - (FTV)

 

Summer1944

Saint-Leu-d'Esserent in turmoil

 

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                                                                                                         En français france
                                                                                                                  
 

 

     Between 17th March and 31st August 1944, the town of Saint-Leu-d'Esserent was the subject of a significant number of bombing raids and strafing (some sources mention a number of 18) from the 8th US Army Air Force, the 9th US Army Air Force and the Royal Air Force.

 

     The targets were the marshalling yard of the Petit-Thérain, the railway line Creil-Pontoise, the river port, the Laversines bridge, the lock, the German anti-aircraft batteries and the underground quarries that housed V1s.

 

Creil Petit-Therain - 28th March 1944

Petit-Thérain : bombing of 28th March 1944 around noon by the 9th US Army Air Force

(source NARA)

 

     The attacks on southern England by the V1 flying bombs are a real menace for the people.
Steve Darlow, in his book "Sledgehammers for Tintacks" gives the following figures for the losses due to the V1s :

6,184 civilians killed, 17,981 seriously injured, 23,000 homes destroyed and hundreds of thousands damaged.

 

     The bombing campaign, begun in 1943 (operation CROSSBOW) against the launching ramps, delayed and limited the number of V1s fired but did not annihilated them.

 

Saint Leu d'Esserent - June 1944 

Aerial reconnaissance photograph dated 13th June 1944

     On 29th June 1944, the depot of St-Leu (code LEOPOLD) becomes a priority target for Bomber Command to destroy the source of the launching ramps (two other depots are targeted : Nucourt (code NORDPOL) in the Val d 'Oise, and Rilly-la-Montagne (code RICHARD), in the Marne.

 

      The raids on St. Leu and St. Maximin by the RAF, result a considerable number of casualties among the bomber crews :

54 four-engined aircraft destroyed, 264 airmen killed, 45 taken prisoner and 62 rescued in the Oise department and the neighbouring departments.

 

RAF 50 Squadron

RAF 50 Squadron : boarding  for a  night mission

 

     The first raid by the Royal Air Force takes place on Saint-Leu in the late afternoon of Tuesday 4th July 1944.

17 Lancasters, 1 Mosquito and 1 Mustang of the famous 617 Squadron, nicknamed the "Dambusters", drop 11 Tallboy bombs. The dust and the smoke generated by the terrible explosions prevent the release of six other giant bombs. Not one aircraft is lost.

 

     The second raid is an immediate consequence of the first and takes place on the night of 4th to 5th July 1944.

231 Lancasters 15 Mosquitos of the RAF 5th Group drop approximately 1,157 tons of explosive bombs and 5 tons of incendiary bombs in 3 waves between 1:31 am and 1:45 am (UK Time). The bombardment is reported as accurate by the RAF. The town of Saint-Maximin, although not targeted, is hit hard. 13 Lancasters do not make it back to England. The RAF suffers 77 airmen killed in action.

A German report intercepted by the British on 5th July indicates that the entrance of the quarry is not affected, the access road and railway track are destroyed although repairable in 24 hours. Human losses at the depot amount to 5 men missing. Of the Flak gunners (AAA) 5 are killed, 6 are wounded and 6 or 7 are missing.

 

     The third raid takes place, again over Saint-Leu, on the night of Friday 7th to Saturday 8th July 1944.

208 Lancasters and 13 Mosquitos of the 5th Group bomb, between 1:16 am and 1:30 am (UK Time), off loading, in 3 waves coming from the southwest, 1,121 tons of explosive bombs and 4 tons of incendiary bombs. 32 aircraft are lost. It is the deadliest bombing for the inhabitants of the town. 10 inhabitants lose their lives. The RAF suffer 142 killed in action and 30 taken prisoner but 47 airmen are rescued by individuals and the French Resistance.

 

Saint Leu d'Esserent - Quarry of the Couvent - September 1944  Saint Leu d'Esserent - Quarry of the Couvent - September 1944
 Target : quarries
housing V1s

Left: the entrance to quarry of the Couvent
Right: view of the quarry of the Couvent

(photos taken in September 1944)

 

     The fourth raid takes place in the afternoon of Wednesday 12th July 1944.

168 Halifaxes, 46 Lancasters and 8 Mosquitos of the 4th, 6th and 8th Groups bomb the quarries of Thiverny. The target is covered in cloud and the result cannot be observed. Not one aircraft is lost.

 

     The fifth raid targets the quarries of Trossy-Saint-Maximin. In the afternoon of Wednesday 2nd August 1944, 94 Lancasters and 8 Mosquitos drop 2,650 tons of bombs. All the aircraft return to their base.

 

     The sixth raid again targets Trossy-Saint-Maximin. It takes place in the afternoon of Thursday 3rd August 1944.

191 Lancasters, 40 Halifaxes and 2 Mosquitos drop 1,700 tons of bombs. 5 Lancasters are lost. The smoke generated by the explosions considerably hampers the second wave. The town of Saint-Maximin is destroyed more than 90%.

 

    The seventh attack consisting of 5 Mosquitos and 61 Lancasters bomb Trossy-Saint-Maximin takes place on Friday 4th August 1944. 2 Lancasters are destroyed.

 

     The eighth and last raid targets Saint-Leu-d’Esserent again. Early in the afternoon of Saturday 5th August 1944, an initial armada of 456 aircraft of the RAF (441 take part in the raid, according to some sources), including 60 Lancasters, 196 Halifaxes and 7 Mosquitos for the first wave, then 189 Lancasters and 6 Mosquitos for the second, drop approximately 2,193 tons of bombs.

A Halifax crashes near the Carrefour des Ripailles (north of Chantilly), a second Halifax crashes on its return to England. The list of victims of the town grows since three inhabitants die during the attack.

