Pilot W/O Peter Horrocks

KIA

Flight engineer Wyndham Harries

KIA. Seen here on the left with his brother Owen

Airgunner Sgt. Bill Rouse

KIA

Wireless Operator Sgt. Jack Chaplin. KIA

Bombaimer Sgt. Arthur Jelfs

KIA

Navigator F/O Doug Hosken

KIA

Airgunner Sgt. Geoffrey

Bowden KIA

German soldiers killing the homing pigeons which were on board of Halifax JB801.

Artist Scott Nelson

July is a busy month for 78 squadron with missions to Cologne on the 3rd, Gelsenkirchen on the 9th and now Aachen on the 13th. Late in the evening the crew of Halifax bomber JB801 is preparing for takeoff from their base at RAF Breighton in Yorkshire, England. The bomber with seven crewmembers sets off around 23:35 hrs and proceed east towards Aachen in Germany. The targets that night are the railway emplacements. They are joined by 17 other Halifax bombers.

Mission reports of JB801 with on the 12th the one reporting them missing

July 3rd

July 9th

July 12th

The formation crosses the North Sea and around 02:00 hours at Aachen they release their deadly cargo. Heavy flak is greeting them though no enemy planes are spotted yet and they head west towards England.

Photo: Imperial War Museum

Vertical photographic -reconnaissance aerial taken after an attack by aircraft of Bomber Command on Aachen, Germany, on the night of 13/14 July 1943. Intense fires are seen to be still raging in the central city area about eight hours after the raid. 8 large industrial premises were severely damaged, as were the Town Hall, the cathedral, the police headquarters, the local prison, the main post office, two infantry barracks and an army food depot. 2,927 individual buildings were reported to have been destroyed, including a large number of civilian houses and apartments.

 

Australian newspaper mentioning the attack on Aachen

Like on so many other allied bombing missions the route to and from the target takes them via the great Dutch rivers through heavily defended skies. German radar is following the bombers and direct German night fighters to the formation. One of these radars is at Schoonrewoerd codenamed “Gorilla”

"Würzburg" German radar

Remains of the radar at Schoonrewoerd in the Netherlands

One of the German pilots directed by radar to the formation of Halifax bombers is Oberfeldwebel Karl-Heinz Scherfling. He takes off from Leewarden airbase in his Messerschmitt Bf 110-G4 Night fighter en heads south towards the formation which is now flying above the great rivers Waal and Lek.

Midden, Oberfeldwebel Karl-Heinz Scherfling

Scherfling spots Halifax JB801 and starts the attack, taken by surprise the bomber doesn’t stand a chance against the Messerschmitt night fighter armed with 20 cannons. The Halifax crashes near Peursum and the crew of seven are all killed. Eyewitness accounts describe how bodies are found in ditches and on the fields suggesting they tried to bail out. When morning breaks locals see the smoldering remains of the bomber in a field. A local manages to take a flare gun from the wreck but soon Germans arrive and cordon of the area. The next day Luftwaffe soldiers, probably from the Schoonrewoerd radar station, visit the site and have their photo taken in front of the wreck, their trophy. The soldier who takes the photograph gives the film to local photographer Kroon for development. Kroon than makes copies for himself.

German Luftwaffe soldiers in front of the remains of Halifax JB801

Flare gun taken from the wreck of Halifax JB-801

Pigeons

 

Mr H. van Holten was four years old when he saw at Peursum near Giessenburg the burnt wreck of Halifax JB801 which was shot down during the night. He remembers seeing burnt bodies amongst the wreckage but what really made an impression on him was that the Germans took from the wreck several homing pigeons and how they subsequently killed them all by wringing their necks. For a four year old boy a terrible sight to witness. A senseless and cruel act by the Germans as all crewmembers perished and so no messages could be sent via the pigeons.

 

British bombers carried homing pigeons which in case of emergency could carry back to base messages from the crew like location and enemies in the area.Nearly 250.000 homing pigeons were used by the British during WW2

A Canadian airman carrying two shockproof cases containing a homing pigeon.The purpose for these pigeons was that after an emergency landing at sea or land they could be released with a message detailing location of the plane. After the pigeons would arrive at base a rescue could be attempted . The most famous pigeons was the pigeon "Royal Blue" which was owned by King George VI but which was tranferred to the RAF Pigeon Service. The pigeon received the Dickin Medal for bravery after flying 190km from a crashed plane back to base.In total 32 homing pigeons received this medal.

Photo by Joseph Kroll
Airman & Pigeons. Source war44.com

The medal of Royal Blue.

Crew positions

In/out report showing pilot Horrocks and navigator Hosken as missing so out and replaced, the war goes on.

15/11/2014 Survey of crashlocation