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Sgt JM Weir 576 Squadron RAF

Discussion in 'Military Service Records & Genealogical Research' started by simonweir, Nov 2, 2009.

  1. simonweir

    simonweir Member

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    Im looking for further info on my grandfather Flight Sgt. John Morrison Weir. He flew as an Air Bomber on Lancaster Bomber PB265 and was shot down over France on 24 July 1944. He escaped but his pilot F/o Sarvis DFC was killed. The plane was found in Liesville 1989 and his body buried then. My grandfather was hidden by the French Resistance and made it home. I have his log book from that day,which says...Stuttgart...........Missing. Any info on the location of the wreckage or Sgt Weir would be much appreciated. His crew were:
    F/O R.J. Sarvis, USAAF +; Sgt. A. Balfour evd; Sgt. R.T. Gordon, RCAF evd; Sgt. J.M. Weir evd;
    Sgt. J. Coates evd; Sgt. E. Reed evd; Sgt. T.A. Clark, RCAF evd.

    The service history of the Lancaster is:
    576 Sqn UL-V2, UL-W2

    Found this interesting article online :

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/art...ly-target-civilians-A-new-book-says-YES-.html

    What does the UL-V2 signify?

     
  2. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Welcome on this fine forum.

    UL = squadron code
    V2 = call code
    2 means it was the second Lancaster with that code , the first being UL-V

    UL-V2 crashed near Liesville (Manche, Normandy) F/O Jarvis is buried in the US Military cemetery of St Laurent sur Mer. All other six apparently evaded sucessfully (or landed in allied territory).
    Did your granddad bail out near Carentan?
    Hope this help, if you need more info about Stuttgart let me know , it's my "favourite"
     
  3. simonweir

    simonweir Member

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    Thanks Skipper! I know that he bombed kiel, wizernes,scholven,sannerville,caen,dijon,orleans and domleger in the month of july. Do you know the specifics of the demise of PB265? Was it shot down by a fighter as the others were that night?
     
  4. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    My opinion is that is was hit by Flak over Normandy. I only have one Fighter claim for the Normandy area , made by Helmut Burkhard from 1/NJG5 , but this was probably Halifax LL552 from 102 Squadron at 04.01 (on the way home) .

    Do you know what time your grandad bailed out? If it was around 00.30 it would mean it was on the way to Stuttgart , if it was around 04.00 it was on the way back .
     
  5. simonweir

    simonweir Member

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    he is no longer alive to ask unfortunately, and said very little about his war experiences on the two occasions that i met him. as with a lot of bomber command guys they were a bit reluctant to talk about what they had done. thats why im doing all this research now!
    i think he was on his way to stuttgart though not sure. He said the plane was ablaze, F/O Sarvis refused to leave the cockpit and ordered them to bail out. Sgt Weir jumped holding on to his parachute straps as he hadnt time to put it on. When he landed in a field he was terrified by the sounds of German soldiers all around him. He hid til morning when it was revealed that he had landed in a field full, not of Germans but of cows !!
     
  6. simonweir

    simonweir Member

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    Further investigation has revealed that Sgt A Balfour was subsequently killed in action flying over Oberhausen in 1-2 Nov 1944 on Halifax Bomber Hal VII NP771 OW “J” . A rear gunner.
    Shot down by flak, the aircraft was hit repeatedly, killing many of the crew; buried in Holland.
    I found this on F/O Sarvis....
    Robert J. Sarvis (Class of 1941), a Canadian native, joined the Royal Canadian Air Force just after Pearl Harbor. Attached to the U.S. Army Air Corps in Europe flying Lancaster bombers, his first combat mission was on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Later, returning from a massive Allied bombing raid targeting Stuttgart, Germany on July 25, 1944, German fighters attacked, crippling his aircraft. Sarvis ordered his crew to bail out, and the last crew member to do so reported his captain still at the controls. According to witnesses, a second German fighter strafed the falling plane, killing Sarvis. The damaged B-25 then crashed into the English Channel.



