23/24.09.1944 No. 61 Squadron Lancaster I ME732 QR-P Fl/Lt. Donald E.R. Stone
Date: 23/24th September 1944 (Saturday/Sunday)
Unit: No. 61 Squadron
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Skellingthorpe, Lincolnshire. ("Skelly")
Location: Hoffkampweg, Almelo, Holland
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Donald Edward Ross Stone 152068 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Pilot 2: F/O. Norman Frederick Aldred 183600 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Frederick Arthur Scales 1629785 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Nav: Fl/Sgt. Ernest Hill 1436352 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
Air/Bmr: F/O. William Stirling Burns J/22423 RCAF Age 23. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Phillip Marcus Matthews 1204048 RAFVR Age 24. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Edward "Teddy" Ravenhill RAFVR Injured PoW Age 22. (No further details)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Alfred Roy Fellows 1818897 RAFVR Age 19. Evaded capture.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 18:46 hrs from RAF Skellingthorpe, (nicknamed as Skelly to the crews) Lincolnshire - part of a 136 strong bomber group sent to breach the Dortmund-Ems canal north of Münster. Selected for the fact that the water level at this point was significantly higher than the surrounding land, 136 Lancasters and 5 Mosquitos from No. 5 group RAF Bomber Command attacked this target.
Despite the rather heavy and low clouds, the dyke was successfully breached, resulting in the draining of the Nazis important waterway over a length of 9 km. An important element of this attack was the two direct hits by Tallboy - 12,000 lb. bombs delivered by 617 Squadron early during the bomb run.
Other operations taking place this night, 549 aircraft bombing Neuss. 113 aircraft bombing the night fighter airfield at Handorf, just outside Münster.
Sadly the aircraft crashed onto the School for Christian Education and also the house of the Netelenbos family. Six citizens of Almelo lost their lives in this tragedy.
Both Roy Fellows and Teddy Ravenhill (25 operations flown) managed to jump from the aircraft. Teddy was badly burnt and is thought to have also lost his sight, but survived after treatment in hospital and served the rest of the war in a PoW camp. The remaining six of the crew were killed inside the aircraft after crashing into the school.
The operation as described by Sgt. Fellows in his own words (Aircrew Remembered are in contact with Roy - November 2015 - 26 operations flown):
"Weather was to be okay with some cloud cover for part of the journey and the target area was to be clear.
When we arrived at the target area the Pathfinders were marking the target area with Red and Green flares. We did a circuit of the area and started our bombing run in.
In the middle of this, I spotted a Ju88 and opened fire, he sheered away.
The Bomb Aimer said "Bombs Away" and we turned for home
A few minutes flying time and we were attacked by a Ju88 over the Dutch border with Germany.
I opened fire but he dived down underneath us, he later came back below, giving a burst of fire that raked us from nose to tail.
Immediately the Lancaster caught fire and the Skipper ordered the crew to bale out. The plane was in a nose-dive and the flames were all around my rear turret.
I started to open the door and Skipper said, "Hang on and I'll Dive steeper and try to put out the fire"!
I got back in and opened fire at the German again, at this time I think that the Mid-upper must have baled out, our skipper again gave the order to 'Bale-out.'
As the door was already open I just rolled backwards and dropped out.
Fortunately we had been issued with pilot- type chutes on that very day These are strapped onto your back and you sit on them. Normally I had used the Observer type which clipped onto your chest and was stowed in the fuselage outside the turret. If used this day it would have been burned to a cinder.
As I tumbled through the air I lost my cigarettes and lighter from my pocket. I spent what seemed a long time trying to catch them. I suddenly realised that I should pull the rip-cord. I did, the chute blossomed out above me.
Having baled - out at about 13.000 feet I was soon down. I landed on a cobbled brick road with a heck of a bump and cut my head open. After a few minutes I heard motor transport approaching. I climbed over the hedge into a field, ran round the edge to the opposite side and buried my flying suit and parachute in a water logged ditch.
