Traces of World War 2 
RAF - 18 Squadron
10/05/1940 - 30/06/1940

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18 SQUADRON - Bomber, Bristol Blenheim Mk IV

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As part of the Air Component of the BEF and equipped with Blenheims, No. 18 Squadron suffered heavy losses in their attempts to stem the German advance the Europe before being withdrawn to the UK in May 1940.

The start of the war saw 18 Squadron provide aerial reconnaissance over France for the British Expeditionary Force, flying from an airfield near Amy.

Commanding officer: W/Cdr G. Bartholomew May 1940

Sergeant Alfred William Swinburne 'Tommy' THOMAS 562935 born in Plymouth, joined the RAF in 1928 straight from school, qualifying via HALTON as a mechanic on Napier, Lion, Jupiter and Lynx engines. Through the early thirties he served with 204 and then 36 squadrons in the Middle east and Far East on Southampton Flying Boats. After qualifying as a gunner, he was selected for pilot training, winning his wings in 1936. Posted to 18 Squadron, he first flew HARTS and HINDS, thenconverted to BLENHEIMS in 1938 - which is when he married Mary Robins.

Tommy Thomas and his crew (Sgt. J. Talbot, Navigator/bomb aimer and LAC St. James-Smith, gunner) were forced down on a reconnaissance mission in Belgium shortly after arrival, and interned - most frustratingly - until they were able to return (?escape) to 18 squadron at their French base in time for that fateful 10th day of May 1940.

Frenetic action followed; many sorties per day; moving base every few days in retreat; sustaining huge losses in men and aircraft. The Battle and Blenheim squadrons, with daily sorties by Hurricanes from England, were proving the only air support for the BEF, and were vastly outnumbered.

Tommy Thomas was by now a most experienced pilot - an 'old man' at 28 - and flew many armed recces - photographing bridges and German columns for MI4 Intelligence while trying to destroy them on the way back. Most of these missions were 'on the deck' at 30 feet or so, jinking continuously to try to avoid ground flak and 88s and the swarms of Me109s and Me110s.

No 18 fought throughout the Battle of France, inspired by the wireless speeches of the new Prime Minister over in England. But finally, Tommy's number came up, as recorded on page 175 of 'VALIANT WINGS' by Norman L.R. Franks, publisher: William Kimber:

"During the day, 18 Squadron sent out Sergeant Thomas again, who had made a successful recce for 52 Wing the previous day. With his same crew and the same Blenheim (L8863) they were hit by ground fire. Thomas was hit in the neck by a bullet which passed out through his jaw on the other side. In spite of his injury, he got the aircraft back to Vitry and landed, where he and his observer, Sergeant Talbot, who had been wounded in the arm, were sent to a casualty clearing station. Sadly, Thomas died, due not only to the wound, which was serious, but which was not helped by the enforced move of the CCS because of the enemy's advance."

He and my Auntie Bobbie had been together for such a short intense time, and now she was a young RAF widow along with so many others under threat of invasion in 1940. Uncle Tommy is buried in France, which he defended so bravely, in the Pas de Calais cemetery.

(source: BBC WW2 People's War)

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Losses 10/05/1940 - 30/06/1940

10/05/1940: Reconnaissance, NL - 2 planes lost; 5 KIA, 1 POW
10/05/1940: ground, F. 1 KIA
11/05/1940: Reconnaissance, NL, B - 2 planes lost; 2 KIA, 2 POW
12/05/1940: Mönchengladbach, D
- 1 plane lost; 3 KIA
16/05/1940 - Reconnaissance
, F - 2 planes lost; 4 KIA
17-05/1940: Le Cateau, B,F - 1 DOW
21/05/1940: Reconnaissance, F - 1 plane lost; 3 MIA
21/05/1940: Etaples, F - 1 plane lost
25/05/1940: Reconnaissance, F - 1 plane lost; 2 KIA, 1 POW

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LOSSES 01/01/1940 - 09/05/1940

Aircraftman 1st Class Peter B. Harris, RAF 537545, 18 Sqdn., age 20, 03/01/1940, Liege (Robbermont) Cemetery, Belgium

Sergeant (Obs.) John A.H. Potter, RAF 562838, 18 Sqdn., age 28, 25/02/1940, East Grinstead (Mount Noddy) Cemetery, UK

Sergeant (Obs.) Oliver W. Dumbreck, RAF 580537, 18 Sqdn., age 26, 21/03/1940, Kirkcaldy (Dysart) Cemetery, UK
Pilot Officer (Pilot) Henry S.P. Hulton, RAF 33428, 18 Sqdn., age 20, 21/03/1940, St. Brelade Churchyard, Jersey, UK

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10/05/1940: reconnaissance

Bristol Blenheim IV
Serial number: L9185, WV-?
Operation: low-level reconnaissance
Damaged: 10/05/1940
P/O P.D. Smith - unhurt
Sgt C.J. Ham - unhurt
LAC Shepherd - unhurt
Took off from Méharicourt. Returned damaged by AA and attack by enemy fighters during low-level reconnaissance of the river Maas to Venlo, 10.15 hrs. Aircraft repairable.