    Flight Officer Robert J. Sarvis, T-223123 is interred at Plot B, Row 5, Grave 38 at the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, France. At the time of his death, Jul 25, 1944, he a member of the 12th Replacement Depot. He was the recipient of the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and entered military service from the state of Tennessee.
    My Grandfather then flew again on 6th september 1944 on lancaster ME801 captained by F/O MACDONALD. bombing gun posts at le havre(day raids)
    F/O Macdonald was also killed a few months later. I found this info on him:


    Flying Officer Ralph Nelson MacDonald
    Royal Canadian Air Force

    Son of John Nelson MacDonald and Ethel MacDonald, of Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada, age 21, died on 03-Nov-1944 on a routine maintenance test flight at Melsbroek, Holland. An original Tiger, F/O MacDonald had 41 missions under his belt at the time of his death
    Following supplementary text and photo are taken From a memorial booklet prepared by the Canadian Bank of Commerce courtesyThe Canadian Virtual War Memorial Website. MacDonald, Ralph Nelson - Flying Officer. Born 13th March, 1923, at Glace Bay, N.S. Educated at Glace Bay High School. Entered the service of the Bank 27th January, 1941. Served at Glace Bay. Enlisted 6th November, 1941, from that branch in R.C.A.F. Pilot Officer 20th November, 1942; Flying Officer 9th August, 1943. Trained at St. Thomas, Ont., Toronto, and Windsor Mills and St. Hubert, Que., graduating from the last-named school as honour student of his class. Served with 123 Squadron at Debert, N.S. Overseas in August, 1943. Served with 439 Squadron, with 41 operational flights as Typhoon pilot. Killed on active service 3rd November, 1944, while testing a plane. Buried at Eindhoven, and later in permanent Military Cemetery, Numegen, Holland. His Station Chaplain wrote: "He was so admired for his cool courage and generosity of spirit. He asked so little for himself and did so much for others." A fellow-Pilot: "He was a great flier, well tried in battle and never failed to hold his place no matter how much stuff they threw at him. Everyone liked him and would willingly follow him on an op."

    I have found pictures of both Sarvis and MacDonald and will upload them on my photos page. Any further info on Lancaster ME801 ??????










     
  7. simonweir

    simonweir Member

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    Looking through my grandfathers log book I discovered that on feb 5th 1944 he was trained by squadron leader Penman. I found this obit for him:

    Wing Commander David Penman

    Bomber pilot who took part in the heroic, but costly, daylight raid on Augsburg in 1942


