Halifax V DK261 crashed near the island of Mandø on 24/8
The aircraft belonged to RCAF (RAF) 434 Sqn Bomber Command and was coded WL-V.
T/o 20:26 Tholthorpe. OP: Berlin.
The crew consisted of Pilot Squadron Leader Roy Aubrey McLernon RCAF, Navigator
Sgt Randolph S. Welters RCAF R/122019, Bomb Aimer Sgt Jim Plenderleith RCAF
R/131001, Wireless operator/Air Gnr. Sgt Mathew Waddell Stevenson RAF 1076636,
Mid upper gunner Sgt Robert C. Brooks RCAF R/147412, Rear gunner Sgt Charles
William Snyder RCAF R/146094 and Flt. Engr. Sgt. Frank Vero Messenger RAF
962998. It was the fourth operational mission of this crew.
The route to Berlin and back was planned to be Tholthorpe - Hornsea – 52`50N
03`30E – Egmond – 52`50N 09`30E – 52`05N 13`47E – Berlin - 52`50N 13`40E –
54`20N 12`25E (Rostock) – Mandø – 55`00N 07`00E – Flamborough Head – Tholthorpe.
The flight to Berlin went according to plan and Halifax DK261 dropped its bombs
over Berlin at 00:15 British time as part of the fifth wave of aircrafts. After
having dropped its bombs DK261 was attacked by a German night fighter but
managed to shake it off.
The flight via Rostock over Denmark at 4500 metres altitude flown on autopilot
was uneventful until DK261 reached Ribe. Stevenson had just disconnected his
headset from the intercom to move back in the aircraft to release Plenderleith
from the duty of dropping Windows, when suddenly at 02:35 Hrs they were attacked from the
lower starboard side by a night fighter from 6./NJG 3 piloted by Leutnant Kurt
Böttinger which set an engine on fire with a burst of machinegun fire.
disconnected the autopilot and started a corkscrew to shake the attacker off,
but a couple of seconds later another burst hit the Halifax and started a fire
in the starboard wing which made the Halifax get out of control.
the rear gunner and asked for instructions on how to manoeuvre the Halifax but
received no answer. Again the night fighter attacked but missed the Halifax. Now
Brooks opened fire from the upper position but was not able to hit the night
fighter due to not being able to lower his guns enough.
(Via Theodor Hansen)
Rear from left; Brooks, Snyder
Front; Stevenson, Messenger
The fire spread thru the Halifax and McLernon ordered the crew to bail out.
Again he received no answer from Snyder and he must be considered killed during
the first attack. Nor did McLernon receive any answer from Stevenson.
Plenderleith who had been released from Window dropping duty crawled forward to
the emergency exit in the nose of the Halifax where Welters was about to release
the emergency hatch. Plenderleith put on his parachute and asked Welters to
help McLernon put on his parachute since Plenderleith was not able to reach it.
The first man to leave the Halifax thru the front exit was Messenger and next
followed Welters who landed safely near the island of Mandø.
When Plenderleith was ready to jump he realised that the ripcord of his chute
was loose. He then wrapped his arms around the chute and jumped. The chute
opened in the aircrafts slipstream and Plenderleith who had not had his harness
adjusted correct had his testicles squeezed when this happened. He landed in
shallow water but was not able to walk due to his injury and therefore called
out for help.
Brooks left his guns and crawled to the aft exit to get out. The fuselage was on
fire and he got burns in his face and gave up and crawled to the front exit and
bailed out. He made a safe landing in shallow water and started walking towards
the island of Mandø.
When Brooks had left the Halifax dived near vertically and McLernon looked
around to make sure that all had left. One of the fuel cells then exploded with
such force that McLernon thought the he had crashed. He managed to get out and
landed in shallow waters 1.5 kilometres west of Mandø, buried his chute in a
sand bank and started walking towards Mandø.
The Halifax crashed on deep water between the islands of Mandø and Fanø
exploding on impact.
Plenderleith and Welters.
