03/04.07.1944 No. 148 Squadron Halifax II JP179 FS-P Fl/Sgt. Leonard John Blattman
Operation: Secret Mission to South Poland (Secret Operations Executive)
Date: 03/04 July 1944 (Monday/Tuesday)
Unit: No. 148 Squadron - Motto: "Trusty"
Squadron Badge: Two battle axes in saltire. The battle axes were selected as being well-tried and formidable weapons. Authority: King George VI, February, 1938.
Type: Handley Page Halifax II
Base: RAF Brindisi, Italy
Location: Zombor (Sombor) Hungary
Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Leonard John Blattman Aus/412369 Age 23 - PoW No. 552 Camp Stalag Luft Bankau-Kreulberg - L7 (1)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Thomas William Hugh Tomlinson 1812772 RAFVR Age 19 - Killed (2)
Nav: Fl/Sgt. Walter Frederick Wicks 1432836 RAFVR Age 23 - PoW No. 536 Camp: Stalag Luft Bankau-Kreulberg - L7 (3)
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Leonard Wallace Davey Aus/420457 Age 23 Pow No. 510 Camp: Stalag Luft Bankau-Kreulberg - L7 (4)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Kennedy 639794 RAF - Killed (5)
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Evan Ffoulkes Jones 939958 RAFVR Age 41 - Killed (6)
Air/Gnr: WO. Harrison John Phillip 1199548 RAFVR Age 21 - Killed (7)
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Len Blattman and his crew were posted to 148 Squadron at Brindisi, Italy on the Adriatic coast of southern Italy, on 11 February 1944. The Squadron had only just moved to Brindisi from Tocra in Libya, the move having occupied most of January 1944.
Len Blattman and fellow Aussie, Air Bomber Leonard Wallace Davey, were both 23 and had both enlisted in 1941. Navigator Walter Wicks was also 23 but nothing is known about Wireless Operator John Kennedy. Aged 41 Air Gunner Evan Ffoulkes Jones was unusually old for air crew. Perhaps the fact that he was unemployed in 1939 had had a bearing on the Welshman's decision to volunteer for air crew. Andrew Barron* was their usual Air Gunner/Despatcher but when he left the Squadron in mid June 1944 the crew acquired the services of 21 years old Harrison Phillip to fill the vacancy. Baby of the crew was 19 years old Flight Engineer Thomas Tomlinson; born within the sound of Bow bells he was a true Cockney.
*Sgt. Andrew Cook Barron 1555913 RAFVR was born in 1922 at Wishaw, Lanarkshire, Scotland. He died in 1989 at Edmonton, Alberta, Canada aged 67 (Details courtesy Drew Barron)
By the beginning of July 1944 Len Blattman had completed 285 operational flying hours whilst Leonard Davey had completed 250 operational hours. They and the rest of the crew (apart from Harrison Philip) were very close to the end of their tour and the opportunity to take six months break from operations.
In letters to crew members' next of kin Wing Commander D.L. Pitt Commanding Officer of 148 Squadron would describe Len Blattman as "...one of the 'old hands' of the squadron who was an extremely capable pilot and who could be relied upon to act well in an emergency."
On 3 July 1944 No. 148 Squadron detailed 3 Halifaxes for operations to Yugoslavia, 4 for operations in Italy and 7 for operations to Poland. A Westland Lysander was also despatched for an operation to Greece but returned early.
Of the 3 Halifaxes detailed for Yugoslavia, 1 was successful, 1 failed (no reception) and 1 failed to return. The three detailed for Italy were on the whole successful. However of the seven detailed for Poland only 1 was successful whilst 2 returned early, 1 failed owing to reception and 3 failed to return.
This was the most disastrous night of the war to date suffered by the Squadron.