    AS THE captain of a Lancaster of 97 Squadron in April 1942, David Penman was a participant in — and a very lucky survivor of — what was in percentage terms one of the most costly RAF raids of the Second World War. Seven out of twelve Lancasters fell to German fighters and flak on April 17 in a raid on the MAN submarine diesel-engine works at Augsburg, and Penman and his crew were in one of the five aircraft which made it back home.
    The genesis of the Augsburg raid — quite apart from its being intended to relieve pressure on the Navy in the Battle of the Atlantic — was Harris’s profound conviction of the superior merits of high explosive over incendiary bombing. Earlier in the spring of 1942, the RAF had scored spectacular results in attacks on the Baltic ports Lübeck and Rostock. In these, incendiary bombs had not only consumed large numbers of wooden houses in those Hanseatic cities, rendering thousands homeless, but had destroyed port facilities, power stations, warehouses, factories, railway workshops and, in the case of the latter, the Heinkel factory. The Führer was dismayed — and incensed — and ordered the retaliatory “Baedeker raids” on such picturesque towns as Exeter, York and Bath.
    In Whitehall the Air Staff were cock-a-hoop over the destruction, and wanted Bomber Command to conduct an all-incendiary offensive. Harris remained unconvinced — Lübeck and Rostock were “tinderboxes” and their destruction proved nothing. Bigger and better blast bombs of 4,000lb and 8,000lb were now available and with the new four-engined Lancaster in service, now was the time to try them.
    At this distance the rationale behind the Augsburg raid is a little difficult to fathom. In daylight, a small force was to penetrate enemy air space to a distance hundreds of miles beyond the range of any fighter cover that could be provided in 1942. The attack was to be delivered at low level using 1,000lb bombs.
    To draw attention away from the Augsburg mission, however, diversionary raids and strafing attacks were to be carried out on Rouen, Cherbourg and the Pas de Calais. The aircraft were to take off in mid-afternoon so that the force would return from Augsburg under cover of darkness. The force was commanded by Squadron Leader John Nettleton, leading six Lancasters of 44 Squadron in two vics. The six 97 Squadron Lancasters were under the command of Squadron Leader J. S. Sherwood, with the rear trio led by Penman. The two squadrons took off from Waddington and Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire and made rendezvous over Selsey Bill, where they dropped down beneath 500ft to get below the German radar.
    Unfortunately, the diversionary RAF air activity had served only to alert, rather than distract, the Luftwaffe. Large numbers of Fw190s and Me109s were swarming in the skies over France, tackling the various nuisance raids, and Nettleton’s formation, which had drawn some way ahead of the 97 group, came under concerted attack not long after crossing the French coast. Within a few minutes the three Lancasters of his rear vic had been shot down, and soon afterwards one of Nettleton’s trio also perished to cannon fire. No 44’s misfortune was 97’s luck. The fighters had had to land to refuel by the time they reached the danger area, and Sherwood and Penman and their comrades crossed France into Germany and reached the target without suffering any losses.
    By that time, Nettleton had pressed home his attack and had lost the fifth aircraft of his force, which was brought down by flak over Augsburg. With nothing more to be achieved he set a lone course for home in the gathering darkness.
    Arriving not long afterwards, the 97 Squadron aircraft benefited from the smoke which was now rising from the MAN factory, but ran into well co-ordinated flak defences. Sherwood’s aircraft flew into the wall of fire, burst into flames and crashed. One of Penman’s section was also set on fire, but its pilot pressed on and completed his bombing run before blowing up in midair.
    Penman’s Lancaster was repeatedly hit by flak, and some of its guns were knocked out, but he pressed home his attack with great resolution and skill, dropping his bombs on the factory from 250ft. That done, he closed up on another Lancaster, which had had one of its engines put out of action, and accompanied the damaged aircraft home through the night, regaining base in the small hours of the following morning.
    For this truly heroic effort Nettleton was awarded the VC and Penman the DSO; there were DFCs and a DFM for some of the other survivors of the raid. Meaningful damage to the factory was, alas, slight. The bombing had been a marvel of cool nerve and accuracy in the face of heavy fire, and was acknowledged as such by the Germans. But five of the 17 bombs dropped had failed to explode, and although there was a good deal of general havoc throughout the factory, only 3 per cent of its machine tools had been destroyed.
    Nevertheless Churchill himself signalled to the two squadrons his appreciation of their devotion and bravery, as did the First Sea Lord. Harris spiritedly defended his decision to attack Augsburg by day on the grounds that it was a compact target with easily recognisable landmarks in the vicinity. Privately he could see that a rate of attrition of almost 60 per cent was no way forward for Bomber Command as a strategic weapon. That was the end, for some time, of daylight precision bombing sorties for the RAF.
    Penman had been on bombers since before the war and had experienced all the difficulties of Bomber Command’s early attempts to make its campaign effective against all the odds of inadequate aircraft and navigation equipment. Born in Edinburgh and educated at the Royal High School, he joined the RAF with a short-service commission in 1937 and, after training as a pilot, joined 44 Squadron the following year.
    When war came the squadron was operating Hampdens and during the phoney war period it took part in North Sea sweeps, searching for German naval targets. When the bombing of Germany began, after Churchill became Prime Minister in May 1940, Penman was involved in raids on the Ruhr and Düsseldorf and farther afield to Berlin and Leipzig, a long haul for the Hampden. He was awarded the DFC on completion of 32 operations, the citation praising his coolness and courage in pressing home attacks.
    After the end of his second tour of operations, with 97 Squadron, he had a spell as an instructor before, in 1944, being posted to Burma. There he flew Dakota transports supplying General Slim’s 14th Army by air as it pursued the retreating Japanese towards Rangoon. Flying from India, he was also involved in the air supply of nationalist forces in China.
    After the war he was given a permanent commission and, remaining in India, he commanded 31 (Dakota) Squadron on many supply and transport sorties during the chaotic months of Partition. Returning to Europe, he flew supply sorties in to Berlin during the airlift occasioned by the Russian blockade of the city in 1948-49. Among subsequent appointments was command of a wing at the pilot training school at RAF Leeming, where he was also deputy station commander. At the end of that tour he was appointed OBE.
    He retired from the RAF in 1974, but remained busy instructing young pilots with the Air Training Corps. Over the next ten years he instructed hundreds of cadets on Chipmunks, continuing flying until he was 65, when he was at last compelled to retire.
    He is survived by his wife Winifred and by their son and daughter.
    Wing Commander David Penman, DSO, OBE, DFC, bomber pilot, was born on October 14, 1919. He died on November 27, 2004, aged 85.

