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Thread: Lancaster W4355 loss - circumstances - internment questions

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    Default Lancaster W4355 loss - circumstances - internment questions

    Lancaster W4355, “A” of No.15 Squadron was reported missing, 15 March1944; crew were 115303 F/L W. Blott (captain), 151161 F/O C. Nabarro (navigator), 1247559 Sergeant G.D. Gill (WOP), R129923 Warrant Officer R.S. Millard (bomb aimer), 1567659 Sergeant W. Forster (mid-upper gunner), 1565303 Sergeant D. Murphy (rear gunner), 1607073 Sergeant G.R. Mattock (flight engineer). None appear to have been killed or taken prisoner. I have looked in the file of Millard (who apparently parachuted over Swiss territory and was hospitalized and interned at Neuchatel). The file deals mainly with his training and medical treatment. Statements do not agree as to whether the aircraft was shot down by flak or fighters - and the location of Neuchatel makes me suspect that it could have been as easily have been shot down by Swiss forces as German ones. I also suspect that all the crew were interned, given that none appear in CWGC lists or the POW list associated with this Forum. There is a statement in Millard’s file that he “escaped” from the hospital on or about 23 December 1944, which I find odd. Would it not be more likely that the Swiss merely released him and reported an “escape” only to protect their claims to neutrality ?

    Were personnel like this crew routinely debriefed on their release ? Are the records of such interrogations at Kew or elsewhere ?

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    Hello,

    More on F/L Walter Blott et al:

    Another crew grateful for Switzerland's neutrality was that of veteran Lancaster W4355, which was attacked by a night-fighter on the night of 15/16 March 1944 en route to Stuttgart. The pilot, Flight Lieutenant Walter Blott, who believed that a rocket projectile had been fired at them, was hit in an arm by a piece of metal. When the aircraft began to shake violently and he was unable to control it, all seven of the crew baled out successfully over Switzerland. Blott himself landed heavily on his back in a wood near Kallnach, halfway between Berne and Bielersee. Making contact with a Swiss woman, he was given a bed in a nearby inn for the night.

    After breakfast on the following morning he was visited by Swiss military police officers, who told him that they would be returning later in the day after they had collected others of his crew. Taken away in a car in which Sergeant G.D. Gill was already seated, they were driven to Aarberg hospital, where they met Sergeant D. Murphy and Flying Officer C. Nabarro, also of their crew. As Gill was not injured he left at once. Blott was left behind for his back and arm to be looked at and after a visit from Wing Commander R.D. Jones, assistant air attache at the British Legation , was taken to the Gurten-Kulm Hotel in Gurtendorf 'which was occupied principally by American airmen'. A few days later he was reunited with Gill and two more of his crew, Sergaent G.R. Mattock and Sergeant T.W. Forster. Also arriving at the hotel was 'Sgt Ruth, who was the sole survivor of another aircraft which had also crashed on 15 March.

    After some three weeks at the Gurten-Kulm hotel the RAF aircrew and the Americans were transferred to the internment camp ar Adelboden where, Blott noted, there were some 600 army personnel and 500 Americans. The RAF were put in with the Americans. On 6 May Blott was taken to Berne, and given a passport and civilian clothes prior to being repatriated with the agreement of the Germans. In the small hours of 13 may he, six others from the same 100 Squadron crew, Gill and Pilot Officer R.G. Peter RAAF, were escorted to Basle by a Swiss courier and a Swiss military policeman. Travelling second class, the nine airmen and the courier left Switzerland by rail. As they crossed the frontier into Germany they 'were asked to pull the blinds down. At the first station after the frontier a German officer accompanied by an interpreter came into the carriage. He told us that we were being given safe passage and were expected to behave well.

    Travelling through Freiburg they reached Baden Baden, and after a brief stop boarded the Vienna-Paris express late on 13 may, now travelling first class. In Paris they were met by a German officer and a civilian interpreter, Wolfgang, who told them that he had been at Cambridge University and that the previous day he had had lunch with the celebrated author P.G. Wodehouse. He also told the group, probably only to see what the effect would be, that they were not being returned to England but to Japan. Blott told him that that was of little matter, as they would eventually land up there anyway. the airmen were then treated to an excellent five-course lunch, which included a different wine with each course. Later that day, still with the Swiss courier, they boarded a train with a German captain and another interpreter and travelled, again first class, to Irun in Spain. From Irun they went to Madrid, and on 19 May to Gibraltar, being flown back by Dakota to Whitchurch airport, Bristol, five days later.

    See:
    RAF Evaders:The Comprehensive Story of Thousands of Escapers and their Escape Lines, Western Europe, 1940-1945.
    Clutton-Brock,Oliver.
    London:Grub Street,2009.
    pp.257-8

    Col.
    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 18th August 2018 at 07:13.

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    Re. the loss of W4355: I've read elsewhere that the aircraft was attacked and severely damaged by a night fighter in the 'Atcheson' area -I can't find a place with this name though, can anyone shed more light on the location of the German night fighter attack?

    The source of the 'Atcheson' location is the following:

    http://raf.durham-light-infantry.ch/...tzerland?id=60

    Cheers and thanks, Theo

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    Theo

    Could it be "Abischen"?

    Regards

    Pete
    Main areas of research:

    - CA Butler and the loss of Lancaster ME334 (http://rafww2butler.wordpress.com/ )
    - Aircrew Training (Basic / Trade / Operational / Continuation / Conversion)
    - The History of No. 35 Squadron (1916 - 1982) (https://35squadron.wordpress.com/)

    [Always looking for copies of original documents / photographs etc relating to these subjects]

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    Hello Theo,

    I wonder if Authoison is the correct name? It is about 100 km west of the crash site. The bomber may have covered that distance after being abandoned.
    I don't know the route taken for the raid but if they were approaching from the south/south-east then it fits.
    Bruce
    http://www.filephotoservice.co.uk/
    RESEARCH AT THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES & OTHER UK INSTITUTIONS

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    Thanks for your replies chaps. Another logical location is Athesans.

    Cheers, Theo

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    Hello,

    Theo, An explanation for, the "Atcheson" area"**!

    We also have the following from Roger Anthoine, author of Infringing Neutrality:

    Blott's Lancaster had been plodding along for two hours when disaster struck. Navigator Nabarro had just reported their position as being near the three white ground markers dropped by the Pathfinders to indicate the turning point east* - close to Vesoul, France. At briefing the crews had been instructed not to overshoot the spot in order to cross the Rhine and into Germany between Strasbourg and Basle, thus avoiding Switzerland.

    As had been the case a few minutes earlier for Atcheson** and his comrades, the attack came without any warning, also after crossing the Rhine north of Basle. At the last moment, the engineer standing watch in the astrodome - Sgt G Mattock, a twenty-two-year-old married former welder from Winchester - saw the single-engined Messerschmitt Bf 109. The fighter had slipped from behind and below, unnoticed by the rear gunner Sgt Murphy, and was sweeping up in a left turn.

    Cannon-fire from the 109 holed the port-wing tank, disabled the left inner Merlin engine, made the intercom unserviceable and the blind-flying panel useless. Glass shards, oil, smoke and petrol burst into the cockpit. Walter Blott felt a severe blow on his left elbow; a metal fragment had hit him, rendering the arm useless. At the same time, the aircraft began shaking with terrific vibration and started to fly sluggishly with the port-wing low. Owing to thick smoke, Blott was unable to to see the instrument panel, which was smashed anyway. Blott thought he had got the chop.

    * At debriefing, some of the returning crews indicated they had not seen those route markers. Anyway, the district proved rich hunting ground for the Luftwaffe that night, as seen in the previous Chapter (9). Their opponents from the Nachtjagdgeschwader 6 were also seriously mauled, losing half a dozen Bf 110 nightfighters, including the one that force-landed at Dubendorf, Switzerland by Obfdwbl Helmut Treynogga.

    ** P/O Atcheson DFC + 15/16 March 1944 - 57 Sqn, Lancaster JB474 (BCL5/112). Anthoine states that Atcheson was attacked at 2230, "Just south-east of Belfort, (France)", by a nightfighter controlled by the "Bella" beacon (p.104).

    See:
    Infringing Neutrality The RAF in Switzerland 1940-45
    Anthoine,Roger
    Stroud:Tempus Publishing,2006
    pp.111 & 232

    Col.
    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 22nd August 2018 at 06:43.

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    Thanks Col for clearing up the 'Atcheson' issue and also the location of the encounter of W4355 with the Nachtjäger. The loss of W4355 ties in with a claim by Hptm. von Bonin of Stab II./NJG1.

    Cheers, Theo

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