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Thread: Balkan Wellingtons

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    Default Balkan Wellingtons

    Below I copy the texts of two RCAF Press Releases. The story of Flight Sergeant Sutcliffe (pilot) commences with his being shot down on 2 July 1944 over Bulgaria; that of Flying Officer Polle (WOP) begins with his being shot down over Roumania on 3 July 1944. I am hoping that Wellington and Balkan experts can identify the unit or units and the names of other crew members. Any other details would be pure gold.

    RCAF Press Release 4198 dated 11 October 1944:

    WITH RCAF IN ITALY: Flying Officer Albert Poole of Cornerbrook, Newfoundland, RCAF wireless operator, is homeward bound after two months in a Roumanian prison, from which he was released when the Germans left Bucharest before the advancing Russians. He is one of 1,000 Allied airmen flown back to Italy shortly after the Soviet forces entered the Roumanian capital.

    As the Germans withdrew, their aircraft ranged back and forth over the city, strafing and machine-gunning the people in the streets, Poole related.

    “We had just been told we were free”, he said. “Our prison was a former boarding school in the centre of the city. We went out in the streets when the people thronged around and gave us cigarettes and wine. Even when the Germans were still there, people used to wave at us and give us the ‘V’ sign as they passed under our windows. Just as we were getting used to the idea of being free, the German planes appeared and started machine-gunning. We scooted back into the school.”

    A 24-years old former school teacher, Poole came to Italy last January [1944] as a wireless operator in a Wellington bomber squadron. On the night of July 3 his aircraft was attacked over Roumania by night fighters which shot off eight feet of the port wing, disabled one engine, and finally set the bomber afire with a rocket. The crew baled out, Poole breaking his ankle when he landed in a field.

    “I made a splint for the ankle out of corn stalks and the shrouds of my chute”, he said. “A little later a farmer went by in a cart and I fired a distress signal, but he didn’t stop. I lay in that field that night and the next day, getting good and thirsty.”

    He was picked up toward dusk by a group of country people who removed his improvised splint and drove him to Bucharest in the back of a truck. There he was placed in a prison hospital with other Allied airmen.

    “The hospital was staffed by Rumanians and we were treated well,” he said. “Later I was moved to the school, where the treatment was also good. We were allowed outside only half an hour a day for exercise, but the food was adequate and those of us who had money could buy extras through the guards. The guards would give us money for rings, watches or any kind of jewellery.”

    The prisoners kept abreast of the war news by means of a radio which some of them contrived, and which they kept hidden although the guards searched for it regularly. From the BBC news reports they made a daily news sheet which they posted on a wall. “Our news was always several days ahead of the Rumanian newspapers,” said Poole.

    On August 23rd the Rumanians told the prisoners they were free, and on the 27th they were removed to the airfield on the city’s outskirts to await evacuation by Allied aircraft from Italy. They saw Russian advance units enter the city.

    RCAF Press Release 4663 dated 28 November 1944 reads as follows:

    “I guess I was lucky.”

    Thus in five words, a tall, tired looking pilot, Flight Sergeant Dick Sutcliffe, 3476 East 20th Avenue, Vancouver, who recently returned to Canada, dismissed reference to a series of events that added up to make him one of the luckiest pilots in the Middle East. These included a freak escape from a dying aircraft over the mountains of Bulgaria, a knife fight with a pack of savage dogs, and rescue from a prison camp when the Russian armies captured Sofia.

    Flight Sergeant Sutcliffe was the captain of a Wellington bomber from Mediterranean Command when it was attacked by a Ju.88 night fighter over Bulgaria last July 2. The first cannon burst from the German exploded the flare packs in the fuselage, shot out the hydraulics, putting the gun turrets out of action, killed the rear gunner, smashed the ailerons and left the pilot with little or no control.

    “It was really hectic for a few minutes,” Sutcliffe said.

    “The Jerry played with us for a long time before he left. I sent the navigator to look over the tail gunner but he reported nothing could be done.”

    “The navigator threw me my parachute but the ripcord caught and I was left trying to conyrol yards of silk that billowed out and filled the cockpit. Luckily I was able to hold the shrouds to my chest and prevented them from tangling while I fastened the buckles.”

    In a last desperate effort Sutcliffe reached over and set the automatics pilot which, in the excitement, he had overlooked. For a brief moment the aircraft righted itself and then the gears blew up in a spray of hydraulic fluid. As the machine flipped over on its back for a final plunge, the slipstream whipped in through the open hatch, filled a small pocket of the loose ‘chute and dragged the entire canopy out.

