Traces of World War 2 
RAF - No. 144 Squadron
10/05/1940 - 30/06/1940

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144 SQUADRON - Bomber, Handley Page Hampden

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No 144 was flying Handley Page Hampdens from Hemswell, Lincolnshire, at the outbreak of the Second World War but did not get an opportunity to do any operational work until the war was nearly three weeks old. Then, on 26th September 1939, its chance finally came when it was ordered to despatch 12 Hampdens to search for and attack enemy naval vessels which had been reported in the North Sea. Flying in two formations of six, the Hampdens approached to within about 12 miles of the German coast but the only naval vessels sighted were two submarines-presumably of unknown nationality and the aircraft returned to base with their bomb loads intact.

The squadron's next mission, another armed reconnaissance over the North Sea on 29th September, was a very different story indeed. Eleven Hampdens, split into two sections - a section of five led by Wing Commander JC Cunningham, the CO, and a section of six led by Squadron Leader WJH Lindley - were detailed to search part of the Heligoland Bight to within sight of the German coast. Cunningham's section left Hemswell at 4.50pm and was not heard from again. Lindley's section found two enemy destroyers in the search area steaming east in line astern at 20 knots but, owing to the destroyers' manoeuvres and "flak" umbrella, only three Hampdens were able to attack; the results were not observed. All six Hampdens returned safely to base.

In the ensuing months the squadron "stood to" for shipping searches on several occasions but only once - on 14th December - was it required to operate; the mission was uneventful.

The first occasion on which No 144 Squadron flew over the German mainland was the night of 24/25th February 1940, when propaganda leaflets or Nickels were dropped on Hamburg. On 6th March, by which time it had Nickelled several other German towns and by which time also it had flown a number of security patrols, the squadron took part in Bomber Command's first attack on a German land objective - the minelaying-seaplane base at Hornum. Just over two months later (by which time minelaying had been added to its duties) No 144 shared in another notable "first" - the first big bombing attack on the German mainland (the exits of München-Gladbach).

The Squadron continued to operate with Bomber Command until 1942, and during this period, in addition to its normal night-bombing attacks and minelaying expeditions, it occasionally undertook certain other tasks such as daylight bombing against German warships at Brest and night-intruder operations against enemy searchlight installations. One night in November 1941, one of the squadron's Hampdens bombed from a very low level and set on fire a 10,000-ton merchantman - the largest of several vessels in an enemy convoy - off the Frisian Islands. It was learned afterwards that Major-General Felix Varda, the commander of the Western anti-aircraft defences, was on board this ship and was among those killed as a result of the Hampden's attack.

On 21st April 1942, the squadron's association with Bomber Command ended when it was transferred to Coastal Command.

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Operations and losses 10/05/1940 - 30/06/1940
Not all operations listed; those with losses are.

11-12/05/1940: Mönchengladbach, D. 1 Plane lost, 1 KIA
21-22/05/1940: Krefeld, D. 1 Plane lost, 1 KIA, 2 POW
25-26/05/1940: Communications, D. 1 Plane lost, 3 KIA, 1 POW
12-13/06/1940: ?. 1 Plane lost, 4 KIA

18-19/06/1940: transfer, UK. 1 Plane lost
20/06/1940: ? 1 KIA or DOW
23-24/06/1940: Gardening. 1 Plane lost, 2 KIA, 2 POW

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Fatalities 01/01/1940 - 09/05/1940 (incomplete)

Flying Officer (Pilot) Royston H. Bullard-Davies, RAF 39372, 144 Sqdn., age 24, 20/03/1940, Harpswell (St. Chad) Churchyard, UK
Leading Aircraftman (W.Op) Dennis G. Doughty, RAF 551342, 144 Sqdn., age 19, 20/03/1940, Seaton Valley (Earsdon) Cemetery, UK
Sergeant (Obs.) Alan H. Woodward, RAF 580688, 144 Sqdn., age 19, 20/03/1940, Stratford-on-Avon Cemetery, UK

