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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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431 Squadron Crest
27/28.04.1944 431 Squadron Halifax III MZ529 SE:E Plt.Off. Woodrow

Operation: Montzen

Date: 27/28th April 1944 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: 431 Squadron

Type: Halifax III

Serial: MZ529

Code: SE:E

Base: RAF Croft, Yorkshire

Location: Blauberg, Belgium

Pilot: Plt.Off. William Edwin Woodrow J19650 RCAF Age 32. Killed

Flt.Eng: Plt.Off. Donald Harrison C85357 RCAF Age 25. Wounded - Evaded capture (1)

Nav: Fg.Off. Wesley R. Knowlton J22596 RCAF Evaded capture (2)

Air Bmr: Plt.Off. John J. Lyng J25542 RCAF PoW No: 6303 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria (3)

WOp/Air Gnr: Fg.Off. Leslie Lester Anderson DFM. J18158 RCAF PoW No: 5976 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria (4)

Air Gnr: Sgt. Albert Lloyd Gabel R184187 RCAF Age 22. Killed

Air Gnr: Sgt. Robert Harold Aiano 1434385 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Air Gnr: Sgt. Royal Edwin Hazael R187722 RCAF Age 20. Killed

REASON FOR LOSS:

Taking off from RAF Croft in Yorkshire at 23:35 hrs on an operation to bomb the the rail yards at Montzen.

The “Transportation Plan” was just part of an overall Allied air campaign to completely destroy the transportation system in France and Belgium. The campaign was highly successful. The German military’s transportation capability was severely degraded by D-Day on the 06th June 1944.

Very little flak was encountered. The first wave of bombers reached the target without fighter opposition but later waves were attacked as they crossed Holland and Belgium.The first part of the return route was free of opposition, but several encounters occurred from St. Trond to half way across the North Sea. A Halifax destroyed a Ju. 88.

15 aircraft (10.4 per cent) were lost, nearly all to fighters. Only one was seen destroyed by flak, S. of Liege. Fighter losses were reported as follows: 3 between Asch and Maastricht, 3 over the target, 3 between St. Trond and E. of Antwerp and one over the Dutch coast.

Damage was mostly confined to the eastern half of the yards, which includes the reception and storage sidings, engine sheds, custom sheds and goods depot. All were severely damaged. Tracks and rolling stock in this area were seriously affected.

A terrible night of losses from Bomber Command who carried out 3 main operations to Friedrichshafen, Aulnoye and Monzen. Another 159 OTU aircraft took part in a diversionary sweep over the North Sea. 18 Lancasters were lost on the Friedrichshafen raid, 1 lost on the Aulnoye raid with 14 Haifaxes and 1 Lancaster lost on this Montzen operation. 35 aircraft lost this single night!

The night fighters continued to attack the bomber stream all the way back - claiming a further 14 aircraft. The allied had the misfortune that several night fighter aces had gathered for a meeting at St. Trond the previous day were scrambled against the forces it passed overhead on its return track.

MZ529 was claimed by Lt Ernst-Otto Hoevermann Stab III/NJG2 - 30km East of Brussels: 4,900m at 02:01. (Nachtjagd Combat Archives 1944 Part 2 - Theo Boiten).

Halifax MZ529 was one of the few aircraft that carried an additional turret and air gunner to counteract the Luftwaffe Schräge Musik (upward-firing canon)

(1) Plt.Off. Harrision was wounded in the arm and baled out north of Diest at around 00:10 hrs on 28 April. Having landed safely a man took him in and bandaged his arm then gave him something to eat. He provided him with civilian clothes pointed out a road to take. Walking through the night he reached Diest at about 06:30 hrs. To the citizens of that town his identity was obvious, and on the road south to Tirlemont (Tienen) he was picked up by a member of the local Resistance group. He spent the night in Tirlemont and the next 3 days in three different houses.
For the next ten weeks he stayed in 4 villages, all close together, halfway between Tirlemont and Diest; Glabbeek (six days), Meensel (ten days), Attenrode (six weeks) and, finally, Wever (two weeks). It was well into July when, wearing the uniform of a gendarme, he was driven by four other gendarmes to Brussels, some 40km to the west. At the end of the month he was taken by car to a place just outside Namur. After two nights he was given a bicycle and a guide, and two days later reached a camp in the Ardennes Forest.

