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Thread: Lille raid May 1944.

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    Default Lille raid May 1944.

    Hi all,
    Do any of you have details on the Lille raid of 10/11 May '44 ?
    In particular Lancaster LL788 lost on the above raid.
    I am researching the Navigator Sgt John Mellor, in the crew of P/O W.Felstead.
    Any details would be a help.
    Regards,
    Wayne.

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    Hi Wayne
    You may already have this but from Chorley BCL Vol 5,
    LL788, PO-G, exploded and crashed into a factory in the S E suburbs of Lille, all on board were KIA. Sgt J Mellor,Air Bomber, is buried in Lezennes Communal Cemetery. The a/c was from 467 Sqn RAAF but the Casualty Files for the 4 Australian crew members have not yet been made available online
    Regards
    Dick
    Last edited by Dick; 1st June 2008 at 19:59.

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    Hi Dick,
    Thanks for your reply.
    I will see what I can find from Lezennes Communal Cemetery.
    Regards,
    Wayne.

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    hello,

    I have a very strong interest in that mission, as I'm "local". I've already organised several displays and ceremonies, in the other villages/towns where some of the Lancasters crashed, but not in Lezennes.

    A few years ago, I have bought hard copies of many R.A.A.F. casualty files for that night, except Lezennes (my order was lost by NAA !)

    Actually, only 3 crew members of the Bill Felstead crew are buried in Lezennes (Felstead, Mellor and Duthoit, the first two are R.A.A.F., the latter (flight engineer) is R.A.F.), 3 are buried in Hellemmes (Hancock, Grasby and Ferguson) and the rear gunner is buried in Forest-sur-Marque. When we organised our display / ceremony in Forest-sur-Marque in november 2002, we had next-of-kin of the rear gunner coming from Birmingham.

    Since last year, requesting digitising files from the NAA is also paying, but I still prefer hard copies, as the quality is better, at least for some documents.

    I have some details about the crew, including pictures, from the first navigator of the Felstead crew, (O'Connor) who training with them but was later sent to No. 83 Squadron (PFF) and he was replaced by Mellor.

    What is your interest in John Mellor ?

    Joss Leclercq

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    Hi Joss,

    Thanks for the info.

    I was looking into John Mellor's time with the squadron ect
    as he has the sane surname as myself and so I was interested
    in finding out a little more about him.

    The squadron ORBs have the whole crew posted to 467 sqn together
    from No 51 Base, when was O'Connor with them ?

    Regards,
    Wayne.

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    hello Wayne,

    If you happen to have additional information about John Mellor, I'd be interested to know about it. You can reach me either by private message or direct e-mail by clicking on my name on top of the page.

    Here is the first letter I received from Peter O'Connor. We kept on writing each other, sending greeting cards, for many years after that.

    3 3 1995

    Dear Jocelyn

    Your letter in “Wings” – volume 47, No 1 – Autumn – the official Royal Australian Air Force publication, revived many poignant memories for me.

    You wrote about the loss of Lancasters from 467 Squadron near Lille, May 10/11, 1944.

    F/O FELSTEAD and his crew died that night. I was F/O FELSTEAD’s navigator in his crew – first formed in August 1943.

    Permit me to explain – My name is Peter Joseph O’CONNOR. I was born in a small country town in South Australia in 1921. In 1941, I volunteered to join the Royal Australian Air Force, and trained, first as a pilot, and then as a navigator, on flying bases in West Australia, South Australia and Victoria.

    Early in 1943, together with hundreds of my comrades, I sailed for England, via New-Zealand and America.

    We underwent further training in Scotland, and England. Then, in August 1943, I was posted to No. 27 Operational Training Unit at Lichfield, Staffordshire, near Birmingham. On August 18, I met Bill FELSTEAD, and he asked me to be navigator in his crew.
    There were 5 of us. Bill was the pilot. He was a short, stocky young man - only 21 – with blonde hair and blue eyes – born in Sydney, New South Wales. He was lively, energetic, and loved flying.

    I was the navigator. Fairly tall (6 feet) – brown hair, grey eyes, very keen on sport – the only Catholic in the crew (I was taught by the Marist Brothers).

    Bill HANCOCK was the bomb aimer. He was tall, like me, with fair hair – only 21 years old – very handsome, with a lovely nature ; born, like Bill FELSTEAD, in Sydney. He was always happy – the girls absolutely adored him !! Even now – more than 50 years afterwards – the tears are close – when I think this beautiful boy was taken so young.

    Brian GRASBY was the wireless operator – born like me in South Australia. His family had an orchard in the country near Adelaide. Brian was a short, slight boy with dark hair, only 20 years old. He was keen on dancing, and liked to “chat up” the girls after he’d a couple of drinks.

