01/02.05.1944 1944 7 Squadron Lancaster III ND901 Plt Off. Speirs
Operation: Chambly, France
Date: 1st/2nd May 1944 (Monday/Tuesday)
Unit No: 7 Squadron (motto: Per diem, per noctem 'By day and by night'), 8 (PFF) Group
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Oakington, Cambridgeshire
Pilot: Plt Off. Alan Robert Speirs 413136 RNZAF Age 21. Evaded
Flt Eng: Sgt. Gilbert Dennis Vine 1603902 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Nav: Fg Off. John Herbert Wain DFC. 421945 RNZAF Age 33. Killed
Bom Aimer: Fg Off. James Donald Saidler 138072 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Sydney Wallace 1388350 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Sgt. Edgar Feather 1459770 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. John Edgar Clift 422690 RNZAF Age 21. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
A busy night for Bomber Command send 801 aircraft on various tactical targets in Northern France and Belgium. Despite prevailing moonlight conditions Luftwaffe night fighters had a fairly limited success in attacks. None of the allied bombers were attacked during their outward routes to targets.
ND901 crew L-R: Fg Off. Wain, Plt Off. Speirs, Sgt. Feathrer, Sgt. Vine, Fg Off. Sadler, Sgt. Wallace, Sgt. Clift
Taking off at 22:45 hrs to bomb the railway and storage depot at Chambly, France. 120 aircraft taking part from various squadrons.
During their return the Chambly force were attacked by night fighters who shot down 5 bombers with 3 others damaged.
They had dropped their bomb load and on their return trip when they were hit. Two engines and one fuel tank was on fire when the pilot ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft. In a vertical dive Plt Off. Speirs discovers he has been kicked out through the windshield, lost conscious briefly and is hanging upside down under his deployed parachute. He lands near a forest and at dawn leaves on foot in the direction of Paris.
He was helped by an unknown organisation and was guided to Camp de Fréteval. Freed there by American troops on the 14th August, he found himself in Le Mans the next day, where he and other escapees boarded one of the trucks taking the men to Laval. The truck misses a turn, hits the shoulder and rolls over. Like some others, Plt Off. Speirs was injured but he was able to return by aircraft on the 16th August to Northolt in England.
Lancaster ND901 was shot down at 00:35 hrs by Ofw. Reinhard Kollack of 8./NJG4 but also claimed by Gem Flak Abt 344.
Offw. Reinhard Kollack (shown left), survived the war an 'ace' with a total of 49 kills. After the war Reinhard found it difficult to adjust to civilian life before he rejoined the newly founded Bundeswehr in 1956. He later joined the Bundeswehr in 1956 and retired in 1967 as a Hauptfeldwebel. He passed away on the 6th February 1980, age 65.
Plt Off. Speirs escaped injury when on the 9th December 1944 crashed Mosquito MM198 M5:Pat RAF Wyton on return from an air test - both crew uninjured.They were returning from an air test when the aircraft stalled on a single engine approach, aircraft written off. He escaped injury again when on the 21st December 1944 he had to return early from a trip to Cologne with a damaged undercarriage. The 128 sqn Mosquito MM223 landed at RAF Wyton, Cambridgeshire was repaired. Both he and his navigator Flt Sgt. Herbert Rae Chilvers 434404 RAAF were unhurt. Plt Off. Speirs had carried out a further 20 operational sorties with 128 sqn. He was awarded his DFC on the 17th October 1944. October 1944. Born in Nelson on the 13th of April 1923. He passed away on Friday 13th June 2014, husband of Allisyn and the late Margot. With Allisym They lived in Chester and Londonderry, where Alan was busy lay preaching. They finally returned home to New Zealand in 1974. He worked for many years until his retirement at the Tasman paper mill Kawarau as an engineer. Buried at the Returned Services Section of Kawerau Cemetery, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.
Crew burial and other personal details:
This crew are the only commonwealth war graves in the cemetery.
Sgt. Gilbert Dennis Vine. Nointel Communal Cemetery. Collective grave. Son of William Vine and Elizabeth Vine (pre-deceased) of Hemlock Road, Shepherds Bush, London
Fg Off. John Herbert Wain DFC. Nointel Communal Cemetery. Collective grave. Born on the 07th December 1910 at Tomato. Prior to service worked as a motor mechanic for C.L. Rhodes at Christchurch. Enlisted at Rotorua on the 21st March 1942. Embarked for Canada on the 29th May 1942. After training received his air observers badge and promoted to sergeant on the 9th October 1942, receiving his commission on the same date. Embarked for England on the 28th October 1942. Further training with 11 Operational Training Unit joining on the 3rd May 1941. Then to 1665 Heavy Conversion Operational Training Unit joining on the 29th June 1943. Joined 75 Squadron on the 29th August 1943 flying the Sterling and completed 16 operational sorties. Joined 7 squadron January 1944 and awarded his PFF badge on the 18th April 1944. Son of Frederick William and Mary Sophia Wain (nee Hille - died 16th January 1929, age 50). Husband of Edith Mildred Wain (nee Skinner), of Riccarton, Canterbury, New Zealand. A total of 541 flying hours logged and on his 30th operational sorties.
Fg Off. James Donald Saidler. Nointel Communal Cemetery. Collective grave. Also remembered on family grave in Dunoon Cemetery. Son of James (died 5th May 1968) and Janet Saidler (nee Mcintyre - died 23rd June 1953), of Dunoon, Argyllshire, Scotland.
Sgt. Sydney Wallace. Nointel Communal Cemetery. Collective grave. No further information. Are you able to assist?
Sgt. Edgar Feather. Nointel Communal Cemetery. Collective grave. Son of Rhudall Feather and of Annie Feather (Nee Mellor), Nephew of Norman Constantine Mellor, of Halifax, Yorkshire, England.
Sgt. John Edgar Clift. Nointel Communal Cemetery. Collective grave. Born on the 13th September 1922 in Cambridge England. Guildford and Godalming County School but left for New Zealand when aged 17. Worked as a farm hand for Glentui Station at Waipawa prior to service. Enlisted at Rotorual on the 18th April 1942. Embarked for Canada on the 29th May 1942. Air gunners badge awarded and promoted to sergeant on the 19th March 1943. Embarked for England on the 8th April 1943. Further training with 11 Operational Training Unit joining on the 5th May 1943 flying on the Wellington. Then to 1665 Heavy Conversion Operational Training Unit joining on the 29th July 1943 flying on the Stirling. Joined 75 squadron on the 29th August 1943 where he flew 14 operational sorties. Posted to 7 PFF squadron on the 12th January 1944 where he flew a further 7 operational sorties. Awarded his PFF badge. Son of Major Edgar Clift and of Margaret Annie Clift (Nee Pick). of Epsom, Auckland, New Zealand. A total of 386 flying hours logged and on his 29th operational sorties.
Researched by Kelvin Youngs (Webmaster) (Aug 2021) and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to the extensive research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Kracker Luftwaffe Archive
, Auckland Library Heritage Collection
, Weekly News of New Zealand, Nachtjagd Combat Archive (16 March 1944 - 11 May 1944) Part 2 - Theo Boiten. Thanks to John Jones for the correction crash date of Mosquito MM198 (Apr 2022).
Other sources as quoted below: