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Thread: MH483 Spitfire 401 Squadron

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    Default MH483 Spitfire 401 Squadron

    Hi !

    Looking for information regarding the last flight of this Spitfire, which is reported to have crashed on 5/07/1944 or 7/05/1944. Who was the pilot ? Was the plane shot down ? Where did it crash ?

    Many thanks in advance and best regards from Belgium,

    Luc

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    Luc

    P/O T.W. Dowbiggin PoW Sweep Lille, Engine failure trying to switch tanks. Crash landed Laon. A/C destroyed by cannon fire from S/L L.M. Cameron (FCL)
    Last edited by John Larder; 27th June 2010 at 09:46. Reason: Forgot source

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    Hello,

    The date is 7 May 1944. While I can't confirm a crash location in the area of Laon, which is outside my research area, and to my opinion quite far from Lille area (even flying in a Spitfire), this pilot was captured in Bruxelles on 28 July 1944, according to his PoW questionnaire.

    I'm wondering if there may be a place called Laon in Belgium ?

    Joss

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    Hello again,

    Back home, I can check my files.

    Apart his PoW questionnaire in WO344/94/2, F/O Thomas William DOWBIGGIN (service number J/85321) filed a liberation report (# 179 in WO208/3329). In it, he confirms he made a forced-landing in Belgium : "Owing to an airlock while changing over petrol tanks, my engine stopped and I was forced to crash-land in Belgium.

    I made contact with a farmer who took me to the local Burgomaster with whom I stayed for four days. I was then put in touch with a member of the Underground at GRAND RENG where I remained for two weeks. At the end of this time, owing to the activities of the Germans, I was moved to ROUVEROY, where I stayed for six weeks.

    I remained evading with the Underground movement for the next three months, at the end of which time I was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to St Gilles prison in July 1944".

    St Gilles prison (Brussels) July-August 1944
    Stalag Luft III (Sagan) August 1944 - February 1945
    Stalag Luft III (Tarmstedt) February - April 1945.

    "I was liberated by allied troops from Stalag Luft III on 2 May 1945".

    Hope this helps you to narrow down the location. I'd be interested to know, just to have my records complete on this one.

    Joss
    Last edited by jossleclercq; 29th June 2010 at 12:10.

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    Default MH483 Spitfire 401 Squadron

    Hi John and Joss,

    Many thanks for your replies and very interesting information.

    Especially the liberation report is very interesting. Was for each pow such a report completed ? Is somewhere a list of these reports available ?

    Best regards from Belgium,

    Luc

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    Hello Luc,

    A large majority of prisoners of war (not only R.A.F., but from all services, even the Merchant Navy) filed PoW questionnaire when they were liberated. These are in WO 344 series in Kew. I'd say about 10 to 15 % of the PoWs didn't file a questionnaire. We had once a listing of the WO 344 references at Kew (courtesy RodM, on the old board in April 2005), which I've printed and use to prepare my visits to TNA. That list should be easy to recover from the archive section of the board.

    Now for the liberation reports, there were written by servicemen who either had been on the run before being captured (the case of Dowbiggin) or who escaped from camps (usually they were retaken). The last category of people are airmen who remained roughly where they were shot down, usually after D-Day, because it was either useless or dangerous to try to make for Spain. It was better and easier for them to wait for the liberation army to arrive in the area. They are in WO 208, after the escape & evasion reports volumes. The first few volumes are indexed, the last not. I think you may try TNA catalogue online for the content of the WO208 series, for exemple trying WO 208/3329.

    Joss

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    Default MH483 Spitfire 401 Squadron

    Hi Joss,

    Many thanks for this very interesting information regarding the pow files.

    Are the original documents available, so that digital photographs can be taken ?

    Best regards from a tropical Belgium,

    Luc

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    hello Luc,

    WO 344 are originals.

    The Escape & Evasion reports are digitised, apart maybe one or two original volumes which one can order. When in Kew, you can view them for free, print them for a fee, or take digital pictures of the computer's screen. Otherwise you can order them online (I think it's 3,5 a report, like the combat reports).

    The Liberation reports were originals last time I ordered them, but they may have been digitised by now.

    In TNA online catalogue, when you're on the page of the piece, click on "request this" and this should tell you whether the document is an original or a microfilm or digitised. Then go backwards with the "return button".

    Joss

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    Default MH483 Spitfire 401 Squadron

    Hi Joss,

    A big thanks for the explanations about the TNA files !

    I'll certainly have this source used for my research about the airwar over Belgium.

    Best regards from tropical Belgium,

    Luc

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