06/07.12.1944 429 (Bison) Squadron, RCAF Halifax III MZ463 AL:J Fg Off. James M. Prentice
Date: 6th/7th December 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit No: 429 (Bison) Squadron, RCAF
Type: Halifax III
Base: RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire
Pilot: Fg Off. James Millar Prentice J17637 RCAF Age 26. Missing
2nd Pilot: Flt Lt. Harold Douglas O’Neil J22026 RCAF Age 22. Missing
Flt Eng: Plt Off. Edwin Spencer Charles Clark C89632 RCAF Age 21. Missing
Nav: Fg Off. Thomas Abercromby Wilson J25025 RCAF Age 25. Missing
Bomb Aimer: Plt Off. Stephen Lawrence Norejko J89232 RCAF Age 24. Missing
WOp/Air Gnr: 1st Lt. Floyd Mangum McRoberts O-886295 USAAF Age 26. Missing
Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Plt Off. William Edward Heaton Barty 187752 RAFVR Age 29. Missing
Air Gnr (Rear): WO2. James Coulter Copeland R199371 RCAF Age 21. Missing (1)
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off from RAF Leeming at 16:19hrs. Lost without a trace.
The six RCAF members of crew, along with P/O. Barty are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial, while Lt, McRoberts USAAF is named on his country’s memorial to its airmen with no known graves.
Six of the crew had been involved in a dramatic ditching incident while operating against Boulogne in September. (see below for further details) Apart from Flt Lt. O’Neil RCAF who was flying his first sortie, all were about two-thirds of the way through their tour.
Memorial to the RAF Leeming crews (courtesy Richard Flagg)
(1) Extract from Dundalk Herald, Thursday December 14th 1944:
“Known as “Jim” to family and friends. Joined the RCAF in 1943 and took a refresher course at the University of Toronto, later training at Malton, Ontario and Macdonald, Manitoba, receiving his wings as air gunner at the end of August 1943 before embarking for overseas. Jim is known to have completed his first tour of ops (he had 20 to his credit by November 5th), his family and friends were devastated to hear that he had been reported missing. He was to have been best man at his brother “Don’s” wedding to Vivienne Tomkins on December 12th consequently another of Don's crew, Flight Lieutenant George Rowe took his place.
In an incredible narrow escape a few weeks earlier on September 17th, after an operation to Boulogne, his Halifax III MZ900 AL:K was hit by flak, damaging both starboard engines.
The aircraft was unable to maintain height and the pilot ditched the aircraft into the sea off the French coast.
Fg Off. Lanin in MZ303 AL-R witnessed the crash and remained overhead until an Air Sea Rescue Walrus escorted by two Spitfires arrived on the scene at 10:19 - all the crew were picked up just three hours later, with just one crew member, Fl/Sgt. Copeland, receiving slight injuries.
The flight engineer from that crew, Flt Sgt. Frederick Platt was killed later on the 1st November 1944 after trying to save his aircraft whilst parked at RAF Spilsby. A 207 Sqn Lancaster I PD290 EM:N swung out of control during takeoff, colliding with a 429 Sqn Halifax III MZ424 AL:Z. During the inferno that followed another two from 429 Sqn's aircraft were destroyed: MZ880 AL:H, NP954 AL:T. Flt Sgt. Frederick Platt who witnessed this, ran to his aircraft MZ824 AL:G to try and save it. Started one engine, this swinging the aircraft around, before they could rectify the action, an explosion occurred and blew in the front of the Halifax. He died on the way to RAF Hospital, Rauceby.
Fg Off. James Millar Prentice. Runnymede Memorial, Panel 248. Foster son of Marshal and Jessie Prentice and husband of Agnes Marion Prentice of Kenora, Ontario. Attended Western Technical School, where he is remembered on the roll of honour.
Flt Lt. Harold Douglas O’Neil. Runnymede Memorial Panel 244. Born Calgary, Alberta, 1922, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Harold O'Neil of Hamilton, Ontario.
Enlisted early in the war, commissioned and served a tour in Coastal Command in Newfoundland on anti-submarine patrol before being posted to Bomber Command in the UK.
Plt Off. Edwin Spencer Charles Clarke. Runnymede Memorial, Panel 249. Son of Spencer and Vera Clark of Westmount, Quebec, Canada.
Fg Off. Thomas Abercromby Wilson. Runnymede Memorial, Panel 248. Son of Thomas and Margaret Wilson of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Plt Off. Stephen Lawrence Norejko. Runnymede Memorial, Panel 252. Son of Adam and Julia (nee Kuczynski) of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
1st Lt. Floyd Mangum McRoberts. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Cambridge American Cemetery, Tablets of the Missing. Born on 18th October 1918 at Fort Worth, Texas. Son of Joseph Smith and Nora, née Rosinbaum, McRoberts.
Ex RCAF air gunner. His brother, 2nd Lt. Jack S. McRoberts, born on the 4th June 1921, was killed 14 May 1944 with the US Army.
Plt Off. William Edward Heaton Barty. Runnymede Memorial, Panel 210. Born Thanet, Kent. Son of William James and Lydia Frances (née Hubbard), Barty. Enlisted Cardington ca. March 1943.
Commissioned Pilot Officer 26 October 1944, London Gazette 26th December 1944. Also commemorated on the War Memorial at Sutton-at-Hone. Born Isle of Thanet, Kent, England. Served with Kent Police prior to service.
Plt Off. James Coulter Copeland. Runnymede Memorial, Panel 249. Born on the 1st May 1923. Son of James C and Elizabeth (née Carson) Coulter and brother of Mary and Thomas Donald. Copeland. of Dundalk, Ontario, Canada.
Commissioned and promoted to Plt Off. (J92259) with effect 26th October 1944.
His brother ”Don” Copeland RCAF was to lose his life in 434 Sqn on 11th March 1945 on an operation to Essen. (details also on this website)
Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew. With thanks to Barry Smith (Copeland Genealogy). Further photographs and detailed crew information sent in by David Champion (Mar 2016). Thanks to John Jones for the correction to crew positions (Apr 2022). Other updates by Aircrew Remembered (Apr 2022).