    Sutcliffe was yanked out of the machine and when his head cleared, found himself floating toward a mountain peak 4,000 feet below. His legs were filled with flak wounds and one knee cap had been torn off. The parachute caught in a tree and left him suspended a few feet above the ground.

    “It was only when the aircraft exploded on the mountainside about 400 feet below me that I realized what had happened. It sort of brought me back to earth.”

    “I got out of the ‘chute and found I was near a river. There I put my knee back into place and tied it with both of my shirt sleeves. I heard sounds of trucks so I inflated my Mae West and floated down the stream for a few yards.”

    Carefully crawling out of the water Sutcliffe started to hobble across the fields towards two houses that loomed in the darkness. Before he knew it he was in the centre of a Bulgarian village. A dog started to bark and soon a big pack was snapping and snarling at his heels.

    “There seemed to be a thousand of them. I pulled my knife but it didn’t seem to be much use. It was on the end of a string so I started to swing it like a sythe. Every time I hit a dog he yelled louder. I wondered when the villagers would waken. I moved forward and just as suddenly as I had come into the town, I found myself through it. The dogs left.

    “I hid in a graveyard for awhile but I figured my position was gloomy enough without sitting there. So I moved and found a better spot in a marsh nearby. There were two inches of water on top of the mud.”

    The next morning he started to walk in a direction which he thought would bring him in contact with Tito’s partisans. Some natives met and helped him. Shortly afterwards he was picked up by a Bulgarian patrol.

    Sutcliffe was put in a pen with a group of partisan prisoners. On their way to the prison camp they were before the citizens of Sofia, exhibited in a parade in open trucks through the city streets. They were lodged in the prison camp at Schumen.

    When the Russian armies started their advance down the Black Sea coast, the Bulgars evacuated the prisoners by train. It was eventually overtaken and the prisoners released.

    Despite all his experiences Sutcliffe wants to get back in action, either in Europe or anywhere else, as soon as he is back in shape. He feels that after what he has been through there is little that can throw him for a total loss and prevent him from coming back to tell the story.

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    Here are some clues in a Toronto Star article:

    Tour Had Almost Ended

    F.O. A. I. Poole, of Delleoram, Nfld., is missing following operations July 2-3. Flying from a base in Italy, he would have completed his first tour within a few days with a posting to Palestine following.

    F.O. Poole joined the R.A.F in Newfoundland, in 1941, trained under the empire training scheme in Canada, and after receiving his commission served on the staff of the wireless school at Malton. He was posted overseas in May 1943, and since the new year has been with the R.A.F in Africa and Italy. F.O. Poole was a member of the local Toe-11 Mark 2-C. (unclear?) and is the son of Mr. and Mrs. A.W. Poole.

    Toronto Star July 14, 1944

    The release itself was edited down to a few paragraphs and ran in the Star:

    Captive Canadians
    Kept Radio Hidden

    Toronto Star Oct. 12, 1944

    With the R.C.A.F. in Italy, Oct. 12 - (CP)- F.O. Albert Poole of Corner Brook, Nfld., R.C.A.F. wireless operator is homeword bound after two months in a Romanian prison. He was released when the Germans left Bucharest. (etc.)
    -----

    Star has Sutcliffe's first names as Richard Dennis in a casualty (missing) list on Aug. 9, 1944.
    Last edited by dfuller52; 15th November 2010 at 02:02. Reason: addt'l article
    David

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    Hello,

    Re:POOLE:

    On 2 July (1944), five aircraft bombed Prahova Oil Refinery, Bucharest, on Target Indicators laid accurately by 614 Squadron. Night fighters were active, downing a SAAF Liberator and two 40 Squadron Wellingtons. Both fell on the return journey to night fighters which raked them from below, killing the rear gunners. One (F/O L. F. Tichbourne[sic] RAAF), crashed in Romania, the four remaining crew baling out safely.

    2/3-7-1944
    No.40 Sqn.
    Wellington X ME990 'R'
    Target: Prahova Oil Refinery.

    Took off from Foggia Main 2202. Crippled by night fighter attack in which the rear gunner was killed. Crashed at Macesul, 45km S. of Craiova, Romania.

    AUS425381 F/O (Pilot/Capt.) Lawrence Franklin TICHBORNE RAAF - POW
    NZ404025 F/Sgt (Nav./B) L J GOODLET RNZAF - POW
    125481 F/O (W.Op./Air Gnr.) A I POOLE RAFVR - POW
    AUS424291 F/O (Air Bomber) Anthony Thomas DUFF RAAF - POW
    152861 F/O (Air Gnr.) John Charles MURPHY RAFVR +

    Murphy buried Bucharest War Cemetery. 1. A. 2.

