07/08.06.1944 429 (Bison) Sqn RCAF Halifax III LW128 AL:V Sqn Ldr William B. Anderson DFC
Operation: Archèrs, France
Date: 7th/8th June 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: 429 (Bison) Sqn, RCAF
Type: Halifax III
Serial: LW128 *
Base: RAF Leeming, Yorkshire
Location: ½ mile north of RAF Benson, Wallingford, England
Pilot: Sqn Ldr William Brodie Anderson DFC. J8924 RCAF Age 20. Died
Flt Eng: Sgt Gilbert Ebenezer James Steere CGM. 1460321 RAFVR Age 23. Safe (1)
Nav: Flt Sgt Anthony Capuston R176117 RCAF Age? Evaded (2)
Bomb Aimer: Sgt L.S. O’Leary R174641 RCAF Age? PoW No. 101** (3)
WOp/Air Gnr: WO1 Joseph David James Banning R117093 RCAF Age 24. PoW 204** (3)
Air Gnr (MU): Sgt John Mangione DFM. R195860 RCAF Age? Safe (1)
Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt Gordon John McDowell Ritchie DFM. R211243 RCAF Age? Safe (1)
* The aircraft was named the “Impatient Virgin”.
** Stalag Luft 7, Bankau near Kreuzberg, Silesia, Germany. (Now Bąków, Opole Voivodeship, Poland).
REASON FOR LOSS:
LW128 took off from RAF Leeming at 23:15 hrs on the night of the 7th/8th June 1944 on a mission to bomb the rail yards at Archèrs in France. During the outbound flight as the aircraft approached the French coast at Dieppe it was hit by flak which seriously wounded Sqn Ldr. Anderson.
Sqn Ldr. Anderson gave orders to abandon the aircraft. Flt Sgt. Capuston, Sgt. O’Leary and WO1. Banning bailed out over France but three members of the crew, realising the seriousness of their captain’s condition, remained aboard to render first aid and to assist him in flying the aircraft back to England. Its bomb load was jettisoned near Dieppe.
On reaching the English coast Sqn Ldr Anderson became too weak to handle the aircraft and the Flt Eng, although he had no previous experience, took control and flew the aircraft until preparations could be made to abandon it. Near RAF Benson in Oxfordshire Sgt Mangione and Sgt Ritchie assisted their captain to parachute from the aircraft on a static-line in an effort to save his life. Although his parachute was seen to open Sqn Ldr Anderson died before medical assistance could reach him.
Sgt. Steere, Sgt. Mangione and Sgt. Richie then bailed out and landed uninjured. The abandoned aircraft crashed ½ mile north of RAF Benson at 03:20 hrs disintegrating on impact and burning extensively.
(1) For his actions Sgt. Steere was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (CGM) (Flying). Sgt. Mangione & Sgt. Ritchie were each awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM). The awards were promulgated in the London Gazette on the 21st July 1944:
Citation reads: "Sergeant Steere, Sergeant Mangione and Sergeant Ritchie were flight engineer, mid-upper and rear gunners respectively of an aircraft detailed for a sortie on night in June 1944. Over the enemy coast the aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire and the pilot was mortally wounded. He gave orders to the remainder of the crew to leave by parachute but Sergeant Steere, realizing that his comrade would be unable to follow, disregarded the order. He went to his wounded comrade and together they succeeded in regaining control of the aircraft. Sergeant Steere then discovered that Sergeants Mangione and Ritchie had also stayed in the aircraft and were ready to assist Sergeant Steere who had taken over the controls in an effort to fly the aircraft home. Although he had no previous experience he flew to an airfield. After making contact with the ground personnel by radio telephone he circled the airfield whilst Sergeants Mangione and Ritchie gave additional first aid to the pilot and then parachuted out of the aircraft on a static line in a last effort to save his life. Only when he was sure that his other two comrades had safely left the aircraft by parachute did Sergeant Steere then leave himself. In the face of a trying ordeal these airmen displayed great courage and devotion to duty setting an example of the highest order."
(2) Flt Sgt. Capuston evaded capture and sheltered in France until liberated in September 1944. He left for the UK from B.14 airstrip, Banville on 9th September 1944.
(3) WO1. Banning was promoted to Plt Off. (J87192) whilst as a PoW.
Brookwood Military Cemetery (Credit: TWGPP)
William Brodie Anderson (Credit: Laurin Espie-FindAGrave and TWGPP)
Sqn Ldr. William Brodie Anderson DFC. Brookwood Military Cemetery Plot 49, Row G, Grave 9. Inscription reads: “HE WAS FAITHFUL TO THE END”. Born on the 26th February 1914 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Son of Robert Brodie and Margaret Orr (née Ness) Anderson from West Kildonan, Manitoba, Canada. His father predeceased him in April 1944.