 

     The bombing of 5th August is the largest ever conducted over the Oise department. The municipalities of Gouvieux, Lamorlaye, Creil, but especially Précy-sur-Oise (12 killed) are not spared.

 

     In early September 1944, after the Liberation, Saint-Leu-d'Esserent is a ghost town. Much of the 1,600 inhabitants had evacuated because of the bombings. The town is devastated at 85%, of which 45% totally. Apart from the area of the town hall miraculously spared, the people no longer recognize their town. It is just a scene of desolation and ruins.

 

Saint Leu d'Esserent - Rue Henri Barbusse   Saint Leu d'Esserent - Rue Christine

                  Saint-Leu-d'Esserent : down the street Henri Barbusse                                           Saint-Leu-d'Esserent : rue Christine

 

Saint Leu d'Esserent - near the Quai d'Amont  Saint Leu d'Esserent -Rue de l'Hotel-Dieu

                        Saint-Leu-d'Esserent : near the Quai d'Amont                                              Saint-Leu-d'Esserent : rue de l'Hôtel-Dieu

 

     The church, jewel of the town, suffered severe destruction. Years of work will be needed for its restoration. Livestock has been decimated. The road Saint-Leu/Creil is no longer passable and this for many long months. No trains or barges circulate. Supplies are hard to come by. Everything is lacking.

 

     On 20th October 1944, the municipality requests the adoption of the town by a British or an American city :

"Because of the extensive damage of the bombing ... which affected 85% of the population, historical monuments such as the church, much of the farmland and mushroom growing areas, the bombing also crippled local industry by the destruction of major industrial establishments (Candy, Petit-Thérain, the harbor wharfs etc ..). "

 

     It may be noted that on 28th December 1944: "The gas and electricity work but the water supply is still being repaired. There are no means of transport for providing barracks for the victims".

 

     In 1945, Saint-Leu-d'Esserent remains for many long years ravaged by war. A great number of people who suffered damage live in temporary cabins or in half-destroyed buildings. Supplies are insufficient and heating is difficult.

 

 V1 rocket - Paris - 1945

V1 rocket exhibited in Paris in 1945

 

     On 11th November 1948, the 39/45 Croix de Guerre with a citation “à l’Ordre du Régiment” is awarded to the town of Saint-Leu-d'Esserent.

Since the end of WWII, many veterans of the RAF and families of those missing have come on pilgrimage to Saint-Leu-d'Esserent.

 

 RAF insignia

Insignia offered in October 1983 to the municipality of Saint-Leu-d'Esserent
by F/L Keith J. Stevens of the Royal Australian Air Force.

His Lancaster was shot down on the night of 7th to 8th July 1944.

 

     31 civilians, including 16 inhabitants of Saint-Leu-d’Esserent, were killed during the different bombings of the year 1944. We can add 15 others killed in the neighbouring towns, Saint-Maximin, Précy-sur-Oise and Lamorlaye in August 1944 when the town of St. Leu was targeted.

 

     The tonnage of bombs falling from the sky in July/August 1944 is estimated at 9,000 tons.

 

 
Bomber Command losses during the raids over Saint-Leu-d'Esserent and St. Maximin in summer 1944

Date

Aircraft

Serial number

Squadron

Target

Killed

POW

Evaded

4-5 July 1944 Lancaster LL785   9 Saint-Leu 8 - -
4-5 July 1944 Lancaster ME699 44 Saint-Leu 6 - 2
4-5 July 1944 Lancaster PB195 49 Saint-Leu 7 - -
4-5 July 1944 Lancaster JB486 57 Saint-Leu 7 - -
4-5 July 1944 Lancaster JB723 57 Saint-Leu 7 - -
4-5 July 1944 Lancaster EE186 61 Saint-Leu - 5 2
4-5 July 1944 Lancaster ME832 106 Saint-Leu 6 - 1
4-5 July 1944 Lancaster ND339 106 Saint-Leu 1 2 4
4-5 July 1944 Lancaster LM125 207 Saint-Leu 7 - -
4-5 July 1944 Lancaster ND570 207 Saint-Leu 6 1 -
4-5 July 1944 Lancaster HK536 463 Saint-Leu 7 - -
4-5 July 1944 Lancaster ME614 463 Saint-Leu 8 - -
4-5 July 1944 Lancaster ME867 630 Saint-Leu 7 - -
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster JA690   9 Saint-Leu 1 - 7
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster JA957   9 Saint-Leu 6 - 1
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster JB116   9 Saint-Leu 4 3 -
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster LM631 44 Saint-Leu 2 - 5
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster ME634 44 Saint-Leu 2 3 2
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster ME859 44 Saint-Leu 7 - -
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster LL976 49 Saint-Leu 7 - -
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster LM541 49 Saint-Leu 7 - -
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster PB207 49 Saint-Leu - - -
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster DV227 50 Saint-Leu 7 - -
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster DV363 50 Saint-Leu 7 - -
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster PA996 50 Saint-Leu 6 - 1
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster JB370 57 Saint-Leu - 3 4
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster LM522 57 Saint-Leu 7 - -
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster ME868 57 Saint-Leu 3 1 2
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster ND867 61 Saint-Leu 5 1 1
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster R5856 61 Saint-Leu 7 - -
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster ND966 83 Saint-Leu 5 1 1
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster JB641 106 Saint-Leu 7 - -
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster ME668 106 Saint-Leu 4 3 -
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster ME789 106 Saint-Leu - 6 1
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster ME831 106 Saint-Leu - 2 5
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster PB144 106 Saint-Leu 7 - -
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster LM129 207 Saint-Leu 3 3 1
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster LM218 207 Saint-Leu 5 - 2
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster ME805 207 Saint-Leu - 2 5
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster ND567 207 Saint-Leu 5 1 1
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster ND866 207 Saint-Leu 6 1 -
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster LM219 467 Saint-Leu 6 - 2
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster LM338 467 Saint-Leu 7 - -
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster ME745 619 Saint-Leu 2 - 5
7-8 July 1944 Lancaster ND688 630 Saint-Leu 6 1 -
3 August 1944 Lancaster PA162 61 Saint-Maximin 6 - 1
3 August 1944 Lancaster ME839 166 Saint-Maximin 5 1 1
3 August 1944 Lancaster PB125 460 Saint-Maximin 7 - -
3 August 1944 Lancaster ME568 619 Saint-Maximin 7 - -
3 August 1944 Lancaster LM163 625 Saint-Maximin 2 4 -
4 August 1944 Lancaster PA983 635 Saint-Maximin 8 - -
4 August 1944 Lancaster ND811 635 Saint-Maximin 3 - 4
5 August 1944 Halifax LL594 425 Saint-Leu 6 1 1
5 August 1944 Halifax MZ828 433 Saint-Leu 2 - -
TOTAL OF LOSSES 54       264 45 62
 
9
 
Source : J-P Mathieu
 

 

4th August 1944

 

Squadron Leader Ian Willoughby BAZALGETTE

Victoria Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross

 

Lancaster Mk III ND811

635 Squadron - Royal Air Force

 

 

Senantes (Oise)

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
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                                                                                                               En français france

                                                                                                                                                      

 

Ian Willoughby Bazalgette was born on 19th October 1918 in Calgary, Canada, from Anglo-Irish parents, third child of a family running a farm.

His father, who had been wounded and gassed in the First World War, still suffered the after-effects. Having difficulty in administering his farm, he finally gave up his job.

In 1922, the Bazalgette family moved to Toronto for about three years and his father then decided to take his family to his native country, namely England.
So the young Ian grew up in Surrey, a few miles south-west of London.
Around the age of 13, he had tuberculosis which forced him to undergo treatment in a sanatorium followed by a long convalescence.

During his youth, he developed a passion for writing music, reading and photography. 

In July 1939, a few months before the outbreak of the Second World War, Ian W. Bazalgette enlisted in the Royal Artillery and found himself assigned in Scotland, to the 51st Highland Searchlight Regiment which was equipped with radar controlled searchlights.

From 1940, the Battle of Britain began. The Luftwaffe of Marshal Goering first attempted to destroy the British convoys in the English Channel and then took on in vain the Royal Air Force before starting the “Blitz”, the bombing of London and other large British cities.

In 1941, wanting to become more involved in the war, Ian W. Bazalgette got his transfer to the Royal Air Force which was in need of pilots. In June, he went back to England, to the n° 22 Elementary Flying Training School in Cambridge. After ten hours of dual instruction, he took  his first solo flight in a Tiger Moth on 3rd August 1940.

S/L Ian W. BAZALGETTEOver the months, Ian W. Bazalgette passed successively through various flying schools of the RAF, learning to fly twin-engined planes.
His bomber pilot training over, he was finally assigned to the 115 Squadron RAF Bomber Command in Marham, in Norfolk.
In the last week of September, the Squadron was transferred to the Mildenhall airbase.

 

On 30th September 1942, piloting a twin-engined Vickers Wellington with crew, Pilot Officer Bazalgette flew his first mission over Holland.

From that time until the end of 1942, night missions over enemy territory became almost routine for P/O Bazalgette and the crews of 115 Squadron. Meanwhile, in November, he was promoted to Flying Officer.

In February 1943 a new aircraft, the four-engined Lancaster, began to replace the Wellingtons of 115 Squadron, requiring pilots and crews to be converted.

 

His first mission aboard this new aircraft comprising a crew of seven men was on the night of 22nd to 23rd March 1943. It was the bombing of Saint Nazaire harbour but the aircraft were recalled beafore reaching the target.

 

Throughout 1943, raids in which F/O Bazalgette took part, intensified over the Ruhr and German cities such as Berlin, Essen, Duisburg, Dortmund ... heavily defended cities, always entailing a high rate of losses among the Allied aircraft.

 

Promoted to Squadron-Leader and having completed his first tour of operation, Ian W. Bazalgette was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on 1st July 1943.

 

At the end of 1943, now an experienced pilot, he was sent as an instructor to Scotland before, after a few weeks of training, getting his transfer to the Pathfinder Force.

 
 
So in early 1944, he was assigned to 635 Squadron based in Downham Market, Norfolk, whose Lancasters had the job of marking the targets to bomb.

 

The missions started again, still extremely dangerous, over cities and strategic enemy sites, until the fateful day of 4th August 1944.

That day, in the morning, S/L Bazalgette and his crew took off from the Downham Market airbase at about 11:15 am aboard the Lancaster ND811 "F2-T." This was his 58th operational mission, being close to completing his second tour of operations.

 

 

The crew :

S/L Ian W. BAZALGETTE     RAF Pilot  KIA
Sgt George R. TURNER     RAF Flight engineer  Evaded
F/L Geoffrey R. GODDARD     RAF Navigator  Evaded
F/L Ivan A. HIBBERT     RAF Bomb aimer  KIA
F/O Charles R. GODFREY     RAF Wireless operator  Evaded
F/S Vernon V. R. LEEDER*    RAAF Mid upper gunner  KIA
F/O Douglas CAMERON     RAF Rear gunner  Evaded
 

 

*F/S Vernon Leeder, of the Royal Australian Air Force, was not part of the usual crew of S/L Bazalgette. He replaced F/S Hurnhall on that day.

The crew of Lancaster ND811
Ian W. Bazalgette, Geoffrey Goddard, Ivan Hibbert, Charles Godfrey, Bob Hurnhall, Douglas Cameron and George Turner

 

Ten Lancasters of 635 Squadron of the Pathfinder Force were assigned to "mark" the target for the main force of 61 other Lancasters of the Royal Air Force. The target : the bombing of the V-1 rockets storage sites in Trossy - St Maximin (Oise).

