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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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106 Squadron crest
04.02.1941 No. 106 Squadron Hampden I AD750 F/O. Thomas

Operation: Gardening (Artichoke)

Date: 4th February 1941 (Tuesday)

Unit: No. 106 Squadron

Type: Hampden I

Serial: AD750

Code: ZN-?

Base: RAF Finningley, Yorkshire

Location: Pont St Martin, Nr. Nantes, Loire

Pilot: F/O. William Kelman Burr Thomas 72251 R.A.F. Age 26. Killed

Pilot 2: P/O. George Harold Frederick Inniss 43036 R.A.F. Age 24. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Frederick Arnold Colson 553425 R.A.F. Age 18. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Jack Lewis Franco 652586 R.A.F. Age 24. Killed


On the evening of 4th February 1941, Hampden AD750  ZN-? of 106 Squadron with a crew of four took off from RAF Finningley, at 17.30 hrs to take part in a mining laying operation off the  port of St Nazaire, Loire, France.  

The Hampden crashed later that day close to the small town of Pont St Martin, near Nantes, Loire. As a result of the excavations done to retrieve parts of the bomber it appears that the plane came down nose first killing all the crew. The body of Sgt. Franco was found some 100 metres away from the crash. Bernard Poisson, then aged 16, together with friends buried the bodies of the crew in shallow graves close to the site with the Germans stationed close by. 


Above left to right: F/O. Thomas, P/O. Inniss and Sgt. Colson

F/O. Thomas had an escape earlier on the 29th November 1940. Again whilst serving with 106 Squadron on a training exercise out of Bodney. Took off at 17.20 hrs in a Hampden I L4183 ZN-P. swung during take off on a night flying exercise and crashed into the bomb-dump area, all crew escaped injuries it is understood.

They are all now buried in the cemetery at Pont du Cens, Nantes, alongside the crew of Wellington R1374 (also listed on this website)


Burial details:

F/O. William Kelman Burr Thomas. Nantes (Point-du-Cens) Communal Cemetery. Plot L. Row A. Joint grave 16. Further information: Initially traced through family history resources. Born in April 1914 in Oban the son of Alfred Ernest Thomas and Christina M.S. Burr. Christina was born in Linlithgow but Alfred was born in Merthyr Tydfil. Kelman went to University in Scotland and got a degree in modern languages. Spoke fluent French and German. The archives in Pont St Martin contain photographs of the parents of Flying Officer Thomas visiting his grave in 1946. One of the photos includes the young Father Bernard Poisson. A jersey was removed from the wreckage of the plane and kept safe and was shown to Kelman’s parents and his mother identified it as one she had knitted for him herself.

P/O. George Harold Frederick Inniss. Nantes (Point-du-Cens) Communal Cemetery. Plot L. Row A. Grave 15. Further information: Born in 1917 in Barbados, the son of Charles H. Inniss and Caroline Inniss. He was an Arts Graduate of Durham University

Sgt. Frederick Arnold Colson. Nantes (Point-du-Cens) Communal Cemetery. Plot L. Row A. Joint grave 16. Further information: Born in 1923, the son of Frederick and Ada Colson and again traced through genealogy websites. Born in Norwich, Norfolk and was 18 years old when he died. He had put his age up to join the RAF.

Sgt. Jack Lewis Franco. Nantes (Point-du-Cens) Communal Cemetery. Plot L. Row A. Grave 14. Further information: Born 1917  was the son of Emile Franco and Ada Lee. Finding relatives of Sgt Franco was proving very difficult. It was discovered from passenger lists that he travelled to and from South Africa before the war and there was something found on his body, of which we are unaware, which suggested that he came from Cape Town, but unfortunately in spite of a great deal of research no relatives were found.

Researched by Pat Harris. With the search for relatives of this crew undertaken by Jonathan Ives for the Aircrew Remembered.

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History Airborne Forces •  Soviet Night Witches •  Bomber Command Memories •  Abbreviations •  Gardening Codenames
CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls
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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