I heard a dog barking so made my way towards the sound and found a farm house. As our troops were fighting at Arnhem, I thought that they would soon be here. I knocked on the door and a lady answered. I did not speak any foreign languages. I pointed to the sky and said RAF without any success. Eventually the farmer went for a young man that spoke English and with a few books we managed to converse. I asked if he could contact the underground. He did not reply. After a drink of water, he took me outside to a hayrick with a wooden roof. This he lifted up and said stay there until he returned.
Next morning he returned, with him an elderly man and a girl of about 18. The man interrogated me and eventually asked me if I knew a village that was local to Birmingham, I said that I did, "What sort of roofs do the first two cottages have"? I said "Thatched" That is correct he replied.
At a later date I asked him why? and he told me that the Germans were infiltrating the underground, If I had been German I would most likely have said "Thashed." and he would have shot me.
He gave me a bicycle without any tyres and we rode about 5 miles. Local people were going to church and wishing me good day as we passed. I was put in a local wood, There I was to wait until the same night when a man would come and whistle 'Tipperary'. He turned out to be a local teacher. Next day I had another bike ride to a farm owned by the Pierik family.
I was treated as one of them, I learned to wear clogs, to be a farmer 'blending in.' I stayed there for about 8 weeks. It became too dangerous, so I was quickly moved into a local town, living in Hengelo with Mr. and Mrs. Schage. Here I met two other airmen Bill Paston-williams and John Downie. Their Navigator, Gerald Hood, was brutally murdered by the Germans. He is interred in Almelo cemetery alongside my own crew. Here I lived again as one of the family and met relatives. Small children aged from about two to twelve kept secret our whereabouts. It was in this village that I (and others) remained, until we were liberated by British troops at the end of April.
The Kroeze family were the pivot of the movement in Hengelo. Medals were awarded by British and Dutch governments to many people in the village.
Sadly Jan (the leader of this group) was killed in a collision with a British army lorry after the war.
There is now just two of the actual Helpers alive, Riky Peri, living in Holland and her sister Annie who lives in Canada. Bill Deenik lives in Canada and is the son of the man who whistled 'Tipperary.'
I cannot praise the bravery of the Dutch people enough. Both for their spirit and also for their bravery during those dark days of 1939-1945 - to them, I express my sincere thank you, one and all."
Fl/Lt. Donald Edward Ross Stone. Almelo General Cemetery. Coll. grave 3-5. Son of Edward William Nelson Stone and Lillian Mercy Stone, of Carshalton, Surrey, England. 26 operations flown.
F/O. Norman Frederick Aldred. Almelo General Cemetery. Grave 7. Son of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Samuel Aldred, husband of Maud Matilda Aldred, of Penarth, Glamorgan, Wales. 1 operation flown.
Sgt. Frederick Arthur Scales. Almelo General Cemetery. Grave 2. Son of Arthur and Nellie Corina Scales, of Leverington, Cambridgeshire, England. 25 operations flown.
Fl/Sgt. Ernest Hill. Almelo General Cemetery. Coll. grave 3-5. Husband to Dorothy, father to Phillip. From Leeds, Yorkshire, England. No further information available as yet - are you able to assist? 26 operations flown.
F/O. William Stirling Burns. Almelo General Cemetery. Grave 6. Son of Thomas and Elizabeth Burns, of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. 26 operations flown.
Fl/Sgt. Phillip Marcus Matthews. Almelo General Cemetery. Coll. grave 3-5. Son of Bernard and Alice Matthews of Northfield, Birmingham, England. 26 operations flown.
Researched for relatives of the crew and with the valuable first hand account of this loss by the rear gunner, Roy Fellows (who we are proud to say that we are in regular contact with - June 2016). Also many thanks to Alan Barrow who runs a website on the loss of Lancaster LM658. We have been working very closely with Alan to identify the various people shown in the Liberation Day photograph and exchanged a great deal of information. Further sources as quoted below.
(An earlier version of this story has received 96 Facebook likes in addition to those on this page.)