11/12.08.1942 No. 78 Squadron Halifax II W1233 EY-W Fl/Sgt. Fleetwood-May
Operation: Mainz, Germany
Date:11/12 August 1942 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
Unit:No. 78 Squadron
Type: Halifax II
Base: RAF Middleton St. George, County Durham.
Location: North Sea.
Pilot: Fl/Sgt. John Fleetwood-May, 1254797 RAFVR Age 20. Missing believed killed.
Pilot 2: Fl/Sgt. Francis Neville Thomasson, 1113658 RAFVR Age 20. Missing believed killed.
Nav: Fl/Sgt. Graham Henry David Higgins, 404484 RAAF Age 28. Missing believed killed.
Flt/Eng: Sgt. Leonard Kelly, 525449 RAF Age ? Missing believed killed.
W/Op: P/O. John Frederick Myrick, J/9587 RCAF Age 21. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Jackson Osbourne Harrison, 1311960 RAFVR Age 22. Missing believed killed.
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Maurice James Hisley, 548910 RAF Age 22. Missing believed killed.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from Middleton St. George at 21:39 hours, W1233 was part of a force of 158 aircraft targeting Mainz, an important centre and port on the River Rhine. No further contact was made with the craft and it is unknown what caused the Halifax to crash into the sea off of the Danish coast.
Six weeks later, on September 22, the body of P/O. Myrick was recovered from the sea near Veyers Strand, Oksböl, Denmark, and laid to rest in the cemetery at Esbjerg. No other members of the crew were recovered.
Newspaper reports published at the time wrote that the raid was part of a new technique of R.A.F. observation. Specially picked ‘observation crews hovered over the city for forty-six minutes while plane after plane flown by R.A.F and R.C.A.F. pilots roared in, dumped bombs and streaked for home.’
Their task was to obtain a coordinated picture of the attack.
P/O. John Myrick (courtesy Betty Myrick Russell)
Squadron Leader G. L. Cheshire, captain of a Halifax bomber and one of the picked crews, gave this brief story of the raid:
‘Somebody dropped a stick of flares across Mainz as we came in and with that signal the attack started. Below us we saw two Lancaster’s and one Halifax heading toward the target. We dropped our bombs and at the same time a dozen or so other aircraft dropped theirs. Then we circled around until the attack was over.
Within minutes of the first bomb dropping, three large fires were raging and by the end of the attack these had increased to more than we could count.’
Left: Bill Harris with his wife, Mary, January 1942
P/O. Bill Harris was a close friend and crew mate of Jack’s who wrote several letters to the Myrick’s after the loss of W1233. From one of his letters we were to learn that Jack had been reassigned that night to another crew.
Bill and Jack flew together on their first operation over Germany on June 25th 1942. This was the third of the 1000 bomber raids which the Allies sought to inflict heavy damage on the docks, shipbuilding yards and armament factories at Bremen.
By one of those strange quirks of fate Bill Harris was left behind at base on the night of the raid on Mainz. Jack’s regular pilot, Sgt. John Dickinson, and crew participated flying Halifax W1061 but their flak damaged aircraft was brought down by a night fighter near Antwerp. Dickinson and three others were captured and spent the rest of the war as POW’s. One crew member evaded capture and returned to England while the second pilot and flight engineer were killed in the crash.
Early on in Jack’s training in Canada his parents had given him a Rolex watch. It must have been a prized possession for he mentions it a number of times in his letters home. After Jack’s death, Bill vowed to return it to Mr. and Mrs. Myrick. Unfortunately, during Bill’s moves from base to base, someone stole the watch from his quarters and although the police made a search the thief and the watch were never found.
Bill Harris completed his tour in December 1943, during which he had several harrowing experiences including membership in the Caterpillar Club after baling out of his stricken aircraft. Upon completion of his operational duty he served as a navigational instructor being promoted to Fl/Lt. and awarded a D.F.C.
Above: Fl/Sgt. Graham Henry David Higgins whose parents wrote to the pilot later (see below)
(1) Myrick Lake in Northern Ontario is named after the brothers.
P/O. John F. Myrick was the first of two brothers to be killed serving in the RCAF In 1945, F/O. Philip R. Myrick lost his life piloting a Beaufighter with 404 Squadron. Also described on this website.
Fl/Sgt. John Fleetwood-May. Runnymede Memorial, Panel 74. Son of Cecil and Winifred Fleetwood-May of Highgate, Middlesex, England
Fl/Sgt. Francis Neville Thomasson. Runnymede Memorial, Panel 76. Son of George and Christine Thomasson of Manchester, husband of Annie Marjorie Thomasson of Longsight, Manchester, England.
Sgt. Leonard Kelly. Runnymede Memorial, Panel 87. Son of Albert and Mary Kelly; husband of Marjorie Edith Kelly of Thorpeness, Suffolk, England.
Fl/Sgt. Graham Henry David Higgins. Runnymede Memorial, Panel 111. Son of Dr. John Higgins and Margaret Elizabeth Higgins of Miles, Queensland, Australia.
Sgt. Jackson Osbourne Harrison. Runnymede Memorial, Panel 85. Son of Mrs. C. W. Harrison of St.Denys, Southampton, England.
P/O. John Frederick Myrick. Esbjerg (Fourfelt) Cemetery, Denmark. Grave AIII.10. 19. Son of Willard R. and Edna L. Myrick of Tillsonburg, Ontario, Canada.
Fl/Sgt. Maurice James Hisley. Runnymede Memorial, Panel 85. Son of James Percy and Clara Hisley; husband of Mary Elizabeth Hisley of Blyth, Northumberland, England.
Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and RCAF specialist Colin Bamford for relatives of this crew. With thanks to Betty Myrick Russell, Elizabeth Harris Lord
Various letters and newspaper clippings: