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  • Plot L. Row C. Coll. grave 24-26.
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  • ‘Back to the old front line,’ called Imlay, as a bloodied messenger raced in. I glanced around the trench as I swung my gun on shoulder. Bright mess tins lay about. There was half a loaf of bread with an open tin of jam beside it, and bloodstained equipment lying everywhere. The dead sergeant still lay massive on the parapet. Other dead lay limp on the trench floor. Wounded sprawled or sat with backs to the parapet, watching us with anxious eyes. ‘You are not going to leave us?’ asked one of me. I could not answer him, or meet his eyes as I joined the party moving down the sap. For some reason I felt the guilt of deserting them was mine alone. Here was a tangle of dismembered limbs and dead men. The air was heavy with the reek of explosives. One man, with his foot blown off, leaned wearily back. He had a mills in his hand with the pin out. He would not be taken alive. Our party – about sixty strong, with our two remaining officers – spread along the German front line, mean with ready bombs and bayonets on the flanks. No other Australian force was left in the Hindenburg Line. Our shells still screamed about the parapet. When this fire died down the might of the German Army would fall again on our outflanked few. Between us and our line stretched masses of brown wire, and fifteen hundred yards of bullet and shell-swept level land, over which for a long time no messenger had lived in attempting to get across. Wounded men stood and sat silent on the upper steps of deep dugouts. I leaned on my gun, pondering the utter hopelessness of the position. A Fritz machine gun sat askew on the parapet. I was forming a project to bring it into action. Word came from the left flank, punctuated by bomb bursts, ‘Enemy bombing back. We have run out of bombs’. All stores of German bombs had been used up by our men. An officers’ voice called clear, ‘Dump everything and get back.’ Discard my beautiful gun? They mightn’t give me another! Our few unwounded climbed the parapet. Heavily I started to climb the steep trench wall where a shell had partly blown it in. I looked up to see Bill Davies standing on the top amid the bullets, with hand extended to help me up. A vast indifference settled on me, as I stood on the parapet. Three yards out a man lying over a strand of wire called, ‘Help me, mate.’ I put down my gun and tried to heave him into a shell hole. He screamed with pain as I heaved, so I stopped. ‘I can’t do anything for you, old chap’, I said, and hoping that I would be forgiven the lie, ‘I will send the bearers back.’ ‘Thank you’, he said. I picked up my gun and walked on. A shrapnel from the enemy flank churned the ground just in front, as I picked my way through the wire. A piece of shell fragment cut my puttee tape, and dropped the folds around my boot. In complete indifference I trudged over the field, making the concession of holding the gun flat so as not to be too prominent. A man reaches a blasé stage after too much excitement. Once I thought of settling down and blazing defiance at the enemy with my last solitary magazine. But the thought of our wounded in the track of the bullets made me refrain. Five-point-nines burst black on either hand, and futile bullets zipped about. They could no nothing to me. Silly cows to try. Someone ought to tell them… George Mitchell's walk was witnessed by hundreds and passed into AIF Legend. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and later commissioned.