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Bristol Blenheim I
Serial number: L1405, WV-?
Operation: low-level reconnaissance
Lost: 10/05/1940
Pilot Officer (Pilot) Geoffrey F. Harding, RAF 33438, 18 Sqdn., age 21, 11/05/1940, Reichswald Forest War Cemetery (D)
Sergeant (W.Op./Obs.) Kenneth N. Shrosbree, RAF 516530, 18 Sqdn., age 25, 11/05/1940, Reichswald Forest War Cemetery (D)
LAC R.B.H. Townsend-Coles - POW
Airborne 0915 from Méharicourt. Failed to return from low-level reconnaissance of the river Maas to Venlo. Believed crashed at Breyell, 10.20 hrs. Possibly that claimed by Oberlt Steinhoff (Staffelkapitän) of 11.(N)/JG2 near Düsseldorf.

Leading Aircraftman Roland B.H. Townsend-Coles, who was promoted to W/O whilst a PoW, is reported to have died in captivity. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. Townsend-Coles was interned in Camps L1/L6. No PoW No. There is a report that in fact he was murdered 15/07/1944 after making an escape from Camp L6, 03/04/1944 - The Great Escape.

The CWGC list as date of death for P/O Harding and Sgt Shrosbree 11/05/1940

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Bristol Type 142/M/L, Blenheim IV
Serial number: L8860, WV-?
Operation: low-level reconnaissance
Lost: 10/05/1940
Pilot Officer (Pilot) Leonard T. Dixon, RAF 42111, 18 Sqdn., age unknown, 10/05/1940, Jonkerbos War Cemetery, Nijmegen (NL).
Sergeant (Obs.) Thomas A. Peach, RAF 581241, 18 Sqdn., age 24, 10/05/1940, Jonkerbos War Cemetery, Nijmegen (NL).
Aircraftman 1st Class (W.Op.) John Townsley, RAF 552526, 18 Sqdn., age 18, 10/05/1940, Jonkerbos War Cemetery, Nijmegen (NL).
Took off from Méharicourt. Crashed on the banks of the Maas (Meuse0 between Reuver and Kessel, south-west of Venlo, 18.00 hrs. Probably victim to ground fire.

Sources: CWGC; Peter D. Cornwell, The Battle of France, Then and Now, 2008

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10/05/1940: ground, F

Corporal Albert R. Bradshaw, RAF 16373, 18 Sqdn., age unknown, 10/05/1940, Le Quesnel Communal Cemetery Extension, F

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11/05/1940: Reconnaissance, NL, B

Type: Bristol Type 142L, Blenheim Mk.1V
Serial number: R3590, WV-?
Operation: Reconnaissance
Lost: 11/05/1940 (1 WIA)
Airborne 0400 from Méharicourt. Crash landed, cause not established, near Vaucogne (Aube), 30 km NNE of Troyes, France. P/O Holmes was slightly wounded.
P/O M.P.C.Holmes Inj
Sgt F.Miller
LAC B.M.Harding

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Type: Bristol Type 142M/L. Blenheim Mk.1V
Serial number: L9255, WV-?
Operation: reconnaissance
Lost: 11/05/1940 (1 KIA, 2 POW)
Leading Aircraftman (W.Op.) Ronald D. Davies, RAF 539392, 18 Sqdn., age 21 jaar, 11/05/1940, Reichswald Forest War Cemetery (D)
Airborne 0335 Méharicourt. Both survivors were wounded and taken into captivity. Sergeant E.E.B. Le Voi was interned in Camps 8B/L1/L3/L6/357, PoW No.13071. Sergeant J.C. Sands in Camps L6/357, PoW No.640.

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12/05/1940: Mönchengladbach, D

The first big attack on the German mainland (the exits of Mönchengladbach), with 49 Sqdn., 51 Sqdn., 58 Sqdn. and 77 Sqdn..

Type: Bristol Type142M/L, Blenheim Mk.1/1V
Serial number: L8861, WV-?
Operation: Mönchengladbach
Lost: 12/05/1940 (3 KIA)
Flying Officer (Pilot) Charlie Bellis, RAF 39847, 18 Sqdn., age unknown, 12/05/1940, Cement House Cemetery, Langemark B
Sergeant Horace D. Welch, RAF 565950, 18 Sqdn., age unknown, 12/05/1940, Cement House Cemetery, Langemark B
Leading Aircraftman (W/Op. [Air]) Kenneth Parry, RAF 550953, 18 Sqdn., age 20, 12/05/1940, Cement House Cemetery, Langemark B

Airborne 2030 from Méharicourt. Crashed near Kanne (Limburg), 14 km ENE of Tongeren, Belgium. Cause not established.