Welters heard Plenderleith calling and carried him to the beach by the new dike
on Mandø Island. He left him here and walked for help. He approached Mandø
village from the north and walked down the main road to Mikkel Bundesens house
where he arrived at 07:00 hours. Bundesen had no English and sent his son Martin
to fetch someone who mastered the language. He ran over to the three brothers
Gregers, Asger and Hartvig Bundesen who were spending the holiday in their
fathers summerhouse. Hartvig dressed in a hurry and followed Martin back home.
It turned out that Welter had left to walk over to Daniel Christensen who in
turn had passed him on to Parish executive Officer Julius Hansen. Hartvig
followed. At Julius Hansens place Welters explained as well as he could where he
had left Plenderleith and a horse drawn carriage was sent to pick him up.
Hartvig followed to translate. In the carriage were Daniel and his son Christian
as well as the blacksmith Marinus Christensen who brought a thermo flask
containing warm punch. They also brought a stretcher and some blankets from the
Falk depot on the island.
(Via Theodor Hansen)
At the same time the Mandø life boat was alarmed and a team of horses pulled it
to a position three kilometres west of where it was put in the sea and started
searching for survivors. At 08:00 hours the sail was set and the sea up to 20
kilometres North West of the island was searched. All that was found was an
empty dinghy which was brought to Mandø. The search was cancelled at noon and at
14:00 hours the lifeboat was back again.
When the carriage with Daniel, Christian, Hartvig and the blacksmith reached the
new dike they left the carriage and started searching for the flyer. As it
turned out Welters instructions were not very accurate and they were searching
too far to the south. Some workmen who were bicycling on the dike spotted
Plenderleith and the carriage was brought up and Plenderleith was placed on
the stretcher. He told Hartvig how he had come there and that Welters had freed
him of his parachute and boots before carrying him to the dike. He showed
Hartvig the direction in which these items could be found and asked him to make
sure that the Germans did not get them.
When the carriage returned to the
village Hartvig noticed that the workmen was standing around a parachute which
must have been Welters. When the carriage came to the village it was greeted by
Doris who presented Plenderleith with a bouquet of flowers wrapped in a leaflet
which had recently been dropped over the island. In the leaflet was found a map
which enabled Hartvig to show Plenderleith where he was. More islanders showed
up to greet Plenderleith and when they reached Julius house it became
completely packed with people. Plenderleith was brought into the house and
given some food. Hartvigs brothers had turned up and Hartvig talked them into
coming along to search for the parachute and the boots. They found both the
boots and the chute and managed to smuggle it back to the island without the
German guards noticing.
When they came back they learned that German soldiers
from the observation post on the island had picked Plenderleith and Weltes up
and taken them to the barracks. From the island they were sent to Dulag Luft in
Oberursel for interrogation and on to Stalag IVB Mühlberg a.d.Elbe where Welters
was given number 222541 and Plenderleith number 222760. Stalag IVB was a
Wehrmacht camp run by the German army. When the prisoners arrived they could
read on the gate: “M-Stammlager IVB”.
The flyers were kept separated from the
prisoners from the army by means of a wire fence. The conditions for the
prisoners were bad and 60 POWs died while being held here. The food was lousy
consisting mainly of black bread and erzats cheese. For dinner in the evening
the prisoners was normally given something which was claimed to be stew but
which was rather watery. Welters and Plenderleith stayed in the camp until the
end of the war and meet several of the Danish police officers which had been
arrested by the Germans on 19/9 1944. Welters was given the job of handing out
red Cross parcels to the inmates whenever the Germans would let the POWS have
Her remains only to be told that Hartvig managed to smuggle the boot over to the
mainland where he used them for several years when the winter was cold. Today
they form part of a exhibition in the Mandø museum. After the war some of the
parachute was made into a christening robe which ever since have been used when
children of the family was christened.
Also McLernon made it to the island. He entered the island next to the German
lookout post which was surrounded by barber wire. He could see a machine gun but
to his luck there was no sentry to be seen. He bypassed the German barracks and
walked towards North East using his compass.
