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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
Further data available at Allied Losses & Incidents database

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426 Squadron
28/29.06.1944 426 (Thunderbird) Squadron RCAF, Halifax IV NP683 Flt.Lt. Percival N.J. Logan

Operation: Metz marshalling yards, France

Date: 28th/29th June 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit: 426 (Thunderbird) Squadron, RCAF

Type: Halifax VII

Serial: NP683

Code: OW:M

Base: RAF Linton-on-Ouse, Yorkshire, England

Location: Honguemare about 1 mile NNW of Bourg-Achard, France

Pilot: Flt.Lt. Percival N.J. Logan J17678 RCAF Age 24. Evader (1)

Flight Engineer: Sgt. James Docherty 637870 RAFVR Age? PoW No. 86287 *

Navigator: Plt.Off. Hugh Waldie Birnie J19162 RCAF Age 21. Survived (4)

Bomb Aimer: Plt.Off. James Ralph Willis J19484 Age? PoW No. 86487 **

WOp/Air Gnr: Plt.Off. George D’Arcy 169392 RAFVR Age? Evader (2)

Mid Upp Gnr: Plt.Off. Donald Sinclair Jamieson J19863 RCAF Age 19. Survived (4)

Rear Gnr. Plt.Off. Ray Stanley Kennedy J19469 RCAF Age 24. Evader (3)

* Stalag Luft 7, Bankau near Kreuzberg, Silesia, Germany. (Now Bąków, Opole Voivodeship, Poland).

** Stalag Luft 1, Barth-Vogelsang, today part of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany.


Flt.Lt. Logan, Plt.Offs. Birnie and Willis had previously been involved in the loss of 426 Sqn, Lancaster DS757, OW:D on the 5th March 1944. This aircraft took off at 14:25 hours from RAF Linton-on-Ouse for an air test and sea search. Flying low over the water, the port outer engine failed and in an attempt to gain height, the aircraft stalled into the sea losing its tail section. The Flight Engineer’s body, Sgt. Walter John Mabey, 1507161 RAFVR, was recovered and interred in Southampton (Stoneham) Cemetery, The remainder of the crew were rescued with Plt.Off. Birnie and the tail gunner suffering injuries. (It should be noted that there was a Plt.Off. D.G. Jamieson, who survived, listed on this crew but it has not been possible to ascertain if this was Plt.Off. Donald Sinclair Jamieson or a different airman).


Donald Sinclair Jamieson, then Sgt. R180248, had previously been involved in the crash of 426 Sqn, Lancaster II DS779, OW:Q on 16 December 1943. Returning from a mission to bomb Berlin fog blanketed England and the sheer number of Bomber Command aircraft that were lost due to incorrectly forecast weather led to this night being called 'The Black Night'. Getting all the aircraft down became a difficult task for flying controllers and many aircraft crashed or were damaged after running low on fuel or making hurried descents to try and find a landing site.

DS779 reached the general area of the Vale of York and were in contact with flying control at Linton-on-Ouse who had told that the the cloud base at Linton was at 800 feet. The Lancaster crew were using the GEE navigation system to locate their base and they then began to let down as they headed there and to hopefully drop through the fog which they presumably believed would clear as they dropped below 800 feet. As it turned out the fog layer a few miles south of Linton-on-Ouse was not limited to being above 800 feet, around the Wetherby area the fog was down to ground level.

A minor incorrect setting in the altimeter gave them no room for error. The aircraft simply descended down through the cloud at a shallow angle until it was flying at ground level, it flew at field level for several hundred yards and broke off all the propeller blades, one of the rudder sections and other parts of the aircraft. The pilot was able to pull the aircraft back into the air and it cleared a line of electricity wires and a row of trees but then the aircraft lost flying speed and it crashed around 1 mile further on at 23.25hrs.

