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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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431 Squadron Crest
16/17.06.1944 431 (Iroquois) Sqn, RCAF Halifax III LK837 SE:L Fg Off. Johnson

Operation: Sterkrade

Date: 16/17th June 1944 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit: 431 (Iroquois) Sqn, RCAF

Type: Halifax III

Serial: LK837

Code: SE:L

Base: RAF Croft, Yorkshire

Location: Meijel, Netherlands

Pilot: Fg Off. Elmer Orville Johnson J19424 RCAF Age 26. Killed

Flt Eng: Sgt Donald Shenton 1186790 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

Nav: Fg Off. Richard Charles Banning Garrity J20923 RCAF Evaded capture (1)

Bomb Aimer: Fg Off. Rowland Woolley Jones 151373 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

WOp/Air Gnr: Plt Off. William Risden Chapman 175750 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Air Gnr: Sgt Edward Calvin Green R152029 RCAF Age 21. Killed

Air Gnr: Sgt. Vernon Patrick Obright R197080 RCAF Age 21. Killed

Standing L to R: Sgt. Walter Thorn, Plt Off Willian 'Bill' R. Chapman, Sgt. Vernon P. O’Bright: Seated L to R: Sgt Donald Shenton, Fg Off Elmer O. Johnson, Fg Off Richard C.B. Garrity, Sgt. Gordon B. 'Joe’ Josie.

In early June, Sgt. 'Joe' Josie volunteered to fly with another crew to replace a sick crewman and was permanently replaced by Fg Off Rowland W. Jones. On the day of the fateful mission Sgt.. Edward C. Green replaced Sgt. Walter Thorn. (Credit: Stephen H Garrity)

REASON FOR LOSS:

Taking off from RAF Croft in Yorkshire at 23:14 hrs. joining 320 aircraft raid on the Sterkrade synthetic-oil plant in Northern Germany. 162 Halifaxes, 147 Lancasters and 14 Mosquitoes left to find the target area covered by a thick cloud and the markers dropped by the pathfinders very quickly disappeared. The main bomber force could do very little but bomb the demising glow of the markers through the cloud.

RAF photographic reconnaissance and the German reports agree that the bombing was scattered, although some bombs did hit the oil plant. This had little effect on production. 21 Germans were killed on the ground and a further 6 foreign workers. 18 Houses were destroyed.

The loss to the allies was huge with a total of 21 bombers shot down by the German night fighters and another 10 by flak. This amounted to 159 aircrew being killed, 53 being made PoW. Flak batteries reported that a total of 14,244 rounds were fired at the bomber stream.

Original intelligence reports gave credit to Hptm. Günther Wagner of 7./NJG2 as the pilot that shot down the aircraft. However, post war research by Fg Off Garrity revealed that the aircraft was shot down by Haupt. Heinz Strüning with his navigator, Sergeant Apel.


Note: Nachtjagd Combat Archive (12 May 1944 - 23 July 1944) Part 3 - Theo Boiten) has Hptm. Hein Strüning from 3./NJG1 claiming 550 Sqn Lancaster LM134 and Hptm. Günther Wagner from 7./NJG2 claimed 431 Sqn Halifax LK837 as a probable.



(1) Fg Off. Richard Garrity evaded capture and returned to RAF Northolt on the 7th September 1944. After the war he returned to his home in Point Claire, Quebec, Canada. The following video retells the events leading up to the aircraft loss and his Escape & Evasion in his own words. (Credit: Stephen H Garrity)

A comprehensive account of Fg Off Garrity’s Escape and Evasion can be viewed here. ’Into their midst’ was created by Stephen H. Garrity, the son of Fg Off Garrity and pays tribute to his father’s remarkable story and that of the helpers (Resistance) who risked their lives in helping his safe return to England. (Credit: Stephen H Garrity)

Burial details:

Fg Off. Elmer Orville Johnson. Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. Grave X.11.F.9. Son of Benjamin Franklin and Zella Allred Johnson and husband of Beryl Gwendoline Johnson of Sanderstead, Surrey, England. Grave inscription reads: “He That Believeth On Me, Hath Everlasting Life”.

Plt Off. Donald Shenton. Jonkerbos War Cemetery. Collective Grave 12.F.2-3. Born on the 28th August 1915 in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire. Son of Harold and Hannah (née Grummett) Shenton. Husband to Violet M. (née Jones) Shenton of Warwickshire, England.

1186790 Sgt Shenton was commissioned and promoted to Plt Off (177165) with effect 9th June 1944. London Gazette 21st July 1944.

Fg Off. Rowland Woolley Jones. Jonkerbos War Cemetery. Collective Grave 12.F.2-3. Born in 1924 in Surrey, England.

Originally posted to 431 Squadron on the 18th September 1943 as a member of the Craig crew, with whom he flew 13 operations. Rowland joined the Johnson crew after their regular bomb aimer, Plt Off Gordon Beverley Jose J85356 RCAF was killed while serving as a mid under gunner with the Artyniuk crew during an operation to Versailles on June 7/8th - Halifax III MZ602 SE:U)

Plt Off. William Risden Chapman. Jonkerbos War Cemetery. Collective Grave 12.F.2-3. Son of William and Elizabeth Ruth Chapman of Cheam, Surrey, England. Grave inscription reads: “Forever In Our Thought, Au Revoir”.

Plt Off Edward Calvin Green. Jonkerbos War Cemetery. Grave 12.F.1. Born 18th November 1923 in Galt, Ontario. Son of Jas Gordon Cameron and Jessie Viola (née Walker) Green of of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Sgt Green was commissioned and promoted to Plt Off with Service No. J90088 with effect 15th June 1944

Plt Off. Vernon Patrick Obright. Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. Grave X.11.F.10. Born 11th November 1922 in Ontario. Son of Wifred and Magdalene (née Miller) Obright from Ontario, Canada.

Posthumously commissioned and promoted to Plt Off with Service No. J90421.

Researched for Aircrew Remembered by Linda Ibrom - June 2017 and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Claire Jones, sister in law of Fg Off. Jones. Also our thanks to the Canadian Virtual War Memorial for photograph of Sgt. Obright. Page originally placed with Matt Lacroix running the great Bomber crew website - now updated with further information and operation details. Special thanks to Stephen H. Garrity for his kind permission for access to his research materials and web site. Thanks to John Jones for the reference to the Nachtjagd Combat Archive (Apr 2021). Other update to the narrative by Aircrew Remembered (Apr 2021).

RS 11.04.2021 - Note regarding Nachtjagd Combat Archive disparity and other updates

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', 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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