Since mid-June, these flying bombs hit the agglomeration of London and England. It was therefore extremely important for Bomber Command to annihilate this site permanently. Shelled heavily during night raids since July and heavily protected by antiaircraft defences and the German night fighters, the Royal Air Force had already lost a number of bombers.

This new mission was thus considered to be high-risk and most dangerous for the crews.

Approaching the target, while the formations flew straight, Flak was unleashed. Two aircraft preceding the Lancaster of S/L Bazalgette were hit by gunfire from the ground. One, piloted by F/L Robert W. Beveridge, dived in flames and crashed near the village of St Maximin. All the crew perished.

It was S/L Ian W. Bazalgette that now took responsibility for marking the target, but in turn, his aircraft was hit by flak. Both engines and fuel tanks of the starboard wing caught fire. Flames licked the fuselage. Managing to keep the aircraft in the line of flight, Squadron Leader Bazalgette accurately dropped markers and bombs on the target, allowing the other Lancasters to bomb the site with precision.

Lightened of its load but destabilized, the four-engined aircraft went into a spin, rapidly losing altitude, rekindling the fire that devoured the starboard wing. The cool head and control of S/L Bazalgette allowed him to regain control of the aircraft.

Bursts of flak hit the front part of the Lancaster, badly injuring F/L Hibbert. His right arm half torn off, he was relieved of his position in a critical condition by Turner and Godfrey who took him towards the rear of the aircraft. Lying on a stretcher, he was injected with morphine.

On board, the crew fought the flames. Smoke and gas spread inside the aircraft, causing the asphyxia of F/S Leeder.

Flying to North-West, it was clear that the Lancaster could not make it back to England.

Having lost altitude, it was the turn of one of the engines on the port wing to stop.

In agreement with Flight Engineer Turner, S/L Bazalgette ordered the crew to evacuate. It was early afternoon. In the vicinity of the village of Senantes, in Oise, Cameron, Turner, Goddard and Godfrey abandoned the aircraft in turn from an altitude of 300 ft.

Aware that F/L Hibbert and F/S Leeder were unable to parachute, S/L Bazalgette refused to abandon them.

After avoiding the village of Senantes by making a wide turn, he decided to try landing the stricken Lancaster in a field. At about one kilometer from the village, the aircraft landed perfectly .... but exploded a few seconds later. The three airmen were killed.

Mr Simeon Desloges, a young child in 1944, remembers watching the burning aircraft avoid the village at low level. Then a large explosion was heard followed by a large cloud of smoke rising into the sky.

In the afternoon, the bodies of Flight Lieutenant Hibbert and Flight Sergeant Leeder were extracted from the wreckage of the aircraft. Taken to the church of Senantes, it was decided that they would be buried with dignity in the village cemetery on the following Sunday.
But in the morning of this Sunday 6th August, while the population was preparing to pay tribute to the two airmen, the Germans took their bodies and buried them in the Beauvais-Marissel military cemetery.

The funeral having therefore not taken place, everyone went to the crash site, despite the fear of the arrival of the arrival of the Germans, and laid countless flowers as a sign of gratitude among the debris of the Lancaster.

Senantes - Debris of Lancaster ND811

The four surviving airmen, gathered around, soon reported to their rescuers, despite the language barrier, that they were seven on board the aircraft and the pilot's body was definitely still in the wreckage. Discreetly, searching started again. The remains of S/L Bazalgette were found in the debris.

The pilot's body was kept until the burial ceremony. It took place in Senantes on Sunday 8th October 1944 in the presence of his sister Ethel, British and French military authorities and a large crowd who came to pay tribute to the airman.

In 1945, S/L Ian W. Bazalgette was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain's highest military award, for his heroic sacrifice in not wanting to abandon his two wounded comrades who had remained on board.

The four survivors escaped German searching and arrest.

Charles Godfrey and Geoffrey Goddard landed close to each other near the village of Senantes. In the evening, they were hidden at the house of the schoolteacher of the village, Mr. Laluet, where they were provided with civilian clothes. Notified Henri Maigret came to interrogate them and took pictures which could be used for their false identity papers.

The next day, now taken in charge by the "Alsace" escape network, Henri Maigret took them in a cart to the Desserre family, managers of the farm of La Boissiere in Blacourt, where they stayed until 20th August, namely for a period of twelve days.

For safety reasons, it was decided to move the two airmen. In a cart, Henri Maigret took over their transfer, in the middle of retreating German troops, to La Neuville-sur-Auneuil in Pierre Muller‘s farm.

The arrival of Allied troops was imminent, the Liberation approaching. Farms in the region were full of airmen. Many of them were hidden in the vicinity and lodging opportunities were becoming few and far between.

It was therefore decided to create a temporary camp and to gather together the airmen in a thick wood in Le Saussay, located near the village of Porcheux.

Pierre Muller took Charles Godfrey and Geoffrey Goddard to this camp on the evening of their arrival.

A British armoured column freed them on 30th August.

 

George Turner landed near the hamlet of Bois-Aubert, a few hundred metres from Senantes. Injured in his back, he was collected and lodged by René Cocu, a farmer in the hamlet of Groscourt, where he was to await the Liberation.

After landing near Glatigny and having narrowly escaped the Germans, Douglas Cameron was hosted by the Anse family in Glatigny and the Roisse family in Hanvoile. He chose to participate with the local Resistance in different acts of sabotage against the enemy until the Liberation.

Charles Godfrey and George Turner came back several times after the war to thank their rescuers. They were also present on 4th August 1994, accompanied by the daughter of Douglas Cameron, for the dedication ceremony of the memorial erected on the crash site in memory of their comrades who were killed fifty years earlier.

