23.07.1944 190 Squadron Stirling IV LJ882 L9:H Fg Off. Kilgour
Date: 22rd/23rd July 1944 (Saturday/Sunday)
Unit No: 190 Squadron (motto: Ex Tenebris - 'Through darkness')
Type: Stirling IV
Base: RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire
Location: Graffigny-Chemin, France
Pilot: Fg Off. Leonard Alfred Arthur Kilgour 42412 RNZAF Age 24. Killed (1)
Flt Eng: Sgt. Albert William Swindell 1104656 RAFVR Age 24. Killed
Nav: Fg Off. Joseph Parker Vinet J14646 RCAF Age 24. PoW (2)
Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt. Henry Lester Guy 571772 RAF Age 22. Killed
WOp/Air Gnr: Fg Off. Blake Gordon Foy J13833 RCAF Age 21. Killed
Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Flt Sgt. Andrew Paul Bell R189575 RCAF Age 20. Evaded capture (3)
Air Gnr (Rear): Plt Off. Frank Copland 161569 RAFVR Age 29. Killed
Capt. Felix John Stewart Symes 172271 2nd SAS Regt. AAC (Hampshire Regt.) Age 27. Killed
Lt. Ian Maxwell Grant 180710 2nd SAS Regt. AAC Age 24. Killed
Sgt. Douglas Hays McKay 319314 2nd SAS Regt. AAC Age 26. Killed
Pte. Leonard William Curtis 6025725 2nd SAS Regt. AAC Age 22. Killed
Pte. James William Beattie Reilly 2758399 2nd SAS Regt. AAC Age 25. Killed
Pte. James Simpson 6977054 2nd SAS Regt. AAC Age 30. Killed
Pte. Rex Boreham 2nd SAS Regt. AAC Age 29. PoW. (4)
Sig. Wilfred Leach 2580970 Royal Corps of Signals. Attd. GHQ Liaison Regt RAC Age? Killed
Sig. Lachlan Taylor 2385791 Royal Corps of Signals. Attd. GHQ Liaison Regt RAC Age 21. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
This article was instigated by our New Zealand researcher, Jenifer Lemaire who sent details on the pilot. The page has been compiled with information from many sources, these are shown in the credits at the foot of the page.
Stirling LJ882 would be one of ten of the squadron’s twenty six aircraft to be detailed to drop supplies/troops over France that night. However, only five aircraft would accomplish their mission due to low cloud obscuring the target areas.
Taking off at around 23:00 hrs on a special operation to drop specialist troops along with weapons and supplies to assist the French resistance with the Allied landings at Normandy and their push to weaken German defences. The secondary task was to cut rail lines between Nancy and Châlons-sur-Marne.
Crew portrait L-R: Flt.Sgt. Henry Guy, Flt.Sgt. Andrew Bell, Fg.Off. Blake Foy, Fg.Off. Joseph Vinet, Fg.Off. Leonard Kilgour (Courtesy Nelson Mail, Virginia Woolf)
Weather conditions were very poor with very severe electrical storms and although the drop zone was supposed to be over the Joinville area the crew were lost and attempted to establish their position due to very low visibility by dropping to a lower altitude and sadly flew into a hill 2km west of the village of Graffigny-Chemin, 4km south east of Bougmont, and caught fire at 02:20 hrs..
Another Stirling was lost from the Squadron this night:
Stirling IV LJ864 Flown by 22 year old, Fg Off Ernest Cameron Oke, J25965 RCAF killed with all his crew after also flying into high ground during poor visibility.
The notes below explain further details:
Above L-R: Fg Off. Kilgour, niece Pauline Kent, nephew Warren Gibbons, New Zealand's consul-general to New Caledonia Bruce Shepherd, the Masonic ring. (Courtesy Nelson Mail, Virginia Woolf)
(1) Fg Off. Leonard Alfred Arthur Kilgour - in February 2019 his relatives were presented with his signet ring. The task of solving the decades-old mystery to unite the ring to relatives was undertaken by a retired teacher, Roland Feutry, in Noumea. Roland's father had been the postmaster in the tiny village of Graffigny-Chemin where the Sterling crashed. The villagers, including Feutry's father, recovered the weapons and personal effects from the dead and hid two of the three survivors. They also dug 13 graves to make it look like no-one survived. Roland Feutry wrote in a letter to Gibbons that his father would show the ring to family members who visited the cemetery where the victims were buried for years after the crash. But no-one claimed it and the only clue they had, through a process of elimination, was that it belonged to the New Zealand pilot, Leonard Kilgour.
