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Thread: Sgt. J Lawrence, 83 Squadron, 1st September 1941.

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    Default Sgt. J Lawrence, 83 Squadron, 1st September 1941.

    Guys,

    Can anyone enlighten me to what happened to this Sergeant. I know he became a POW but have little other information.

    Regards,

    Nick

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    Hello Nick,
    Hampden AD912 of 83 Sqn (OL-Y) shot down by a night fighter and crashed near Meijel, NE of Weert, 00.31 hrs on a raid to Cologne. F/Lt (Pilot) Eric P. WILLCOX - DFC - 40037 buried Jonkerbos War Cem., Nijmegen (first buried Venlo). All other crew PoW.
    P/O (Obs) D.B. ORGAN - 66575 (L3/3766) * Sgt (WOp/Ag) H.C. GABBITAS - 1165273 (357/177) and J. LAWRENCE - 533877 (357/9528).
    Regards,
    Henk.

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    The rafcommands PoW List shows: Camp 357 PoW No. 9528 Name: Lawrence J; Service No. 533877; Service: RAF

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    Dear Nick
    Just got home from a long drive and the eyes are a bit tired.
    I will try and get back tomorrow with Jack Lawrence's account of what happened in Low and Harpers's 83 squadron book. I can also send you a photo of Willcox grave I took many years ago. I have a few other snippets on this one. Hold on and I will get back to you ASAP.
    Best wishes
    James

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    Dear Nick,
    Hopefully this should give you a few leads.
    I will e-mail the photo over.
    Best wishes
    James

    The Hampden File, Harry Moyle, Air Britain, ISBN 0 85130 128 2

    AD912 Squadron Leader E P Willcox DFC of 83 Squadron came to grief over Holland; F/Sgt Jack Lawrence, the wireless operator, vividly remembers what happened.
    “None of us even saw the night fighter that shot us down. We were at 14,000 feet and it was just after midnight. The initial burst of fire demolished the port wing and set the engine on fire. I am not sure whether the pilot was hit but one of the bullets removed the earpiece from my own flying helmet. The Hampden went into a spin and the pilot gave the order to bale out.” Jack, the navigator and the second wireless operator, landed safely by parachute, although Jack’s landing place, actually within the perimeter of a labour camp, did not allow any thoughts of evading capture to even begin to form as he was captured immediately. Squadron Leader Willcox may have been wounded in the attack and was killed, apparently still in the Hampden when it crashed. Both he and Jack Lawrence were on their second tour of operations and were “showing the ropes” to the navigator, Pilot Officer Organ, and the other wireless operator, Sergeant Gabbitas, the latter having arrived at Scampton three days earlier. The new boys were on their first and only operational flight.
    In the course of his Kriegy days, Jack, who had been with 61 Squadron at Hemswell from 1937 and done his first tour from there, met up with a number of his pals from Hemswell and Scampton. He also changed identities with an Army private for a while and went out on working parties in the hope that an opportunity to escape would arise and on one occasion whilst labouring at an aerodrome at Goerlitz, he was told that a complete Hampden was stored in one of the hamgars there, but never had an opportunity to look at it.
    (Hampden File: Reference 3D10, page 75-6)


    83 Squadron 1917 - 1969 Low and Harper ISBN1 900604 05 1

    One of the survivors, Sergeant Jack Lawrence was very unfortunate, but as not only did he have to abandon the aircraft over enemy territory, but was unlucky enough to parachute down and land inside the barbed wire of a prison camp. He recalled “I joined C Flight 83 Squadron in May 1941 to start my second tour, having completed thirty seven operations with 61 Squadron at Hemswell, which I joined in 1938.
    On the night in question we decided to go in order to take a pilot and air gunner (Pilot Officer DB Organ and Sergeant HC Gabbitas) on their first operation. Although the target was Cologne we just could not find it because of low cloud. So we made the fateful mistake of orbiting around. We then, without warning, received a long burst of fire from a ME110 German night fighter, which completely gutted the port wing, set the engine on fire, and as the wing seemed about to break off I baled out at about 15,000 feet. I landed in something of a labour camp with lots of barbed wire and was quickly captured and taken to the guard room. Here I was presented with a large tin of Woodbine cigarettes and told the usual phrase ‘for you the war is over’. After a couple of hours I was collected by the Luftwaffe and taken to my crashed Hampden, or what was left of it, and then to a night-fighter station headquarters where I spent the night in the hospital, where I was visited by the German night fighter pilot, Uffz Pohler, who had shot our aircraft down.
    The following day I was interrogated by a Luftwaffe General who did not like my answers and sent me to a prison in Venlo, and then on to Amsterdam, then the usual channels to Dulag Luft and Lansdorf. Here I changed identities with a New Zealand army private and escaped three times. The first time I was out for two months, heading for Yugoslavia, the second time I was caught in an air raid after trying to steal an aircraft from an aerodrome at Gorlitz. The third escape was successful, only because it was so near the end of the war and the Germans did not care about us.”
    (83 Squadron, p45)



    Footprints on the Sands of Time, Oliver Clutton-Brock, ISBN 1 904010 35 0

    (Organ DB P/O 83 Squadron Hampden AD912 31/8/41 Cologne 10C/L3 POW 3766 [10C/]. Footsteps p374) Service number 66575
    (Gabbitas HC Sgt 83 Squadron Hampden AD912 31/8/41 Cologne 3E/L3/L6/357 POW 177 Footsteps p297) Service number 1165273
    (Lawrence J F/Sgt 83 Squadron Hampden AD912 31/8/41 Cologne 8B/L3/L6/357 POW 9528 Landed next to a German guard room. Footsteps p341)

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    Thanks Guys, really helpful.

    Nick

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