Date: 27/28 July 1943 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
Unit: No.408 RCAF Squadron (Goose)
Type: Halifax II
Base: RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire
Location: Meezen, 15kms. west of Neumunster, Germany
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Clifford Campbell Stovel DFC J/16835 RCAF Age 25 Killed (1)
2nd. Pilot: F/S Joseph Renee Alexis LeBlanc R/115974 RCAF Age Unknown Killed
Flt. Eng: Sgt. John Henry Borley J/18209 RCAF POW No.222459 Stalag 4B Muhlberg (Elbe)
Nav: P/O John Edward Bemister J/17735 RCAF POW No.1938 Stalag Luft L3 Sagan & Belaria
Air/Bmr: F/L George Horne McDougal 143982 RAFVR Age 28 Killed
W/Op: P/O William Gordon James Richardson J/17693 RCAF POW No.2024 Stalag Luft L3 Sagan & Belaria
Air/Gnr: P/O Elbert Frank Parke J/18313 RCAF Age 33 Killed (2)
Air/Gnr: F/O Howard William McDonald J/12329 RCAF Age 29 Killed
Above L-R: F/L Clifford C. Stovel, F/Sgt. Joseph R.A. LeBlanc, P/O Elbert F. Parker
(1) Stovel Lake in Wood Buffalo National Park, Alberta is named after F/L Stovel.
(2) Parker Peninsular on Spencer Lake, Manitoba is named after P/O Parker.
REASON FOR LOSS
In the spring of 1943, Sir Arthur Harris began preparations for a series of heavy bombing raids on Hamburg. Not only was the city an important industrial centre for armaments and other factories producing vital supplies for the war effort, but was the largest port and dockyard facility in Europe. As Germany's second largest city, it was home to a civilian population of almost two million people.
Operation Gomorrah began on 24 July and ended on 3 August 1943. During that span the R.A.F. conducted four night time raids and the USAAF two during daylight hours. In total 3,091 aircraft delivered 9,000 tons of bombs.
The whole city was almost entirely consumed in the ensuing firestorm killing over 42,000 inhabitants who could not escape the searing heat and lack of oxygen from the raging fire. Another 37,000 were injured and a million more fled the city and the destruction which left more than half of the cities dwellings in ruins.
Above: crash site April 2017 - courtesy Marcus Kroll.
On the night of 27/28 July, 787 aircraft were dispatched with 729 reaching the target area dropping 2,326 tons of bombs. Seventeen aircraft failed to return, well below the expected loss rate due to a large part by the use of 'window', thin aluminum strips dropped by the bomber force, which confused the German radar defences. Of the seventeen, thirteen were the victims of the Luftwaffe night fighters.
Above: Pieces recovered from Halifax DT749 (courtesy Marcus Kroll)
F/L Stovel and crew took off from Leeming at 22:30 hours. At 01:15 hours they were intercepted and shot down by Gefr. Siegfried Konig of 9./NGJ3 from a height of 6,000 meters. The Halifax finally crashing at Meezen, 15 kilometers west of Neumunster some 60 kilometers north of the target.
F/L Clifford Campbell Stovel DFC, Hamburg Cemetery, Collective Grave 6A.D.8-10. Son of Reginald Campbell Stovel and Lorine Stovel of Calgary, Alberta; husband of Pamela Mary (nee Hamilton) Stovel of Harrow, Middlesex.
After enlisting at Calgary in February 1941 he was posted to No.2 ITS Regina, graduating in June of that year. Eight weeks later after being posted to No.16 Elementary Flying Training School at Edmonton, he was assigned to No.10 Service Flying Training School at Dauphin, Manitoba. Just three weeks prior to being lost, F/L Stovel had been awarded his DFC. His citation in the 6 July 1943 edition of the London Gazette reads:
"This officer has completed many sorties including attacks on well defended targets in the Ruhr. He is a skilful and enterprising captain whose example has proved inspiring. One night in April 1943, he piloted an aircraft detailed to attack Duisberg. Whilst over the target area one engine became unserviceable but in spite of this Pilot Officer Stovel pressed home a vigorous attack. Immediately afterwards the bomber was hit by anti aircraft fire and temporarily went out of control, losing considerable height. Pilot Officer Stovel skilfully regained control, however, and eventually flew the aircraft to base. He displayed great skill and coolness in the face of a most trying situation."
F/S Joseph Renee Alexis LeBlanc, Hamburg Cemetery, Collective Grave 6A.D.8-10. Husband of Mrs. J. LeBlanc of Campbellton, New Brunswick, Canada.
F/L George Horne McDougal, Hamburg Cemetery, Collective Grave 6A.D.8-10. Son of George Horne and Elizabeth McDougal of Edinburgh.
P/O Elbert Frank Parker, Hamburg Cemetery, Collective Grave 6A.D.8-10. Son of William John and Elizabeth Jane (nee Green) Parker of St. Claude, Manitoba, Canada.
Upon enlisting in October 1940, he completed his initial training at No.1 ITS, Toronto and from there went for service flying training at Camp Borden and Calgary. He then graduated from No.3 Bombing and Gunnery School, MacDonald, Manitoba before being posted to England in September 1941.
F/O Howard William McDonald, Hamburg Cemetery, Grave 6A.d.11. Son of William and Caroline (nee Banks) McDonald; husband of Helen Bruce (nee Dowdell) McDonald of London, Ontario, Canada.
Researched and written for Aircrew Remembered by Colin Bamford and dedicated to the families of Halifax DT749.
References: Boiten, Dr. Theo W.R. Nachtjagd War Diaries Vol.1 Walton on Thames: Red Kite, 2008. Chorley, W.R. Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War Vol.4 1943. Hinckley: Midland, 2007. Middlebrook, Martin and Chris Everett. The Bomber Command War Diaries. Hinkley: Midland, 2011. A Place of Honour. Winnipeg: Manitoba Conservation, 2002. F/L Stovel & F/Sgt. LeBlanc [Photograph]. Copied from Veterans Affairs Canada website http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/collections/virtualmem Hamburg Cemetery[Photograph]. Copied from Commonwealth War Graves Commission website: http://www.cwgc.org/ Also thanks to Marcus Kroll for sending photographs of crash site and pieces recovered - April 2017.