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Thread: Cookson crew, No. 462 (RAAF) Squadron

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    Default Cookson crew, No. 462 (RAAF) Squadron

    Hello,

    Around 04.30 hours October 15th 1944, Halifax III aircraft MZ296 of No. 462 (RAAF) Squadron captained and flown by Flying Officer W. B. Cookson crashed at the Belgian village of Erps-Kwerps, situated halfway the cities of Brussels and Leuven (Louvain). The entire crew baled out and was safe. Already I gathered a lot of helpful information about the crew and the crash of MZ296 by searching the National Archives of Australia website, but as a member of the local history circle I am very interested to learn whether any of the crew is still alive. Any lead to living crew members or relatives of the crew shall be much appreciated. The crew consisted of the following airmen:

    1. COOKSON W. B. (F/O Pilot) RNZAF Service Number -NZ. 413028
    2. PRATT O.D. (F/O Navigator) RNZAF Service Number - NZ. 425934
    3 TOLHURST WILFRED HENRY (F/S Bomb Aimer) RAAF Service Number - A. 427168
    4. POWER LESLIE JOHN (F/O, Wireless Operator/ Air Gunner) RAAF Service Number - A. 436481
    5. REED NEVILLE OWEN (F/S, Rear Gunner) RAAF Service Number - A. 435209
    6. ELLIOTT R.D. (F/S, Mid Upper Gunner) RCAF Service Number - R. 219749
    7. JONES L.H. (Sgt, Flight Engineer) RAF Service Number - 1896549

    Can anyone help me with the first and middle name of:

    COOKSON W. B. (F/O Pilot) RNZAF Service Number -NZ. 413028
    PRATT O.D. (F/O Navigator) RNZAF Service Number - NZ. 425934
    ELLIOTT R.D. (F/S, Mid Upper Gunner) RCAF Service Number - R. 219749
    JONES L.H. (Sgt, Flight Engineer) RAF Service Number - 1896549
    TOEWS W (Sgt, Rear Gunner). RCAF Service Number - R. 278376
    (Toews wasn't aboard MZ296 that night but was a regular member of the Cookson crew)

    Thanks in advance,
    Dirk

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    Hello and Welcome Dirk,

    COOKSON:

    FLGOFF (Later FLTLT) William Bolton ('Bill') Cookson, DFC, RNZAF Pilot NZ413028 462 Sqn. - 31 Aug 44 - May 45. (fn. p.195)

    PRATT:

    FLGOFF Owen Dallas Pratt RNZAF Nav. 425934 (?) born Invercargill, NZ 12 Sep 12. 462 Sqn. - Sep 44 - 15 Oct 44. (fn. p.195)

    Photos of MZ296 and crew (minus Reed), (p.196)

    Description of events on 14/15-10-44 (pp.191-200).

    See:
    To See the Dawn Again:A History of 462 Squadron,RAAF 1942-2008.
    Lax,Mark & Leon Kane-Maguire
    Wanniassa:Authors,2008
    pp.191-200.

    See also: NAA: A11385 1714/5/P1 - [No 462 Squadron] Loss of aircraft FA 15/10/44 Halifax III MZ296 - Flying Officer Cookson, W B .

    For whatever reason, AUS436481 F/O Leslie John POWER RAAF, is not listed on the DVA Nominal Roll DB.

    Col.
    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 22nd June 2009 at 01:25. Reason: minor correction

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    Dirk,

    COOKSON W. B. (F/O Pilot) RNZAF Service Number -NZ. 413028
    From 'By Such Deeds - Honours and Awards in the Royal New Zealand Air Force, 1923-1999'
    COOKSON, Flight Lieutenant William Bolton, DFC.
    NZ413028 & 130552; Born Rotorua, 27 Feb 1919; RNZAF 25 May 1941 to 1 Feb 1946, Res. to 27 Feb 1974; Pilot.
    Citation Distinguished Flying Cross (21 Sep 1945): [462 Sqn RAAF (Halifax)] Flight Lieutenant Cookson has completed an excellent tour of operations. In October, 1944 he was detailed to attack Duisburg. Before reaching the target area it was found that the fuel supply was running low. Despite this the officer continued on his course and bombed the target. The aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire and the petrol tanks were holed. Flight Lieutenant Cookson set course for friendly territory and, later, was forced to order the crew to abandon the aircraft. His coolness throughout this operation saved the lives of all his crew and ensured the completion of the sortie. Flight Lieutenant Cookson has, at all times, shown a high standard of courage and devotion to duty. Flt Lt Cookson flew 35 sorties with 462 Sqn.
    Died Auckland, 29 Sep 1979.

    PRATT O.D. (F/O Navigator) RNZAF Service Number - NZ. 425934
    Owen Dallas PRATT
    Fate or whereabouts unknown. His wife, Enid Marion Pratt died in 1995.

    Errol

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    Dirk, if you're interested, I can scan the relevant pages of the Lax/Kane-Maguire book Col mentions above. Email me at accemagATbigpond.com (replacing the AT with @) if you haven't tracked the pages down elsewhere.

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    Dirk,

    It appears as if, neither Power, Reed nor Tolhurst, ever applied for their 'Caterpillar Club' badges. Something you might keep in mind if you ever establish contact with the airmen concerned, or their relatives.

    In Reed's case, he had baled out twice! He also had to abandon 462 Sqn. Halifax III LL598, on 14/15-1-45.

    Col.
    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 22nd June 2009 at 07:18. Reason: minor correction

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    Col, Errol, Andy,

    I wish to thank you for your kind reply and help!!! It is much appreciated.
    Andy I have sent you an email.

    Halifax III aircraft MZ296 crashed behind 'Wijnegemhof', a small 18th century castle located at Erps-Kwerps, Belgium. The aircraft made a hole about 3 to 4 metres deep in the ground. I spoke with several villagers of Erps-Kwerps, however none seem to rememeber any parachutes landing in the area.

    Perhaps somebody can help me answering the questions I have about the following two crewmembers:


    - Two questions with regard to a Flying Officer named Pratt O.D. (RNZAF):

    1. I found the following account on http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-WH2-2RAF-c14.html#fn2-401 (New Zealanders with the Royal Air Force (Vol. II) CHAPTER 14 — Bomber Command and the Battle of Germany) and wondered whether this account is related to the crash of Halifax MZ296 on October 15th , 1944 and whether the person involved really is Owen Dallas Pratt RNZAF Nav. 425934 ?

    'Occasionally these grim experiences had their lighter side. When one New Zealand navigator, after baling out from his crippled Lancaster, crashed through the roof of a granary in a Dutch village, the people sleeping below mistook his arrival for that of a delayed-action bomb and hastily left the building, leaving him trapped until daybreak. The navigator, Flying Officer Pratt(2) of No. 462 Squadron, tells his story thus:
    We jumped at seventeen thousand feet. There was a terrific gale at that height and I thought I should never get down as I was being blown along almost horizontally. At long last I saw a dark mass below me. Then a church steeple flashed by and I went crash through a roof. I found myself swinging by my parachute harness in inky darkness and released myself. I think I was knocked out for half an hour. When I came to it was still dark and I felt all the way round the walls and gradually realised that there was no door. I could see a glimmer of light from the hole I had made in coming through the roof and managed to climb through it to the roof top. I shouted and shouted without result for a long time, but when light finally came there must have been half the village packed into the streets below. When the police finally rescued me I found I had crashed through the roof into a loft twenty feet high with only a trap door exit in the floor.

    (2) Flying Officer O. D. Pratt; born Invercargill, 12 Sep 1912; accountant; joined RNZAF May 1942'.

    2. Also found an article about a Flying officer named Owen Pratt with the RNZAF in the Australian newspaper The Age. The article is dated Feb. 19, 1945. I wondered whether the airman in the article is Owen Dallas Pratt RNZAF Nav. 425934 ?

    'Flyer's Debt Now Paid
    Adopts Child of Dead Couple
    A two-year-old baby Dutch girl, clutching a piece of paper, was among 500 Dutch children who last week reached England from Holland. The paper in the child’s hand contained only the name and address of a New Zeeland bomber navigator, Flying Officer Owen Pratt, who is recovering from injuries at an R.A.F., rehabilitation centre, says the ‘Sunday Express’. Flying Officer Pratt’s bomber last autumn was shot down over Holland. He baled out, but escaped the Germans because a Dutchman and his wife sheltered him. The airman during his concealment played a lot with the couple’s baby daughter, and they became fast friends. Later through the underground movement, he escaped to England. The airman has now learned that the Dutch couple saved his life at the cost of their own. The Germans shot them when they discovered the couple had been hiding a British airman. But neighbours knew the secret of Flying Officer Pratt’s stay there and gave the baby the note she brought to England. The airman now paid the debt for his freedom. He adopted the baby . Arrangements are being made for her to be sent out to his wife, herself a Dutch girl, in New Zealand'.

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1300&dat=19450219&id=mccTAAAAIBAJ&s jid=PJcDAAAAIBAJ&pg=3328,2226091

    Can it be Owen Dallas Pratt RNZAF Nav. 425934 ?

    - One question regarding Neville Owen Reed RAAF 435209
    1. Reed was awarded the Croix de Geurre 1940, White Palm conferred by the King of the Belgians. Can anybody explain me why?


    Thanks in advance for your kind help
    Regards,
    Dirk

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    Dirk,

    There was only one Owen Dallas Pratt in the RNZAF, so yes the two items you mention relate to him.

    The baby girl reference is new to me. Pratt was married in 1938, long before he enlisted in 1942, and her maiden name was Macdonald, which is hardly suggestive of her being Dutch.

    Errol

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    Perhaps the wife had a Dutch mother ?

    The ladies amongst us will enjoy the lovely story of the baby girl's travel & adoption -if it's true ? How does one get a 2yr old to clutch on to a piece of paper for such a time while travelling to England ?

    Anne
    Last edited by aestorm; 22nd June 2009 at 19:40.

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    Not just the ladies, Anne.

    Dirk, was just reviewing a 487 Sqn op via the pages of Max Lambert's excellent 'Night After Night - New Zealanders in Bomber Command'. Thought I'd look for Pratt on a whim and found this:

    Pages 313-314 in the 'Baling Out' section.

    Owen Pratt, a navigator with 462 Squadron, an Australian Halifax unit, jumped at 17,000 feet over Belgium in October 1944. 'New Zealanders with the RAF' quotes him: 'There was a terrific gale at that height and I thought I should never get down as I was being blown along almost horizontally.' But the Southlander did get down, crashing through the roof of a village granary. Suspended by his chute in the darkness he unclipped his harness and knocked himself out falling to the floor. People sleeping below thought a delayed-action bomb had fallen through the roof and fled. Pratt was rescued by locals at daybreak.
    Doesn't add much to the above but thought you might be interested. Thanks for the email, scans will be with you shortly.

    Andy

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    Default Neville Owen Reed

    My name is Robyn Perren, I am Neville Reed's daughter. My father died on the 20 October 1990 at the age of 68. I can be contacted at the following email
    NRPerren@bigpond.com

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