The mission of the RAF Bombers*




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 Engineer 20

F/O William George Meeson Navigaton 23

Sgt John Edward Roderick Samuel Scheffler Air Bomber 21

Sgt Harry Dennis Nash Wireless operator 22

Sgt Stanley George Myers Mid upper gunner 21

Sgt James Alan Smith Rear gunner 21


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.



MONTDIDIER Police force writes  :


"During the night of April 18th to 19th, 1944, a four-engine bomber English" Halifax "exploded in the air over the territory of BECQUIGNY. The debris fell into the swamps to the west of this town. The crew members were killed. The fall of the plane caused neither damage nor casualties." The airmen rest 800 meters from the crash site in the Civil Cemetery of DAVENESCOURT alongside the crew of another "Halifax" which fell on April 11th, 1944, one week earlier. Curiously this April 11th the "Halifax" LV # 880 MH C © felL on the territory of the same village and was on a similar mission above Tergnier and belonged to the same 51 Squadron . Currently a link is woven with Miss Janette Cotterill,  niece of the navigator,  Flight Officer William George Meeson who was 23 years old..




During this mission, 5 others "Halifax" belonging to Groupe IV were lost

2 of them collide and crash 11 kms South-West of SAINT QUENTIN on the territory of SERANCOURT-LE-GRAND;

"Halifax"  III  # LW 522 MH © J  51  Squadron  - 7 crew members,, no survivor (you can see here the names of crew members, 1st mission for the pilot, 4th for the rear gunner)
"Halifax"  III  # LV 946 NP © K   Squadron 158 - 7 crew members,, no survivor
 The 14 victims are buried in the British Cemetery of SERANCOURT-LE-GRAND

"Halifax" LV III # 954 NP © Q, 158 Squadron  fell at DAMERY, 5 km northwest of ROYE - There will be two survivors among the seven crew members, they will be captured by the Germans. The five victims will be buried later in the cemetery of MEHARICOURT. This Halifax was likely the victim of a night fighter.

"Halifax" III # 956 LV HD © R, 466 Squadron fell at FORGES-LES-EAUX - 7 crew including 4 survivors: 2  escape, 2  captured by Germans . The 3 other crew members perished in the crash and are buried at the cemetery of POIX DE LA SOMME. The Halifax is the victim of a night fighter.

"Halifax" III LW # 722 Squadron C8 © S, 640 Squadron fell east of DIEPPE- 7 crew members, 3 survivors are captured, others are killed (including the bomber who did not survive his injuries ). The 4 victims will be buried at the military cemetery of GRANDCOURT.

* 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





The excavation

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With the engine : left to right Jacky Faudé, Géralde Frion, Albert Berthet, Amadée de Franqueville, Pierre Ben, Ghislain Lobel

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Restoration

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Cleaning the engine

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Engine and propeller ready to enter the museum

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Engine's identification plate

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Halifax Mk III

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Translated from the french web page by Michel Lespagnol, corrected by our friend Mrs Philippa Wheeler

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With the propeller : Alain Engelaere, Albert Berthet, Ghislain Lobel, Jacky faudé, Pierre Ben, Amadée de Franqueville , Géralde Frion.

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Reassembling the propeller

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Engine and propeller inside the museum

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Abandoned airfield of Snaith in 2009

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Specifications Halifax Mk III

Handley Page HALIFAX Mk III

Powerplant : 4 x Bristol Hercules XVI radial engine

1 615 hp ( 1 205 kw each)

Dimensions :

Wingspan : 104 ft 2 in (31,75m)

Length : 71 ft 7 in (21,82m)

Height : 20 ft 9 in (6.32m)

Loaded weight : 54 400 lb

Wing area : 1 190 ft2

Guns :

8  Browning et 1 Vickers 0.303 in

Bombs : 13 000 lb (5897 kg) of bombs

Performances :

Cruise speed 189 mph, maximum speed 282 mph

Range : 1860 mi (3000 km).









Halifax Mk III HX 350 MH Y Crew members

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Rear view of the enfine

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Access to the crash site

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Police report

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The path to reach May 25th 2016

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.

May 25th 2016 at Davenescourt the photos

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Courrier Picard May 28th 2016 edition

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REMEMBRANCE DAY, MAY 25TH 2016
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Courrier Picard May 26th 2016 edition

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