At six o’clock in the morning he
hid in a ditch, which was the only cover he could find in the flat area between
the new and the old dike. He stayed her for the day spending time trying to make
hid Mae West into a pair of shoes to be used instead of the boots which he had
lost when the chute deployed. He was not very successful. When it started
getting dark he left his flying helmet and the Mae West in the ditch and
continued towards North West. It was only when he reached the now dike that he realised that he had come to an island. Shortly after he found a hay stack,
entered it and fell to sleep. He awoke in the morning with his ankles hurting
from the parachute landing. He heard voices and crawled out of the hay stack.
The voices belonged to a team of workers lead by Søren Christensen. McLernon was
given food, shoes and a pair of old trousers and a sweater which he wore over
his uniform. The rest of the day was spent swimming and sun bathing and early in
the afternoon he was given worm food and two bottles of beer.
Knud “Skipper” Hansen
It was clear that
he had to be moved from the island and Knud “Skipper” Hansen agreed to arrange
for this. He called the Quartermasters Koldbæk and Robert Hansen who were sea
mine experts in Esbjerg. “Skipper” had an agreement with them that he could call
for their help should the need arise. He informed them “That an object looking
like a mine were drifting towards the North”.
"Karen" of Mandø
On the night of 25/26 August McLernon was taken onboard “Skippers” boat “Karen”
of Mandø and hid in the machine room under a tarpaulin. He stayed there until 10
o’clock on 26/8 when “Skipper” set sails for Esbjerg where they arrived at 13:00
hours. When Knud “Skipper” arrived at the harbour a car driven by the two
Quartermasters moved up beside the boat. McLernon was transferred to it and it
left in a hurry. McLernon was then taken to a local doctor to be treated for
minor scratches he had received when the chute had deployed. Afterwards he was
given civilian clothes by the owner of the restaurant “Børsen”. The evening was
spend by the resistance man Chris Svenningsen and his wife Musse. Present were
also Anker Frederiksen and the SOE agent Aage Møller Christensen who wanted to
question McLernon to make sure that he was not a German agent. The result of the
questioning was radioed to England and McLernons identity was confirmed.
After a few days McLernon was moved to Aarhus where he stayed with Doctor Svend
Baastrup Thomsen. Thomsen and his wife took McLernon out for dinner on town and
he especially got to like the Danish Smørrebrød (Open sandwiches). One day
McLernon was passed on to Aalborg from where he together with a person named
Anker Nielsen drove by car to Sæby. In Frederikshavn he met with Verner Jensen
who during daytime was a bank assistant and during night time worked for “Dansk
Hjælpetjeneste” who had specialised in getting refuges to Sweden. On 15/9-1943
McLernon boarded the fishing boat FN 101 “Stanley” of Frederikshavn with Skipper
Oluf “Wolle” Andersen from the beach near Strandby to the North of Frederikshavn.
They arrived in Varberg, Sweden on the next day. McLernon was put on the train
for Stockholm where he was met by the English Consul who took care of him. After
a few days he was put on a flight for England where he arrived on 21/9.
Brooks also made it to Mandø where he hid for a couple of days. On 26/8 he was
found in the Fyldgraven near the sea dike by Herluf and Holger Andersen. Brooks
was thirsty and hungry so they let him drink all the milk he wanted before they
brought him up to the village to feed him. He was placed in the horse drawn
carriage with his back against the village so it was not possibly for the
Germans at the lookout to recognise him as a flyer. They took him to the house
of Receiver of Wrecks Hans Rasmussen where he was given food. It was relished
that he needed to be hidden since the Germans was in the village, so Brooks was
given a bicycle and a cap as well as a rake and was given instructions to
bicycle to the lock in the old dike and there hide in a pipe which was not used
any more. He stayed for a couple of days, twice a day visited by Hans Jørgensen
who brought him food.
Brooks hiding place
Mid upper gunner Sgt Robert C. Brooks RCAF R/147412
The weather turned bad with rain and storm and water eneterd the pipe and soaked Brooks. When Jørgensen saw this he moved Brooks to a
hay stack where he would be more comfortable. Later same day it was decided to
bring Brooks to the village where he was hid on the loft over the stable. He
stayed for two weeks with Stefans wife Cathrine bringing him food every day. He
was given English books to read but became quite bored. It was now a public
secret that Brooks was around so it became necessary move him to the main land.