  • Extract from Dambusters Blog https://dambustersblog.com/category/david-shannon/ At the end of February 1943, David Shannon finished his tour of operations in 106 Squadron with a trip to St Nazaire. This was the 36th sortie in a run which stretched back to June 1942, shortly after his 20th birthday. During his tour, he had generally flown with a core crew made up of Danny Walker, navigator, Wallace Herbert, bomb aimer, Arnold Pemberton, wireless operator, Douglas McCulloch, mid upper gunner and Bernard Holmes, rear gunner. Over the course of the tour Shannon flew with a number of different flight engineers and/or second pilots, but in the last few months Sgt Cyril Chamberlain became the regular flight engineer. An enforced change happened in November 1942, when Danny Walker came to the end of his own tour. He was posted to No 22 OTU as an instructor and thereafter a number of different navigators filled in for him. These included the experienced Norman Scrivener and Winston Burnside, both of whom also navigated for Guy Gibson in this period. Shannon’s last operation in 106 Squadron on 28 February appears to have coincided with the end of the tours of Herbert, Pemberton, McCulloch and Holmes. Under normal circumstances, the crew would have broken up and all would have been sent on instructional duties for a period of six months. Shannon, however, wanted to carry on flying and somehow arranged a transfer to 83 Squadron at RAF Wyton, a Pathfinder outfit. It was there that he got a telephone call from Gibson, asking him to join him at Scampton where he was forming a new squadron. Chamberlain, Herbert, Pemberton, McCulloch and Holmes were apparently all still at Syerston, waiting for new postings. Consideration was obviously given to reconstituting Shannon’s 106 Squadron crew, since Chamberlain, Pemberton, McCulloch and Holmes were all transferred to the new 617 Squadron at Scampton on or about 25 March 1943. Herbert appears either not to have been asked or to have declined the offer. Also, Shannon’s old crew member Danny Walker was specifically sought out to fill the post of navigator, and was brought over to Scampton from No 22 OTU at Wellesbourne Mountford. It is not clear exactly what happened next. Shannon undertook two testing flights on 28 and 31 March, but he only recorded the names of the other pilots with whom he flew (Flt Lt Dierkes on 28 March, Flt Lt John Hopgood on 31 March). His next flight wasn’t until 6 April, when he did a 5 hour cross country and bombing trip. This was repeated, over a different route, two days later on 8 April. On both of these flights, a five man crew is recorded. This consisted of Walker and McCulloch, both from his 106 Squadron days, two new names – bomb aimer Len Sumpter and flight engineer Robert Henderson, plus Larry Nichols, a wireless operator borrowed from Melvin Young’s crew. After the war, Len Sumpter described how he and Henderson were recruited to the squadron. At that stage, he had completed 13 operations in 57 Squadron, based at Scampton. Then his pilot was grounded with ear trouble and the crew were broken up. He and his erstwhile crewmate Henderson knew that a new squadron was being formed in the next two hangars, and heard that Shannon was looking for a bomb aimer and a flight engineer, so they sought him out. “We looked him over and he looked us over – and that’s the way I got on to 617 Squadron.” (Max Arthur, Dambusters: A Landmark Oral History, Virgin 2008, p18.) No date is given for this “interview”, but it must have occurred sometime between 31 March and 6 April. Sumpter goes on to say that the crew didn’t get their own wireless operator until the end of April. He didn’t know – or didn’t mention – that there were three members of Shannon’s old crew, including wireless operator Arnold Pemberton, kicking their heels on the ground. On 11 April, Shannon’s logbook records the first flight of a new crew member, rear gunner Jack Buckley. He had been transferred from No 10 OTU, where he was working as an instructor. He was an experienced gunner and had been commissioned, having completed a full tour of operations with 75 (New Zealand) Squadron. Albert Garshowitz (misspelt as Gowshowitz) from Bill Astell’s crew was the borrowed wireless operator on this occasion. Two days later, on 13 April, a complete squadron crew list was compiled, under the title “Order of Battle”. This is preserved in a file in the National Archives (AIR14/842). It shows Shannon’s crew as: Henderson, flight engineer, Walker, navigator, Sumpter, bomb aimer, McCulloch, mid upper gunner and Buckley, rear gunner. The position of wireless operator is left blank. Flg Off McCulloch is also listed as A Flight Gunnery Leader. Four names are listed as ‘spares’, amongst whom are the other three members of Shannon’s 106 Squadron crew: Pemberton, Holmes and Chamberlain. Another two days later, on 15 April, Douglas McCulloch attended an Aircrew Selection Board. He must therefore have previously applied for remustering. However, he returned to the squadron and flew on more training flights with Shannon on 19 and 21 April. He was eventually posted to No 13 Initial Training Wing on 1 May. On 17 April, Bernard Holmes and Arnold Pemberton’s time at 617 Squadron ended, with them both being recorded as being posted to No 19 OTU at Kinloss. There is no record of the destiny of Cyril Chamberlain. Holmes’s son Robert recalls that his father apparently told his wife at the time that he and Pemberton were bored and frustrated through not being kept busy, and asked for a transfer. Eleven days later, on 24 April, another squadron crew list was published. The Shannon crew now shows two changes. The wireless operator position has been filled by Flg Off Goodale DFC and the mid upper gunner has the handwritten name of Sgt Jagger in a space which had been left blank by the typist. The A Flight gunnery leader is now shown as Flg Off Glinz (from Norman Barlow’s crew). There are no longer any names listed as spares (National Archives: AIR14/842). This date coincides with Goodale’s first appearance in Shannon’s logbook. It is notable that Brian Jagger’s name may appear here, but in fact he did not fly with Shannon until 4 May. Both men came with a deal of experience. Brian Goodale had a completed full tour and was recruited from No 10 OTU, where Jack Buckley had also been an instructor. Brian Jagger came from 50 Squadron. He had previously flown with John Fraser and Ken Earnshaw, two Canadians in John Hopgood’s crew, and they may have been instrumental in getting him on board. On this date, David Shannon’s Dams Raid crew was finally established, and they would fly together for the next few months. Quite why three members of his crew from 106 Squadron were earlier brought over to Scampton but never used remains a mystery. Later in the war, after a spell as an instructor, Bernard Holmes returned to operations with 77 Squadron, and joined a crew skippered by Wg Cdr J D R Forbes, the squadron CO. He remained there until the end of hostilities. He had married his wife Margaret in 1940, and they had two sons, born after the war. The family emigrated to South Africa in 1952, and he died there in 1979. Thanks to Robert Holmes, Clive Smith, Robert Owen and Nigel Favill for their help with this article.
  • From CWGC Cemetery page. Bancourt was occupied by Commonwealth forces in March 1917. It was lost a year later during the German offensive in the spring of 1918, but recaptured by the New Zealand Division (in particular, the 2nd Auckland Battalion) on 30 August 1918. The cemetery was begun by the New Zealand Division in September 1918; the original cemetery is now Plot I, Rows A and B. The remainder of the cemetery was made after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefields east and south of Bancourt and from certain Allied and German cemeteries, including:- BAPAUME RESERVOIR GERMAN CEMETERY, on the Bapaume Beaulencourt road, containing the graves of twelve soldiers from the United Kingdom buried by a German Field Ambulance in March and April, 1918, and of seven others and three from New Zealand who fell at the end of August, 1918. BAPAUME ROAD CEMETERY, BEAULENCOURT, a500 metres South of the Beaulencourt-Gueudecourt road, containing the graves of 20 soldiers from the United Kingdom who fell in October, 1916. BEAULENCOURT ROAD CEMETERIES, three in number, on the North-East side of Gueudecourt, containing the graves of 88 soldiers from the United Kingdom who fell in the autumn of 1916 or in April, 1917. CLOUDY TRENCH CEMETERY, GUEUDECOURT, containing the graves of 40 soldiers from the United Kingdom who fell in October or November, 1916. The five cemeteries last named were made by the 5th Australian Division in April, 1917. FREMICOURT COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION. This Extension was begun by the Germans, who buried in it 1,346 of their own soldiers and 136 officers and men from the United Kingdom who fell in March, 1918. It was taken over in September, 1918, by British and Dominion units, who used it for clearing the battlefields and for fresh burials, and added 94 graves. All the graves have now been removed to other cemeteries. SUNKEN ROAD CEMETERY, LESBOEUFS, between Gueudecourt and Le Transloy, made by the 5th Australian Division in April, 1917. It contained the graves of 49 soldiers from the United Kingdom and one from Australia who fell in October, 1916. The great majority of these graves dated from the winter of 1916-1917 (Flers Guedecourt), the retreat of March 1918 (the German 'Operation Michael spring Offensive) , or the advance of August-September 1918 ('The Last Hundred Days'). Bancourt British Cemetery now contains 2,480 burials and commemorations of the First World War. 1,462 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to 43 casualties known or believed to be buried among them, and to one soldier buried in Bapaume Reservoir German Cemetery, whose grave could not be found on concentration. The cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.
  • Before going into battle in September 1918 Bernard wrote the following letter to his brother Gabriel’s wife, Lottie. Interestingly, it is dated 1 October 1918; apparently it was not uncommon for men to date letters this way as they went into battle. This is believed to be the last letter that Bernard wrote. October 1, 1918 France Dear Lottie, Just a few lines, Lottie, in answer to your welcome letter to hand dated 9 June, was pleased to get a long letter from you and Gabe. So your little girls don’t forget me by what Gabe told me. Well I am expecting to be going to England on leave soon. I have been over here a long time and have been existing well. All the girls getting married, well good luck to them and tell your sisters that I wish them the best of luck as besides fighting hard for years and wasting the best years of my life over here but you know I have a nice little girl over here first for the time being and will close this letter wishing you and the children the best of luck. I remain, Bernard xxx Submitted by Julianne T Ryan, courtesy of Jenny Kingsford (nee Coyte).
  • An extract from https://johnknifton.com/tag/103-squadron/ A Day I Never Forget by Marie Harris. I was posted to the Ack Ack Site at Goxhill Haven as a driver in 1943. My duties were to drive all vehicles and any vehicle wherever needed. There were 3 of us girl drivers, Moira Turnbull, Nan Caulfield and myself. Although I say it myself I think we did a darned good job (must have done for they never gave us the sack!). It was quite a good site really, ATS and soldiers all got on well together, taking the good with the bad, no luxuries as such and not many "Passes Out". Occasionally, when there had been a good night of shooting the enemy planes down, the Major and Officers would put on a dance and social night for us in the NAAFI. They would invite so many RAF and so many Yanks. It all helped to make a great night and lift our spirits and to mix or meet others who were doing what we were trying to do, keep old Hitler out. Most of the RAF were Air Crew and you would dance with one or two, get to know them a bit and have a great night, but knowing when you saw the Bombers taking off the following night they were up there doing the BIG BIT and come the next evening you would ask "where's Alec, Bob and Bill?" Just a shrug of the shoulders from their mates and you knew and felt sad, very sad. As I drove around the lanes to wherever my duties took me at a certain time of the day you would see the Bombers going off and up into the clouds and away, you got used to it, up into one circle, two circles and third circle away on their mission and you would say to yourself and often loudly "Good luck lads, come back for that Tango." It was one afternoon in December 1943 around 4.30 as I was driving a load of stores to another site in the Guy Truck, which had an open front and canvas covered back, going along this lane just wide enough for the truck and a ditch each side. Coming up to a farm on my right, it was very low cloud and the Lancasters were taking off into the circles, up and away, as I looked up and raised my right arm in a salute. They were so low and so near I felt I could nearly touch them. One went into this low cloud and I was thinking it's a wonder they don't crash they are so close together, when in a split second as it came out of the cloud, God, it was a head on crash with another Lancaster, one almighty explosion and all Hell was let loose. It was awful, I couldn't believe what had happened practically over my head, just over the farmer's field. I was so stunned, streaks of fire shooting all over the road and my truck. I pulled on the brakes and jumped in the ditch but only for a few seconds thinking some of the crew could be saved, so I ran up past the farmer's house, bits and pieces lying all over, just passing a barn and someone caught hold of me from behind and wouldn't let go, kept saying "NO LASS, NO LASS there'll be nothing". It was the old farmer. In no time at all the fire engines etc. were arriving. I pulled myself together and went back to my truck in a daze and drove onto the site, still couldn't believe what had happened. When I pulled up at the Guard House I was just rooted to my seat and couldn't stop crying, thinking of the Bobs, Alecs and Bills whoever just blown to bits. It was awful and still is. The guard called the Sergeant who took one look at my truck with all the bits and pieces, burns on the canvas and said "she must have been under it." They took me into the Mess and gave me a cup of hot strong tea and 20 minutes by the round stove (they were really kind.) I felt better and had to get on with it, so back to Goxhill. On arriving our MT Officer was concerned; did I need to go to the MO? No Sir, I'll be OK but when I went to bed I couldn't shut my eyes, this terrific explosion flashed before me every time. I was like this for quite a few nights. Another thing I can't bear even to this day to watch a film with planes crashing. I'd shut my eyes or go out of the cinema. Later in life I often used to think and wish I had gone back to see that farmer and I used to wonder if the families knew where their sons were lying. I was very pleased to hear that a Plaque is being dedicated in Remembrance to those poor souls. I can never forget them or what happened to them.. Driver Marie Harris W/44133 ATS.
  • see No. 42 Sqn unit page Catalina serial number A24-100 and code number RK-L of 42 Squadron, RAAF, piloted by 401846 Pilot Officer (PO) (later Flying Officer (FO)) Clifford Dent Hull of Hawthorn, Vic. After completing a successful mine laying operation off Macassar (Celebes) Harbour on the night of 23 & 24 October 1944, the starboard engine of this aircraft was damaged by Japanese anti aircraft (AA) fire. Unable to maintain height on his return and with the second engine failing, PO Hull made a forced landing in the open sea south of the South Western Celebes Peninsula. He and his crew spent the next twelve hours on the water uncomfortably close to four Japanese airfields based in Southern Celebes, before a second Catalina (left), OX-U of 43 Squadron, RAAF, arrived to rescue PO Hull and his crew. A rubber dingy is visible transferring the downed crew to the rescue aircraft. A United States B24 Liberator bomber located the downed Catalina and guided the rescue Catalina in. The B24 continued to circle overhead providing protection. After the disabled Catalina had been sunk by machine gun fire, the rescue Catalina took off and returned safely to Darwin. This operation was one of the epic sea rescues of the Second World War, entailing a round trip of 1800 miles mainly through Japanese held territory. The rescue crew were: 415632 FO (later Flight Lieutenant (Flt Lt, DFC)), Armand Andre Etienne (Captain), of West Perth, WA; 408409 FO (later Flt Lt), Ian McCallister Robson of Sandy Bay, Tas; 428809 Flight Sergeant (Flt Sgt) (later Warrant Officer (WO)), John Joseph Sweeney (Navigator), of Newcastle, NSW, (visible standing on the wing of the rescue aircraft); 428832 Flt Sgt (later WO), Raymond Victor Tumeth of Haberfield, NSW; 428360 Flt Sgt (later WO), Derek Fanshawe Robertson of Camberwell, Vic; 12912 Sergeant (Sgt) (later PO), Robert Richard Tingman of Brighton, Vic; 12223 Sgt (later Flt Sgt), Albert Leslie Warton of Sydney, NSW; A2398 Sgt, Thomas Roy Elphick of Bondi, NSW; 33642 Corporal, James Francis Burgess Oliver of Glen Innes of NSW.
  • Out of the 596 aircraft on the raid 29 were shot down. These figure were fairly typical of RAF raids on German targets at the time – immense destruction was now almost assured at a cost that was, if not acceptable, then at least sustainable. Flight Engineer Sergeant C.H. ‘Chick’ Chandler was on one of the Lancasters that was not shot down that night. His experience was about as bad as it could get without becoming a casualty. In his memory the traumatic events remained to be replayed in slow motion: It was 0110 HOURS on the morning of 23 April 1944. We were a XV Squadron Lancaster III crew from Mildenhall on our 17th op and we were hit simultaneously by heavy flak and cannon fire from an Me 109 at the precise moment that our bombs were released on Dusseldorf. Being the flight engineer, I was standing on the right-hand side of the cockpit, as was usual during our bombing run, with my head in the blister to watch for any fighter attack that might occur from the starboard side. The bombs were actually dropping from the aircraft when there was a tremendous explosion. For a brief period of time everything seemed to happen in ultra-slow motion. The explosion knocked me on my back; I was aware of falling on to the floor of the aircraft, but it seemed an age before I actually made contact. I distinctly remember ‘bouncing’. Probably lots of flying clothing and Mae Wests broke my fall, but under normal circumstances one would not have been aware of ‘bouncing’. As I fell I ‘saw’, in my mind’s eye, very clearly indeed, a telegram boy cycling to my mother’s back door. He was whistling very cheerfully and handed her the telegram that informed her of my death. She was very calm and thanked the boy for delivering the message. As I laid there I saw a stream of sparks pass a few feet above the cockpit, from back to front and going up at a slight angle. This caused me some confusion. If the sparks were from a burning engine they were going the wrong way. It was some little time before I realised that the ‘sparks’ were in fact tracer shells from a fighter that I did not know was attacking us. The