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Thread: 2 Blenheims from 4 (Continental Ferry Flight), 18/06/1940

  1. #1
    Bart FM Droog Guest

    Default 2 Blenheims from 4 (Continental Ferry Flight), 18/06/1940

    One Hurricane and five Blenheims were lost on a transfer flight from Tangmere to the Middle East on 18/06/1940. The Blenheims were lost in a storm north-west of Limoges. I know the serials of three of the five and the names and burial sites of all 15 crew men.

    The crews of Blenheims L9314 and L9351 are all buried at Mazargues War Cemetery, Marseilles, France. Who can tell me what the exact crew compositions were?

    Corporal (Air Gnr.) Edward R. Blake, RAF 550631, age 21, 18/06/1940, Mazargues War Cemetery, Marseilles, F
    Pilot Officer Douglas S. Johnston, RAF 41426, age unknown, 18/06/1940, Mazargues War Cemetery, Marseilles, F
    Leading Aircraftman William H. Higgins, RAF 635167, age 29, 18/06/1940, Mazargues War Cemetery, Marseilles, F
    Sergeant James A. Malcolm, RAF 581107, age 24, 18/06/1940, Mazargues War Cemetery, Marseilles, F
    Sergeant Kenneth G. Walker, RAF 625837, age 18, 18/06/1940, Mazargues War Cemetery, Marseilles, F
    Flight Lieutenant James Wilkinson-Bell, RAF 70737, age 25, 18/06/1940, Mazargues War Cemetery, Marseilles, F

    Regards,

    Bart

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    Bart,

    From my 'For Your Tomorrow - A record of New Zealanders who have died while serving with the RNZAF and Allied Air Services Since 1915 (Vol One: Fates 1915-1942)':

    Tue 18 Jun 1940
    Maintenance Command
    Ferry flight to Malta, via France and Tunisia (by 12 Blenheims and 12 Hurricanes)
    4 (Continental) Ferry Pilots Pool, RAF (Kemble, Gloucestershire - 41 Group)
    Blenheim IV L9314 - took off from Tangmere between 0630 and 0645. The formation became split up over France in thick cloud 110km south of the Loire River. Five of the Blenheims crashed, killing all fifteen crew members, L9314 coming down at Prunières, 37km NNW of Mende. The three crew were buried at the Prunières parish, but later reinterred at Marseilles.
    Pilot: 41426 Plt Off Douglas Stewart JOHNSTON, RAF - Age 24.

    And update to appear in Vol Three:
    JOHNSTON, D S – crashed at 1030, two of the crew being killed instantly. The observer died in transit to hospital.

    Higgins was the man killed instantly along with Johnston. The 'third occupant', however, is not named in the 1947 Air Ministry letter providing this information and held on Johnston's file at New Zealand Defence Force Personnel Archives.

    Errol

  3. #3
    Bart FM Droog Guest

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    Good morning, Errol,

    Thanks!

    So in Blenheim IV L9314:

    Pilot Officer [Pilot] Douglas S. Johnston, RAF 41426, age 24
    Leading Aircraftman [W. Op/Air gunner] William H. Higgins, RAF 635167, age 29

    and thus likely to be in Blenheim IV L9351:

    Flight Lieutenant James Wilkinson-Bell, RAF 70737, age 25 - Pilot?
    Corporal (Air Gnr.) Edward R. Blake, RAF 550631, age 21

    Leaves these two men as observers:

    Sergeant James A. Malcolm, RAF 581107, age 24
    Sergeant Kenneth G. Walker, RAF 625837, age 18

    As Johnston is in 'For Your Tomorrow', I presume he was a New Zealander? Any clue why this is not mentioned by the CWGC?

    Greetings,

    Bart

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    L9314
    P/O D Johnston
    Sgt K Walker
    LAC W Higgins
    buried Pruniers, reinterred Mazargues

    L9351
    F/Lt J Wilkinson-Bell
    Sgt J Malcolm
    Cpl E Blake
    Buried Vedreines St Loup reinterred Mazargues
    (Warner points out that this number is incorrect as L9351 was not issued)

    L9317
    P/O C Handley
    Sgt P McGovern
    LAC J Thomas
    Buried Charroux

    L9315
    F/O J McCash
    Sgt R Micklethwaite
    AC1 G Harris
    Buried Heisse Communal Cemetery

    L9318
    Sgt M Field
    Sgt D Murrie
    AC1 E Pickford
    Buried Crozon Cemetery

    A

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    Bart,

    "As Johnston is in 'For Your Tomorrow', I presume he was a New Zealander? Any clue why this is not mentioned by the CWGC?"

    Yes, Johnston was born in New Zealand at Rawene on 7 Sep 15. He was one of several hundred New Zealanders selected for RAF short service commissions in the late 1930s. He left for the UK in 1938.

    No next of kin mentioned in the CWGG entry. This is not uncommon. Presumably they either could not be contacted for the information or declined to return the appropriate form at the time.

    Errol

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    Had to interrupt my earlier due to a phone call. Warner states that 7 aircraft were lost. 5 already listed and:

    L9263
    Engine cut-off at Marignane, S France (end of Ferry Stage), struck boundary, abandoned there.

    S/L G Pryde
    Sgt H Hibbert
    Sgt A Scott
    all safe (but lost in aircraft below)

    L9934
    another of the 12 that left Tangmere, flown by P/O S Millen, reached Marignane late on the 18th, crashed into sea off N Africa coast near Bizerte

    S/L G Pryde (commemorated on Runnymede)
    Sgt A Scott (buried in Medjez-el-Bab)
    Sgt L Hibbert (died of injuries) (buried Ferryville near Menzel Bourghiba)

    No mention of Millen which implies that he survived.

    A

  7. #7
    Bart FM Droog Guest

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    Reminds me of another thread I posted a while ago: Unaccounted members 500 Sqdn, June 1940 (http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1047), with this result:

    19/06/1940: Blenheim Delivery Flight

    Squadron Leader George A.M. Pryde, RAF 32232, DFC, age 30, 19/06/1940, missing.
    Sergeant Leslie A. Hibbett, RAF 581116, age 19, 21/06/1940, missing - DOW
    Sergeant (W.Op./Air Gnr.) Alexander Scott, RAFVR 759142, 500 Sqdn., age 19, 19/06/1940, Medjez-el-Bab War Cemetery, Tunisia

    Aboard Blenheim Mk IV L9263 of the Blenheim Delivery Flight. Took off 17.30 hrs from Marignane on the third leg of flight to Malta. Overshot the island and on approaching the Tunisian coast crashed into the sea. The pilot and W.Op/Air Gunner were killed instantly and Sgt Hibbett died two days later.

    Amrit, you have 'Sgt Hibbert' 'buried Ferryville near Menzel Bourghiba'.
    Yet the only Sgt Hibbert who died in 1940 was with 88 Sqdn, died 23/05/1940 and is buried at Durnbach War Cemetery (Germany), according to the CWGC: http://www.cwgc.org/search/casualty_details.aspx?casualty=2101864

    As far as I know it's Sgt Hibbett, and it's still unknown why he is 'missing', as he's likely to have died in a hospital.

    Regards,

    Bart
    Last edited by Bart FM Droog; 5th April 2008 at 11:20.

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    Hi Bart

    The details are as given by Warner in his "Blenheim: A Complete History". It does look like a typo for Hibbett. As to his burial place, again it's as given in the book.

    A

  9. #9
    Bart FM Droog Guest

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    Hello Amrit,

    How strange: 'The town of Menzel Bourghiba, known as Ferryville during World War II. (After the war and Tunisian independence from France, the town was renamed in honor of Tunisia's first president.'

    source: http://www.almc.army.mil/alog/issues/MayJun01/MS664.htm

    and: Ferryville (now Menzel-Bourghiba)

    source: http://constructionhistory.bosenet.com/uploadfiles/CHS_Newsletter_65.pdf

    Other sources mention Ferryville, Tunisia, what makes me think that 'buried Ferryville near Menzel Bourghiba' might be hear-say. Otherwise the author wouldn't have made the mistake of thinking that Ferryville was another place than Menzel Bourghiba.

    Do you know if Warner is still alive? I would like to know what his source was for the information regarding Sgt Hibbett.

    Regards,

    Bart

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    Hello Bart
    Yes Graham Warner is very much alive. I worked with Graham on the Middle East entries for his book including this one. I know Graham had contact with a chap in France who had also been working on these losses, and the BBC broadcast an interview with them a couple of years ago on the subject. Most of the original information comes from "Malta: The Hurricane Years Pages 17/20 by Cristopher Shores and Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia".
    And can also be found in Our book RAF Losses in the Middle East and Mediterranean Vol 1. 1939 to 1942 by David Gunby and myself. Graham is currently the Chairman of the Blenheim Society.


    Pel Temple

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