On 27th July 1990, in the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, South of Calgary, Alberta, a ceremony took place in memory of Squadron Leader Ian Willoughby Bazalgette. On this occasion, his sister Ethel, George Turner and Charles Godfrey unveiled a plaque in honour of the pilot and a Lancaster, with the same markings that he was flying during the tragic mission of 4th August 1944, became the Ian Bazalgette Memorial Lancaster.

On 15th August 2009, at the Museum of Nanton, was signed by their respective mayors, the act of twinning the village of Senantes and the Canadian city in memory of the courage and sacrifice of S/L Bazalgette.

On 27th June 2014, a ceremony was held at Senantes.

"Baz", the biography of Ian W. Bazalgette VC, written by Dave Birrell.

 

Night of 28th to 29th June 1944

 

 HANDLEY-PAGE HALIFAX III MP-B

 

Serial : MZ736

 

76 Squadron - Royal Air Force

 

Sacy le Grand (Oise)

 

                                                                                                               Copyright © 2014 - Association des Sauveteurs d'Aviateurs Alliés - All rights reserved -
                                                                                                               En français france

 

76 Squadron

On 28th June 1944 at 10:26 pm, the Halifax III MZ736 of 76 Squadron took off from the base of Holme-on-Spalding Moor, Yorkshire, England. The target of the mission was to bomb the railway facilities in Blainville (Meurthe-et- Moselle).

Repeatedly attacked by German night fighters, it exploded over the village of Sacy-le-Grand (Oise). Some of the crew had time to evacuate the aircraft before it exploded and they were able to bale out over the region.

A lot of debris of the Halifax fell in different places of the village, causing several fires, but without causing casualties among the population.

Sacy-le-Grand - Rue de l'abbé CorsonSacy-le-Grand - Rue de l'abbé Corson 

The largest pieces of the bomber crashed on the property of Dr Cache, rue de l'Abbé Corson at Sacy-le-Grand.

Sacy-le-Grand - In the property of Dr Cache  Sacy-le-Grand - The property of Dr Cache today

Another part fell into what is now rue du Dr. Cache in front a porch.

Debris in front a porch - Rue du Dr Cache  Sacy-le-Grand - The same place today

In the remains of the aircraft, two dead bodies were found by the locals and the German soldiers at the scene.

Four airmen were taken prisoner as soon as they reached the ground and a fifth occupant escaped, having been picked up by a local farmer.

     P/O I. R. McWEIR: Pilot of the Halifax, he was taken prisoner and interned in Stalag Luft 1 at Barth (South Camp, barrack 10, Room 6) on the Baltic Sea.

     Sgt. George T. HOWIE: Was taken prisoner and interned in Stalag IV B at Muhlberg (Elbe).

George Howie

Sgt. George T. HOWIE

     F/S R.L. LIDBURY: Was taken prisoner and interned in Stalag Luft7 at Bankau bei Kreuzburg (Upper Silesia, today in Poland).

     W/O O. S. WILSON: Was taken prisoner and interned in the same camp as Lidbury.

    Sgt. A.W. OFFER: After evacuating the aircraft by parachute, Sgt. A. W. Offer followed the route from Sacy-le-Grand to Catenoy to escape the German soldiers. Rescued by Mr Sadet, a farmer at Catenoy, he was hidden in this family until the Liberation and maintained a long correspondence with his rescuers for a long time after the war.

 Wedding of Sgt. A.W. Offer Sgt. A. W. OFFER

     F/O Kenneth J. BUNN: Was killed during the crash of a part of the aircraft, he is buried in the municipal cemetery of Creil.

F/O Kenneth J. BUNN   Communal cemetery of Creil - F/O Kenneth J BUNN's grave        
                                                   F/O Kennneth J. BUNN

    

        Sgt. Jack Ph. GREGORY: Was killed during the crash of a part of the aircraft. He is also buried in the municipal cemetery of Creil.

Communal cemetery of Creil - Sgt. Jack P. GREGORY's grave

The bodies of the two airmen still remained for some time in view of the inhabitants of Sacy-le-Grand before they were transferred to Creil. As a mark of respect, a resident of the village, Mrs. Blanche Simonet laid a bouquet of flowers at the feet of the unfortunate airmen. The German soldiers who were guarding the bodies threw the bouquet away and indicated their strong displeasure to Mrs. Simonet.

Some parts of the Halifax were collected and kept by the inhabitants of the village, such as this escape hatch which was over the cockpit.

Escape hatch of the Halifax    Escape hatch of the Halifax

 

8th July 1944

 

Boeing B-17G #43-37747

 

 452nd Bomb Group

729th Bomb Squadron

8th Air Force

 

 Boubiers (Oise)

 

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The long-awaited Landings of the American and Anglo-Canadian troops took place a month ago in Normandy where the battle was still raging. The city of Caen, located within 20 km of the beaches was still occupied by the enemy. However, in our region, after four years of Occupation, hope for a future Liberation emerged.

Meanwhile, the Allied strategic air offensive continued and intensified every day and every night in the skies of France and Western Europe.

On this 8th July 1944, the primary target defined of the 8th American Bomber Command was the destruction of marshalling yards in Rouen. The Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortresses" of the 452nd Bomb Group, based in Deopham Green, Norfolk, were assigned, among others, to the raid.