The other aircraft lost that night were:
Halifax JP 247 FS-E flown by Fl/Lt. George Raymond Wood shot down and crashed at Oberzirszallas near Zombor. Fl/Lt Wood and one of the air gunners were killed whilst the other five were captured (see later)
Halifax JP 286 FS-S flown by Surry Philip Victor Bird shot down and crashed at Középnyires Mezocsokonya with the loss of all the crew. To read the story of this loss click here
Halifax JP292 FS-W flown by W/O. Charles T. Fairweather shot down and crashed SE of Krakow with the loss of all the crew. To read the story of this loss click here
REASON FOR LOSS
Halifax JP179 flown by Len Blattman took off from Brindisi at 20.28 on this secret operation to South Poland. Given a good run the round trip was expected to take little more than 8 hours.
Nearing Budapest Len Blattman saw another 148 Squadron aircraft, Halifax JP247 flown by Fl/Lt. George Raymond Wood suffer an explosion that appeared to be internal and mid aircraft. The Halifax crashed and exploded on the ground. Otherwise the outbound trip indeed went off without incident. They duly made the drop as planned and turned for home.
Flying at 8500 feet they were about half way home when according to Len Blattman's report:
"An explosion occurred mid aircraft. Fire spread very quickly and all controls went US [unserviceable]. Intercom failed to work. Gained visible contact of all crew except rear gunner. The mid gunner was killed by [the] explosion and possibly the rear gunner for I failed to receive an answer from him on the call light, which was working because [the] others respond. Saw [the] Bomb Aimer and Navigator bale out. W/Op [was] evidently injured in back and Engineer pulled me out of [my]seat when aircraft dived. We tried to put W/Op out front hatch and got him to [the] front hatch, myself beside Nav table and Eng at foot of second pilot's seat. A big flash occurred mid aircraft and we fell into a heap. Became conscious in a field next day".
Leonard Davey's report explains that what Len Blattman described as an explosion, was in fact the Halifax being hit by cannon fire from an enemy fighter. His report reads:
"Attacked by [an] unseen fighter which fired [a] burst setting 2 starboard engines on fire and leaving aircraft out of control through severed control cables. Orders [were] given by captain under difficulties as intercom became US. Presume order heard by those still alive. Captain [was] wounded in crutch by presumed cannon shrapnel. I returned aft to help wireless operator but [he was] badly mutilated with cannon fire and [his] parachute badly holed. [He] was dead.
[I] Baled out. Wicks also seen to bale out. [When Davey left,] Kennedy, Tomlinson, Blattman, Phillip and Jones [were] still in aircraft. Baled out at 8000 feet; aircraft out of control, 2 starboard engines alight and in slow spiral dive. Crashed near Zombor [Sombor] Hungary.
No parachutes seen, no contact on the ground with Navigator [Wicks]. As I returned aft to help wireless operator but badly mutilated with cannon fire and parachute badly holed. Was dead.
Having been knocked unconscious Len Blattman's recollection of where he eventually came to are somewhat confused as in another part of his report he states that:
"Something happened mid aircraft (maybe explosion) which knocked me unconscious because I came to in the waiting room of a railway station (Zombor, Hungary)".
Len Blattman was taken to a hospital in Szeged where his wounds were operated on by a German doctor. He remained in hospital into August and whilst there he learned that the men who were killed were supposed to have been given a military funeral in the town of Zombor in Hungary. In August he was interrogated at Dulag Luft and Wetzlar for several days before being sent to Stalag Luft 7 at Bankau-Kreulberg, Silesia, Germany. Having been opened a mere two months earlier Len described the facilities at the camp as being "good in comparison to the other camps".
Leonard Davey had sprained both ankles and jarred his back when landing by parachute. Nevertheless he initially managed to evade capture and headed south west intending to cross the Danube into the Partisan area of Yugoslavia. Alas some 24 hours after landing he was picked up in a wheat field by the Local Home Guard and taken to the Military Barracks at Szeged where he was held until 9 July before being taken to Budapest State Goal.
Walter Wicks had also been captured and taken to Szeged where he met Leonard Davey. On 10 August they were taken to Budapest State Goal where they were brutally interrogated by the Chandu Police Authorities.
Though Davey's report is not clear as to whether the atrocities were suffered by himself or Walter Wicks it illustrates the treatment that was meted out by the Hungarian and German interrogators:
"(Aus 420457 WO Davey LW) confined to dark cell for 13 days on little food. Taken out for interrogation several times. Refused to give information so beaten up by goal guards on return to cell.