    See: Sweeping The Skies:A History of No.40 Squadron, RFC and RAF, 1916-56
    Gunby,David.
    Bishop Auckland:The Pentland Press,1995.
    pp.267-8 & 377
    (with corrections/additions by me).

    Col.
    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 15th November 2010 at 02:17.

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    Hello,

    Re;Sutcliffe:

    On 2 July (1944), five aircraft bombed Prahova Oil Refinery, Bucharest, on Target Indicators laid accurately by 614 Squadron. Night fighters were active, downing a SAAF Liberator and two 40 Squadron Wellingtons. Both fell on the return journey to night fighters which raked them from below, killing the rear gunners... (F/Sgt R. D. Sutcliffe RCAF), was brought down over eastern Yugoslavia when, after three attacks the Wellington became uncontrollable and Dick Sutcliffe ordered the crew out. Sgts J. E. Turnbull and J. D. Yole, the bomb aimer and navigator, were first to go, Turnbull meeting a Chetnik band and returning to the Squadron with Boswell's crew. Yole, however, was shot either as he was parachuting, or after he landed. Sutcliffe himself was fortunate to escape through the hatch over the pilot's head, sucked out by his already opened parachute, while the W/Op (Sgt E. H. Turner) who had been lying stunned on the floor of the aircraft, and taken for dead, came to in time to bale out himself. Both Sutcliffe and Turner were taken prisoner by the occupying Bulgarian army.

    2/3-7-1944
    No.40 Sqn.
    Wellington X LP253
    Target: Prahova Oil Refinery.

    Aircraft crippled by night fighter attack in which the rear gunner was killed. Sgt Yole was shot as he descended. or on the ground. Turnbull was sheltered by Yugoslav partisans , and returned to Italy in August. Sgt Yole and Beeson are buried in Belgrade War Cemetery.

    F/Sgt R. D. Sutcliffe RCAF - POW
    Sgt J.D. Yole -Killed
    Sgt E.H. Turner - POW
    Sgt J.E. Turnbull - Evaded
    Sgt H. Beeson - Killed

    See:
    Sweeping the Skies/Gunby.
    pp.267-8 & 377

    Col.
    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 15th November 2010 at 02:40.

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    Sutcliffe is listed as a prisoner in Shumen Camp, Bulgaria, on this site dedicated to it.

    http://shumen-camp.info/names_english.html

    And well done Col, your library is the envy of us all.
    Last edited by dfuller52; 15th November 2010 at 14:47.
    David

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    Many thanks for this information, It is clear I should consult "Sweeping the Skies" although my use of it might be brief and there appear to be no copies in any libraries close to me (Ottawa). Copies sold on-line start at about $ 115.00 (U.S.) and I should first ask if this is a quality book. Does it have a good index ?

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    Hi Hugh,

    I can borrow this book through my university library. I will e-mail you with some details.
    David

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    Default Sutcliffe et al.

    Nice to see the item about Dick Sutcliffe, whom I know well. He retired as Chief Pilot of Canadian Pacific Airways and is, I think, still with us, living in California.

    Incidentally, my Sweeping the Skies has a full index, Hugh.

    David

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    While you have your books out, would anyone abject if I asked for details of another Wellington crew member buried in Belgrade? He is James Geoffrey Gleadall Butler, Sergeant (Air Gnr.), 938208, 37 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, died 16th November 1940.
    The CWGC record suggests that he is in a communal grave, alongside the rest of the crew. I can't work out what they were doing there though. As far as I know, 37 squadron were based in the Med at the time and there are no other Allied burials in Belgrade for this period of the war.
    Thanks
    Dave

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    Hello,

    16/17 Nov 1940
    37 Sqn
    Wellington IC R3179
    Op: Durazzo (Albania).

    Took off Luqa. FTR. Buried at the time in a communal grave at Piroski (?) Monastery, Yugoslavia, all were after the war re-interred in Belgrade War Cemetery.

    Sgt B W Green +
    Sgt G A Ross +
    Sgt A B Lattimer +
    Sgt J R Barnes +
    Sgt J G D Wilson +
    Sgt J G G Butler +

    See:
    Royal Air Force Bomber Losses in the Middle East and Mediterranean. Vol.1: 1939-1942.
    Gunby,David & Pelham Temple.
    Hinckley:Midland Publishing,2006
    p.31

    Col.

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