Flying Officer C.R Bennett RAAF & Crew

Date of Operation 18th November 1943
Target MANNHEIM
Code Name (Ref) CHUB “B”
Note Spoof raid: 440 Avro Lancaster’s scheduled to attack

BERLIN

Master Bomber Call Sign
Take off-time 17.15hrs
Base RAF Station Downham Market
Time of Loss 2020hrs-2030hrs
Cause of Loss Barrage Flak
Aircraft Crashed Village of Kothausen, Germany
Escape & Evasion Report
Crew reported Cause of Loss Barrage Flak
Loss Card Details
Additional Information Sergeant Leslie Ashplant the mid upper gunner.

Records in a letter to author in 1994 that the aircraft was hit by flak before reaching the target area. He also recalls that on interrogation at Dulag Luft, Frankfurt the interviewing officer amazed him by knowing more about the squadron than he did, he even mentioned Wing Commander Wynne-Powell.

Sergeant Les Milnthorpe, Wireless Operator

Records in a letter to the author in 1994, he was taken prisoner by the troops manning a search light battery.

Zero Hour over Target 20.30hrs
Scheduled To Attack Zero Hour – Zero + 4
Wave 1st Wave
Bombing Height
Bomb Load 900 x 4lb + 90 x4lb “x” Type + 48 x30lb incendiaries
Bombing Method if Known Newhaven Ground Markers : Red TI Marker Flares, back-up Green TI Marker Flares
Route Base-Beachy Head-Cayeux-4948N/0825E-Target-4912N/0808E-4850N/0500E-5000N-0115E-BeachyHead-Base
Special Equipment Gee / IFF / Boozer

 

 

Pilot

 

 

Flying Officer Charles Raymond Bennett

409886 RAAF

Prisoner of War Number 1543

Prisoner of War Camps Stalag Luft I Barth-Vogelsang

Skipper

F/O Charles Bennett RAAF

Note : F/O Bennett was on the run for 3 days before capture. See below for a copy of his Liberation Report.

Navigator Pilot Officer Johnnie Smyth (Johnnie)

144608 RAFVR

Prisoner of War Number 1557

Prisoner of War Camps Stalag Luft I Barth-Vogelsang

Smythee

P/O Johnnie Smythe RAFVR

Wireless Operator Sergeant Leslie Milnthorpe

1390996 RAFVR

Prisoner of War Number 263495

Prisoner of War Camps Stalag IVb Mulhberg (Elbe)

milnthorpe

Sgt Les Milnthorpe RAFVR

Flight Engineer Sergeant William Ernest Hutchings RAFVR

1626616 RAFVR

Prisoner of War Number 263480

Prisoner of War Camps Stalag Luft IVb Muhlberg (Elbe)

hutchings 1

Sgt William “Bill” Hutchings RAFVR

Bomb Aimer Pilot Officer Harold Alexander Gourlie

J/23587 RCAF

Prisoner of War Number 1561

Prisoner of War Camps Stalag Luft I Barth-Vogelsang

Gourlie

P/O Harold Gourlie RCAF

Rear Gunner Sergeant Frank Matthews

651446 RAFVR

Prisoner of War Number  263526

Prisoner of War Camps Stalag Luft IVb Muhlberg (Elbe)

Mathews

Sgt Frank Matthews RAFVR

Mid Upper Gunner Sergeant Leslie Ashplant

1608193 RAFVR

Prisoner of War Number 263454

Prisoner of War Camps Stalag Luft IVb Muhlberg (Elbe)

ashplant

Sgt Les Ashplant RAFVR

Additional Information & Photographs

FO Bennett RAAF

Frank Matthews

mathews

Letter received by Mrs Matthews informing her of the loss of her husband, Frank. Thankfully Wing Commander Wynne-Powells remarks proved accurate. Frank was indeed a Prisoner of War

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Kriegie 651446. Frank Matthews PoW photograph days after capture.

Mathews Pow

Franks PoW Records Card

Leslie Ashplant

Ashplant

The dreaded Telegram.
Inform Leslies mother her son was “Missing”

asplants2

The follow up letter from No.623 Squadron’s commanding Officer W/Cdr Wynne-Powell.

Crash Site

Some reports suggest the crew had successfully bombed the target and were on their return journey when the Stirling encountered heavy flak resulting in severe damage.  Just south east of Monchengladbach the aircraft began to lose height due to an engine fire in No.2 engine.  Flying Officer Bennett decided that it was a losing battle and ordered the crew to bail out.  With the crew safely taken to their parachutes something quite extraordinary  then happened.  The Stirling carried on flying on its own, over the town  of Rheydt towards the small village of Kothasen some four kms from Monchengladbach. Losing altitude all the time the Stirling made an  almost perfect landing at around 2050hrs, ripping up over 100 feet of hedgerow in the process and at the same time ripping off half its port wing before turning 180 degrees in the direction it had just flown. Living only a matter of yards away from the ablaze Stirling lived a Frau Hansen, a 15 year-old school girl. She recalls the evening as bitterly cold and foggy, the family were sitting in the kitchen parlour when there were suddenly aware of a unusual noise and almost before they could comprehend what was happening there was a shuddering crash that shock the house.

Frau Hansen’s father was immediately rushing towards the door to investigate.  He was the first person to reach the crash site, the port wing was crackling away still ablaze. In the light of the flames Herr Hansen very courageously entered the Stirling looking for the crew.  Finding none he rushed back to the house and returned with a shovel and proceeded to douse the fire out with soil.  Within 10 minutes personnel from a nearby aerodrome had the Stirling surrounded and the local area was searched for the missing crew.  The furlong Stirling remained under guard day and night for the next two weeks.  In that time almost everything was removed from the wreckage and taken to the nearby aerodrome. The remains of the Stirling was visited by many hundreds of officials and inquisitive civilians , many of whom took photographs, some of which are shown below.  What was left of the Stirling was carted off to the aerodrome, which was up until a few years ago Ayrshire Barracks.

img042

LJ454 IC-E flown by Flying Officer Bennett RAAF & Crew

img137

Close up of the damage

img141

Photographs were strictly forbidden hence the rather poor quality picture

img140

German Sentry looking interested in the photographer !

Unwanted attention !!

 Smythe 1

Johnnie Smythe was unwittingly involved in a Daily Mirror article in 1943 when a well known black cricketer Learie Constantine was asked to leave the Imperial Hotel due to his colour.   Johnnie Smythe’s photograph was used in the article, Johnnie was very upset and annoyed at the attention he and his crew received after publication.

John Henry Smythe was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone in June 1915.  He enlisted in the RAF for flying training in 1941.  Between 1948 and1951 he served as a flight lieutenant in the Air Ministry as a liaison officer with the Colonial Welfare Office. He left the RAF in 1951 with a MBE.

Bomber Command Night Raid Report

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Page 1

Scan_0218 (2)

Page 2 & 3

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Page 4 & 5

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Page 6 & 7

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Page 8 & 9

Flying Officer Bennetts RAAF PoW Liberation Report.

Bennett1

PoW Liberation Report Part 1

Bennett2

PoW Liberation Report Part 2