Beatings with rifle butts, fists, boots under stressed conditions. Confined to chains for several days (WO Wicks WF).
Wicks was one of the victims"
When arrested taken for interrogation. Refused to give information so taken in truck outside town and proceeded to force information by physical violence. (WO Wicks)
Taken from cell on 7th day with others. Interrogation. No information. In blacked out cell during which time interrogated about 4 times. Still refused to give information during each interrogation so returned to cell where I was beaten up by goal warden under instruction of German interrogation officer after each interview. Water changed twice, no bed or blankets, slept on floor, latrine bucket in cell. No light whatsoever. Bowl of soup a day (when it suited them) Names of guards unknown".
Two other victims of this treatment are stated to be Bomb Aimer F/O McPherson and Navigator Fl/Sgt. Taylor both of Halifax JP247 mentioned earlier.
Davey does not elaborate on the incident but also states:
"Suspicion shared by other living members that Sgt. Tomlinson killed by civilians when baled out but cannot confirm as no cannon injuries seen (seen by WO Blattman)"
On 1 August Leonard Davey and Walter Wicks were taken to Dulag Luft for further interrogation and on 7 August sent to Stalag Luft 7 at Bankau-Kreulberg. On 22 August they were joined there by Len Blattman. They were to remain there until January 1945.
By 1 January 1945, Stalag Luft 7 held 1,578 prisoners representing most of the Allied nations and with Russian forces drawing ever nearer each day, it was decided to move the prisoners to camps in Germany in order to delay the liberation of prisoners as long as possible.
On 19 January 1945, in bitterly cold weather, 1,500 prisoners were marched out of Stalag Luft 7, among their number were Len Blattman, Leonard Davey and Walter Wicks. They crossed the river Oder on 21 January and the following day 31 men are believed to have been diverted to nearby Stalag Lamsdorf 344. Len Blattman was one of the 31.
The rest of the prisoners continued in horrendous conditions and subject to many deprivations, reaching Goldberg (Złotoryja) Poland on 5 February. They had marched a total of 150 miles since leaving Stalag Luft 7.
At Goldberg they were crammed 55 men to a cattle truck for the 3 day train journey west into Germany. Issued with hardly any water and only two days rations for the journey and given only rare opportunities to relieve themselves the men endured 3 days of purgatory.
On 8 February they reached Stalag 3A located about 30 miles south of Berlin near Luckenwalde, which already held 20,000 prisoners, consisting mainly of soldiers from Britain, Canada, the U.S. and Russia.
For a detailed account of the forced march from Stalag Luft 7 to Goldberg (Złotoryja) Poland click here
At Stalag 3A Leonard Davey was hospitalised from 20 February until 20 March suffering from malnutrition and an internal disorder. The camp was liberated by Russian forces on 22 April 1945.
Len Blattman's arrival at Stalag Lamsdorf on 22 January 1945 coincided with the beginning of the camp evacuation and the following day 5000 men marched out leaving a remainder of some 4500. On February 20 a further 2000 marched and on March 1 1600 were moved by train.
Len Blattman was one of those last to leave in cattle trucks on 3 March 1945. The train travelled south to Prague before continuing west to Memmingen and Stalag 7B where they remained for one week before en-training again and heading north to Stalag 383 at Hohenfels.
PoWs fit to do so were forced to march south on 16/17 April. They liberated by advancing American troops and the camp itself was liberated by American forces on April 22 1945.
It is not known to which camp(s) Walter Wicks was taken but he was eventually liberated and returned safely to the UK as were Len Blattman and Leonard Davey.
By 28 April 1945 Len Blattman was back in the UK at No. 11 PDRC at Brighton. On 9 September he disembarked at Sydney on was demobilised on 12 November 1945.
Leonard Davey was back in the UK and at No. 11 PDRC by 26 May 1945. He sailed on the Orion for Sydney, disembarking on 9 September and was demobilised on 30 November.
Halifax JP179 FS-P was probably shot down by Leutnant Baik possibly of NJG 101 who claimed to have shot down a Halifax at 02.15 on 4 July whilst flying at 1700 metres or approximately 5600 feet near Sombor.