Aircraftman 1st Class (W. Op.) David Burnside, RAF 551796, 144 Sqdn., age 19, 17/04/1940, Harpswell (St. Chad) Churchyard, UK
Sergeant (Pilot) Robert F. Carter, RAF 563527, 144 Sqdn., age 27, 17/04/1940, Wingate (Deaf Hill) Cemetery, UK
Sergeant (Obs.) William Cuthbert, RAF 516395, 144 Sqdn., age 27, 17/04/1940, Dumferline Cemetery, UK
Sergeant (Pilot) James Windsor, RAF 580294, 144 Sqdn., age 22, 17/04/1940, Harpswell (St. Chad) Churchyard, UK

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11-12/05/1940: Mönchengladbach

19 Hampdens (of 49 Sqdn., 61 Sqdn. and 144 Sdn.) and 18 Whitleys (of 51 Sqdn., 58 Sqdn., 77 Sqdn. and 102 Sqdn.) bomb road and rail targets in Mönchengladbach - the first raid on a German town. 2 Hampdens and 1 Whitley lost; 4 people killed.

Type: HP52 Hampden Mk.B.1
Serial number: P1326, PL-?
Operation: Mönchengladbach
Lost: 12/05/1940
Wing Commander (Pilot) Arthur N. Luxmoore, RAF 28112, 144 Sqdn., age 31, 12/05/1940, Finnevaux Communal Cemetery, B
P/O R. Allitt
Sgt H. Wathey
Cpl R. Jolly
Airborne from Hemswell. Hit by Flak at 6,000 feet at 0030 12May40 on approach to the target. Severe damage caused to the rudder controls and starboard engine. W/C Luxmoore managed to head the bomber in a westerly direction, slowly losing height and one hour after being hit he ordered his crew to bale out. All three landed safely on the French side of the Maginot Line, returning to Hemswell two days later. Their Skipper, sadly, was killed when the Hampden crashed near Finnevaux (Namur), 11 km SSE of Dinant, Belgium.

Sgt Wathey was awarded the DFM for his part in this operation. Commissioned and holding the rank of F/O he was, sadly, killed on operations 12Feb42.W/C Luxmoore was 144 Squadron Commanding Officer. Cpl Jolly, promoted to Sergeant and awarded the DFM, was destined to be killed on operations 12/13Jun40.

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21-22/05/1940: Krefeld, D

A force of 124 aircraft (52 Whitleys, 47 Wellingtons, 25 Hampdens) attack German railway lines. 3 Wellingtons, 1 Hampden and 1 Whitley lost.

Type: HP52 Hampden Mk.B.1
Serial number: L4067, PL-?
Operation: Krefeld, D
Lost: 22/05/1940
P/O E.H. Coton
P/O H.O. Jones PoW
Sergeant (Obs.) Cyril J. Shewry, RAF 550468, 144 Sqdn., age 21, 22/05/1940, Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, D
Cpl W.G. Smith PoW
Airborne from Hemswell. Hit by Flak in the target area and the crew were ordered to bale out. Three did so, though Sgt Shewry was killed in the process. However, P/O Coton managed to regain control of the Hampden and flew the bomber back to England. As he crossed the East Anglia coast the aircraft was coned by searchlights and he baled out, leaving the Hampden to fly on and eventually crash near Rainham, Essex. P/O H.O.Jones was interned in Camps 9AH/L3, PoW No.507. Cpl W.G.Smith in Camps 8B/L1/L3/L1, PoW No.13103.

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25-26/05/1940: Communications

103 aircraft (38 Wellingtons, 36 Whitleys, 29 Hampdens) raid communications and troops over large area of front line. 2 Hampdens, 1 Wellington lost.