It was thought of sailing him there but this was not possibly after 29/8-43 when
the Danish government stopped to cooperate with the Germans. After that date
Knud “Skipper”s boat was searched every time he took it sailing.
One night Postman Bunde Hansen took Brooks across to the Gruset two third of the
distance to the main land and advised him of how to get the rest of the way. He
was to enter the main land by means of following the Vester Vedsted brooklet
thus avoiding both the German sentries and their minefields.
At midnight on the
night of 11/12 September Brooks knocked on the door at a farm at Skallebæk six
kilometres east of Ribe.
At 00:30 the owner called the police who picked Brooks
up. He was taken to the police station in Ribe where he showed his id mark. At
01:30 the Danish police handed him over to the German Wehrmacht at Riberhus. Via
Oberursel he was sent to Stalag IVB Mühlberg a.d.Elbe where he was given number
222805 and meet with Plenderleith and Welters.
The end of war.
On 22/4 1945 the German guards left the camp and the Russian troops arrived the
day after. The Russians did little to help the POWs and not until the end of May
were they moved by train to Halle. They were then flown by C 47 to Brüssel in
Belgium where they once again stood in line to be flown to England.
Those who died.
The dead body of Sgt Mathew Waddell Stevenson RAF was found on the Flakkerne at
Peter Mejers Sand on 26/8 by tourists. He was placed in a tarpaulin and taken to
Hønen near Sønderho on the island of fanø. On 2/9 1943 he was laid to rest in
Fovrfelt cemetery in Esbjerg.
On the same day was also Sgt Frank Vero Messenger laid to rest in the same
cemetery. His body had been take to Esbjerg from Mandø. Apparently he had landed
in his parachute on deep water North East of Mandø and had drowned.
Flt. Engr. Sgt. Frank Vero Messenger RAF
The rear gunner Sgt Charles William Snyder have no known grave and is
commemorated on panel number 185 of the Runnymede Memorial in England. He was
son of Charles H. and Elsie Mary Snyder of Dauphin in Manitoba, Canada. He lived
to be 26 years old of age.
(RG24 volume 28693 item number 33417 Library and Archives Canada)
Rear gunner Sgt Charles William Snyder RCAF
McLernons background and further career.
MvLernon was born in Montreal, Canada on 19/11-1919. He was educated at Lower
Canada College, Trinity College and McGill University (Engineering student). He
volunteered for the Canadian Air Force on 29/1 1940 and was trained at No. 1
SFTS until 19/8-40 when he was passed on to No. 22 OUT for further training. He
was then posted to a squadron. On 15/6 1943 he was promoted to Flight Commander
at No. 434 Squadron.
After returning to England he continued flying and ended with 31 sorties over
Germany. On 13/6 1944 it could be read in The London Gazette that he had been
awarded “The Distinguished Flying Cross” because “This Officer has taken part in
many successful sorties and has displayed skill, gallantry and resolution of a
high order. His example has been most inspiring and has contributed in a large
measure to the operational efficiency of the squadron”. The medal was presented
to him on 8/11 1944.
When he had flown 31 sorties McLernon was promoted to Wing Commander to become
the Commander of a air base in which capacity he served until the end of the war.
On 1/1 1945 it could be read in The London gazette that McLernon had been
“Mentioned in Despatches”.
McLernons uniform displayed at Mandø Museum
Leutnant Kurt Böttinger.
This was Böttingers second claim of an English bomber. The first claim had been
at 01:20 hours on the night of 24/25 July 1943 North of Neumünster where he had
shot a Stirling down.
He served with NJG 2, 6./NJG 3 and Stab II./ NJG 3.
On the night of 25/26 November 1943 Böttinger ran out of luck when his Bf 110G-4
Werk nummer 6312 hit an obstacle at the Langendiebach airfield on a operational
sortie. Böttinger and his crew members Unteroffizier Wilhelm Döhr and
Unteroffizier Wilhelm Heinkel all died.
Sources: AIR 27/1865, AS 65-141, LBUK, BE, Questionnaire for returned Aircrew:
Directorate of History and Heritage, Canada, UA, H.A. Halliday, Canada, OLCB,
Theodor Hansen, Hartvig Bundesen.
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