Among the crews was the one of the B-17 # 43-37747 :

1st Lt. Everett G. HANSON Jr Pilot 20
KIA East Blackstone, Massachusetts
2nd Lt. James H. HEINZEN Co-pilot 26 KIA Wayzata, Minnesota
2nd Lt. Leonard S. MARCUS Navigator 26 KIA Worcester, Massachusetts
1st Lt. Donald J. LYMA Bombardier 19 KIA Sacramento, California
T/Sgt. George I. GRISSOM Top turret gunner 20 KIA Hammond, Indiana
T/Sgt. Chester L. POOL Radio-operator 20 KIA Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
S/Sgt. Lloyd P. POHRTE Ball turret gunner 19 KIA Berwyn, Illinois
S/Sgt. Russell D. JONES Right waist gunner 21 KIA Baltimore, Maryland
S/Sgt. Arthur SCHULZE Left waist gunner 25 POW Chicago, Illinois
S/Sgt. Van J. McMANUS Tail gunner 19 KIA York, South Carolina

 

1st Lt. Everett G. HANSON Jr  2nd Lt. James H. HEINZEN  2nd Lt. Leonard S. MARCUS  1st Lt. Donald J. LYMA

       1st Lt. Everett G. HANSON Jr           2nd Lt. James H. HEINZEN             2nd Lt. Leonard S. MARCUS                     1st Lt. Donald J. LYMA

S/Sgt. Russell D. JONES  S/Sgt. Arthur SCHULZE  S/Sgt. Van J. McMANUS

S/Sgt. Russell D. JONES            S/Sgt. Arthur SCHULZE              S/Sgt. Van J. McMANUS

At the controls of the aircraft was 1st Lt. Everett G. Hanson, an experienced pilot despite his young age. He was on his 32nd mission, as were most of his crew.

Stationed in England since May, this crew was very experienced and bonded. Between them was a strong sense of confidence.

This 8th July was a special day for 1st Lt. Hanson : it was his twentieth birthday. If the mission was going well, he will celebrate in the mess Squadron with his crew after returning to base. After that for them there remained only three missions to accomplish before finally being able to return home and meet their loved ones again.

 

The bomber formations now flew over the English Channel. The weather deteriorated. Cloud layers required the aircraft to lose altitude causing some disruption within the formations.

 

Upon crossing the French coast, Flak, the German antiaircraft defense, opened up, trying to shoot down the aircraft which were lining up for the final bombing run.

There was no question of deviating from the course. Despite high caliber shells of Flak bursting around and hitting the aircraft, the course had to be maintained, straight to the target.

 

Arriving over the target at high altitude, it was hidden by clouds. Bombing was impossible.

 

Some aircraft, including the one piloted by 1st Lt. Hanson, then set course southeast towards Mantes-la-Jolie. This was one of the secondary targets to bomb as was defined at the briefing.

The bridges over the River Seine and the railway installations of the town were potential targets. At all costs the enemy had to be prevented to send reinforcements to the Normandy front.

A few kilometers further North, underground quarries of Nucourt, known to house stocks of V1 Flying bombs, were also a target to destroy. Since mid-June, these secret weapons, with high destructive power, were hitting the London area where they spread terror.

These areas of Mantes-la-Jolie and Nucourt were highly protected by a belt of anti-aircraft guns which opened fire on the approaching bombers. All hell broke loose again.

 

According to other pilots of the Bomb Group, the B-17 flown by 1st Lt. Hanson was hit hard by a direct hit from anti-aircraft artillery in the Nucourt area. The aircraft was literally broken into two parts, resulting in the immediate death of nine of its ten crew members.

Miraculously, only S/Sgt. Arthur Schulze managed to evacuate the aircraft. Parachuting down, he landed near the Boissy-le-Bois German airfield where the fearsome fighters of the JG 26 were stationed. S/Sgt. Schulze was quickly captured and sent subsequently to Stalag Luft IV, Pomerania, until the end of the war.

The Flying Fortress, completely disabled and partially in flames, crashed near the village of Boubiers.

Boubiers - The crash site
The crash site
 

The bodies of the nine airmen were removed from the wreckageSome of them were identified by their dogtagsS/Sgt. Jones was identified by a chain on his left arm with the inscription "Hands off, this guy is mine - Sara" followed by his name and his Service Number.

Two days later, on 10th July, the population attended with a deep sense of respect the burial of the nine airmen in the cemetery of the village. They rested there until the end of the war.

Boubiers - The church  Boubiers - The cemetery

The church and the location where the nine airmen were buried until the end of the war.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the parents and the wives of the airmen were still unaware of the tragedy but the worrying and anxiety grew as the days passed. They received no news.

At the end of July, each family received the dreaded telegram sent by the Air Command. It told them that their son or husband was missing in action since 8th July without more information. A small hope remained nonetheless. All families clung to the idea that they may have been rescued by the population and they were on their way to escaping ...

This hope was totally wiped out several months later. It was during the month of April 1945 that a new telegram notified them officially the death in action of the nine airmen.

1st Lt. Donald J. LYMA - Western Union Telegram  1st Lt. Donald J. LYMA - Newspaper

The tragic telegram announcing to his parents that 1st Lt. Donald J. Lyma had been killed in action.

 

 2nd Lt. James H. HEINZEN - Newspaper  2nd Lt. James H. HEINZEN - Newspaper

 

By the Red Cross, the Schulze family learned that their son was now a prisoner of war.

The US Army liberated the area on 30th August.

The bodies of the nine airmen were exhumed and formally identified in the following months by the American Graves Commission. They were then transferred into temporary military cemeteries, including Solers, in Seine-et-Marne, for 1st Lt. Lyma and S/Sgt. McManus.

At the request of their families, the bodies of Lts. Hanson and Heinzen and T/Sgts. Grissom and Pool were repatriated to the United States.

 

Saint Avold - 2nd Lt. Leonard S. Marcus's grave  Saint Avold - 1st Lt. Donald J. LYMA's grave  Saint Avold - S/Sgt. Lloyd P. POHRTE's grave

Lts. Marcus and Lyma and S/Sgt. Pohrte rest in France in the Lorraine American Cemetery, Saint Avold, France.
 

