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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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405 (Vancouver) Squadron RCAF
11/12.06.1944 405 (Vancouver) Squadron RCAF, Lancaster III ND344 Plt Off Dick E. Melcombe

Operation: Tours railway junction, France

Date: 11th/12th June 1944 (Sunday/Monday)

Unit: 405 (Vancouver) Squadron, RCAF, 8 (Pathfinder) Group, Bomber Command

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: ND344

Code: LQ:V

Base: RAF Gransden Lodge, Cambridgeshire

Location: North of Tours, France

Pilot: Plt Off Dick Ewart Melcombe J86023 RCAF Age 23. Evader/PoW (1)

Flt Eng: Sgt Alfred George Deakin 1818772 RAFVR Age 23. Evader (2)

Nav: Fg Off Jack W. West J20716 RCAF Age? Evader (3)

Bomb Aimer: Fg Off James McVicar Clement J24656 RCAF Age 23. Evader/Murdered (4)

WOp/Air Gnr: Flt Sgt Francis Devine 1496959 RAFVR Age? PoW No. 53309 *

Air Gnr (Mid Upper): Sgt Harry Braithwaite 1685138 RAFVR Age? Evader (5)

Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt Frederick Cyril Bailey 1817259 RAFVR Age? Evader (5)

* Stalag 9c Bad Sulza, Thuringia, Germany and Stalag Luft 7, Bankau near Kreuzburg O.S. (O.S. = Oberschlesien, Upper Silesia), (Now Bąków nr. Kluczbork (Poland)).

REASON FOR LOSS:

ND344 was one of thirteen Lancasters from the squadron that were detailed to bomb the railway junction at Tours in France on the 11th June 1944. ND344 took off from RAF Gransden Lodge at 22:10 hrs and was the only aircraft that failed to return. No further news was heard from the crew.

ND344 was hit by flak over the target. The aircraft crashed north of Tours at 00:50. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (12th May 1944 - 23rd July 1944) Part 3 - Theo Boiten).

(1) It was reported that Plt Off Melcombe was an evader (Ref 1, p.299), but evidence has been found that he was also a PoW (Ref 3.) albeit there is no information as to which PoW camp(s) he was held. The possibility exists that he was tracked down after Fg Off Clement was captured by the Gestapo.

(2) Sgt Deakin was liberated by US Forces south of Le Mans on the 9th August 1944. He was interviewed on the 11th August 1944.

(3) Fg Off West was returned to England on the 26th August 1944.

(4) The fate of Fg Off Clement has been reported in Ref 1, p.299 & p.300 and Ref 2, p.202. The following is extracted from those pages:

Plt Off Melcombe was in hiding at Châteauroux after being shot down on the night of 11th/12th June 1944. Fg Off James Clement, also from the crew, had been found by a friend of Roger Bodineau, a maquisard, and his family and had been taken to their farm, ‘la Salle Girault’, at Larcan, where he was to spend the next five weeks.

Having learnt of Melcombe’s whereabouts Clement decided on 20th July, against the advice of Roger Bodineau, to send him a note, which was duly collected by the “postman” used by the Réseau “Marco Polo”. The French Milice and the Gestapo had been looking for this postman and at around 23:00 hrs on 23rd July 1944 tracked him down to the Hôtel Leminor, Place des Halles in Tours and he was shot when he attempted to escape. On his body was found a number of letters, among them the note from Clement.

The Milice française (French Militia), or ‘la Milice’ was a paramilitary organization created on the 30th January 1943 by the Vichy regime to help fight against the French Resistance during WW2.

The investigations by the Milice and Gestapo into the origins of this letter led them to pay a visit to the Larcan post office on the afternoon of the 24th July, where postman Raymond Cras was forced to show them the way to ‘la Salle Girault’. The Bodineaus were at work in their vineyard when the eldest son, Raoul, saw several cars and a lorry heading rapidly in their direction. As this could mean only one thing he immediately warned his father, who told Raoul to go to ‘la Giraudière’ farm at Véretz to raise the alarm. Slipping away before the Milice and Gestapo had surrounded ‘Ia Salle Girault’, Raoul did not see them beat young Daniel with a bull-whip for the best part of an hour. They beat him until he told them where the airman was hiding. No mention was made of the radio transmitter/receiver hidden on the farm, but Roger and Marcelle Bodineau, Raymond Cras, Maxime Piette and Clement were taken away.

Clement, who was wearing civilian clothes, was brutally beaten and tortured and was incarcerated with the rest of the French captives in Tours prison until 9th August. On that day, Clement, Bodineau and twenty-four other prisoners were driven from the prison in three lorries to Parcay-Meslay airfield near Saint-Symphorien, NE of Tours, and murdered. Marcelle Bodineau survived the horrors of Ravensbrück concentration camp weighing 29 kilograms (4½ stones). Though extremely ill, Maxime Piette also survived. Raymond Cras, however, died at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on the very day on which it was liberated.

Fg Off Clement was exhumed from a bomb crater on Parcay-Meslay airfield which had been used as a mass grave for the twenty-six men. At the time of the exhumations the perpetrators had not been identified nor has anyone been brought before a court to answer for the killings.

(5) Sgt Braithwaite and Sgt Bailey were liberated on the 17th/18th August 1944 by US forces. Both were interviewed on the 27th August 1944.

Burial details:

Above: Saint-Symphorien New Communal Cemetery (Credit TWGPP)

Above: Fg Off Clement (from his service file, Grave marker (Credit TWGPP)

Fg Off James McVicar Clement. Saint-Symphorien New Communal Cemetery, Military Section Row 5 Grave 1. Born on the 9th March 1921 in Brenda, Waskada, Manitoba. Son of Charles Wesley and Alice Ann (née McVicar) Clement. Husband to Mary Margaret Jean (née Dawson) Clement from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive. Thanks also to John Jones for bringing the fate of Fg Off Clement to our attention.

Reference(s):

1. RAF Evaders - Oliver Clutton-Brock.
2. Footprints on the Sands of Time: RAF Bomber Command Prisoners-of-War in Germany 1939-1945 - Oliver Clutton-Brock.
3. WO 392 PoW Lists 1943-1945.

RS & TV 31.03.2021 - Initial upload

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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', 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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