    Bert FERGUSON was our rear gunner. He was a slim, dark man, quite old !! He was 28 years, born in Sydney, married with a wife and little baby back home. We called him “Grandpa”.

    We had a wonderful two months together. We flew all over England in the twin engined Vickers WELLINGTON – still used on some operational work. We became very close mates – doing everything together – learning to work like a team – against the time when we would go into action over Europe.

    On October 18, 1943, we made our FIRST RAID – 5 hours – to PARIS. We were hit by FLAK – the plane was damaged and Bill HANCOCK was wounded.

    We were then posted – in December – to a Conversion Unit at Winthorpe, near Nottingham – to train on 4 engine aircraft. We flew on SHORT STIRLINGS – and picked up 2 more crew members – Eric (surname lost), an engineer – a quiet, gentle man - and Charlie NASH, a gunner – only 18 – from Birmingham.

    At the end of January 1944, we were posted to Syerston, near Lincoln. Here we were to do a few hours on the famous LANCASTER – the Avro LANCASTER – before going to 467, the Australian Squadron, at Waddington.

    This was the LAST time I saw “my boys”. The Chief Flying Instructor took me out of the crew, and gave Bill another navigator, name unknown to me. Bill was made an officer, and they went to 467 Squadron. Four months later – they were dead. I have never seen their graves : I have photographs of us, taken together at various times : our six months together has become a very special part of my life. I pray for them every time I go to Mass.

    Charlie’s mother is still alive in England – nearly 100 years old. The other families I’ve lost contact with.

    As for me – I was appointed to another crew, and went on to fly 35 combat missions over Germany with the famous “Pathfinders”, who marked the targets for Bomber Command. My pilot was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and I received the Military Cross (Polish) and the “Normandy Medal” – for service on D-Day, june 6, 1944.

    I became a navigation instructor, returned to Australia at the end of 1945 and left the Air Force.

    I married, went to the University, and spent 40 years as a teacher. I retired as a headmaster of the Technical School 10 years ago.

    We have 4 children, and 10 grand-children (the grand-daughters are all beautiful, intelligent, with lovely natures, of course – of course !!!)

    I hope you enjoy this letter. Please write again – ans ask many questions. If you visit Australia – call here : there is a bottle of Champagne on ice.

    Kindest Regards – bonne nuit


    Peter O’CONNOR


    NB : Peter O’CONNOR carried out 2 raids in O.T.U., 7 with No. 44 Squadron, and 25 with No. 83 (PFF) Squadron. He was commissioned with the rank of Pilot Officer on 7 October 1944.
    The flight engineer was Cyril Duthoit.

    So, as you can see, they were together until No. 5 Lancaster Finishing School, when they were separated and John Mellor stepped in. Any background information about him would be useful for me.

    Joss

    PS : incidentally I had lunch at Lezennes a few minutes ago...

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    Thanks for posting that lovely letter Joss, it must have been a real thrill to have received it. Like Wayne, I have a great interest in 463/467 squadron, I'm still in contact with a couple of veterans, Cy March a rear gunner and Horrie Burchett (463 squadron), a flight engineer. I'm writing a book about a particular crew, Peter's letter gives me the kind of insight that I'm seeking to include in my book, the human, personal touch as well as the factual and technical stuff.
    Regards
    Max

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    Hello Joss,
    Wow, thanks for posting that letter. It caught me of guard a bit. I still don't know what to say. Thank you again for sharing that.
    I have heard of the bond of aircrew, and that letter really brings it home to me.
    Peter still misses his crew mates even after all this time.
    To do two ops at OTU with the crew and then not go on to a squadron with them must have been very hard for Peter.
    Joss, I have only just stared my research but if I find anything on John Mellor I will share it with you.
    Regards,
    Wayne.

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    Default Lancaster accident

    Please can anyone enlighten me about a Lancaster crash at RAF Syerston in 1945? We know from eyewitnesses in the village (Hoveringham, across the river Trent from Syerston's runways) that a Lancaster crashed near the river. My husband's aunt can remember running from our house to the scene, but sadly the crew were all killed.

    The scene of the crash appears to be on the Hoveringham side of the River Trent and the bomber seemed to have been trying to reach the runway across the river.

    Several people in Hoveringham had asked about a memorial, but we would appreciate any information from people who might know about this incident.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jossleclercq View Post
    My pilot was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and I received the Military Cross (Polish) and the “Normandy Medal” – for service on D-Day, june 6, 1944.
    It got me intrigued, why he got the Polish cross. I do not think, that every foreign airman received it, but frankly, I am not sure of foreigners, and Polish policy towards them.

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