                                               Epinal - S/Sgt. Van J. McMANUS's grave   Neupre - S/Sgt. Russell D. JONES's grave

 S/Sgt. McManus rests in the Epinal American Cemetery, France, and S/Sgt. Jones in the Ardennes American Cemetery, Belgium.

 

 

 Arthur SCHULZE

During his captivity, Arthur Schulze suffered greatly, like many others, of deprivation but also of the terrible cold of the winter of 1944-1945. After several attempts, he managed to escape in the spring of 1945 and joined the British troops who were advancing. He remained all his life marked by the terrible tragedy of 8th July 1944.

He died on 20th January 2009, at the age of 89.

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                          Arthur Schulze after WWII

 

 Boubiers - Remains of the B-17
Remains of the tail of the B-17 # 43-37747 in the immediate postwar period.

 

1st Lt. Everett G. HANSON Jr in 1943      San Marcos,Texas, in 1943 - 2nd Lt. Leonard S. Marcus

                                             1st Lt. Everett G. Hanson Jr in 1943     2nd Lt. Leonard S. Marcus - San Marcos AFB, Texas,

                                                                                                                                               in 1943.

Victorville, California, in October 1943 - 1st Lt. Donald J. LYMA      S/Sgt. Van J. MacMANUS

                                                           1st Lt. Donald J. Lyma -                                            S/Sgt. Van J. McManus 

                                                       Victorville AFB, California                         

                                                              in October 1943 

 

On 8th May 2015, a ceremony was held at Boubiers (Oise) in memory of the crew.

 

Source : US Archives, families of the crew members and municipality of Boubiers.

With special thanks to Mrs Janice Kidwell

 

27th June 1944

 

B-24H “Liberator” # 42-95280 “Square Dance

 

445th Bomb Group

701st Bomb Squadron

8th Air Force

 

Mello (Oise)

 

 

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                                                                                                          En français france
 
 

On 27th June 1944, early in the afternoon, about forty B-24 "Liberator" heavy bombers took off from different bases scattered in England. Their target: to bomb, in two waves, the marshalling yards of the Petit Thérain, near Creil. The four-engined aircraft of the 445th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force based at Tibenham, Norfolk, participated in the raid.

Among them, the B-24 "Liberator" # 42-95280 "Square Dance".

800px 701st Bombardment Squadron B 24 Liberator
B-24 "Liberator"
 
The crew of the B-24 "Liberator" # 42-95280 “Square Dance” :
 
1st Lt. Clifton G. MILLER Pilot 22 Evaded Belding, Michigan
2nd Lt. Ralph L. HALL Co-pilot 22 Evaded Lakewood, Ohio
1st Lt. Arlee T. RENO Navigator KIA Spring Lake City, New Jersey
2nd Lt.Walter A. STRYCHASZ Bombardier 26 KIA Cleveland, Ohio
T/Sgt. John H. LEAHY Radio-operator 32 KIA Chicago, Illinois
T/Sgt. Wayne E. BRAND Top turret gunner 23 Evaded Dublin, Mississippi
Cpl Edward L. SMITH Ball turret gunner 24 POW Monessen, Pennsylvanie
S/Sgt. Walter B. SCHUM Waist gunner 20 KIA Altoona, Pennsylvanie
S/Sgt. William H. SALIO Waist gunner POW Cincinnati, Ohio
S/Sgt. John F. GOAN Tail gunner 23 Evaded Chattanooga, Tennessee
 

Near the target, the German anti aircraft defense opened fire. The 88 mm shells burst at high altitude, trying to shoot down the approaching allied aircraft.

At about 24,000 ft, the B-24H "Square Dance", piloted by 1st Lt. Clifton G. Miller, managed to drop, as scheduled, its load of bombs which whistled down towards the target despite the deadly bursts of the formidable enemy ante-aircraft defenses.

Moments later, the bomber was hit violently by a shell that exploded between the bomb bay and the nose of the aircraft. The B-24 ignited immediately. 1st Lt. Arlee T. Reno and 2nd Lt. Walter A. Strychasz were instantly killed at their posts.

The situation was desperate. The order was given by the pilot to evacuate the uncontrollable aircraft. The surviving airmen baled out one after the other just before the explosion of the plane in mid air directly above the village of Mello.

T/Sgt. John H. Leahy apparently lost his life at that time. Seen for the last time by his companions in the process of putting on his parachute, he tried right to the end to fight the flames that ravaged the bomb bay.

John H. Leahy 3

T/Sgt. John H. Leahy, radio-operator

Debris from the aircraft fell on a large area around the "Champ des Roses”, in the park of the Mello chateau. It was about 7:30 pm.

Crash

Part of the wreck of the B-24 "Square Dance"

The bodies of the three airmen were taken out from the debris by the German Army. They will be buried on 29th June in the cemetery of Creil. They will stay there until the end of the war.

Today Arlee T. Reno rests in the American cemetery at Epinal, in Vosges, France.

The bodies of Walter Strychasz and John Leahy were repatriated to the United States. Walter Strychasz now rests in Cleveland, Ohio, and John Leahy in Forrest Park, Illinois.

Schum
 
The tragic fate of S/Sgt. Walter B. Schum remains enigmatic today.

According to the testimony of Gilbert Marionval of the “Valmy” Resistance Group S/Sgt. Walter B. Schum landed in Cauffry and had a broken leg. He was initially rescued by the local population. The Germans arrived quickly and took him to the Château des Rochers in Nogent-sur-Oise, which had been transformed into a hospital for the wounded soldiers evacuated from the Normandy front. Bearing a Star of David around his neck, S/Sgt. Schum was executed by the Germans the next day.

Another source mentions that the body of an airman was found near the hamlet of Barisseuse. Was it that of S/Sgt. Walter B. Schum ? There is nothing to confirm this and the mystery remains.

Like his three unfortunate crewmates, S/Sgt. Walter B. Schum was buried in the cemetery of Creil on 29th June.