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW
(1) W.O. Leonard John Blattman was born on 7 June 1921 at George's Creek near Armidale New South Wales Australia the son of Phillip Herbert Bede Blattman and Kathleen Amelda Blattman nee Meehan. He had five siblings; Hebert Noel Bede Blattman (1919-1964), Patricia Elizabeth Blattman (1924-2010) Vincent Kevin Blattman (1928-1996), Brian David Blattman, and Mary Elizabeth Blattman. The family later lived at the Police Station in Balranald NSW.
Len Blattman was educated at De La Salle College Armidale NSW 1932-1939 and after leaving school was employed as a Station Hand. He played football, cricket and tennis also participating swimming and gymnastics.
When he enlisted on 19 July 1941 at Sydney he was 5' 8½" tall weighing 161 lbs with a fair complexion fair hair and blue eyes.
After training at No. 2 Initial Training School at RAAF Bradfield Park, Sydney and at No. 8 Elementary Flying Training School at RAAF Narrandera, New South Wales on the de Havilland Tiger Moth he embarked at Melbourne on 23 May 1942 for Canada where he arrived on 20 June and was posted to No. 5 Manning depot at RCAF Lachine, Quebec. On 1 August he was posted to No. 33 Service Flying Training School at RCAF Carbury, Manitoba where he trained on Avro Ansons and was awarded his Flying Badge and promoted to Sergeant on 22 October 1942.
He embarked at New York on 23 November 1942 for the UK where he arrived on 1 December and was posted to Personnel Despatch and Reception Centre. Posted to No. 15 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit at RAF Newbury (Greenham Common), Berkshire he trained on the Airspeed Oxford.
He was promoted to Flight Sergeant on 23 April 1943.
On 1 June 1943 he was posted to No. 15 Operational Training unit at Hamstead Norris, Berkshire for training on Vickers Wellingtons. After 14 weeks here he was posted on 29 August to No. 1663 Conversion Unit at RAF Rufforth near York in the North Riding of Yorkshire for heavy bomber conversion training on the 4 engine Handley Page Halifax.
From 5 December 1943 to 3 February 1944 he was posted to No. 301 Ferry Training Unit RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire.
He was posted to 148 Squadron at Brindisi, Italy on 11 February 1944.
His promotion to Warrant Officer was on 23 April 1944.
In 1945 he married Jean Gladys Spillane at Concord, Sydney.
Appointed a Clerk of Works at NSW Ministry of Housing 1 January 1965. He resigned this position on 6 July 1978.
In 1968 he was living at Lidcombe North, Blaxland, New South Wales
He died on 24 February 1977 aged 75 and was buried at Rockwood, Cumberland Council NSW Zone F Methodist New Section 04C Grave 227.
Jean Blattman died on 19 December 1981 and was buried with her husband Len.
(2) Sgt. Thomas William Hugh Tomlinson was born in 1924 at Poplar Middlesex the son of Thomas Rayner Tomlinson, and of Maria May Tomlinson nee Heath of Bow, London. He had a sister Doris M. Tomlinson born 1927. His mother was recorded as his next of kin and her address as 131 Laleham Road Catford London
(3) Fl/Sgt. Walter Frederick Wicks born 21 December 1921 at Stow, Suffolk the only child of Harvey Wicks (a Gamekeeper) and Lois A. Wicks nee Lummis. In 1946 he married Ethel M.R. Lloyd at Rugby, Warwickshire
He died at Kingston upon Thames, Surrey in 2005 Aged 83
(4) W.O. Leonard Wallace Davey was born on 8 January 1921 at Petersham New South Wales Australia the son of William Robert Davey. He attended Canterbury High school 1933 -1936 and after leaving school was employed as a Sales Clerk by Lewis Berger & Sons Pty. Ltd. Paint Manufacturers of Rhodes NSW.
He played cricket, football, table tennis, fenced and boxed.
When he enlisted at Sydney on 8 November 1941 he was 5' 7½" tall weighing 131 lbs with a dark complexion blue eyes and brown hair. His address at time was 34 Kilbride Street Hurlstone Park NSW.
