During the night of April 18th to 19th, 1944, 8 "Mosquito" PFF Group VIII, 24 "Lancaster" Group VIII PFF, and 139 "Halifax" Group IV have targeted TERGNIER rail center. Expected duration of the attack between 11:24 pm and 11h 36 pm. Among them the "Halifax" III HX 350 MHY 51 Squadron RAF which took off from Snaith airfield with 15 other "Halifax". Aboard 7 crewmen: (click here to see the number of missions done by each crew member)
F/Sgt Alan Sarjantson Pilot 20
Sgt Mark Charles Mc Carthy Flight
F/O William George Meeson Navigaton
Sgt John Edward Roderick Samuel
Scheffler Air Bomber 21
Sgt Harry Dennis Nash Wireless
Sgt Stanley George Myers Mid upper
Sgt James Alan Smith Rear gunner
Last radio contact was at 11.46 pm while it is in the south east of Amiens the British bomber will be the victim of a night fighter of the Luftwaffe and after it exploded in the air, debris of this four engined aircraft crashed 2 kilometers to the South / South West of DAVENESCOURT, 6 km North / Northeast of MONTDIDIER, near BECQUIGNY in the swamps of Cageolois.
No survivors. The bodies of the unfortunate aviators will be found among the wreckage of the bomber on the crash site. Some are still in the fuselage, others are lying on the ground after having printed the shape of their silhouette. The 7 men will be gathered and buried, they now rest in the cemetery of DAVENESCOURT. Hptm Joseph Krahforst 2 / NJG4 night fighter of the Luftwaffe claimed shooting down a "Halifax" flying at 5,000 meters in the region of MONTDIDIER at 11.46 pm, victory confirmed by a film.
* Report realised by Mr JP Ducellier with documents from the Public Record Office (National Archives, Kew / London) and informations of Mr Pierrre Ben. Photo of the crew with the identification of the airmen and the list of missions were sent by Peter Gulliver historian and administrator of the web site "RAF 51 Squadron History Society"
DISCOVERY AND EXCAVATION OF THE HALIFAX
With the engine : left to right Jacky Faudé, Géralde Frion, Albert Berthet, Amadée de Franqueville, Pierre Ben, Ghislain Lobel
Cleaning the engine
Engine and propeller ready to enter the museum
Engine's identification plate
Halifax Mk III
Translated from the french web page by Michel Lespagnol, corrected by our friend Mrs Philippa Wheeler
With the propeller : Alain Engelaere, Albert Berthet, Ghislain Lobel, Jacky faudé, Pierre Ben, Amadée de Franqueville , Géralde Frion.
Reassembling the propeller
Engine and propeller inside the museum
Abandoned airfield of Snaith in 2009
Specifications Halifax Mk III
Page HALIFAX Mk III
Powerplant : 4 x Bristol Hercules XVI radial engine
68 years after the fall of Halifax III HX 350 MH Y, Mrs Janette Cotterill niece of P / A "Bill" Meeson (navigator) made a tribute to her uncle on his grave in Davenescourt.
She leaves on Uncle Bill' s grave the photo of the buried crew on which she writes her details.
Shortly after, Yann Lerust resident of Davenescourt discovered near a water hole in the nearby swamp , parts from an aircraft. He based his research according to the testimony of a witness of the crash Mr Antoine Masson now deceased. Yann Lerust then contacts Pierre Ben to authenticate pieces that turn out to be those of an Halifax motor.
The motor was buried several meters into the marshy soil. Excavation took place June 26th 2015. It was indeed one of the four engines of the Halifax III HX 350 MH Y.
Contact was made with Mrs Janette Cotterill to inform her of the discovery. Janette advises Pierre Ben of her visit in Spring 2016 with her sister and brother with his wife.
Good news, a cousin of the gunner John Smith has been traced through Peter Gulliver, the historian of the 51 Squadron and he will travel with his wife.
An informal ceremony was then held on 25th May at 2.30 pm at the cemetery in Davenescourt, where descendants of airmen are welcomed by Mr Yann M Lerust Councillor (and his wife) and 7 men wearing flags. Pierre Ben and the members of his association are also there. After the laying of wreaths, a small meeting goes on to the place where the engine was found, 800 m from the cemetery. Mr Yann Lerust did the clearing of the trail to reach the place the same morning. It is a great moment of emotion during which the descendants ask questions about the appearance of the bodies when they were found. Unfortunately the last witness who participated in the transportation of the victims died some time before and it is not possible to provide more informations. It seems however that the plane had exploded in flight,and that the bodies were found intact printed in the ground after a fall of several thousand meters.
Families are then welcomed at the town hall where the mayor of Davenescourt, M Jean Claude Pradheiles pays tribute to the crew.
Janette Cotterill niece of William Meeson thanked the audience and offered a gift in the name of the descendants of the crew, she is accompanied by her sister Linda, her brother Peter and Lin, his wife. Christopher Marley is accompanied by his wife Eileen, he is the cousin of the rear gunner John Smith.
A friendship glass concludes the visit at Davenescourt.
Pierre Ben and his team (Dr. Ducellier, and his wife Jackie, Jacky Faudé, Dany Dheilly, Amédé Franqueville, Ghislain Lobel, Patrick Houdart, Eliane Denavarre and Michel Lespagnol) then take the descendants to the museum of the association to Warloy Baillon to discover the quite brand new (repaired) engine .
A surprise awaits families : George Albert Smith known as "Smithy" 93 years old who performed 37 missions as a Flight Engineer aboard Halifax in the 51 Squadron whose Halifax Davenescourt belonged to.
"Smithy" was present on the Snaith airfield along with the crew of Halifax III HX 350 MH Y. He admits not remembering the fallen airmen returning from the Tergnier mission. He explains that the crews could passed each others in the corridors but that it was better not to sympathize, losses were too hard to bear in a psychologicall way. Questions now come on the living conditions on the airfields and inside the bombers, George Albert Smith is answering as well in English as in French, he is the son of a French mother from Warloy Baillon and of an English father, soldier of the first World war. George was born in Warloy Baillon on December 9th, 1922.
The evening continues with a visit at Thiepval and Lochnagar Crater and ends with a meal at the Tommy restaurant in Pozieres.