Exhuming his body in the weeks after the Liberation, a US investigative commission found that he had had his throat cut. The investigation classified this as a "war crime."

S/Sgt. Walter B. Schum now rests in Altoona, Pennsylvania.

 
 
 
 
                                                                                                                                                                                        S/Sgt. Walter B. Schum
                                                                                                                                                                                       

 

Shortly after landing, S/Sgt. William H. Salio was captured by the Germans near Pont-Sainte-Maxence and then transferred to a hospital in Beauvais. Corporal Edward L. Smith came down near Rantigny where he was taken by the enemy. Both airmen were subsequently sent to prison camps in Germany until the end of the war. Corporal Smith will be notably held at Stalag Luft IV, Pomerania, today in Poland.

The other four airmen were more lucky. Rescued by the population as soon as they had landed, they were handed over to structured Resistance organizations.

The postwar testimonies of S/Sgt. Goan and 2nd Lt. Hall allow us to better understand how they were able to escape the enemy after landing on French soil.

S/Sgt. John F. Goan dragged himself out of the rear turret of the B-24 and managed to open his parachute after floating a moment in the air. During his descent, he noticed a broken wing of the aircraft plunging to the ground.

2nd Lt. Ralph L. Hall evacuated the aircraft shortly after S/Sgt. Goan. He soon realized that in his rush, he had put his parachute on back to front. However, he managed to pull the ripcord which was behind him. When the parachute deployed, he realized that it was only hooked on to one side of his harness. He could only see S/Sgt. Goan a short distance below him, floating down to the ground, suspended by his parachute.

S/Sgt. Goan landed hard and was knocked out temporarily. When he regained consciousness, a young girl was near him. She quickly helped him to take off his parachute harness and pointed to a nearby wood to where he should run.

2nd Lt. Hall gently landed a few yards from S/Sgt. Goan. Having taken off his harness, French people rushed to help him. He joined his companion who had hurt his back. The girl helped him to get up and both airmen headed for the woods. 2nd Lt. Hall had lost his boots and gloves during his fall.

Under the trees, S/Sgt. Goan dug a hole and hid their equipment, keeping only their escape kit. Then the two airmen sunk deeper into the woods to spend the night.

Early the next morning they met a Frenchman who gave them food. They were then taken to the barn of a farm run by the Matthys family in the hamlet of Barisseuse, near Saint-Vaast-les-Mello. Dr. Jean Pichon, from Mello, came to examine the two airmen and promised to come back the next day. In the evening, Father Claude, who spoke English, visited them and told them they were going to stay there for the night. Both Americans were provided with civilian clothes.

Back the next day, the priest took them to his home. Both airmen will stay there for nine days.

The escape route of 2nd Lt. Ralph L. Hall and S/Sgt. John F. Goan continued through Chantilly where they were put up by Louis Mesureur "Louis le coiffeur" in the rue du Connetable, then through Saint-Leu-d'Esserent where they were taken in charge by the Cochet family. They were then conveyed to the 17th arrondissement of Paris, at the home of Madame Yvonne Diximier. In late July, the two Americans were taken to the camp of Freteval (Loir-et-Cher) pending the arrival of the liberating Allied troops.

Immediately opening his parachute to extinguish the flames of his burning flight suit, the wind made T/Sgt. Wayne E. Brand drift away. He landed near the village of Angicourt. In the region, he met his pilot, 1st Lt. Clifton G. Miller, a few days later. The route of his escape is not clear but he, too, joined the Freteval camp.

1st Lt. Clifton G. Miller, leaving the controls, managed to get to the flaming bomb bay and threw himself into the void. He landed by parachute on the hillside of the village of Laigneville with an injured leg and his face burned.

Witnessing of his fall, the Wattier family immediately went to his aid. They summarily treated him before the pilot went to hide in a nearby wood for the night to escape the German searches.

CliftonGMiller

1st Lt. Clifton G. Miller

The next morning, 1st Lt. Miller again met Mrs Marcelle Wattier who put him up for three days. A former nurse during World War I, she treated the wounds of the airman with the help of Dr. Aubry, from Liancourt.

Notified of the presence of the American pilot, Gilbert Marionval, of the “Valmy” Group, came to take him in charge, accompanied by two friends : Rene Mallet and Marcel Defrance. The pilot, covered with a blanket and chairs, was transported right under German’s noses in a handcart to Irene Marionval, Gilbert’s mother, in rue du Paleron, Nogent-sur-Oise.

Wounded, 1st Lt. Miller was unable to continue his escape. He was hidden in a room in the rear of the house and forbidden to go out. Often elements of Hitler Youth paraded in the streets and no risk whatsoever could be taken. Dr. Jean Bell came to visit him for treatment from time to time.

1st Lt. Clifton G. Miller remained hidden among the Marionval family for many days but on 24th July, the Gestapo arrested a neighbour who was denounced as a resistant. As a precaution, the airman was first taken to Fernand Belloy who lived in the same street and then to the Parrot family, in the rue Pasteur. Later, he was moved again. He stayed with the Thellier family before one day Dr. Georges Debray came to get him. He took him to Laure Vacher and Henriette Giral, in Creil. Throughout his journey, Dr. Bell continued to tend to the wounds of the airman. After several days, he was brought back to the home of the Marionval family, in Nogent, who took him in charge until 31st August, the day the town was liberated. 1st Lt. Miller was then picked up by his countrymen and then repatriated to England before returning to the United States.

In September 1991, Clifton G. Miller returned to the Creil region, accompanied by his wife, so as to thank personally and with deep feelings of gratitude, his rescuers who took so many risks to save him during the course of the summer of 1944.

Miller et sa femme en 1991 Nogent
September 1991 - Nogent-sur-Oise
Clifton G. Miller and his wife
 

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