Sadly five members of the crew were killed in the crash near Northlands Farm, Hunsingore while the two air gunners further back in the aircraft survived though one appears to have been badly injured because Sgt. Duncan Stewart died on 24th February 1944 at Northallerton Hospital and this appears to have been the result of the injuries sustained in the crash at Hunsingore two months earlier. Sgt. Jamieson survived with minor injuries and was hospitalised for a short time before returning to flying duties.


REASON FOR LOSS:

Twenty aircraft from 426 Squadron were detailed on the 28th June 1944 on a mission to bomb the marshalling yards at Metz in France. Three aircraft scrubbed before take off and the remaining seventeen aircraft including NP683 took off from RAF Linton-on-Ouse starting at 21:45 hrs. One further aircraft returned early with faulty hydraulics. NP683 was one of two aircraft from the Squadron that failed to return and nothing was heard from either of the aircraft.

On the return leg of the mission NP683 was attacked by a German night fighter and shot down.

Oblt. Jacob Schaus from 4./NJG4 claimed Halifax VI NP683, near Routot, SW of Rouen, 2300 m at 03:10 hrs. This was his 19th and the first of two Abschüsse on this night. (Nachtjagd War Diaries Volume 2 (April 1944 - May 1945) - Dr Theo E.W. Boiten & Roderick J. Mackenzie).

The other aircraft was Halifax IV LW198 which has been recorded to have been shot down by a German night fighter. However, no associated German Abschuss has been found. (6 Evd, 1 KiA).

The following is an extract from a report made by Flt.Lt. Logan after he had returned to England:

“We were flying into the moon and around Bourg Achard we were jumped by an enemy aircraft. The first I knew of the attack was when we were hit by the first burst from the enemy aircraft. The starboard inner and flap jack both caught fire [with] hydraulic fluid spurted all over [I put] the aircraft into a diving turn to port and evaded the second burst.

It was too late to save the aircraft so I gave orders to abandon aircraft. The bomb aimer, wireless operator, navigator and flight engineer baled out from the front escape hatch. Before I got out something exploded, possibly one of the engines, because it went into a dive almost immediately.

I was thrown forward, my feet protruding through the hatch, I was unable to move, a second explosion shook me free. It was at that moment I got hit on the head. The piece of flying debris dazed me almost completely. Subconsciously I must have pulled the ripcord.”

It was later confirmed that all of the crew had successfully bailed out of the aircraft and had landed at approximately 02:50 hrs in the neighbourhood of Bourg-Achard, some 22½ km WSW of Rouen in France. Apart from a few minor injuries the crew was unharmed.

The aircraft wreckage was spread over an area in the vicinity of Honguemare about 1½ km ESE of Bourg-Achard.

The fate of each of the crew members is not clear and in some reported cases contradictory, however, the following narrative has been researched based upon the documents at References 1, 2 & 3 and other resources and depicts the likely scenario for the crew members’ fate after bailing out over France.

In his interview after being liberated Sgt. Docherty recalled that he, Plt.Offs. Jamieson and Willis were first sheltered in the village of Honguemare by friendly French citizens and that Flt.Lt. Logan and Plt.Off. Birnie were also hidden in the vicinity. They remained in hiding until the 8th July when Sgt. Docherty was informed that the SiPo (Sicherheitspolizei = Security Police) was mounting a search for aircrew in the village.

Along with Plt.Off. Birnie, Sgt. Docherty’s group was led to a cave on the banks of the river Seine where all four remained in hiding whilst arrangements were being made by the local Maquis to relocate and conceal the evaders.

Flt.Lt. Logan was not mentioned and as it is known he evaded capture it can be assumed that he escaped the SiPo search and struck out on his own probably with Maquis assistance. No records have been found which provide any information of his evasion until it was reported that he was at an Operation Sherwood camp in the Frêteval forest before being returned to England. He was interviewed in England on the 18th August 1944.

The group remained at the cave for a few days before being moved to an unidentified Maquis camp and joined a number of unknown British evaders. On the 14th July events determined that the evaders were split up into three separate groups with a view to move them to different locations. The groups comprised Plt.Offs. Birnie, Jamieson and Willis; three British evaders; and Sgt. Docherty plus one British evader.