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16/05/1940 - reconnaissance

Type: Bristol Type 142M/L, Blenheim 1/1V
Serial number: L9254, WV-?
Operation: Reconnaissance
Lost: 16/05/1940
Airborne from Poix. Believed to have been shot down near Crevecoeur- sur-l'Escaut (Nord), 8 km SSE of Cambrai, France.
Sergeant (Obs.) David Borthwick, RAF 563613, 18 Sqdn., age 26, 16/05/1940, Crevecoeur-sur-L'Escaut Communal Cemetery, F
Flying Officer (Pilot) Arnold J. Stuart, RAF 70654, 18 Sqdn., age 29, 16/05/1940, Crevecoeur-sur-L'Escaut Communal Cemetery, F
Leading Aircraftman ( Air Gnr. ) Horace G. James, RAF 614259, 18 Sqdn., age unknown, 16/05/1940, Crevecoeur-sur-L'Escaut Communal Cemetery, F

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Type: Bristol Blenheim
Serial number: L9187, WV-?
Operation: ?
Lost: 16/05/1940?
Sergeant (Obs.) Thomas J. Mongey, RAF 581237, 18 Sqdn., age unknown, 16/05/1940, Prospect Hill Cemetery, Gouy, F

[ 17-05-40, L9187, 18Sq FTR damaged by 109's near sedan , Sgt Moncey,( Obs), KIA, P/O J. Whenlan, (pilot) wounded, but crashlanded, LAC Broen, (WoP/Ag) uninjured and returned - From Blenheim by G Warner, Pg 213, Chp 12, appx 4].

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5 Blenheims of 18 Sqdn. bombed advancing enemy armoured columns on Le Cateau-Cambrai road. 2 other Blenheims FTR, 1 of these crash-landing in Allied territory after being attacked by enemy aircraft in target area.

Sergeant (Pilot) Alfred W.S. Thomas, RAF 562935, 18 Sqdn., age 28, 18/05/1940, Houchin British Cemetery, F (DOW)

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21/05/1940: Reconnaissance, F

Type: Bristol Type 142M/L, Blenheim Mk. IV
Serial number: L9325, WV-?
Operation: Reconnaissance
Lost: 21/05/1940
Airborne 1200 from Watton. Shot down by RAF Hurricane and crashed near Arras, France. All crew members are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
Pilot Officer Cyril Light, RAF 33479, 18 Sqdn., age unknown, 21/05/1940, missing
Sergeant Arthur E. Craig, RAF 358376, 18 Sqdn., age unknown, 21/05/1940, missing
Sergeant George Hawkins, RAF 510166, 18 Sqdn., DFM, age 30, 21/05/1940, missing

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21/05/1940: Etaples, F

Type: Bristol Type 142M/L, Blenheim 1V
Serial number: L9185, WV-?
Operation: Etaples
Lost: 21/05/1940
L9185 was one of two 18 Sqdn Blenheims lost on day on separate operations. See: L9325. Airborne from Watton. Shot down at Wimeroux (Pas-de-Calais_ 5 km N of Boulogne, France, by RAF Spitfire(s). The crew were unhurt and returned to their Squadron. P/O V.Rees Sgt N.V.Pusey LAC K.E.Murray

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25/05/1940: Reconnaissance

Type: Bristol Type 142L, Blenheim Mk.1V
Serial number: R3598
Operation: Reconnaissance
Airborne from Watton. Cause of loss not established. Crashed in the vicinity of Abbeville (Somme), France. Sgt Miller's DFM had been Gazetted 8Mar40.
Corporal (W. Op. Air) Benjamin M.Harding, RAF 550526, 18 Sqdn., age 20, 25/05/1940, Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension, F
Sergeant (Obs.) Frank Miller, RAF 364705, 18 Sqdn., DFM, age unknown, 25/05/1940, Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension, F
P/O D.S.Dickins PoW; interned in Camps 12A/L3, PoW No.2271.

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Air of Authority
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database
Australian War Memorial
Bail-outs for 1940
Canadian Virtual War Memorial
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Lost Bombers
Royal Air Force - 18 Squadron
Royal Air Force Squadron page
RAF - Bomber Command - 18 Squadron
The Royal Air Force, 1939-1945
RAF - Campaign Diary - The Battle of France (May-June 1940)
RAF Museum: British Military Aviation in 1940
RAF Order of Battle, France, 10th May 1940
Royal Air Force History Section
The Second World War - a day by day account

War over Holland

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A. Butterworth 'With courage & faith' (Air Britain)
Peter D. Cornwell, The Battle of France, Then and Now, 2008
W.R. Chorley, Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War, Volume 1, 1939/40, Midland Counties Publications, ISBN 0 904597 85 7
Peter D. Cornwell, The Battle of France, Then and Now, 2008
Graham Warner, Bristol Blenheim: A Complete History. 2nd Edition. (Manchester, U.K.: Crecy Publishing, 2005)

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This page is dedicated to the men of 18 Squadron who died during World War II.

© 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