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Thread: Unaccounted members 500 Sqdn, June 1940

  1. #1
    Bart FM Droog Guest

    Default Unaccounted members 500 Sqdn, June 1940

    According to the CWGC these two men belonged to 500 Squadron, Coastal Command, flying Avro Ansons. They are not mentioned in Ross McNeills CC Losses 1939-1941 (losses June 1940).

    Aircraftman 2nd Class William J. Smith, RAF (AAF) 812204, 500 Sqdn., age 27, 05/06/1940, Sittingbourne Cemetery, UK

    Sergeant (W.Op./Air Gnr.) Alexander Scott, RAFVR 759142, 500 Sqdn., age 19, 19/06/1940, Medjez-el-Bab War Cemetery, Tunisia

    Does anyone know more about these two men?

    Regards,

    bart

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    Hi Bart
    I think you question the Sqn for Alexander Scott. 500 didn't go to the Med until Nov '42 although the time of his death is right at of the end of the capture of France and he might have been taking an a/c out to the Med for another unit on the orders of OADU. Jeffords RAF Sqns makes no mention of a 500 Sqn detachment from their base at Detling. The other possibility might be that the death date is incorrect and was post Nov 42. I don't know the history of the cemetery but it might not be the first place in which he was buried. Medjez -el-Bab was not in Allied hands until early 43 and I am not sure of it's status vis-a-vis the French/Vichy French.
    Regards
    Dick

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    Come up with the following for Scott.


    18 June 1940.
    Blenheim Delivery Flight.
    Blenheim IV L9263
    Delivery Flight.

    Crew.
    S/L. G A M. Pryde DFC
    Sgt. L A. Hibbett
    Sgt. A. Scott.

    Enroute from Tangmere to Malta via Marignane, Provence. Suffered engine failure on take-off from Marignane and hit boundary fence. Not repaired before the capitulation of France.

    18 June 1940.
    Blenheim Delivery flight.
    Blenheim IV L9334.
    Op: Delivery Flight.

    Crew.
    S/D. G A M. Pryde DFC +
    Sgt. L A. Hibbett +
    Sgt. A. Scott +

    Took off 1730 hrs Marignane on the third leg of the flight to Malta. Overshot the island and on approaching the Tunisian coast crashed into the sea. The pilot and WOp/Ag were killed instantly and Sgt Hibbett died two days later. Sgt Scott is buried in Medjez-el-Bab War Cemetery. The others are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

    RAF Bomber Command Losses In the Middle East and Mediterranean. Gunby - Temple.

    Regards
    Peter
    Last edited by peter; 29th February 2008 at 12:54.

  4. #4
    Bart FM Droog Guest

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    Hello Dick,

    Well, Alexander Scott is the most puzzling of the two. But both men have my interest.

    Medjez-el-Bab can be found on Google Maps as Mejez el Bab; http://maps.google.com/maps?q=Mejez-el-Bab - I think the cemetery is a green field north of the P5, circa 3 km west of the town.

    I looked just through the cemetery register and found one other casualty from 1940:

    Lieutenant (A) John A. Robins, RN, H.M.S. "Ark Royal", age 33, 01/08/1940

    As most of the First World War casualties buried here were sailors one can assume indeed that Alexander Scott and Lt Robins were originally buried elsewhere - perhaps in one of the the two cemeteries where the First World War casualties came from, Tunis (Belvedere) Cemetery and Carthage (Basilica Karita) Cemetery. Both in coastal regions.

    It's my guess that his body drifted ashore in Tunisia. But if, as you say, 'he might have been taking an a/c out to the Med for another unit on the orders of OADU', what happened to the rest of the crew? Sgt Scott wasn't a pilot, so there must have been others.

    The two or three year mistake sounds unlikely to me - especially because of the presence of another 1940 casualty in this cemetery.

    Intrigueing enough a Bristol Bombay of 216 Sqdn crashed in or near Libya on 21/06/1940. The four crew members are buried in Knightsbridge War Cemetery, Acroma. They are:

    Flight Sergeant (Pilot) Benjamin T.M. Baker, RAF 563729, 216 Sqdn., age 27
    Leading Aircraftman Alfred F. Crohill, RAF 518932, 216 Sqdn., age unknown
    Corporal (W. Op./U/T. Air Gnr) William C. Royle, RAF 518637, 216 Sqdn., age 23
    Flight Lieutenant (Pilot) John B.W. Smith, RAF 37214, 216 Sqdn., age 26

    Could Sgt Scott have been aboard this plane? Unfortunately I know very little about this crash - but it's the only plane I know of which might be linked to Sgt Scott. On the other hand: if this plane crashed in sea, it would be unlikely that four crew members were buried in the same cemetery.