Sqn Ldr. Anderson DFC was buried with full military honours on the 12th June 1944 at 14:45 hrs. The funeral was attended by the surviving members of the crew and as many of the officers from his station as could be there.
His two brothers also served in the RCAF. On the 25th July 1944, Fg Off. J.A. Anderson, J25399 was serving with 419 (Moose) Sqn, RCAF, and Plt Off. R.N. Anderson was at #9 EFTS, Virden, Manitoba. His sister, Margaret Patricia, was married to Flt Lt. Killingbeck at #18 SFTS, Gimli, Manitoba.
Sqn Ldr William Brodie Anderson DFC
Fg Off. Anderson and the crew identified above commenced training at No. 1664 (RCAF) Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU) at RAF Dishforth on the 30th December 1943 and completed their conversion to flying the Halifax on the 31st January 1944. They were posted to 429 (Bison) Sqn, RCAF with effect 1st February 1944. They were rated as “A very good crew who have the fortune of an excellent captain”.
On the 18th March 1944 this crew, aboard Halifax III LK803, took off from RAF Leeming at 19:00 hrs on a mission to bomb Frankfurt. When the undercarriage was selected ‘up’ the starboard main wheel failed to retract. The port mainwheel and tailwheel retracted normally. After climbing to 1000 ft the undercarriage was cycled ‘down’ and ‘up’ with no apparent movement of the starboard mainwheel. The Flt Eng attempted to operate the hand pump which had no effect.
Note: Halifax III LK803, was repaired and allocated to 420 (Snowy Owl) Sqn RCAF. The aircraft was lost on the 19th July 1944 in a training accident in which all of the crew perished.
The captain then jettisoned the bomb load and turned the aircraft back, diverting to RAF Woodbridge. The aircraft was landed at 01:05 hrs on the port mainwheel resulting in damage to the starboard wing tip, both propellers and the base of the starboard rudder. The crew were uninjured.
The resulting investigation determined that the cause of the failure was due to the hydraulic jacks on the starboard side being bent on take off. It was determined that this was caused by the aircraft touching down after an ‘up’ selection of the undercarriage was made, bending the piston rods of the jacks thus making it impossible for the undercarriage to retract fully or lock in the ‘down’ position.
On the 24th April 1944 this crew, aboard Halifax III LV969, with an addition of 2nd pilot, Flt Lt. J.D.B. Hall RCAF, took off from RAF Leeming at 21:46 hrs on a mission to bomb Karlsruhe. The aircraft was hit by heavy flak causing the starboard outer engine to become unserviceable. The upper turret was also holed and the hydraulics system was damaged.
Note: Flt Lt. James Donald Blanchard Hall J5492 RCAF and six of his crew perished when, on the 8th August 1944, their outbound Halifax III LM132 burst into flames and broke up in mid-air. The Navigator, Flt Sgt. R.V. Harrod, was thrown clear and landed in the sea from where he was rescued with minor injures. Those that perished were recovered and were laid to rest at the Brookwood Military Cemetery.
Flt Lt. Anderson received facial injuries but safely cleared the target area before the 2nd pilot took over and landed the aircraft at RAF Woodbridge at 03:53 hrs. Flt Lt. Anderson was detained in Sick Quarters at RAF Leeming from the 26th to 28th April as a result of injuries sustained from cockpit Perspex being shattered by flak. He was excused duties for 3 days and passed fit for flying duties after a specialist examination and a short period of leave.
For this mission Sqn Ldr. Anderson was awarded the DFC which was posthumously promulgated in the London Gazette dated 7th July 1944. The citation reads: “Acting Squadron Leader William Brodie ANDERSON (Can/J8924), RCAF, 429 (RCAF) Squadron. This officer has taken part in many attacks on targets in Germany and has invariably displayed a high degree of skill and gallantry. On a recent occasion, when returning from an operation against Karlsruhe, his aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire. Squadron Leader Anderson was injured about the eyes by flying splinters. Although temporarily blinded he piloted the aircraft clear of the target area. Later, the second pilot took over the controls, but Squadron Leader Anderson fully maintained his duties as captain throughout the remainder of the homeward flight. This officer is a most efficient flight commander whose leadership and devotion to duty have set a fine example.”
Researched by Ralph Snape and John Jones and dedicated to the relatives of this crew (Mar 2021). Grave marker courtesy of The War Graves Photographic Project.