The three groups were to proceed to different locations. This was the last time Sgt. Docherty saw Plt.Offs. Jamieson and Birnie but he met with Plt.Off. Willis at the PoW transit camp at Amiens after he had been liberated. Plt.Off. Willis was unable to give him any information regarding Plt.Offs. Jamieson and Birnie.

Sgt. Docherty was captured on the 14th July, probably en route to the new location. The fate of the unnamed British evader is unknown.

Sgt. Docherty was commissioned on the 28th June 1944, on the day of the mission, with the rank of Plt.Off. (55798). His promotion was Gazetted on the 19th September 1944. Upon his return to England he was promoted to Fg.Off. on the 28th December 1944, Gazetted on the 26th January 1945.

(1) The record of the Escape & Evasion debrief for Flt.Lt. Percival N.J. Logan has not been found. What is known was that he and his fellow evaders from the crew left for England from the B.14 airstrip, at Amblie on the Normandy coast. He was flown out on the 27th August 1944 aboard a DC-3 for the short flight to RAF Northholt.

(2) Plt.Off George D’Arcy’s Escape & Evasion report narrative:

“I baled out and landed in a wood near Barneville. I hid my parachute, harness and Mae West in some bushes. I walked north to the Seine and hid in some bushes near a deserted cottage on the river bank until 09:00 hours. I then walked south and called at a cottage situated about 1 mile SW of Barneville.

I was sheltered at various addresses until the 24th August I was handed over to British troops at Heudreville-en-Lieuvin. I was sent thence to 7th Armoured Division HQ and then Bayeux.”

He and his fellow evaders from the crew left for England from the B.14 airstrip, at Amblie on the Normandy coast. He was flown out on the 27th August 1944 aboard a DC-3 for the short flight to RAF Northholt.

(3) Plt.Off. Ray Stanley Kennedy Escape & Evasion report narrative:

“I landed in the middle of a field and made for some woods nearby and hid there until the following day (28th June). Two Frenchmen who were passing through the woods spoke to me and after I identified myself they said they would try to help me and told me to remain in the wood until they returned. A short time after they returned with some civilian clothes and took me by bicycle to the village of Le Petit Couronne, where I stayed in a cafe for three weeks.

On Saturday (22 July) I was taken by my helpers to the village of St. Etienne Lallier where i stayed at a farm for about two wekes. The Gestapo came to check up on the people on this farm so I was moved to St. Martin where I stayed at another farm until the British arrived on the 29th August.”

He and his fellow evaders from the crew left for England from the B.14 airstrip, at Amblie on the Normandy coast. He was flown out on the 27th August 1944 aboard a DC-3 for the short flight to RAF Northholt.

(4) From the available documentation it has been possible to piece together a narrative that explains the fate of Plt.Offs Jamieson and Birnie.

From various witness statements it appears that they were captured on the 14th July or shortly thereafter by the Feldgendarmerie (Military Police) allegedly because they could not speak French. They were held in a local prison at Pont l’Évêque.

A Madame Bureau who during the war was Mademoiselle Mariette Louis and a very active member of the French Red Cross at Pont l’Évêque was given free access by the Germans to the Allied PoWs in the prison, taking them food and other necessities. She knew Plt.Offs Jamieson and Birnie during their stay in this prison and remembers them quite well.

At some point during their incarceration they were deemed to be "terrorists" despite it being reported by several witnesses that they had circular red identity tags* on their person. Allegedly they had in their possession Wehrmacht mess-tins and wearing civilian clothes. Since the FFI (French Forces of the Interior) were continually attacking German troops, they were regarded as “terrorists”. The FFI made use of captured German equipment and any such equipment found in the possession of civilians was regarded as evidence of participation in the FFI.

*Identity tags for British military personnel during WW2 comprised one round red fibre tag and one octagonal green fibre tag. One was claimed to be fire proof and the other water proof.

