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Thread: No.277 Squadron expert sought

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Orleans, Ontario, Canada
    Thanked 4 Times in 3 Posts

    Default No.277 Squadron expert sought

    An incident in the career of F/L Alfred B. Brenner, RCAF lesds me to a query about a squadron and crew which rescued him. Brenner flew Hampden torpedo bombers with No.415 Squadron and the story I have is as follows:

    RCAF file 19-10-29, "RCAF Overseas Headquarters Weekly Intelligence Reports", Volume 1 (National Library and Archives, RG.24 Volume 5230) has an account of his being shot down in February 1943 as part of a more detailed narrative respecting rescue by a Walrus of No,277 Squadron on 20 February 1943:

    "The rescued crew were F/O Brenner, Flight Sergeant Rowe, Sergeant Glass and Sergeant Viatier of No.415 Squadron, No.16 Group. They had been attacking a convoy off the Dutch coast in a Hampden and had torpedoed a 3/5,000 ton cargo vessel, when they were met by concentrated flak which holed the Hampden in several places. They flew for 52 minutes on the starboard engine before it packed up and the Hampden was ditched about 30 miles off Yarmouth at 2250 hours, February 18th. The aircraft sank in eight seconds together with their main rations, sailing mast, paddles, rockets and skull caps. All they had was their dinghy which operated very successfully, and their pigeon container which was rescued from the water by the Wireless Operator, Sergeant Rowe. The pigeons having dried out, were released the following morning, one at o830 and one at 0930 hours, and as the crew had only a quart of water in the dinghy they abstained from using it, and for meals allowed themselves one Horlicks tablet each from their Aid Boxes.

    "They baled out the dinghy with their torch cases after removing the bulbs and batteries which were unserviceable."

    They were spotted by a Walrus crewed by one P/O Brown (pilot), P/O Shepherd and Flight Sergeant Rance (WOPAG crew) who conducted a square search. Brown was conversant with North Sea currents and soon located the dinghy while flying at 1,000 feet. The occupants were waving. Brown descended to 200 feet, dropped a smoke float and then alighted on the sea at 40 knots in glassy water conditions at 1745 hours. Shepherd threw a rope from the front hatch which fell short, but Brown cut his engine, enabling the men in the dinghy to grasp the port wing float. Flight Sergeant Rance threw another role from the rear hatch which was secured. The dinghy was hauled to the rear hatch and the men pulled aboard. Their first remark was, "Do you know if the ship we torpedoed was been confirmed ?" The report went on to state:

    "Although they had been in the sea 42.55 hours and had abstained from touching their water supply, they declined a drink but all enjoyed a smoke. They were surprisingly fit and well after their long exposure. Much to their regret it was not possible with seven on board to salvage their dinghy, as weight was an important factor for take-off."

    I suspect that the rescue pilot was 45641 F/L (not P/O) Leonard Jack Brown whose crew included F/L Douglas Glyn Shappard (not Shepherd) - the identity of Rance I have no further clues. Brown and Shappard were each awarded a DFC, 25 May 1943, and the London Gazette linked them to No.277 Squadron; most likely their awards were for an earlier rescue of another crew.

    If anyone has access to No.277 Squadron's ORB I would appreciate confirmation or contradiction of the Brown/Sheppard role in the rescue of Brenner and crew. The Form 540 and 541 entries relevant to the incident would be equally welcome.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Thanked 36 Times in 35 Posts


    Hi Hugh,

    No expert, No ORB. Here is what Norman Franks has to say:

    In the south of England, 277 Squadron still held the prime position, 'A' Flight being at Martlesham, 'B' Flight at Hawkinge and 'C' Flight at Shoreham. Martlesham opened the year's account on 20 February (1943).
    A Hampden torpedo bomber of 415 (RCAF) Squadron had come down 40 miles out to sea. They had attacked a convoy and been hit by flak, which shot out an engine. Martlesham was alerted and Flying Officers Lionel Brown, Douggie Sheppard and Tom Rance made a spectacular rescue, along with a second Walrus crew - Warrant Officers Tom Ormiston and Bill Greenfield and Flight Sergeant Nicholls. Flying Officer P.R.Corillo [sic] took off too, in Defiant T3948, at 5:30 p.m. to help in the search.
    After searching for some time, Brown and Co spotted the dinghy and landed. Tom Rance takes up the story:
    The plane had come down a long way out and we had no escort. We searched for quite a while until I spotted a flashing light which was a mirror catching the rays of the dying sun.
    We landed as the sea was calm and soon had the crew on board, and took a long take-off with the extra weight. There was a boat a good way off which it appeared was a German E-boat in pursuit, firing a few red lights off at our rear.
    The crew of four had been in their dinghy for 42 hours, and our sortie lasted three hours, 10 minutes.
    Flight Sergeant W.A.Rance, No.277 Squadron.
    Flying Officer Carillo in the Defiant had seen the unidentified vessel too, and saw it firing. However, it later transpired that it was not an E-boat but a British Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB), firing warning shots that both aircraft were in a practice firing area! By the time Brown got back to base it was almost dark and a heavy mist had come up, but he got down safely.
    Tom Rance was quite right that they had no escort, it had been recalled due to the deteriorating weather soon after it had taken off! No one had called back the Walrus and they would probably have ignored such a call if it had been made.
    The pilot of the Hampden, Flying Officer Alfred Brenner RCAF, later rose to Squadron Leader and won the DFC in September 1943.

    Main Walrus Rescues by No 277 Squadron.

    20 Feb.
    Walrus X9526 (Martlesham)

    F/O L.J.Brown
    F/O D.G.Sheppard
    F/Sgt W.A.Rance

    Crew of a 415 Sqn Hampden torpedo-bomber shot down on 18th.

    F/O A.B.Brenner
    F/Sgt E.L.L.Rowe
    Sgt A.Glass
    Sgt E.A.Vautier.

    45 miles off coast. 15:30-18:45.

    Another Kind of Courage:Stories of the UK-Based Walrus Air-Sea Rescue Squadrons.
    Sparkford:Patrick Stephens Ltd.,1994
    A. pp.58-9
    B. p.211

    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 16th September 2009 at 14:48. Reason: minor correction

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