The secrecy of the mission delayed official confirmation of the crews lost until 1946.
Above: Some of the crew with Fg Off. Kilgour in the centre (Courtesy Nelson Mail, Virginia Woolf)
A short time before he died Feutry senior handed the task on to his son, a teacher who moved to New Caledonia 40 years ago. In a final attempt to solve the puzzle, Roland Feutry contacted New Zealand's consul-general in New Caledonia, Bruce Shepherd at the consulate in Noumea in November last year.
"The call came out of the blue," Shepherd said. "He told me he had this Freemasons' ring that his family had held since the Second World War and he was getting quite elderly and would quite like to find the New Zealand family.
(2) Fg Off. Joseph Parker Vinet: Born on the 20th June 1920, held captive at Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria and Stalag Luckenwalde. He visited the graves of his fellow crew in 1974 and again in 1999 with his wife Bette and commented that the memorial in place was as immaculate as it was when it was installed. After the war he took up Hockey and refereed many junior hockey championship matches across Canada. Eventually this led to his induction into The Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame. He also wrote his autobiography 'As I remember it: my memories of World War II. Published by MGM Communications in 2002. (We are trying to find a copy - but to date no success. The University of Alberta library does hold a copy we understand) After a successful career with Manitoba Telephone Systems he retired in 1976. Joe passed away on the 17th February 2018 age 96 and was laid to rest with his wife Bette. They leave 3 daughters, Susan, Vivian and Janine and many grandchildren. (Information courtesy 'Wojciks'
of Winnipeg and Headingley, Manitoba, Canada)
(3) Flt Sgt. Andrew Paul Bell was slightly wounded and spent nearly two weeks recovering at the village of Soulaucourt-sur-Mouzon. Evaded capture and meeting up with 19 year old, Sgt. Thomas Henry Harvell 1890339 RAFVR. Sgt. Harvell was the flight engineer from 514 Squadron Lancaster LM206 JI:C which was shot down on the 29th July 1944. They had planned to evade to Switzerland but due to the fast approaching allied and Russian armies decided to remain and fight with the French resistance. This they did and finally met up with American forces.
After a two days they were taken to an airfield at Morteau. Left on a Dakota and flown to Istres in the south France. From there they boarded a Mitchell bomber and were flown to Naples, Italy. Then met up with RAF personnel who detained them until their stories checked out in London.
They then enjoyed a week sightseeing before leaving again on a Dakota to Algiers and Casablanca before finally leaving for England on a Liberator. On arrival they were both interviewed by RAF intelligence before giving a period of leave. Fg.Off. Harvell then undertook a role as trainer with Bomber crews - Flt.Sgt. Bell training air gunners.
Right: Recovered piece from the aircraft we found on a well known auction site. We have no idea who he seller or buyer was.
Thomas Harvell passed away on the 3rd June 2012. Flt Sgt. Bell, after his evasion and arriving backing England joined 620 Squadron. On the 20th March 1945, then a WO1. flying as an air gunner on Stirling LK116 during a training exercise they were attacked and shot downy a Luftwaffe night fighter. The aircraft crashed by the River Chelmer at Great Dunmow in Essex. WO1. Bell as well as four other crew were killed as well as a SAS officer. One crew member baled out safely.
(4) Pte. Rex Arthur Boreham: Born on the 25th July 1914 at Rye, Sussex. Son of John and Mary (née Parson) Boreham. Joined 2 SAS in North Africa. Held captive working in a salt mine as a PoW. Married Enid in 1952 and ran the Rose and Crown in Beckley, East Sussex for 17 years. Passed away in January 2012 age 98, his wife predeceased him in August 2002. (Information courtesy Special Forces Roll Of Honour
The crew and 'passengers' were, as described, initially buried at the crash site - but later buried at the village cemetery.
