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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.
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03rd May 1943 487 Squadron Ventura I AE780 EG-S P/O. McGowan

Operation: Ramrod 16

Date: 03rd May 1943 (Monday)

Unit: No. 487 Squadron (motto: Ki te mutunga - Through to the end). 2 Group

Type: Ventura I

Serial: AE780

Code: EG-S

Base: RAF Methwold, Norfolk

Location: Van Bossestraat, Amsterdam

Pilot: F/O. Stuart Mcgowan NZ/414996 RNZAF Age 22. Killed

Obs: F/O. Ernest Garfield Thornber J/13792 RCAF Age 27. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Cyril Richard Smith NZ/415563 RNZAF Age 29. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Ivan Francis Urlich NZ/132891 RNZAF Age 20. PoW No: 1162 Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug

Page compiled with the assistance of Jennifer Lemaire of New Zealand.

A comprehensive report compiled by Roy Wilcock and the son of one of the crews of other aircraft taking part can be read here.


The squadron took off from RAF Methwold, England at 16:43 hours. One crew returned early due to a hatch coming loose. The remaining11 aircraft proceeded to the target at low-level escorted by 35 Spitfires with a further 31Spitfires acting as rear cover. Unfortunately, two further spitfire squadrons that were going to act as target support took off early and flew directly to Amsterdam at 27,000 ft and alerted the defences well in advance of the attack. When they were about 35 miles west of Zandvoort they were recalled, whilst the main raid took place.

Acting on the alert 32 Luftwaffe fighters took off from Woensdrecht airfield about 125 km south of Amsterdam. They were expected to intercept the target support Spitfires they met instead the Venturas and their close support crossing the coast and climbing to bombing height.

All but one were shot down by either the flak defences or the fighters, Fl/Lt. Arthur Victor Duffill managed to nurse his badly damaged Ventura AE916 EG-C to RAF Feltwell where he crash-landed. All crew safe although to were wounded from the action.

AE780 was attacked and shot down by a fighter, crashing onto houses on Van Bossestraat in the suburbs of Amsterdam at 17:45 hrs. Of the 4 man crew only Fl/Sgt. Urlich survived. He would become a PoW.

Fl/Sgt. Ivan Urlich, from Hawera, owes his life to the prompt and courageous actions of his pIlot and Navigator. Seeing the Gunner unconscious in his turret the two officers dragged Urlich out, clipped his parachute pack onto his harness, hooked his right hand into the rip-cord handle and pushed him out of the doomed aircraft. Urlich recovered in time to open his canopy and float down to the comparative safety of a term of imprisonment. His three companions died in the crash.

Map courtesy Roy Wilcock

In a post-war interview, Fl/Sgt. Urlich stated: ' I remember noticing we were practically over Amsterdam and that only Sq/Ldr. Trent's aircraft was still with us. As I was watching it (Trent's Ventura - further details here) a burst of flak blew its tail away and it went down in a spin. Aboard his own Ventura - 'Mac' (F/O. McGowan) put on my parachute and pushed me out the door. That was the last I ever saw of him.

Above: 487 Squadron personnel in front of a Ventura, with 18 bombing mission markers on the nose.

Fl/Sgt. Maxwell Nicholas Sparks 59631 (died 13th June 2013), Sgt. Cyril Richard Smith NZ/415563 (killed 03rd May 1943), Sgt. Robert James Frizzell NZ/415525 (killed 28th December 1944). Sgt. Robert James Street NZ/413784, Sgt. Merv L.S Dawall, Sgt. Ivan Francis Ulrich NZ/132891 PoW, Sgt. David Robert Fowler NZ/415755, Sgt. Albert Carl Hamilton NZ/415575 (killed 20th February 1844), Fl/Sgt. John David Sharp NZ/412271 (died 14th February 2005), Sgt. Frederick Stewart Stevenson NZ/412759, Sgt. Thomas Whyte NZ/411997, Sgt. Timothy William Warner NZ/414363 (killed 03rd May 1945), Sgt. William Allenby Hendry NZ/413415, Sgt. Robert Frederick Edmonds NZ/413254 (killed 12th June 1943), Sgt. Keat Dudding NZ/415522 (killed 25th July 1944), Sgt. G.D Muir, Sgt. F.R Lloyd, Fl/Sgt. Andrew Edward Coutts (NZ/412209 (killed 03rd May 1943), Fl/Sgt. Thomas James Bayntan NZ/39078 (killed 03rd May 1943), Fl/Sgt. Ronald William Secord NZ/44098 killed 12th June 1943), Sgt. Robert William Wren Pye NZ/414891 (died 27th May 2012), Sgt. Hugh Baird NZ/415181 (killed 04th January 1944, Sgt. Antony Sheeham.

Fl/Sgt. Ivan Francis Ulrich: Born at Hawera on the 06 August 1922. Worked as a shop assistant prior to service. Enlisted in January 1941. Son of Ante Anthony (died 03rd June 1955, age 66) and Mary Anne Urlich (née Zimmerman - died 19th April 1958, age 64). Husband of Pauline Joan Urlich (née Peters - died 09th August 1992, age 69). Ivan passed away on the 25th of April 1987, at age 64 thought to be buried at Hawera Cemetery, Taranaki, New Zealand.

Burial details:

F/O. Stuart Mcgowan. Amsterdam New Eastern Cemetery/ Plot 69. Row C. Collective grave 9. Born in Pahiatua, on the 06th February 1921. Worked as a farmer on his mothers' farm at Raupare prior to enlisting on the 06th September 1941 at Levin. Initial training at No. 2 Elementary Flying Training School. Embarked for Canada on the 17th December 1941. Pilots badge awarded on the 24th April 1942 and a commission. Embarked for England on the 12th December 1942Joined 487 squadron on the 08th March 1943. Son of Robert and Annie McGowan (née Howard), of Raupare, Hastings. A total of 460 flying hours logged and on his 7th operational sortie.

F/O. Ernest Garfield Thornber. Amsterdam New Eastern Cemetery/ Plot 69. Row C. Collective grave 9. Born on the 03rd January 1916 at Manitoba, Canada. Previous to service worked for Canadian Aways and Wings Limited. Enjoyed playing the guitar and often entertained the family. Enlisted in the RCAF in August 1941. Son of Ernest James Thornber (died 21st August 1965, age 71 and Laura Maude Thornber (died 03rd January 1955), of 717 Fleet Avenue, St. Vital, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Brother of four sisters and three brothers.

Thornber Lake east of Sipiwesk Lake in Manitoba was renamed after him in 1966.

Sgt. Cyril Richard Smith. Amsterdam New Eastern Cemetery/ Plot 69. Row C. Collective grave 9. Born on the 21st August 1913 at Timaru. Worked as a farmer on his father's farm at Miller's Flat. Served in the territorial army for 4 years. Enlisted at Levin on the 05th October 1941. Embarked for Canada on the 17th November 1941. Wireless/Air gunners badge awarded on the 20th July 1942 and promoted to sergeant. Embarked for England for England on the 12th December 1942. Joined 487 squadron on the 08th March 1943. Son of Francis John Smith (died 09th August 1960, age 84), and of Alice Maud Smith (née Batchelor - died 10th November 1971, age 96), of Miller's Flat, Otago, New Zealand. A total of 185 flying hours logged and on his 8th operational sortie.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to Jenifer Lemaire and to the extensive research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland Library Heritage Collection, Weekly News of New Zealand, other sources as quoted below:

KTY/JL 11-12-2021

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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', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), 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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