HP52 Hampden Mk.B.1
Serial number: L4172, PL-L
Operation: Communications, D
Lost: 25/05/1940
Sgt A.E.Jones PoW
Sergeant (Pilot) John A. Smyth, RAF 565748, 144 Sqdn., age unknown, 25/05/1940, Rheinberg War Cemetery, D
Colin Woodhouse, RAF 526291, 144 Sqdn., age 25, 25/05/1940, Rheinberg War Cemetery, D
Corporal (W. Op. [Air]) Thomas Baybutt, RAF 551819, 144 Sqdn., age 19, 25/05/1940, Rheinberg War Cemetery, G
Airborne from Hemswell to attack rail communications in tactical suppport of the BEF in France. Shot down by Flak killing three crew members. Sgt A.E. Jones was interned in Camps 8B/L1, PoW No.13047.

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12-13/06/1940: ?

Type: HP52 Hampden Mk.B.1
Serial number: ?, PL-?
Operation: ?
Lost: 13/06/1940
Wing Commander (Pilot) Joseph J. Watts, RAF 32152, 144 Sqdn., DSO, age unknown, 13/06/1940, Harpswell (St. Chad) Churchyard, UK
Pilot Officer (Pilot) John F.E. Andrews, RAF 41648 (Canada), 144 Sqdn., age unknown, 13/06/1940, Harpswell (St. Chad) Churchyard, UK
Sergeant (W.Op./Air Gnr.) Ronald Jolly, RAF 523203, 144 Sqdn., DFM, age 23, 13/06/1940, Harpswell (St. Chad) Churchyard, UK (see 144 Sqdn., 11-12/05/1940)
Sergeant (W.Op./Air Gnr.) Alexander Winstanley, RAF 617595, 144 Sqdn., age 20, 13/06/1940, Harpswell (St. Chad) Churchyard, UK

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18-19/06/1940: transfer

Type: HP52 Hampden Mk.B.1
Serial number: P4364, PL-?
Operation: transfer
Lost: 19/06/1940
Flying Officer (Pilot) Brian A. Taylor
Pilot Officer (Pilot) Cecil D. Frost
Sgt D.H. Dunt
Sgt H.G.Cumpstey
Crew survived a crash landing at Scampton following a ferry flight 18/19Jun40. The aircraft was written off.

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20/06/1940: ?

Sergeant (Obs.) William F.G. Hollister, RAF 561153, 144 Sqdn., age 29, 20/06/1940, Sandown-Shanklin (Shanklin) Cemetery, UK
Died of wounds or injuries received in action. Sgt Hollister may have been a crew member of Hampden P1164, 144 Sqn, which overshot base, on return from ops, 11th June 1940, and went through a boundary hedge.
Source: RafCommands

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23-24/06/1940: Gardening

Type: HP52 Hampden Mk.B.1
Serial number: P4363, PL-E
Operation: Gardening (mine laying)
Lost: 23/06/1940
Flying Officer (Pilot) Brian A. Taylor, RAF 40443, 144 Sqdn., age unknown, 23/06/1940, Sage War Cemetery, D
Pilot Officer (Pilot) Cecil D. Frost, RAF 42342, 144 Sqdn., age 27, 23/06/1940, Sage War Cemetery, D
Sgt D.H. Dunt PoW
Sgt H.G.Cumpstey PoW
Airborne from Hemswell for a mine laying operation off Heligoland (Rosemary Region). Cause of loss not established. Believed to have crashed in the vicinity of Wilhelmshaven, Germany. Sgt H.G.Cumpstey was interned in Camp L1, PoW No.83. Probably injured as he was repatriated Feb45. Sgt D.H.Dunt in Camps L1/L6/357, PoW No.725. This crew had survived a crash landing at Scampton following a ferry flight 18-19/06/1940.

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Peter D. Cornwell, The Battle of France, Then and Now, 2008
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This page is dedicated to the men of 144 Squadron.

© Bart FM Droog / Rottend Staal Online 2008. Permission granted for use of the data gathered here for non commercial purposes, if this source is mentioned with a link to