Fg Off. Leonard Alfred Arthur Kilgour. Graffigny-Chemin Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 12-22. Son of Arthur Kilgour and of Violet Harriet Kilgour (née Perry), of Palmerston North, Wellington, New Zealand. A total of 500 flying hours logged. No grave inscription - to establish reasons see here.
Sgt. Albert William Swindell. Graffigny-Chemin Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 12-22. Son of Frank and Beatrice Swindell and husband of Kate Winifred Swindell of Hay Mills, Birmingham, England. Grave inscription reads: "Beautiful His Memory, Silently Kept. Loved Too Dearly Ever To Forget".
Flt Sgt. Henry Lester Guy. Graffigny-Chemin Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 12-22. Son of Henry John and Edith Caroline Guy, of Sonning, Berkshire, England. Grave inscription reads: "Lest We Forget".
Fg Off. Blake Gordon Foy. Graffigny-Chemin Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 12-22. Born 1st December 1920 in Low Bush, Cochrane, Ontario. Son of Archibald Irvine and Mabel (née McChesney) Foy of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. His father predeceased him.
Plt Off. Frank Copland. Graffigny-Chemin Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 12-22. Son of Frank and Gertrude A. Copland and husband of Mary Copland, of Cleveleys, Lancashire, England. Grave inscription reads: "Beloved Husband Of Mary, Adored Daddy Of Carolyn & Paul, Cleveleys, Lancashire".
Above: As described (Courtesy Special Forces Roll Of Honour)
Pte. Leonard William Curtis. Graffigny-Chemin Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 12-22. Son of Bertie and Sarah Ann Curtis, of Walthamstow, Essex, England. Grave inscription reads: "Gone From Us But Not Forgotten, Never Shall Thy Memory Fade"
Above: As described (Courtesy Special Forces Roll Of Honour)
Lt. Ian Maxwell Grant. Graffigny-Chemin Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 12-22. Son of John Leslie and Ida Emily Grant, of Oxton, Birkenhead, England. Grave inscription reads: "Beloved Second Son Of Leslie And Ida Grant".
Above: Sig. Wilfred Leach (Courtesy of Graham Warr)
Sig. Wilfred Leach. Graffigny-Chemin Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 12-22. Son of Robert Henry and Mary Ann Leach, of West Hartlepool, Co. Durham, England. Grave inscription reads: "He Died That We Might Live".
Pte. James William Beattie Reilly. Graffigny-Chemin Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 12-22. Son of James and Annie Reilly and husband of Elizabeth Reilly, of Stonehaven, Kincardineshire, Scotland. Grave inscription reads: "Ever Remembered".
Capt. Felix John Stewart Symes. Graffigny-Chemin Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 12-22. Son of Lt.-Col. Sir George Stewart Symes, GBE., KCMG., DSO., and of Lady Symes (née Broun), of Chelsea, London, England. Grave inscription reads: "Pro Rege Et Pro Patria R.I.P".
Sig. Lachlan Taylor. Graffigny-Chemin Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 12-22. Son of John and Isabella Taylor, of Tarbert, Argyllshire, Scotland. Grave inscription reads: "Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten".
Sgt. Douglas Hays McKay. Graffigny-Chemin Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 12-22. Of Sunderland, County Durham, England. No further details - are you able to assist?
Pte. James Simpson. Graffigny-Chemin Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 12-22. Of County Londonderry, Northern Ireland. No further details - are you able to assist?
Flt Sgt. Andrew Paul Bell. Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 50.1.2. Son of John A. Bell and Marie Bell, of Montreal, Province of Quebec, Canada. Grave inscription reads: "Rest In Peace".
Researched by Kelvin Youngs (Webmaster) (Feb 2019) and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to the research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland War Memorial Museum
, Weekly News of New Zealand, also to John and the great 'Special Forces Roll Of Honour
' website for his fine work, to the Funeral Home 'Wojciks' of Winnipeg
and Headingley, Manitoba, Canada for details on Joseph Vinet, RAFA for Thomas Harvell photograph, Warren Gamble the assistant editor, who wrote the article in the Nelson Mail newspaper.
Updated by Aircrew Remembered (Nov 2020). Thanks to Graham Warr for the photograph of Sig. Wilfred Leach (Jun 2022).
Other sources as quoted below: