EDWARDS – George Mercier

EDWARDS, GEORGE MERCIER; Flight Sergeant (Air Gnr.); Service No. 1259259; Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Age 24; Rear Gunner on Halifax B for Bertie (W7801).

George Edwards was born in Kingston, Jamaica, the son of George Henry Edwards & Sidona Edwards.

Military Service Sergeant Edwards was the Rear Gunner Halifax B for Bertie (W7801), one of two tug planes used during Operation Freshman. He was killed instantly when his aircraft crashed into Hæstad Mountain, Helleland, Norway, around midnight on the 19th November, 1942.

Sergeant Edwards is buried in the Commonwealth Grave plot in Helleland Churchyard, Norway.

GM Edwards grave

OPERATION FRESHMAN

On the evening of November 19th, 1942, two Halifax bombers, each towing a Horsa Glider took off from RAF Skitten, near Wick in NE Scotland. On board each glider were 15 specially trained Royal Engineers, and two pilots. Their top-secret mission, code-named Operation Freshman, was to destroy the heavy water-producing facility at the  Norsk Hydro industrial complex near Vemork, Norway. This facility was a crucial part of Nazi Germany’s efforts to develop a nuclear bomb.

Tragically, due to failures in the navigation and guidance systems and poor weather, the aircraft failed to identify the landing zones and were forced to turn back. During the return, extreme icing of the tow cables resulted in both gliders becoming detached from their tow-planes and they crashed in the mountains of SE Norway. In addition, one of the Halifax bombers also crashed, instantly killing all 7 crew members onboard, including Sergeant George Mercier Edwards from Kingston, Jamaica. The crew were initially buried in a shallow grave close to the crash site but were reinterred in the Commonwealth graves plot in Helleland Churchyard, Rogaland, Norway at the end of the war with full military honours.

helleland-01

 

Of the 34 men onboard the gliders, a number were killed on impact, while others were executed by firing squad shortly after their surrender at  Slettebø, near  Egersund. In addition, four, badly-injured soldiers were interrogated and murdered by the Gestapo in Stavanger, their bodies dumped at sea off the coast of Norway. At the end of the war, the remains of most of the soldiers were reinterred at the Commonwealth Grave section in Eiganes Cemetery in Stavanger, where a remembrance ceremony is held every year to  honour their sacrifice.

Due to the secrecy surrounding the mission, very little information was provided to the families of the servicemen at the time, other than that they were missing. A short news article was published in a Norwegian newspaper shortly after the raid saying that a number of aircraft had landed in Norway and that all of the soldiers on board had been engaged and killed to the last man. However, it was not until after the war that true horror of the story emerged!

Over the years there have been a number of publications describing the events of Operation Freshman, and also the subsequent successful sabotage of the Vemork facility by British-trained Norwegian special forces soldiers (Operation Gunnerside). This action was immortalised in the Hollywood film The Heroes of  Telemark, starring Kirk Douglas.

In 2011, Ion Drew’s excellent book, Silent Heroes, was published. In addition to the event itself, Silent Heroesalso provided a unique insight into the personal lives of the individual servicemen and their families, and contained information based on interviews, correspondence, and meetings with surviving relatives and ex-servicemen who had connections to the operation. At the time of publication, however, details of only some of the men were available. Efforts are now being made to address this gap as part of a project to update Silent Heroes. In particular, the project is looking for any additional information on Sergeant Edwards.

Ultimately the Operation Freshman Project is trying to trace surviving relatives or people who have stories or anecdotes concerning the servicemen who participated in the raid, and who may have photographs, letters or other documentary information relating to the servicemen. The idea is to tell the story of these incredibly courageous young men through their lives, and lives of their families, rather than more conventional histories which focus primarily on the events themselves.

[Source: Dr. Bruce A. Tocher]

MARCHAND – Chester

MARCHAND, CHESTER JOSEPH FRANCIS

Nationality: British Honduras
Rank: Flying Officer
Regiment/Service: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve Unit
Text: 7 Sqdn. Date of Death: 26/08/1944
Service No: 158046
Additional information: Of British Honduras.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Grave/Memorial
Reference: Panel 207.
Memorial: RUNNYMEDE MEMORIAL,UK.

[Source: Caribbean Roll of Honour]


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Source: Unknown pulication, courtesy Nadia Cattouse via Audrey Dewjee]

 

WESTON – Frederick Thomas

Flight Sgt Navigator, 1397411, flying Mosquito no 739, when he crashed (there may have been a change to his service no after his commision)

Frederick Thomas WESTON was born on the 9th November 1908. He was educated at Cardiff University gaining  B.A Hons in French and Education. He served as assistant master at Wallingford grammar school before being appointed as Master at Queen’s College Georgetown where he remained for 6 years.Known as”Taffy” and described as”the greatest all rounder” the College ever had. During his time at Queens he introduced swimming sports revived boxing and became Scoutmaster to the 27th Q.C.scouts. He also became Commisioner for Scouts for Guyana,served on the Boxing Board of Control and became Scout Commisioner for Guyana and represented Guyana at rugby football. He left Guyana in 1941 to return to Britain to serve with the RAFVR in WW2. Throughout his service he wore the British Guyana name on the shoulder of his uniform,wearing it on the day that his plane crashed killing him and his pilot Barney Joblin on 31st August 1943. It was always his intention to return to Guyana after the war to further his carreer at Queens. The pupils and staff at Queens bestowed on him the great honour of naming one of the new school houses after him,”Weston House”. Although not a native Guyanese he carried Guyana in his heart to the grave.

 


[Source: Fred Weston]

HARDING – Oscar Leonard Harrington

J/88359 – P/O – Oscar Leonard Harrington Harding -  air bomber 433 Squadron – KIA 25/02/1944

RCAF Casualty List 1033 shows P/O Harding as hailing from Georgetown, British Guiana

Chorley’s 1944 BCL shows him as aircrew on a 433 Sqn Halifax lost on Schweinfurt 24/25 February, 1944

[Source: CWGC, RCAF Casuality List 1033, Chorleys’s; courtesy Alieneyes]

De SILVA – Desmond Michael

R/95750 – Desmond Michael De Silva – W/O – 218 Squadron – KIA 24/08/1943

[Sources: CWGC and RCAF Casualty List 0918 and Chorley’s; courtesy Alieneyes]

W/O De Silva DFM shows up with parents in Flushing, NY. RCAF Casualty List 0918, however, shows W/O Desmond Michael De Silva DFM as being from Georgetown, British Guiana.

CWGC says 218 Squadron but Chorleys has him lost as a rear gunner on a Stirling from No. 623 Squadron. Both list him as an American from Flushing Meadows, NY City.

RCAF Casualty List 0918 and Chorley’s

HUXTABLE – Robert Gerald

R/133782 – W/O Robert Gerald Huxtable – Wireless Operator/Air Gunner – KIA  03/06/1944

[Source: CWGC]

Dave Champion (aug. 2010): Robert Huxtable, listed as being from Nassau, Bahamas, was actually born and bred in Toronto, Ontario. I pulled his RCAF service file a couple of days ago.

The Bahamas connection comes from the fact his ferrying unit was based there. He was killed, along with his crew, when his Marauder crashed just after takeoff in Egypt, now Sudan.

He was married and his wife was also from Toronto.

TAYLOR – George Robert Ian

R108843 – F/S – 405 Squadron – KOAS (Killed on active service: possible training accident)
Yorkshire aircraft

[Sources: RCAF Casuality list 442, CWGC, courtesy Alieneyes]

KERR – Louis Noel Lyndon

W/O – 76 squardron – Halifax EB253 MP-C – KIA 23 sept. 1943

[Sources: Chorley, CWGC; courtesy Alieneyes]

ARCHER – Phillip Leslie Irving

ARCHER, PHILLIP LESLIE IRVING Initials: P L I Nationality:United Kingdom Rank: Squadron Leader Regiment/Service: Royal Canadian Air Force Age: 27 Date of Death: 17/06/1943 Service No: J/3508 Awards: D F C Additional information: Son of Frederick Leslie and Millicent Beryl Archer, of Hastings St. Michael, Barbados.

R Sc. 17 June 1943 421 RCAF Squadron.Spitfire IX LZ996 Rodeo pm. Shot down by JG26 Fw190 near St.Omer.FCL Vo.2 Franks.
[Extract courtesy CXX ww2chat.com. Source spitfires.ukf.net:] 6 enemy aircraft credited

[Source: Air Force Association of Canada:]- ARCHER, F/L Phillip Leslie Irving (J3508) – Distinguished Flying Cross – No.416 Squadron – Award effective 24 August 1942 as per London Gazette dated 11 September 1942 and AFRO 1535/42 dated 25 September 1942.

Born in Bridgetown, Barbados, 1917.
Joined RCAF in Montreal, 6 June 1940.
Trained at No.1 ITS , No.6 EFTS, and No.1 SFTS.
Posted overseas immediately;
to No.57 OTU, 17 February 1941;
to No.92 Squadron, 5 May 1941 where he destroyed three enemy aircraft and damaged one.
To No.412 Squadron, 11 November 1941;
to No.416 Squadron (“A” Flight Commander), 10 March 1942.
To Station Kenley, 1 December 1942.  Presented with award 9 February 1943.  Designated CO,
No.402 Squadron, 13 June 1943 and attached to No.421 Squadron for a few days to get back to operational standards.  On 17 June 1943 he took command of No.421 Squadron on posting of CO;
killed in action 17 June 1943.

