It’s November 22th 1943. On a clear afternoon, at 16.33 upon an improvised airstrip at Middleton St. George in Northern England, 764 bombers are taking off for a bombing mission to Berlin in Germany.
Seven young men, six Canadian and one British, took service at the Canadian Airforce to join combat against the German occupation of Europe.
They gather their flight equipment and prepare their bomber, a Handley Page Halifax from 419 Squadron Bomber Command, to take off. Probably they say goodbye to their dog, a well known mascot those days among allied aircrew. Maybe one of them kisses his girlfriend goodbye. The youngest crewmember is hardly 18 years old, the oldest just 22.
The weather conditions on the European mainland are not that good, it is heavily clouded. There is little visibility and the German Nightfighters from Fliegerhorst Twente, Deelen, Gilze and Leeuwarden won’t take off for the night. The weather is too bad. Except one plane, probably a Messerschmitt from Fliegerhorst Leeuwarden.
Still underway above the occupied Netherlands to their target in Germany, Halifax LW 231-F for Freddy met this only one German plane. A burst from multiple 20 mm canons hits the plane. Above the small town of Benneveld near Coevorden they drop their bombs in some meadow to make the plane as light and safe as possible to try to make their way back to England. It doesn’t help. Near the forests of Oude Willem the plane explodes and the bomber falls apart on the ground in the wide surroundings. It is in the middle of the night, and the flames lights the darkness.
The bodies are recovered and the Germans store the closed coffins in the Pancratius Church in the Diever village. Only two crewmen are identifiable. The Germans thought there were eight crew members on the plane, and that’s why at first there were eight coffins. Later on it occurred there was a crew of seven. Since 1943 they lay together, shoulder to shoulder, as comrades in war graves at the General Cemetery at the village of Diever.
Crewmember Sergeant Wilbert Blare Jones, 18 years
Gunner Sergeant George Alexander May, 19 years
Bombardier Sergeant Malcolm Archie McKellar, 20 years
Radio Engineer Sergeant George Alexander Howitson, 21 years
Pilot Officer William Langenbeck Hunter, 21 years
Observer Luitenant Richard John Newman, 21 years
Gunner Warrant Officer Joseph Alexander Lesage, 22 years