Pilot Officer William James Young RAFVR (179795) was the son of Arthur and Jeannie Barron Young, Broomhall, Coupar Angus. William attended Coupar Angus Public School and Perth Academy where he was the sports champion in 1940. He was a member of Coupar Angus Tennis Club and a boy scout. Before enlisting in the RAF, he was employed at Perth Employment Exchange, Alexandra Street, Perth.
William Young started his flying training as a member of Coupar Angus Air Training Corps (ATC) and then in Canada with the RAF where he obtained his wings. He was commissioned as Pilot Officer in July 1944, although his squadron service records show him as Flight Sergeant throughout July and August 1944.
From May 1944 to May 1945, William’s squadron, RAF 77, was based at RAF Full Sutton, two miles south of Stamford Bridge, East Riding of Yorkshire. Prior to D-Day, 6 June 1944, Flight Sergeant Young flew at least 4 missions in May 1944 with RAF 77 squadron from RAF Full Sutton.
On the night of 5/6 June 1944 Flight Sergeant W J Young was the pilot of Handley Page Halifax Mk III MZ702 assigned to target Maisy, on the coast of Normandy, France. The town Maisy (or the commune of Grandcamp-les-Bains, now Grandcamp-Maisy) was on the west side of the Omaha invasion beach. Maisy is about 2 km inland was the site of a hidden German heavy artillery battery, and the German headquarters for the sector. Take off was at 01.30 and touch down at 06.15.
6 June 1944, Flight Sergeant W J Young and crew report: Target was identified by red and green T.I’s (Target Indicator), cloud was tops 7/8,000 feet. Bombs released from 11,000 feet on cluster of reds inside a triangle of three red clusters. There was also a cluster of greens in a triangle of reds about 200 yards south of the MPI (Mean Point of Impact) of the reds. The whole marked area was less than a square mile. First reds were seen as a glow in cloud at 03.28 hours. Several sticks of bombs were seen falling around the markers.
Later that same day 6 June 1944, Handley Page Halifax Mk III, MZ702 piloted by Flight Sergeant Young took off at 22.30 to bomb Saint-Lô, the capital of the Manche department in the region of Normandy. Saint-Lô housed the headquarters of the 84th German Army Corps (LXXXIV. Armeekorps). The bombing was aimed at the railway station and power station. Every day for a week the air raids continued bombing Saint-Lô; nearly 800 inhabitants were killed on the night of 6/7 June 1944. Halifax MZ702 returned at 03.15.
6 June 1944, Flight Sergeant W J Young and crew report: The primary target was identified, and bombs were dropped from 5,00 feet, white T.I. in bomb sight. Many bombs were seen bursting in the town area.
On 11 June 1944 the next target was the Massy-Palaiseau area which is in the southern suburbs of Paris. Massy-Palaiseau was a strategic railway transport node and marshalling yard where many tracks converge and allowed military reinforcement through passage towards Normandy. Flight Sergeant Young was this time piloting Handley Page Halifax Mk III, MK715; take off at 21.50 and down at 03.10.
11 June 1944, Flight Sergeant W J Young and crew report: Target could not be identified owing to 10/10ths cloud, so bombs (5 x 500lb GP ‘Safe’ and 1 x 500ln GP ‘Live’) were jettisoned in position 50.23N 00.33E, from 8,000 feet at 00.53 hours. 9 x 500lb GP, brought back.
On 12 June 1944 Flight Sergeant Young was assigned to bomb Amiens in northern France. Handley Page Halifax Mk III, NA351 took off was at 23.20, returning at 03.40. The target was the rail facilities at Amiens. Over 671 allied aircraft took part in this and other raids that night. On the night of 12 June 1940 RAF Bomber Command loses were 30 aircraft, 140 aircrew killed, 22 made POW and 31 evaded capture.
12 June 1944, Flight Sergeant W J Young and crew report: Target was identified, and attack made at 01.31 hours from 11,700 feet, fires burning in target area in bombsight. A big red fire was burning, with smoke rising to 1,500 feet. Bombing seemed generally well concentrated.
The night of 14/15 June 1944 Flight Sergeant Young took off at 00.50 hours in Handley Page Halifax Mk III, NA351 to bomb Évrecy in the Calvados department of the Normandy region. Between 3.00 hours and 3.20 hours, the Allies bombed the village of Évrecy, the air raid transformed the town into a heap of ruins. At that time, the 3rd squadron of the German 101st Heavy SS Panzer Battalion (Schwere SS-Panzerabteilung 101) was in the area. Halifax NA351 touched down at base at 06.00 hours.
15 June 1944, Flight Sergeant W J Young and crew report: The target was identified, and an attack was made from 5,800 feet, at 03.01 hours, bombs being dropped on fires burning in the target area. Bombing appeared well concentrated.
At 23.20 on the night of 16/17 June 1944, Flight Sergeant Young piloted Handley Page Halifax Mk III, MZ735 to the nights target of Sterkrade, a district of Oberhausen to the northwest of Duisburg, Germany. The mission was to attack the synthetic-oil plant at Sterkrade/Holten despite a poor weather forecast. The target was found to be covered by thick cloud and the Pathfinder markers quickly disappeared. The main air force crews could do little but bomb on to the diminishing glow of the markers in the cloud. The crew returned at 03.45. RAF 77 Squadron lost seven of its 23 Halifax’s taking part in this raid. The route of the bomber stream passed near a German night-fighter beacon at Bocholt, only 50 km from Sterkrade.
On this same night, another Perth son and former Perth Academy pupil, Squadron Leader Gavin Strang Smith DFC RAF 550 Squadron (Avro Lancaster ME840), formerly of Kincarrathie Crescent, was lost on the same bombing mission to Sterkrake.
Target for the night of 19 June 1944, was the V-1 flying bomb (Vergeltungswaffe 1 “Vengeance Weapon 1”) supply depot at Domléger-Longvillers, a commune in the Somme department in Hauts-de-France in northern France. In the Hauts-de-France region, ten supply depots were built. The first missiles arrived in early 1944 and depots quickly began to fill up. The first V-1 bombs were dropped on London on 13 June 1944. RAF 77 Squadron were recalled immediately after take-off and bombs were jettisoned.
19 June 1944, Flight Sergeant W J Young and crew report: Handley Page Halifax Mk III, NA532. Take off 22.35, touch down 0025 hours. 7 x 500lb MC TD 0.025 brought back, remainder of load jettisoned ‘Safe’ at 53.32N 02.09E, at 23.49 hours.
On 24 June 1944 flying in Handley Page Halifax Mk III, NA531, the target was probably a V-1 Flying bomb launch ramp at Noyelles-en-Chaussée, a commune in the Somme department in Hauts-de-France, northern France. Take off was at 15.35 and they landed back at base at 19.20 hours.
24 June 1944, Flight Sergeant W J Young and crew report: Target was identified, and attacked at 17.20½ hours from 17,400 feet, on Red T.I.’s, which appeared to be the aiming point, from orders received from Master Bombers.
It seems likely that Flight Sergeant Young was given leave at this point.
On 6 July 1944 Flight Sergeant Young was piloting a Handley Page Halifax Mk III (marking unknown), the target was at Marquise Mimoyecques between Boulogne and Calais, France. The specific target was the fortress complex of Mimoyecques (Fortress of Mimoyecques), an underground military complex built between September 1943 and 1944. It was intended to house a battery of V-3 cannons Vergeltungswaffe 3, (“Vengeance Weapon 3”) aimed at London. The V-3 was also known as Hochdruckpumpe (“High Pressure Pump”) and Fleißiges Lieschen (“Busy Lizzie”). It was constructed by a mostly German workforce recruited from major engineering and mining concerns, augmented by prisoner-of-war slave labour. The project intended to use two cannon batteries to crush London under a barrage of hundreds of shells per hour, shells of 140 kilograms (310 lb) with an explosive charge of 25 kilograms (55 lb). The site was put out of commission that day, 6 July 1944. Bombers of RAF 617 Squadron (the famous “Dambusters”) completed the attack using 5,400 kg (11,900 lb) Barnes Wallis developed “Tallboy” deep-penetration earthquake bombs. Sixteen aircraft from RAF 77 Squadron took off, one returned due to engine trouble. Visibility good at target.
6 July 1944, Flight Sergeant W J Young and crew report: Take off 06.25, down 10.20 – Target attacked on red T.I., (target Indicator) and by visual identification, from 15,600 feet at 08.22 hours. Aircraft landed at Church Fenton on return, owing to mist over base.
The following day 7 July 1944 Flight Sergeant Young was the pilot of Handley Page Halifax Mk III NA351. The target was the city of Caen in support of the D-Day Normandy landings. This was part of Operation Charnwood, 8-11 July 1944 and saw the Allied forces eventually enter the city of Caen on 9 July 1944. Nineteen aircraft of RAF 77 Squadron attacked the target, none returned early, none reported missing. Visibility at target was excellent. A message of appreciation was received from the Commander in Chief Second Army Corps.
7 July 1944, Flight Sergeant W J Young and crew report: Take off 20.00 hours, touch down 23.35 hours. The target was identified visually and by T.I’s, which seemed to be on the aiming point, and attack was made at 23.03 hours, from 6,300 feet, on what was believed to be the aiming point, as by time the bombing markers had become almost obscured by smoke.
On 17 July 1944, Flight Sergeant Young and his crew took off at 03.05 hours to bomb east of Caen. There was a preliminary artillery bombardment, then 2,077 heavy and medium bombers of the RAF) and USAAF attacked in three waves, in the largest air raid launched in direct support of ground forces so far. This was the start of Operation Goodwood, General Bernard Montgomery’s massive British armoured attack to the east of Caen that he hoped would force the Germans to move reinforcements to the area and finally complete the liberation of Caen, but it failed to achieve the dramatic breakthrough that some had been expecting. For this daylight attack on Caen 25 aircraft took off. None returned early, none were reported missing. Four aircraft slightly damaged by flak. Visibility was not good, though there was little cloud.
17 July 1944, Flight Sergeant W J Young and crew report: Up 03.05, Down 08.15. The target was identified visually, and by red and yellow markers, and bombs were dropped at 05.51 hours, on MPI (Mean Point of Impact) of reds, from 6,800 feet. However, avoiding action had to be taken just as bombs were released, so aim may have been affected. The Master Bomber was heard to praise of backers up for dropping the T.I.’s “spot on”. Bombing was very well concentrated. A mass of flames was seen in the direction of Caen A1 target. Flames seemed to be coming from the canal (Caen).
The target for 20 July 1944, was Bombing Chappelle – Notre–Dame; take off 14.20 and down at 17.35. (Target probably between La Chapelle L’Épée and Eglise Notre-Dame, 4 to 6 km west of Lisieux, Normandy.) Flight Sergeant Young and his crew were in Handley Page Halifax Mk III, MZ347. The operation report shows that 24 aircraft took off, none returned early. None were reported missing. Cloud 4/10ths over target with ground haze.
20 July 1944, Flight Sergeant W J Young and crew report: The target was identified, and attacked at 15.50½ hours, from 15,000 feet in red T.I.’s. Bombing appeared to be well concentrated in the target area.
On the night of 23 July 1944, the bombing target changed back to one in Germany, this time the city of Stuttgart. Take off was 21.40 and touch down at 06.00. Fifteen aircraft took off. Three aircraft jettisoned bombs owning to technical trouble, and returned early, none were reported missing. A small amount of cloud covered the target.
23 July 1944, Flight Sergeant Young and crew report: The target was identified by Wanganui flares, (Wanganui – target marking by blind-dropped sky markers when ground concealed by cloud) and attacked at 01.56 hours from 18,00 feet on MPI (Mean Point of Impact) of two of these flares, as instructed by the Master Bomber. Flares were being shot out by flak.
The target for 25 July 1944 was the German city district of Wanne-Eickel in the northern Ruhr area (between Essen and Dortmund – now Herne). Wanne Eickel had a large railway station and marshalling yards, and a “fuel works” producing synthetic gasoline. Take off was at 22.50 and down at 03.30. Nineteen aircraft took off. Four aircraft returned early due to technical trouble, two bringing bombs back, and two jettisoning. The weather at target was clear.
25 July 1944, Flight Sergeant W J Young and crew report: The target was identified and attacked at 01.16 hours from 17,000 feet on newly dropped T.I. greens. A reddish glow was seen through the haze covering the target area.
A return to supporting the ground offensive saw the target type for 28 July 1944 change to the Forêt de Nieppe in the Morbecque Nord commune of northern France. Forêt de Nieppe is a national ancient forest, the largest in French Flanders. The Germans built fortified blockhouses there, some of which were intended to prepare V-2 rockets before launching towards London, England. Sixteen aircraft took off, but one bombed an alternative aiming point in error. Visibility good target clear of cloud. Take off was 16.45, down at 20.30. A further seven aircraft from RAF 77 Squadron took off around 22.00 hours and bombed Forêt de Nieppe.
28 July 1944, Flight Sergeant W J Young and crew report: Target was attacked on visual identification of aiming point at 18.37 hours from 16,000 feet. Bombing appeared generally rather scattered.
Battle Area “G” was the target for 30 July 1944, Flight Sergeant Young flew Handley Page Halifax Mk III, MZ347. Take off 05.45, down at 07.35. Thirteen aircraft took off, but the sortie was abandoned on instruction from Master Bomber owing to low cloud and bad visibility. All aircraft jettisoned bombs, MZ347 in position shown below.
On 7 August 1944, Pilot Officer William James Young piloted Halifax MZ347 to the nights target which was part of Operation Totalize. For the RAF it was to attack the German defences south of Caen on the eastern flank of the Allied positions in Normandy. At 23:00, RAF Bomber Command commenced the bombardment of German positions along the Caen front. At 23:30, the armoured columns began their advance behind a rolling barrage.