    Regards,

    Bart
    Last edited by Bart FM Droog; 29th February 2008 at 13:57. Reason: typo

  5. #5
    Bart FM Droog Guest

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    Hello Peter,

    As you were posting your reply, I was busy typing mine. So thanks, the Sgt Scott-mystery is solved. But a new mystery begins: 'Sgt Hibbett [from the Blenheim Delivery Flight] died two days later'. One would suspect he died in a hospital. Yet he has no known grave. Does anyone know why?

    Anyhow, regarding 500 Squadron:

    Aircraftman 2nd Class William J. Smith, RAF (AAF) 812204, 500 Sqdn., age 27, 05/06/1940, Sittingbourne Cemetery, UK

    What caused his death?

    Regards,

    Bart
    Last edited by Bart FM Droog; 29th February 2008 at 15:52.

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    Bombay 216 Sqn lost 21-6-1940 was serial L5850.

    Henk.

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    Bart FM Droog Guest

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    Thanks, Henk!

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    A bit late, but my father was in the Anson when Aircraftman 2nd Class William J. Smith was shot. He is currently (at the age of 92) correlating all the data relating to the incident. He is upset that a) the story circulating about the incident in the public domain is grossly incorrect and b) that William J. Smith is never mentioned. Happy to provide more info.

    Regards

    Tim

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    Hello Tim, welcome too the forum.

    Please do provide what ever information you have to set the record straight, the forum would appreciate it.

    Dennis
    Dennis Burke
    - Dublin

    Foreign Aircrew and Aircraft Ireland 1939-1945
    www.ww2irishaviation.com

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    At long last I have my father's recollections. He is now documenting other events from his RAF days. Please note that he is doing this because he feels that the death of Aircraftman 2nd Class William J. Smith has been overlooked, and also that history should represent what actually happened from his perspective.

    DUNKIRK EVACUATION 1940 (page 1)
    A Review of the Attack by Nine German Fighters on Three Anson Aircraft on June lst 1940.

    Following is the recollection of J R Watchous, wireless operator in the leading Anson N9539.MKT, with F/O Whitehead - Pilot, P/O Jones - Co Pilot and AC Smith, Air Gunner.

    We had just left the Dunkirk harbour area at about l0.30am and were flying in formation out to sea at about 100 feet when we were hit by a hail of explosive bullets, F/O Whitehead immediately dropped to wave height and the two other aircraft followed. Being in the lead aircraft it was my job to send an SOS message and I was doing this when I glanced to my right and saw a Me 109 dive into the sea about 200 yards ahead, it had clearly flown from behind and above us. The message took about 30 seconds and I then left my seat to go to a Lewis gun (a Squadron modification) that was mounted on a window frame behind my seat, but another burst of fire caused our pilot to bank sharply and I was sent sprawling on the floor. After a third burst, I reached the gun but MKH, flying close up on the port wing, obscured my sight of the fighters. I then saw AC Smith slumped in his turret and I tried to revolve the turret to attend to him, but it was jammed by his body. By this time the 109's had broken off and I went up front to tell the two pilots about Smith and that the radio had been hit, P/O Jones came back with me but we could not release Smith.

    P/O Jones then joined F/O Whitehead to help him nurse the aircraft home because it was badly damaged and was leaking fuel from the ruptured tanks. Because of the problems F/O Whitehead decided to land at Manston, about 20 miles short of Detling, and we had just got over the boundary fence when both engines failed almost simultaneously, and with the tyres damaged we came to a stop very quickly. As neither the control tower or the emergency services had seen us land I was told to run to the nearest buildings to alert them; and an ambulance and fire engine were immediately despatched. We stayed ovemight at Manston and were collected the following day.

    I estimate that the engagement lasted no longer than 90 seconds, and confirm that F/O Whitehead lead the formation before and during this period. Also that A/c Smith was killed, most probably in the first attack because he did not communicate over the intercom from the beginning. As no member of the crew of MKT, apart from Smith, had a gun sight of the fighters we could not claim a victim, but F/O Whitehead was largely responsible for saving the three aircraft

    At no time, either at Manston or at Detling was I was approached to make a statement or submit a report on the engagement.


    DUNKIRK EVACUATION I940 (Page 2)
    Operation Dynamo was the code name for the evacuation of allied soldiers cut off by the German army, and a total of 338,226 troops were evacuated from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk between May 26s and June 46 1940.

    The RAF played a very important part with Fighter Command protecting the retreating troops from the Luff:waffe, Bomber Comrnand attacking the advancing Germans and Coastal Command flying protection and reconnaissance patols over the sea.

    500 Squadron RAF based at Detling, near Maidstone, flying Avro Ansons, each with a crew of four, was heavily involved in the evacuation flying continuous patrols, code named Thistle, along the French and Dutch coasts and over the Dunkirk beaches and harbour. During May the Squadron flew 1,286 hours with some crews flying at times twice a day, with up to five hours on each trip

    On a few occasions three aircraft in formation were used so that there would be a larger concentation of bombs to attack German 'E' boats which were expected to attack our ships. Also, it was thought, the three turret guns would offer greater protection for the aircraft from German fighters

    On June 1st three Ansons took off from Detling at 0840 hrs and headed staight for Dunkirk with MKT (F/O Whitehead, P/O Jones, A/c Watchous, A/c Smith) leading the formation and MKV (P/O Peters Sgt. Spencer, A/c Pepper, A/c Smith,) on the starboard wing and MKH (Sgt. Freestone, P/O Perie, A/cFitzgerald.,A/c Chamberlain) on the port side.

    The formation, flying at a low level had made searches along the coast and further out to sea looking for survivors in the sea and in small boats boats, floating mines and for E-boats, when it was attacked by nine Me.109's. Flying Offrcer Whitehead immediately took the planes down to wave height and led them away from the coast. The attack lasted for probably less than a minute before the 109's broke off most likely because they ran out of ammunition, and the Ansons broke formation flew home independently. MKT and MKH landed at Manston, MKV, flew on to Detling. MKTs Air Gunner A/c Smith, was killed during the combat. Two Me109's were shot down.

    Later 500 Squadron was notified that the following had received the awards stated. P/O Peters DFC, Sgt. Spencer, Cpl. Smith. DFM, all from MKV, B Flight It was said that the awards were for destroying at least two German fighters, and for the moral boosting effect on the rest of the Squadron. At the time a number of national and local newspaper reported the June 1st action but strangely, none included MKT or that A/c Smith had been killed during the engagement.

    Although it caused some surprise, particularly in A Flight the incident was overtaken by
    events as the Squadron continued to carry out similar operations over the North Sea and the Channel which went on throughout the Battle of Britain.

    During this period Detling suffered three bombing raids, the second of which killed 69,
    which included the Station Commander when the Operations Room received a direct hit, and 94 personnel were injured.

    ln 1982 Meresborough Books published 'Kent's Own', The History of 500 Squadron. written by Robin J Brooks and the following is his reference to the June 1st Operation.

    “1st June arrived and started in dramatic fashion. Anson MK-V piloted by Pilot Officer Philip Peters was over a convoy in the Channel when it was attacked by nine Messerschmitt 109,s. The co-pilot Sergeant D Spencer manned one of the side guns and Leading Aircraftsman Pepper the other gun. Again the enemy over estimated the Anson's speed and shot staight past. Pilot Officer Peters hauled up the nose of the aircraft and fired the front gun. One of the 109's received a hit and dived into the sea. Leading Aircraftsman Smith in the rear turret scored another hit and another enemy plane hit the sea”

    Appendix I Letter to R J Brooks from J R Watchous and his reply.

    Appendix 2. Copy of the obituary notice for S/Ldr. Peters printed in The Daily Telegraph on January 1998 in which the following details were given.
    “On the morning of June 1st l940.Pilot Officer Peters-the most junior commissioned rank was ordered to lead a section of three Ansons of 500 (County of Kent) Royal Auxiliary Squadron to Dunkirk and then to patrol the British Expeditionary Force evacuation beaches. He was flying at 50ft above the sea when his mid-upper gunner reported that nine Me 109's were diving on the three Ansons. Peters and both his wingmen dropped to wave-top height but the other two Ansons were severely damaged in the ensuing attack and Peters sent them home leaving his aircraft at the mercy of the enemy aircraft. It was then that that Peters was grateful for his 'secret weapons' unusually, guns additional to the Anson's nose and mid-upper turret had been fitted either side of of the aircrafts many windowed ‘greenhouse’ cabin. His co-pilot and wireless operator moved to man the extra guns and also to warn of extra attacks. By throttling back and executing skid turns, Peters enabled his crew to fire on their first attacker. When the 109 did a stall turn in front of the Anson's nose. Peters finished it off with his nose gun. A second 109 was then shot down into the sea., and a third turned tail having suffered what appeared to be fatal danage. After Peters had landed at his base he found just one bullet hole in the aircraft”

    Appendix 3. Letter to The Daily Telegraph from J R Watchous with their acknowledgement.

    Appendix 4. A copy of the 500 Squadron Operation Records Book shows the following entries for June 1st 1940.
    1. The order of take off at 0834, MKT, F/O Whitehead and crew, MKV P/O Peters and crew. MKH, Sg1. Freestone and crew
    2. An operational report by MKV which included the following,
    'Attacked by nine Me 109's aircraft patrolling at 50 feet. Enemy aircraft sighted above and forward at 1000 to 1500 feet. V1500 report one Me 109 shot down and two seriously disabled. Contact was lost with T and FV500 during engagement.
    3. Entries against MKT and MKH state reports were rendered from Manston but give no details. and these reports have not been traced.
    At appendix 5 is a copy of the Combat Report dated 10th June 1940, issued by WQ Coastal Command and presumably the official report and the one release.

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