21/22.01.1044 No. 76 Squadron Halifax V LL185 MP-G Sgt. C. Walker
Date: 21/22nd January 1944 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: 76 Squadron
Type: Halifax V
Base: RAF Holme-on-Spalding Moor
Location: North Sea - west of Walcheren, Netherlands
Pilot: Sgt. Colin Walker 573551 RAFVR Age ? Missing - believed killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Frederick Hughes 1672885 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Nav: WO2. John Sutherland R/60829 RACF Age 21. Missing - believed killed
Air/Bmr: Sgt. Alec (Aleck) Abrahams 928572 RAFVR Age ? Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Peter Camino Gizzi 1434388 RAFVR Age 21. Missing - believed killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Kenneth Charles Southward 2209471 RAFVR Age ? Missing - believed killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. George Armstrong Shield 997852 RAFVR 997852 Age 23. Missing - believed killed
Page placed following research submitted to Aircrew Remembered November 2017 by Esther Harrod, niece of Sgt. Alec (Aleck) Abrahams. Further details follow.
REASON FOR LOSS:
A total of 648 aircraft took part in this first major raid of the war on the Magdeburg/Rothensee plant that produced synthetic oil from lignite coal. - 421 Lancasters, 224 Halifaxes and 3 Mosquitoes with a total loss of 8.8 per cent from the force. It is estimated that 12 bombers were shot down by Tame Boars somewhere between the German coast and Magdeburg.
The German night fighters were ready as the bomber stream had been followed by the German controllers. They were very slow though to identify the target but anyway the night fighters were in the area with the bomber stream. During the raid a huge amount of losses were experienced by the attacking group with 35 Halifaxes and 22 Lancasters lost which were mainly due to the attacking night fighters.
This huge loss was not even rewarded with a successful attack as the strong winds brought some of the force into the target area before the pathfinders and as a result 27 bombers bombed before the pathfinders had marked the area. Most of the bombing fell outside the city.
The Squadron were hard hit during this operation losing some 5 Aircraft and 4 crews, the others:
Halifax V LK922 MP-L Flown by Fl/Sgt. Henry Boyes - Killed with 3 others of hiss crew, 3 taken PoW.
Halifax V LK733 MP-B Flown by Lt. Tor Anundskås RNAF - killed with all his other 6 crew.
Halifax V LK630 MP-D Flown by F/Sgt. Eric Firth - Killed, one other crew member injured with the remaining 5 escaping injury when the aircraft crashed on take off.
Halifax V LK912 MP-N Flown by Sgt Harry William Bloomfield - Killed along with all other 6 crew members.
"My uncle - Sgt. (Alec) aleck abrahams - 76 squadron and 1663 HCU.
Alexander (Aleck) Abrahams was born on 3rd April 1921 in Blackwood, Monmouthshire to Ephraim and Esther Abrahams. His parents owned a general hardware store in the town which they had started up as newlyweds around 1900 having originated from East London. Alec was the penultimate of 13 children (the youngest being my mother born in 1924). Twelve of the children survived into adulthood – Alec was the youngest of 7 boys! All 6 of his brothers enlisted in the Army but Aleck was the only one who joined the RAFVR, and the only one who never returned.
Above: 44 Air School Grahamstown South Africa with Sgt. Alec (Aleck) Abrahams centre row, extreme right (courtesy Esther Harrod)
In Sept/Oct 1942, Alec attended a navigation and bombers course in Grahamstown, South Africa.
In 1943 he was posted to the 1663 Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Rufford in Yorkshire. On the evening of 26th Nov 1943, Alec's crew, Sgt Colin Walker (Pilot); Sgt Frederick Hughes (Flight Eng from Liverpool); Sgt John Sutherland (Navigator of the RCAF from New York City); Sgt Peter Carmino Gizzi (WOp/Air/Gnr from Rhyl, Wales); Sgt Kenneth Charles Southward and Sgt George Armstrong Shield from Northumberland, (both Air Gunners), flew out on Halifax EB183 from Rufforth airfield. In the process of taking off at 20.00 hrs to undertake a training flight, as the aircraft picked up speed on the runway, a swing developed. The plane left the runway, crossed the grass and struck a pile of rubble which removed the Halifax’s undercarriage. Two members of the crew sustained minor injuries (Sgt Walker and Sgt Shield). A couple of months after this incident, on 8 January 1944, the crew were assigned to 76 Squadron at Holme on Spalding Moor.
At 20.00 hours on 20th January 1944, the crew flew from their base in a Halifax V LL.185 (“G”) on what was to be their first and last operation for 76 Squadron Their mission was to bomb Magdeburg. Tragically the plane crashed into the North Sea on its return journey. The aircraft went down West of Walcheren off the Dutch coast. The Ops sheet read: “Aircraft missing. Last message received at 04:45 hours (21 Jan) that the aircraft was being ditched. No further news” It turned out to be a terrible night for 76 Squadron with a total of 5 planes lost.
My Uncle’s body sadly remained in the water until 2 May. He would have been 24 on 3rd April. His body was washed up at a beach near Horntje and he is buried in Den Burg cemetery on Texel Island, Holland (K Row 7, Plot 154). Fred Hughes was washed up on the beach at Wissekerke on 16 March and is buried in Kamperland General Cemetery in Zeeland, Holland (Row VR, Grave 5). The other five members of the crew have no known grave and are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. Alec is commemorated on the War Memorial in his home town of Blackwood."
Sgt. Colin Walker. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 239. Next of kin details not available - we hope to add details shortly.
Sgt. Frederick Hughes. Kamperland General Cemetery. Row VR. Grave 5. Son of John and May Hughes, of Princes Park, Liverpool, England.
WO2. John Sutherland. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 254. Born on the 21st August 1913 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Son of Benjamin and Henrietta Sutherland and husband of Helen M. Sutherland, whose last know address was in New York City, USA.
Sgt. Alec (Aleck) Abrahams. Texel Cemetery (Den Burg). Plot K. Row 7. Grave 154. Son of Ephraim and Esther Abrahams, of Blackwood, Monmouthshire, Wales.(Right)
Sgt. Peter Camino Gizzi. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 230. Born in Wales 1923, father was from a small village outside Naples, mother from Wales, the son of Joseph C. and Sarah E. Grizzi, of Rhyl, Flintshire, Wales.
Sgt. Kenneth Charles Southward. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 238. Next of kin details not available - we hope to add details shortly.
Sgt. George Armstrong Shield. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 237. Son of George Armstrong Shield, and of Eleanor Jane Shield, of Haltwhistle, Northumberland, England.
Researched by Esther Harrod and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to sources as quoted below. Also, our thanks to Wouter van Dijken, volunteer for Find A Grave, for grave photo of Sgt. Alec (Aleck) Abrahams. With thanks also to the family of Sgt. Gizzi for photograph. Thanks to John Jones for the correction to WO2 Sutherland's Next of Kin details.