After training at No. 2 Initial Training School at RAAF Bradfield Park, Sydney and No. 8 Elementary Flying Training School at RAAF Narrandera, New South Wales he embarked at Melbourne for Canada on 29 July 1942. Disembarking on 19 August he was posted to No. 4 Service Flying Training School at RCAF Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on 12 September and afterwards to No. 8 Bombing and Gunnery School at RCAF Lethbridge, Alberta on 7 November. He was awarded his Air Gunners Badge and promoted to Sergeant on 5 March 1943 and three weeks later embarked for the UK. Disembarking in the UK on 4 April he was posted the next day to No. 11 Personnel Despatch and Reception Centre at Bournemouth and on 3 May to No. 9 (Observer) Advanced Flying School at RAF Penrhos, Wales.
On 1 June 1943 he was posted to No. 15 Operational Training unit at Hamstead Norris, Berkshire for training on Vickers Wellingtons. After 14 weeks here he was posted on 29 August to No. 1663 Conversion Unit at RAF Rufforth near York in the North Riding of Yorkshire for heavy bomber conversion training on the 4 engine Handley Page Halifax and on 5 September promoted to Flight Sergeant.
From 5 December 1943 to 3 February 1944 he was posted to No. 301 Ferry Training Unit RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire. He was posted to 148 Squadron at Brindisi, Italy on 11 February 1944. His promotion to Warrant Officer was wef 5 September 1944.
In 1974 was living at Thornleigh NSW Australia
On 5 January 2021 we were informed by Leonard Davey's son, Ross Davey, that his father now lives in Copacabana New South Wales and is looking forward to celebrating his 100th birthday with his family on 8 January 2021
(5) Sgt. John Kennedy the son of Mr J Kennedy, 102 Clerwood Street, Carntyne Glasgow. His fiancee was Miss P McLaughlin of 75 (72?) Clerwood Street Glasgow.
John Kennedy is commemorated on the Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle
(6) Fl/Sgt. Evan Ffoulkes Jones was born on 28 June 1903 at Wrexham North Wales the son of Robert Wilfrid Jones (a Music Teacher/Professor of Singing) and Mary Catherine Jones nee Rowlands.
Evan had six siblings: Hubert T. Jones born 1894, Wilfrid E. Jones, Dilys M. Jones, Enid M. Jones, Catherine F. Jones and Mabel A. Jones.
He is commemorated on the Wrexham War Memorial
(7) WO. Harrison John Phillip was born in 1922 at Greens Norton, Towcester, Northamptonshire the son of John Harrison Phillip (a Head Teacher) and Florence Alice Phillip nee Graveley.
He had six siblings Irene Phillip born 1908, Marjorie Joan Phillip born 1909, Marie Phillip born 1911, Winifreda Phillip born 1913. Ethue H. Phillip born 1920 and Rowena G. Phillip born 1924
Whilst serving with 104 Squadron Harrison Philip had been slightly injured when Wellington W5491 crashed on a training flight from RAF Driffield. The pilot, Sgt William Kent Sloggatt RAAF and 2 other crew members were killed and two others seriously injured. Further details of the incident can be seen here
He is commemorated on the Towcester War memorial
BURIAL DETAILS, MEMORIALS AND EPITAPHS
Len Blattman stated in his post liberation report that he believed that the four crew members who were killed were given a military funeral at Zombor, Hungary.
Sgt. Thomas William Hugh Tomlinson was buried at Belgrade War Cemetery Coll Grave 9A.C.1-4
His epitaph reads:
I loved him in life
I love him yet
He is mine to remember
While others forget, Mum
Sgt. John Kennedy was buried at Belgrade War Cemetery Coll Grave 9A.C.1-4
Fl/Sgt. Evan Ffoulkes Jones was buried at Belgrade War Cemetery Coll Grave 9A.C.1-4
WO. Harrison John Phillip was buried at Belgrade War Cemetery Coll Grave 9A.C.1-4
His epitaph reads
That England might live
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - December 2018
With thanks to the sources quoted below