Aerial victories as follows:
23 June 1941, one Bf.109F destroyed southeast of Boulogne;
7 July 1941, one Bf.109F destroyed and one damaged near Lille;
9 July 1941, one Bf.109F destroyed near Bethune;
18 July 1942,  one Do.217 destroyed east of Orfordness;
17 June 1943, one FW.190 destroyed (action in which he was killed).

Photo PL-7689 (with P/O Buchan); PL-7690 (in front of Spitfire); PL-11906 (portrait); PL-15375 (F/L E.H. McCaffrey, S/L P.L.I. Archer, F/L D.J. Williams after investiture).

This officer has completed sorties over enemy territory and has destroyed at least four enemy aircraft.  On one occasion, although wounded in the leg, Flight Lieutenant Archer flew his badly damaged aircraft back to the base where he executed a skilful landing.  He is a most efficient leader.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Grave/Memorial Reference: Plot 8. Row A. Grave 1. Cemetery: LONGUENESSE (ST. OMER) SOUVENIR CEMETERY,FRANCE
[Source: Air Force Association of Canada & cwgc; courtesy Jerome Lee]

VEIRA – Basil Vernon Lancelot


[Images courtesy Carl Ryan; click on images to enlarge]

VEIRA, F/O Basil Vernon Lancelot (J10677) – Distinguished Flying Cross – No.12 Squadron – KIA 28 april 1943.

Award effective 27 April 1943 as per London Gazette dated 20 June 1944 and AFRO 1660/44 dated 4 August 1944.  Born 4 April 1914 in Basseterre, St.Kitts, British West Indies; home in Montreal; enlisted there 25 June 1941.
Attended No.3 Initial Training School (graduated 6th in a class of 18 observer candidates, 13 September 1941), No.9 Air Observer School (graduated 7th in a class of 22, air and ground subjects, 3 January 1942), No.6 Bombing and Gunnery School (graduated 9th in a class of 27 on 14 February 1942, received Air Observer Badge that date), and No.2 Air Navigation School (graduated 16 March 1942 in a class of 89, having stood 3rd in ground subjects and first in air subjects).  Further trained at No.31 General Reconnaissance School, Charlottetown, 10 April to 14 June 1942 (graduated 14th in a class of 26; his performance described as “disappointing”).
Embarked for overseas, 16 June 1942; taken on strength of No.3 Personnel Reception Centre, Britain, 25 June 1942.  Posted to No.20 Operational Training Unit, 13 July 1942; posted to No.12 Squadron, 21 October 1942.
Ranks: Aircraftman, Second Class on enlistment, 25 June 1941; promoted to Leading Aircraftman, 28 September 1941; promoted to Sergeant, 14 February 1942; commissioned as Pilot Officer, 16 March 1942; promoted to Flying Officer, 1 October 1942.


[Images courtesy Carl Ryan; click on images to enlarge]

Killed in action 28/29 April 1943 on Lancaster GB408.  Particulars of Death Aircraft was shot down by a German night fighter, 29 April 1943 in vicinity of Leba (near Lauenburg, Germany).  Body washed ashore and buried in Leba.  Lancaster ED408; Crew were 1315743 Sergeant G. Elsworthy (pilot), J10677 F/O B.V.L. Veira (navigator), 1311073 FS W.E. Freeman (WAG), 143857 P/O J.J.L. Haddow (bomb aimer), 621910 Sergeant E.A. Pye (flight engineer), 989136 Sergeant C.W.S. Downes (mid-upper gunner) and 930059 Sergeant R.C. Grant (rear gunner).  No.12 Squadron.
Aircraft carrying four 1,500 pound sea mines when it took off.  On 12 December 1944 his widow attended an investiture at Government House, Ottawa, to receive her husband’s Distinguished Flying Cross.  The Department of National Defence provided her with a rail ticket and $ 10.00 expenses.  It is interesting to note that this investiture was attended by 28 other next-of-kin receiving awards on behalf of deceased family; the list of those attending includes not only Mrs. B.V.L. Veira but also Mrs. D.E. Hornell (picking up her husband’s posthumous Victoria Cross).  This information is not on his personal file but is found in RCAF file 305-4-3 “Honours and Awards – Fifth Investiture at Government House”, National Archives of Canada, RG.24 E.1, Volume 3350.Award presented to next of kin, 12 December 1944.

“This officer has participated in numerous operational sorties which have included missions to Hamburg, Berlin, the Ruhr, Stettin and Spezia. His navigation has always been of a very high standard and he has a fine record of achievement.  His determination and confidence while on operations has always been an inspiration to the squadron while his gallantry and devotion to duty has done much to create a high morale among his fellow navigators.”
[Source: Air Force Association of Canada; courtesy Jerome Lee]

Below: copies from Basil Veira’s log book










Below: Yearly reunion at what was RAF Base Wickenby where #12 Squadron was stationed.

[Images courtesy Carl Ryan; click on images to enlarge]

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