Personnel Index - Detail
First image taken in 1940 and then on release from a PoW camp in May 1945
The picture contains my father's possessions and uniform badges whilst a POW.
A fragment of shrapnel he had dug out of his leg and wrapped in a fragment of paper (which still has clear print in German), his Stalag Luft 3, No.517 'dogtag', a photo with Vera, his fiancee (later my mother) that he kept with him throughout his incarceration, a rosary with its cotton bag and a service prayerbook (he was Roman Catholic), a model aeroplane that another POW had made from a silver half-crown.
1/2 June, 1942; ESSEN:
On Monday 1 June, Bomber Command carried out a 2nd planned 1,000 bomber raid, this time to Essen. The actual force dispatched, amounted to 956 aircraft, the majority being Wellingtons. It was some Wellington crews from 3 Group that provided 'raid leaders', who were tasked to drop flares in the target area. By the beginning of June, 49 Squadron could boast 15 Manchesters on unit strength, of which 8 were detailed for the Essen raid. A ninth aircraft, a Lancaster from 49's Conversion Flight was also put on the Battle Order. The bombing of Essen proved to be very scattered, mainly due to the ground haze and layers of low cloud.
An SOS distress signal was received from P/O Bill Shackleton (R5794) and crew at 02.19hrs saying that the starboard engine was unserviceable and a fix given... sadly nothing further was received. The Manchester came to earth near Arendonk in Belgium, killing 5 members of the crew. Although specific information is currently not available, it is confirmed that Sgt's Shannon and Nolan survived to become POWs.
P/O W.C. Shackleton Pilot (Killed)
F/S R.H.H. Garratt 2nd Pilot (Killed)
Sgt G.J.A. Miles A/G (Killed)
Sgt E.A. Patey A/G (Killed)
Sgt F.W.M. Wilson A/OB (Killed)
Sgt R.C. Shannon W/AG (P.o.W.)
Sgt C.D. Nolan W/AG (P.o.W.)
Additional details of the loss are given by Greg Nolan:
He was shot down 2nd June 1942 by a Messerschmitt 110 night fighter at 1,000 ft over Arendonk in Holland, one of two survivors from their Avro Manchester, 'S' for Sugar R5794. They had been on the way back from Operations over Essen (having survived the first 1,000 bomber raid on Cologne two nights earlier), flying on one engine after the other had caught fire and stopped.
My father was the Radio Operator on that operation and had sent a mayday message as they were going down. On crash landing in a wood outside Arondonk, he remained conscious but had shrapnel wounds to his legs. Flt. Sgt. Shannon was initially dazed, but my father dragged him from his mid-upper gunner position and away from the aircraft.
They were initially sheltered by a local farmer and my father was taken prisoner after having given himself up when the farmer and his family were threatened by Wermacht soldiers conducting the search for survivors. They had found the other five aircrew including the pilot, P/O Shackleton, who had all perished in the crash in which the nose of the Manchester had folded under and the tail broken off. They were taken to Aachen, and then to Frankfurt-on-Maine for interrogation, held in solitary confinement without hospital treatment for eight days, then taken to Sagan, Stalag Luft III.
He was liberated by the British 5th Army at Albsfelde on 2nd May 1945 - a little soon, as he and some colleagues had commandeered an Opel staff car from fleeing German Army officers (I also have the Iron Cross 'liberated' by my father from one of them at the time) with the intention of driving on to Paris to celebrate their freedom, but the British Army chose to re-commandeer the Opel.
He had been part of the four week forced march from Fallingsbostel, on the way strafed by RAF Typhoons near Gresse on 18th April where 30 POWs and 6 guards were killed and 46 POWs wounded - this same event is detailed in Chapter 12, 'Death by "Friendly Fire"' of John Nichol and Tony Rennel's book, "The Last Escape".
As he had unfortunately lost his eyesight by the time of its publication in 2002, I was able to read him excerpts from the book, in particular this chapter, re-affirming his memory and some closure on this tragedy.