At the beginning of August 1944 Plt.Off. Harrision eventually arrived at the operation "Marathon" camp at la Cornette/Bellevaux, some 20km south of Porcheresse and 6km north of Bouillon, also close to the border with France. On the 8th September the camp was liberated by US Ground forces and 4 days later he was flown back to England (Based on an extract from "RAF Evaders" - Oliver Clutton-Brock)

(2) Fg.Off. Knowlton returned to UK from Brussels on the 11th September 1944 after being liberated.

(3) Plt.Off. John Lyng was arrested on 20th May in Brussels while Plt.Off. Anderson RCAF was taken at Antwerpen. The latter with Sgt.Lynch of 100 Squadron, had been betrayed by the infamous double agent, code named Donald.

(4) DFM: R101990 Sgt. Leslie Lester Anderson, No. 426 (RCAF) Squadron.

Citation: One night in April, 1943, Pilot Officer Laskey and Sergeant Anderson were bomb aimer and wireless operator respectively of an aircraft detailed to attack Kiel. Whilst over the target area, the aircraft was hit by Flak which damaged the rear turret, trapping the gunner. By a strenuous effort, Pilot Officer Laskey was able to move the turret sufficiently to enable the gunner to free himself. Afterwards, the target was successfully bombed but, almost immediately, the aircraft was attacked by an enemy fighter, and sustained further damage. In spite of this the pilot attempted to fly the damaged bomber back to this country. During the flight, Pilot Officer Laskey and Sergeant Anderson rendered much assistance but their efforts were unavailing. The aircraft came down on to the sea and, after 5 hours drifting on an overturned dinghy, Pilot Officer Laskey and Sergeant Anderson, the only 2 survivors, were picked up. Both displayed great courage and fortitude in very trying circumstances.

The Squadron lost 4 crews on this operation, the others:

Halifax III MZ536 SE:F Flown by 23 year old, Plt.Off. John Gilson J88963 RCAF from Saskatchewan, Canada - killed with all 7 other crew.
Halifax IIII LK842 SE:N Flown by 1st Lt. John H. Earman US AAF from Harrisonburg, Virginia USA, killed with 3 other crew, 3 taken PoW.
Halifax III MZ522 SE:U Flown by Flt.Lt. Jack M. Hill J7761 RCAF evaded capture with 5 other crew, 2 taken PoW.

Burial details:

Those who died were buried on the 29th April at Antwerpen-Deurne, since when their bodies have been reinterred at the cemetery at Schoonselhof.

Plt.Off. William Edwin Woodrow. Schoonselhof Cemetery. Grave IVa.D.35. Born 10th August 1912 in Manitoba. Son of Fred and Bertha F. Woodrow and husband of Frances L. Woodrow, of Eastview, Ontario, Canada. Grave inscription reads: “To Live In The Hearts Of Those We Leave Behind Is Not To Die”.

Plt.Off. Albert Lloyd Gabel. Schoonselhof Cemetery. Grave IVa.D.33. Born 9th February 1922 in Sault Sre.,Marie, Ontario. Son of John and Lillian Gabel, of 366 Hudson Street, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. Grave inscription reads: “The Battle's O'er, The Victory's Won, Peace At Last”. Posthumously commissioned on the 26th April 1944 and promoted to Plt.Off. with Service No. J88608.

Sgt. Robert Harold Aiano. Schoonselhof Cemetery. Grave IVa.D.32. Son of Harold Aiano, and of Edith Kate Aiano, of Margate. Grave inscription reads: “The Will Be Done”.

Plt.Off. Royal Edwin Hazael. Schoonselhof Cemetery. Grave IVa.D.34. Born 18th December 1922 in Kingsville, Ontario. Son of Mary Hazael, of Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Born in Kingsville, Ontario on the eighteenth of December 1922, Royal was the eldest son and had two brothers and two sisters. Grave inscription reads: “Sleep On, Dear Son, And Take Your Rest,They Miss You Most Who Loved You Best. Mother”. Posthumously commissioned on the 26th April 1944 and promoted to Plt.Off. with Service No. J88609.

Researched by Linda Ibrom for Aircrew Remembered - July 2017 and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Nicola O'Riordan Finlay for photograph of Sgt. Robert Harold Aiano. Thanks also to David McLay for his research into this operation and David Champion. Also to Francois Dutil. Other sources as quoted. Thanks to John Jones for the German fighter claim information and citation for Plt.Off. Anderson.

RS 21.07.2020 - Addition of Fighter claim, DFM Citation and update on evader information

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Acknowledgements
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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