75 (NZ) Squadron Stirling III EF408 Fl/Sgt. Benjamin Brinley Wood
Date: 22/23rd June 1943 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
Unit: No. 75 (NZ) Squadron 3 Group (motto: Ake ake kia kaha - 'For ever and ever be strong')
Type: Stirling III
Base: RAF Newmarket, Suffolk
Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Benjamin Brinley Wood 656588 RAF Age? Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Stanley Lawrence Webb 1266998 RAFVR Age 33. Killed
Nav: Fl/Sgt. George King Samson NZ/402563 RNZAF Age 27. Killed
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Stuart Richard Bisset NZ/415738 RNZAF Age 20. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Edgar Henry Reader 1331432 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Frederick Johns Hobbs 1609558 RAFVR Age? Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Cyril Benjamin Hemmings 1235070 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 23.40 hrs from RAF Newmarket in Suffolk to bomb the German city of Mülheim - a bomber force made up of 242 Lancasters, 155 Halifaxes, 93 Stirlings, 55 Wellingtons, and 12 Mosquitoes - 557 bomber aircraft in total. Supported by 22 Fighter Command intruders. The night was clear with a bright moonlit sky.
The city was seriously damaged, the bombing had cut all communications with Oberhausen, which Mülheim was linked for air-raid purposes. No one could get through, not even cyclists, the only possible way in which they could communicate was with foot messengers.
The total damage was reported as 578 people killed on the ground, 1,174 injured. 1,135 houses were destroyed with a further 12,637 damaged. Various other buildings were hit including 41 public buildings, 27 schools, 17 churches, and 6 hospitals. It has been reported that 64% of the town was destroyed.
This came at a huge loss to the allies with 35 aircraft being lost. 202 aircrew killed, 34 being made PoW. with 3 aircrews evading capture.
75 Squadron were particularly hard hit on this operation, losing some 4 aircraft with crews, the others being:
Stirling III BK810 AA-G, Flown by P/O. Francis Max McKenzie RNZAF. Killed with one other crew member, 5 being made PoW.
Stirling I EF399 AA-0, Flown by Fl/Sgt. Kenneth Alfred Burbidge RNZAF. Killed with all other six crew.
Stirling III EH889 AA-Z, Flown by Fl/Lt. Thomas Fraser McCrorie RAFVR. Killed with all other six crew.
EF408 was hit by flak some 20 km. northeast of the target crashing at Gelsenkirchen at 01:35 hrs. All the crew were killed and buried initially at Gelsenkirchen Bismarck Cemetery but later reinterred as shown below.
Fl/Sgt. Samson escaped injury in an earlier incident when Stirling III BF455 with 75 squadron ditched in the Channel. Some of that crew were also killed on this operation on Stirling III EH889 AA-Z.
Fl/Sgt. Benjamin Brinley Wood. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Collective grave 19.G.4-6. Born in 1919 in New Tredegar, Wales. Lived in Jersey in the Channel Islands and worked at La Motte Garage as a mechanic prior to service. Trained as a Cadet Pilot at the Dart School of Aeronautics, Albany, Georgia, USA. He married Sadie on the 13th of April 1943. No further details - are you able to assist?
The garage on Jersey where Fl/Sgt. Wood was working. Shown in 1958.
Sgt. Stanley Lawrence Webb. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 19.G.3. Son of George William and Lily Matilda Webb and husband of Violet Eileen Webb, of Northolt Park, Greenford, Middlesex, England. Grave inscription: 'In Proud And Loving Memory Of Our Dear Stanley'.
Fl/Sgt. George King Samson. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Collective grave 19.G.4-6. Born on the 05th January 1916 at Gisborne. Worked as a sheep farmer for Daniel Ridiford of Te Awaiti Station prior to service. Served 2 and half years in the territorial army. Enlisted in the RNZAF as a pilot under training on the 10th of July 1940. Flying training at No. 3 Elementary Flying Training School. Pilot training terminated on the 19th of January 1941. Began training as a navigator on the following day.
Above: On left, Fl/Sgt. George King Samson with P/O. John Mathers Bailey NZ/412183 admiring his 'Goldfish' badge at RAF Newmarket. P/O. Bailey survived the war but died at the young age of 53 on the 02nd November 1967. (Courtesy Air Force Museum of New Zealand)
Embarked for Canada on the 27th of February 1941. Observer badge awarded and promoted to sergeant on the 22nd July 1941. Embarked for England on the 28th of August 1941. Further training with 11 Operational Training Unit commencing 30th September 1941. On the 04th October 1942 further training with 1651 Heavy Conversion Unit at Waterbeach. Finally joining 75 (NZ) Squadron on the 28th of November 1942. Son of Walter (died on the 16th May 1931, aged 56) and Margaret Mary Samson (née Hooper - died 22nd October 1943, age 67), of Wellington City, New Zealand. A total of 230 flying hours logged and on his 14th operational sortie.
Fl/Sgt. Stuart Richard Bisset. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Collective grave 19.G.4-6. Born on the 23rd October 1922 at Kaitaia. A clerical cadet for the Public Works Department at Whangarei. Enlisted at Levin on the 19th October 1941 as a pilot under training with No. 4 Elementary Flying Training School. Pilot training terminated on the 30th of December 1941. Began training as a navigator on the 26th of January 1942. Embarked for Canada on the 02nd March 1942. Observer badge awarded and promoted to sergeant on the 06th November 1942.
Embarked for England via New York on the 23rd November 1942. On the 29th December 1942 further training with 1651 Heavy Conversion Unit at Waterbeach. Finally joining 75 (NZ) Squadron on the 15th of May 1943. Son of Alexander (died 22nd November 1959, age 74) and Aline Constance Bisset (née Rutledge - died 05th March 1983, age 88), of Kaitaia, Auckland, New Zealand. A total of 301 flying hours logged and on his 6th operational sortie.
Sgt. Edgar Henry Reader. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 19.G.3. Also remembered on the grave of Fred and Emma Warren at St Peter & Mary Magdalene Churchyard Extensionin Soham (not sure of connection). Enlisted in January 1941. Trained at No.1 Signal School Cranwell, then to No. 2 Signal School Yatesbury and 3 Air Gunner School Castle Kennedy. Posted to 12 Operational Training Unit at Chipping Warden in October 1942. On the 12th April 1943 further training with 1651 Heavy Conversion Unit at Waterbeach. Finally joining 75 (NZ) Squadron on the 14th of May 1943. Son of Henry John and Ethel May Reader (née Warren), of Station Cottages, Fordham, Cambridgeshire, England.Grave inscription: 'We Thank Our God For Every Remembrance Of Him'.
Sgt. Frederick Johns Hobbs. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 19.G.2. Thought to have been from Bath, Somerset, England. No other details - are you able to assist?
Sgt. Cyril Benjamin Hemmings. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 19.G.7. No further details - are you able to assist?
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to the extensive research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland Library Heritage Collection, Weekly News of New Zealand, The wonderful blog of '75 (NZ) Squadron', Jerripedia, Theo Boiten Nachtjagd Combat Archives 1943, volume 2, other sources as quoted below: