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Thread: 83 Squadron - RAF - Avro Manchester Mk.I - R5779 OL-G - Hoogersmilde - 9th March 1942

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    Default 83 Squadron - RAF - Avro Manchester Mk.I - R5779 OL-G - Hoogersmilde - 9th March 1942

    L.S.,

    Missing Full names, crew position known ?

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    83 Squadron - RAF
    Avro Manchester Mk.I - R5779 OL-G - Hoogersmilde - 9th March 1942 - Mission: Essen
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    988241 - 60121 - F/O Pilot - Robert Ward Cooper - RAFVR - Age 24 - KIA
    1057893 - Sgt. - Pilot - James Thomson Heggie Mowat - RAFVR - Age 18 - KIA
    913609 - Sgt. - Observer - Michael John Carlton Cross - RAFVR - Age 22 - KIA
    1310838 - Sgt. - W.Op./Air Gnr. - George William Dalby - RAFVR - Age 21 - KIA
    749326 - Sgt. - Air Gunner - Charles Broad - RAFVR - Age 21 - KIA
    628343 - Sgt. - ........ - A. F. Key - RAF - Age .. - POW
    1252286 - Sgt. - ........ - G. W. Rex - RAF - Age .. - POW
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    PATS - Vollenhove - The Netherlands

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    Hi
    From Chorley-Bomber Command Losses Vol 3,this a/c ,from 83 Sqn based at Scampton, was shot down by a nightfighter of II/Njg 2 flown by Ofw Paul Gildner. Chorley gives a crew list in a set order and it is possible to identify the crew function on each flight(he does,however, state that his sources can be misleading).The names are as you have them but Mowat was flying as Flt/Eng at the time, Dalby was flying as Air Bomber(Bombaimer),Broad was the W/op,Kay the Mid-Upper gunner and Rex the Tail gunner.The last 4 were probably trained as W/op-Airgunners and wore the AG Badge, their position in the crew would have been decided by the Sqn.There were only 7 on the a/c which was the normal crew for a Manchester so whilst it seems unusual for a qualified pilot to be used as a Flt/Eng it was not impossible and the 7 total suggests that if he was a pilot Mowat was not simply gaining experience before taking his own crew on ops but Mowats age is very young so we can't entirely rule out that the Sqn were feeding him in slowly and using him as the Flt/Eng whilst they did so. I don't have any info on the missing names.
    Regards
    Dick

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    Default R5779 ol-g

    Dick,

    Thanks for these five crew positions.

    Likely for G.W. REX >>>> Gerald W. Rex - 5 options @ FreeBMD -
    Likely for A. F. KEY >>>> Arthur F. Key - 2 options @ FreeBMD -

    regards PATS
    PATS - Vollenhove - The Netherlands

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    Dear PATS
    I hope the following may put the names right (Alfred Key and George Rex). It also gives crew positions. It is taken from the Squadron history. "83 Squadron 1917 -1969" by Ronald Low and Frank Harper ISBN 1 900604 05 1
    I hope you enjoy it.
    Best wishes
    James

    The targets selected during the remainder of March and April (1942) were nearly all heavily defended, and eight Manchesters from the squadron failed to return from operations. One of those missing aircraft was R5779 flown by Flying Officer R Cooper. At 00.15 hours on 9th March he took off from Scampton to attack Essen. Over Holland the aircraft was attacked by Oberfeld webel Paul Gildner, a pilot of a night fighter from the base at Leeuwarden. The Manchester was hit from below and burst into flames. A second attack came from the rear, and the order was given by Bob Cooper to the crew, to bale out.
    Air Gunner Alfred Key describes his miraculous escape as the aircraft plummeted to the ground.
    “I was in the mid –upper turret. This came about because Bob Cooper suggested that instead of the rear Gunner doing the evasion action, the mid-upper should give the instructions. Charlie Broad who was the nid-upper man wasn’t too keen on this, so we changed places and he took over the rear turret. Sadly he lost his life because of this change.
    At the time we were attacked I had my guns facing forward. Suddenly I saw ‘flaming onions’ coming up in front of us, and although Bob put the plane into a steep bank (we were literally standing on our starboard wing-tip). I swear the aircraft never budged an inch off course and we flew straight into it. The front of my turret was shot away completely, taking all the hydraulics with it, thus rendering my turret useless, and I had not fired a single shot! I later found a large piece of shrapnel in my flying boot.
    When I looked down, the inside of the fuselage was burning fiercely, so I up-ended my seat and slid down, grabbed a fire extinguisher and with the help of the Wireless Operator, George Darlby, we managed to put the fire out. I then sat down on the steps at the rear of the bomb bay. I had just remarked to George that we’d have a line to shoot when we got back, when we were hit again. This time the fire was in the bomb bay and we were helpless. The aircraft filled with smoke and flames. George went to get his parachute on and then I found that owing to the smoke and flames I could not locate the escape hatch, and I felt trapped!
    Suddenly, much to my surprise, when I thought my number was up I became very calm. I then thought about Charlie Broad who had taken my spot (he was a great friend of mine). I decided to see if I could reach the rear to see if he was okay. I took a couple of paces and fell through the floor! My chute was knocked off my chest and I had to pull it down by the harness to reach the rip cord. By the time I got it I was very near to the ground. Almost as soon as the chue opened I hit the frozen ground with an almighty bang.
    It was such an impact that I lay for what seemed ages before I could move, the blood pounding through my veins. I then forced myself from the harness but when I tried to stand I found I had injured my leg. Funnily enough I cannot recollect any pain. That came later: I lay for some time listening to the aircraft passing overhead, and might add that I did not hear any German engines. I managed to crawl to the hedge and could see our aircraft burning in the next field. There were quite a few people around it and I watched hoping to see one of the lads, which was really stupid of me; nobody could have survived from that. I have never felt so lonely in my life.
    Suddenly someone began to speak, in Dutch I suppose, but at that time I thought it was German. Anyway, I tensed up expecting a bayonet in the back for some reason, but when I finally turned around it was a civilian on a bike. Hew sat me on it and wheeled me to a nearby farmhouse. They gave me food and drink and then sent for the police who took me to the local police station. The Chief of Police arrived and he had some maps, a compass and food, but when he found I could not walk he suggested, with my permission, he would hand me over to thew Germand and at the same time get me to hospital to have my leg doctored. My leg had now swollen so badly that they had to cut my trouser leg away and I was in agony. They poured numbing fluid over the leg which after a while eased considerably.
    I was taken to a Luftwaffe camp and placed in solitary confinement. The Luftwaffe chaps were quite decent but their army fellows were real pigs. While being questioned I was informed that a pilot had been decorated for shooting us down but I am still convinced it was flak that brought us down.”

    Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, George Rex, was flying as front gunner that night and with the front compartment a mass of flames, he opened the escape hatch and parachuted out. The time was 02.20 hours. They were the only two to escape from the doomed aircraft. The other five men were killed and buried at Hoogersmilde.
    George Rex came down in a snow covered wood and his only injuries being slight burns to the hand and around his eyebrows. He came down in a thinly populated area to the west of Smilde Vaart. He set off westward hoping to get aboard a ship in the Zuider Zee or a North Sea port. He trudged until daylight and rested in a hut until the evening. As darkness fell he continued his trek, now and again seeing people in the distance. H followed a canal into a village and passed several people. Outside the village he approached three Dutchmen and with gestures and simple English he got over to them that he was a shot down British airman. One of the men walked off and returned with milk and cheese sandwiches. Rex shook hands with his benefactors and continued on his way. The next day he met a group of children, the eldest offered Rex his old bike. The lad was crippled and the rear had no tyre and was ridden on the rim, so the offer was declined and Rex walked on.
    The boy with the bike caught up with him and took Rex to his parent’s home where he was made welcome, given food and drink and a bed, in which he quickly fell asleep. When the boy’s father, Hendrik David Nylalt returned, he took Rex to the village policeman, Faber (who was involved with the Resistance). Unfortunately Rex was picked up by the Chief Constable and handed over to the Germans. Yaken first to a Luftwaffe night-fighter base, then a prison in Amsterdam and then to Dulag Luft, where he arrived on 13th March. He was kept in solitary confinement for a week during which time he was told that his friend, sergeant Key had also been taken prisoner. They met up in a prisoner of war camp where they were held for the remainder of the war.
    (83 Squadron book, p 57-8)

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    Hi Pats
    With James' very full post you can see the problem that Chorley mentions in his books of being sure exactly where each crew member went. After a time the front guns of the heavies were not specifically manned, but could be used by the Bomb Aimer, but from James' info it seems that 3 gun positions were manned and it was likely that the Observer went forward to aim the bombs as had been the practice when the earlier bombers,Whitley,Wellington and Hampden were the front line. I would suggest that James' info is probably more accurate although there is no mention of Mowat by which we could work out if he was a pilot or not.
    Regards
    Dick

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    Default R5779 OL-G - names KEY and REX -

    Hi James,

    Thanks for this full report for the crew positions and the names of Alfred KEY and George REX

    Hendrik David Nylalt >>>> likely Hendrik David NIJLAND
    Policeman Faber >>>> which village in Province of Drenthe or Friesland ???
    Night-fighter base >>>> ??? Leeuwarden or Havelte ???

    Info for the above names and places is welcome anytime.

    ...........................
    The boy with the bike caught up with him and took Rex to his parent's home where he was made welcome, given food and drink and a bed, in which he quickly fell asleep. When the boy's father, Hendrik David Nylalt returned, he took Rex to the village policeman, Faber (who was involved with the Resistance). Unfortunately Rex was picked up by the Chief Constable and handed over to the Germans. Taken first to a Luftwaffe night-fighter base, then a prison in Amsterdam and then to Dulag Luft, where he arrived on 13th March. He was kept in solitary confinement for a week during which time he was told that his friend, sergeant Key had also been taken prisoner. They met up in a prisoner of war camp where they were held for the remainder of the war.
    (83 Squadron book, p 57-8)
    Squadron history. "83 Squadron 1917 -1969" by Ronald Low and Frank Harper ISBN 1 900604 05 1
    ..........................
    PATS - Vollenhove - The Netherlands

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    Dear Dick and PATS
    I have only provided what has been provided by a survivor and written in a book. As I am sure we are all aware that just because something has been written in a book or on the web, it does not mean that it is true, though there is a high percentace probability on an occassion such as this as being shot down, these things would be seared on your memory. Crew changes within an aircraft may be unknown to anyone outside the airframe.
    I'm sorry but I do not know anything else about the Dutch people involved.

    Oliver Clutton-Brock recorded in his book "Footprints on the Sands of Time" RAF Bomber Command Prisoners of War in Germany 1939 - 1945 ISBN 1-904010-35-0:
    Key AF Sgt 83 Squadron Manchester R5779 8/3/42 Essen 8B/344 Pow no 24835 (Footprints p 335)
    Rex GW Sgt 83 Squadron Manchester R5779 8/3/42 Essen 8B/344 Pow no 24838 (Footprints p 390)

    I think your website is great PATS, you should ask Ross about putting a link through from here.
    Best wishes
    James

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    Forumites,
    Another vivid account of what it was like flying with Bomber Command in 1942, and in the ill-starred Manchester at that. And once again the problem of sorting out crew postions. On this point I can only add that there were no Air Bombers in March 1942, and so far as I know, no Flight Engineers either, as the observer undertook both navigation and bomb aiming as well as being a qualified air gunner. However a second pilot was usually carried on Manchesters I believe (and Wellingtons, etc), which should give a six-man crew, and he could act as a pilots' assistant. The reason for a 7th man on board was I believe the then practice of carrying three air gunners on these aircraft, one per turret, despite fact that both the wireless operator and observer were also trained gunners. Wellingtons at this time had a six man crew, not having a mid-upper turrt of course.
    David D

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    Default George Dalby

    Quote Originally Posted by Dick View Post
    Hi
    From Chorley-Bomber Command Losses Vol 3,this a/c ,from 83 Sqn based at Scampton, was shot down by a nightfighter of II/Njg 2 flown by Ofw Paul Gildner. Chorley gives a crew list in a set order and it is possible to identify the crew function on each flight(he does,however, state that his sources can be misleading).The names are as you have them but Mowat was flying as Flt/Eng at the time, Dalby was flying as Air Bomber(Bombaimer),Broad was the W/op,Kay the Mid-Upper gunner and Rex the Tail gunner.The last 4 were probably trained as W/op-Airgunners and wore the AG Badge, their position in the crew would have been decided by the Sqn.There were only 7 on the a/c which was the normal crew for a Manchester so whilst it seems unusual for a qualified pilot to be used as a Flt/Eng it was not impossible and the 7 total suggests that if he was a pilot Mowat was not simply gaining experience before taking his own crew on ops but Mowats age is very young so we can't entirely rule out that the Sqn were feeding him in slowly and using him as the Flt/Eng whilst they did so. I don't have any info on the missing names.
    Regards
    Dick
    In case anyones interested, my Grandads brother was George Dalby who was killed on that flight and is buried in Holland. I have an excellent photo of the entire 83rd Squadron dated October 1941 with approximately 100 air crew in it. I am having restored since its weathered and I only received it after my Grandad died recently. I am happy to send a digital copy to anyone interested in it.

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    Hi,
    Would love a copy of photo please, and in return, if you have not already acquired them, i can send you any pages from the 83sqdn ORB, relevant to George Dalby's ops.
    Regards...Alan.

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