illusion that the tracer shells were going upwards was no doubt caused by the fact that our Lancaster was going into an uncontrolled, screaming dive, but because of the slow-motion effect that I was experiencing, I did not appreciate this fact. This whole episode had taken 2 or 3 seconds at most, then the slow-motion effect began to wear off, and I became aware of the screams of the bomb-aimer. [after the aircraft went through violent evasive dives they threw off the fighter … the order to prepare to ‘bale out’ was withdrawn after they discovered that most of the parachutes had been destroyed] My task now was to check the aircraft for damage and casualties. My checks started at the front of the aircraft, in the bomb-aimer’s compartment. I am afraid to say that my sheltered life had not prepared me for the terrible sight that met my eyes. It was obvious that this area had caught the full blast of the flak, and Alan Gerrard had suffered the most appalling injuries. At least he would have died almost instantaneously. Suffice to say that I was sick. At this stage I risked using my torch to shine along the bomb bay to make sure that all our bombs were gone. My report simply was that the bomb-aimer had been killed and that all bombs had left the aircraft. Next stop was the cockpit. The pilot had really worked wonders in controlling the aircraft and successfully feathering the engine that had been on fire. Then on to the navigator’s department; on peering round the blackout screen I saw that Ken Pincott was busy working over his charts, but that Flight Lieutenant John Fabian DFC, the H2S operator (the Squadron navigation leader), appeared to be in shock. However, once I established that there appeared to be no serious damage, I moved on. The wireless operator’s position was empty because his task during the bombing run was to go to the rear of the aircraft and ensure that the photo flash left at the same time as the bombs. Next, down to the mid-upper turret, where Ron Wilson had re-occupied his position, albeit only temporarily. (Unknown to me, he had suffered a wound to his ear that, although not too serious, would keep him off flying for a few weeks.) On reaching the next checkpoint I was again totally unprepared for the dreadful sight that confronted me. Our wireless operator, Flight Sergeant L. Barnes, had sustained, in my opinion, fatal chest injuries and had mercifully lost consciousness. It was found later that he had further very serious injuries to his lower body and legs. He died of his wounds before we reached England. From the rear turret I got a ‘thumbs up’ sign from ‘Whacker’ Mair, so I rightly concluded that he was OK. As well as having to report the death of our bomb-aimer, and the fatal injuries to the wireless operator, I had to report the complete failure of the hydraulic system. The pilot was already aware of the fact that we had lost our port inner engine through fire, and that our starboard outer was giving only partial power. The bomb doors were stuck in the open position, and the gun turrets had been rendered inoperative because of the hydraulic failure. Post script: They had just enough fuel to make it back to England, gradually losing height all the way, only to discover that their undercarriage was stuck as they came in to land. The remaining crew survived the emergency landing. All the survivors remained on flying duties, only the slightly wounded mid upper gunner had a brief respite. See Bowman (Ed.) RAF Bomber Stories: Dramatic First-hand Accounts of British and Commonwealth Airmen in World War 2
  • 'For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during the attack in front of VILLERS BRETONNEUX on 8th August 1918. Gunners [29015 H C] COURTNEY and TIDDY ran a line forward in face of heavy shell and machine gun fire and repeatedly patrolled same under heavy shell and machine gun fire in order to maintain communication. During the whole day's operation they acted in a most cool and daring manner, and under exceedingly trying circumstances showed a strong determination to succeed.' Source: 'Commonwealth Gazette' No. 75 Date: 17 June 1919

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