The prison was evacuated in the face of the Allied advance and it is believed that Plt.Offs Jamieson and Birnie were taken from the prison at about 20:30 hours on the evening of 21st August 1944.

The fate of the two airmen was not established until two German nationals were brought before a British Military Court in Hamburg between 4th August and 18th September 1947.

The two accused were a Dr. Harald Heyns who was a former SS-Hauptscharführer (T/Sgt) and the head of the SD (Sicherheitsdienst = Security service of the SS) outpost at Caen, and a Herbert Koch who was a former Kriminalassistant (Assistant Detective) and believed to have been a courier and stationed at AP (Aussenpost = Outpost) Martigny.

It was alleged that Bertholdi, Koch and a man named Seiff bundled Plt.Offs Jamieson and Birnie into a car and drove to some woods. There was a story that a unit (believed to be the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend, Commanding Officer Wünsche) of 2nd SS Panzer Corps was camped in the same woods and that they had been asked to dispose of the airmen. The soldiers told the Gestapo men that they could do their own dirty work. What is known, however, is that while Seiff turned the car around Koch and Bertholdi took the airmen into the wood. Seiff then heard gunfire. A few minutes later he was joined first by Bertholdi and then by Koch. In the car Koch removed the magazine from his machine pistol, which was half empty. He later maintained that he was only armed with a Walther pistol. The two airmen were never seen alive again.

Hermann Seiff was a former Staffeloberscharführer (SS-Oberscharführer = Sgt) and stationed at AP Martigny.

Heyns was found guilty by the court and sentenced to death in absentia and Koch to 8 years imprisonment. Heyns’ sentence was not confirmed and the final disposition of Koch’s sentence is unknown.

Heyns escaped from custody on the 16th August 1948 during a break in the proceedings of the court and fled into the Soviet Zone of Occupation. He used a false identity (“Dr. Herbert Monath-Hartz“) from 1948 until March 1964 and lived under his true name after that. He died in the summer of 2004 in Berlin-Lichterfelde.

He is said to have been responsible for the massacre among prisoners in the Caen jail on 6th June 1944. Sentenced to death by the French in absentia on the 10th July 1952.

The East German courts punished him for a “misdemeanor“ in connection with his identity card i.e. for using a false name. The Stasi (Staatssicherheit = State Security Service) protected him for fear that his living in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) might be used as a propaganda tool against the state.

It the absence of positive proof the airmen’s deaths were recorded to be on the 22th August 1944. Efforts to locate their bodies proved futile and the airmen are still missing to date.

Burial details:

Left to Right: Photographs of Plt.Off. Birnie, Plt.Off. Jamieson taken from their service records

Left to Right: Birnie H.W, Panel 245; Jamieson D.S., Panel 246. (Credit Andrea Ruddick)

Fg.Off. Hugh Waldie Birnie. Runnymede Memorial Panel 245. Born on the 16th January 1922 in Toronto, Ontario. Son of Hugh Kelly and Hannah Elizabeth Birnie of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Plt.Off. Birnie was promoted to Fg.Off. with effect from the 8th May 1944.

Plt.Off. Donald Sinclair Jamieson. Runnymede Memorial Panel 246. Born on the 2nd June 1924 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Son of Thomas Cameron and Diana Christina (née Johnson) Jamieson of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz and dedicated to the relatives of this crew. Thanks also to Traugott Vitz for his work on the VitzArchive database. Alison Botteril for the letters from Sgt. Jamieson confirming his survival from a previous aircraft crash

Reference(s)

1. Supplementary Brief for Investigation - Ast. Caen SIPO Case. Dated 28 Oct 47. War Crimes Group (North West Europe) Ref: ending in G/15228/2/C/.2566/Legal
2. No.1 Missing Research and Enquiry Unit, RAF. Dated 4th April 1946. Ref: 1MREU/S.8/F.516/AIR.
3. Footprints on the Sands of Time: Oliver Clutton-Brock, p. 203

RS & TV 04.02.2021 - Update to narrative to include additional crash details

Acknowledgements: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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