    I have uploaded a few pics of him on my photo page. His signature is in the log book.
     
  8. alieneyes

    alieneyes Member

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    Hi Simon,

    I was going over this story and a couple of avenues of investigation have opened.

    At the National Archives at Kew there is an evasion report (W0208/3321, report # 2093) filled out by the Flight Engineer of PB265, 1021030 Sgt. A. Balfour. None of the other surviving crew, your grandfather included, submitted a report. It is worth getting a copy of this as it will explain the sequence of events.

    Also, the Sgt A. Balfour you have being killed in Halifax NP771 in November of 1944 is a different man than the Engineer in your grandfather's crew. This man was a Canadian air gunner, posthumously promoted to pilot officer, whose service number was J95200, a clearly Canadian number.

    You should also contact the Department of Research and Information Services at the RAF Museum and request the "loss cards" for both PB265 and ME801. Lots of information on these. You can ask for them by email and it usually takes about 20 days and costs nothing:

    Contact the Department of Research & Information Services
     
  9. Icare9

    Icare9 Member

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    Simon, I would also suggest that the F/O MacDonald you show the details of is unlikely to be the same chap as referred to earlier.
    The details you show are for a Typhoon fighter pilot, killed airtesting an aircraft (Typhoons experienced a lot of tail failures).
    A Google search shows:-
    Lost on its first operation with a total of 3 hours. Airborne 2108 24 Jul 44 from Elsham Wolds. abandoned by six of the crew, some of whom may have landed in the Battle area, though all were eventually reported as safe. F/O Sarvis (USAAF) died when he crashed near Liesville (Manche), some 10 km NW of Carentan. The wreckage of PB265 was not found until 1989; he is buried in the US Military Cemetery Normandy, located near St-Laurent-sur-Mer.
    F/O R.J.Sarvis USAAF KIA
    Sgt A.Balfour Evd
    Sgt R.T.Gordon RCAF Evd
    Sgt J.M.Weir
    Sgt J.Coates
    Sgt E.Reed
    Sgt T.A.Clark RCAF
    Have you considered an alternate spelling such as McDonald? I haven't found any with a link to 576 Squadron, did he transfer to another Squadron or back with 576?
    Hope the above is of some help.
     
  10. simonweir

    simonweir Member

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    Guys, thanks for the corrections. Will check out the National Archives and RAF museum. Will keep you posted !
    Also how do I trace an officer in the RAFVR if I only know the name, not rank or squadron ? Im looking for info on my great uncle John Lambie RAF Volunteers Reserve, possibly from a Glasgow squadron. He was a lawyer to trade...?
     
  11. simonweir

    simonweir Member

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    alieneyes
    i cant seem to find this at the archives online. is it available to view online or do i have to go to kew? driving me mad!!!
     
  12. alieneyes

    alieneyes Member

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    If you're speaking about the evasion report then yes, you must visit Kew in person.
     
  13. simonweir

    simonweir Member

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    Thanks Alieneyes, will be in London next week so will go there in person. Cheers for your help, much appreciated.
     
  14. alieneyes

    alieneyes Member

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    Simon,

    If you check TNA's website out I believe you can order up to three boxes of documents in advance. That will save you about an hour's wait.

    The documents you want are in file folders, supposedly in order according to report number. Not always the case so be prepared to go through an entire folder to locate Sgt Balfour's report. In a couple of cases I have found not only the report I was looking for but an original handwritten copy which was then edited into the typed report. And, as a bonus, there was the report of another evader this chap had hidden out with so it's definitely worth having a look
     
  15. simonweir

    simonweir Member

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    ICARE,
    Im not sure if Sgt Weir transferred to another squadron, its a possibility.
    The F/O MacDonald is definitely the correct spelling according to the logbook.
    Are there any other F/O s of the same name in Bomber Command squadrons??
     
  16. Icare9

    Icare9 Member

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    Simon, I'm sure there were 100's of MacDoanlds!
    Unfortunately I have no way of identifying any of them with 576 Squadron.
    There doesn't appear to be any that match from CWGC records. It may well be that he didn't die (I had that where a friend was certain his friend had been killed, only to find he had been a PoW). Alternatively he may have died after CWGC cut off date for WW2.
    it'll need some detective work perhaps with 576 Sqdn historian or Association.
    Certainly the MacDonald in your post dated 4th November does not appear to be Bomber Command!
     
  17. simonweir

    simonweir Member

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    Thanks Icare9
    its odd as F/O MacDonald was the pilot of Lancaster ME801. My Grandfather flew with a few Canadiens, is it possible he was RCAF or USAAF, like Sarvis?
     
  18. alieneyes

    alieneyes Member

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    Simon,

    If you have a look here there there is a picture of ME801 and crew in the spring of 1945:

    Veterans, page 8A

    I'm also not convinced Sarvis wasn't an American volunteer in the RCAF before Pearl who then was allowed to enlist in the USAAC but had to finish his tour with the RAF squadron first. I've seen it a few times but usually the American ex RCAF man wore the uniform of a US 2nd Lt. Seeing "F/O" next to Sarvis' name the last couple weeks has me thinking this might be the case here as well, not to mentio he entered the US military from Tennessee, a far cry from the nearest Canadian border
     
  19. simonweir

    simonweir Member

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    Thanks for the link. Sgt Weir finished his tours at the end of 1944, so wasn't in this photo. fascinating though! you are probably right re: sarvis military background as he was put through his training in 1943/44 with my grandfather in canada. off to the national archives tomorrow!!
     
  20. simonweir

    simonweir Member

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    Latest updates. found this on French website picourt

    Re: Sgt A Balfour (576 Squadron) In early August 44, a rumor that Mr. Picourt was suspected by the head of the militia of Eure-et-Loir and left Barjouville to hide at a friend Villebon.
    Il apprit que quatre aviateurs l'attendaient à Orgères-en-Beauce.​
    He learned that four airmen were waiting to Orgères-en-Beauce.
    Il alla les chercher et les ramena à Villebon.​
    He fetched them and brought them to Villebon.
    Ces aviateurs étaient le Commandant J. MacDONALD (C 890 RCAF) , William CALDERWOOD (RAF, matr. 162625) , Alexander BALFOUR (matr. 1021030, RAF) et Bernard JUSTASON (matr. 174951, RCAF) . Mr PICOURT et ses quatre aviateurs restèrent à Villebon jusqu'à la libération de la région pour les troupes terrestres américaines.​
    These airmen were the Commander J. MacDonald (C 890 RCAF), William CALDERWOOD (RAF, matr. 162625), Alexander Balfour (matr. 1021030, RAF) and Bernard Justason (matr. 174,951, RCAF). Picourt Mr and four airmen remained in Villebon until the liberation of the region for U.S. ground troops.

    i have still to see the Evasion Report from PB265, as I had no ID for the National Archives visit!! Will be back there next month.

    Further info: F/O Sarvis was from Rutherford County, Tennessee, USA. Next step is to try and contact his surviving relatives.
     

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