7 August 1944 Pilot Officer William James Young and his crew reported: The target was identified by green and yellow T.I.’s (Target Indicator Flares) and star shells, and attack was made at 23.01 hours from 7,900 feet on centre of greens as instructed. No results seen.
On 9 August 1944 Pilot Officer Young’s crew were listed as assigned to Halifax Mk III MZ809 for a bombing mission to Forêt de Mormal, Parc naturel régional de l’Avesnois, France. This was an attack on a fuel dump in Mormal forest. All aircraft returned safely, and all crews were enthusiastic about the results. Halifax MZ809 did not take-off.
On the night of 12 August 1944, 12 aircraft took off; 11 successfully night attacked Rüsselsheim, southwest of Frankfurt. Another eight aircraft including Flight Sergeant Young piloting Handley Page Halifax Mk.III MZ347 (KN-X). Take off was at 21.20 from RAF Full Sutton to bomb Brunswick, west of Hanover.
Flight Sergeant William James Young and his crew failed to return from this operation. The cause of loss and crash- site were not established.
- Target: Brunswick
- Route: – Base – Hornsea – 53.55N 04.30E – 54.10N 06.50E – Enemy Coast – 53.00N 08.00E – 52.00N 09,20E – Target – 52.19N 10.43E – Enemy Coast – 54.00N 08.00E – 53.50N – Hornsea – Base
- Bomb Load: All Aircraft:7 x 500lb GP TD 0.025, 6 x 1000lb USA M59 TD 0.025, 1 x 500lb GP LD.37 6hrs
- Camera: All Aircraft, colour film & flashes. Aircraft “N” Day Camera
- Opposition & General Remarks:
- Moderate barrage heavy flak below bombing height of our aircraft. Flak from Celle area. Searchlights obscured by cloud at target but tended to silhouette aircraft above. Numerous searchlights immediately west of target, also at Bremen, Bremerhaven & Wesermünder. Numerous sightings of enemy fighters. Rocket projectiles reported again, described as fired from ground to about height of aircraft, then travelling at a high speed horizontally emitting yellow or red sparks which increased in intensity every few seconds.
The crew of Handley Page Halifax Mk III, MZ347 KN-A:
- Pilot Officer William James Young RAFVR (179795) Pilot, age 22
- Pilot Officer Charles Victor Ross Wigley RCAF (J/89966) Mid Upper Gunner, age 19
- Flying Officer Colin Clifton Smith RAFVR (152042), Navigator, age 21
- Sergeant Thomas Victor Parsons RAFVR (1836455), Flight Engineer, age 26
- Sergeant David William Hughes RAFVR (982845), Rear Gunner, age 24
- Flying Officer Ernest Norman Calvert RAFVR (151583), Air Bomber, age 23
- Warrant Officer Norman Brook RAFVR (1379465), Wireless Operator, age 22
The crew of Handley Page Halifax Mk III, MZ347 are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
Research by Ken Bruce
Full Sutton is the location of a Category A and B men’s prison, HMP Full Sutton. The prison has a unit, the Close Supervision Centre, which is referred to as a “prison inside a prison”. This is used to house prisoners who are a high risk to the public and national security.
Grandcamp-Maisy is about 4 km west of La Pointe du Hoc where the US Army Ranger Assault Group attacked and captured the German bunkers and machine gun posts. The 6 June 1944 D-Day Omaha beach landing was memorably portrayed in the movies, Saving Private Ryan and the Longest Day. Omaha Beach was far more heavily defended than anticipated, with the full strength of the battle-hardened German 325th Infantry Division raining down fire from the cliffs above.
By 12 June 1944 at midnight, 18 allied divisions (8 US divisions, 10 British and Canadian divisions) were present in Normandy, representing a total of 326,547 soldiers, 54,186 vehicles and 104,428 tons of equipment.
Of the German 101st Heavy SS Panzer Battalion 45 Tigers, 37 were operational and eight more were under repair. With the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944, it was ordered to Normandy where it arrived on 12 and 13 June 1944. Fighting its first battle on 13 June 1944, Kompanie 2, led by SS-Obersturmführer Michael Wittmann inflicted severe damage on the British in Villers-Bocage. The 101st Battalion had lost 15 of its 45 Tigers by 5 July 1944. The battalion lost virtually all its remaining Tigers in the Falaise pocket during the German retreat from France. Michael Wittmann is most famous for his action on 13 June 1944. Whilst in command of a Tiger I tank, Wittmann destroyed up to 14 tanks, 15 personnel carriers and two anti-tank guns within 15 minutes for the loss of his own tank.
Flight Sergeant Young did not take part in this operation, but on 1 July 1944, RAF 77 Squadron bombed Saint-Martin-l’Hortier, 33 kms southeast of Dieppe in the Normandy region of Northern France. At Saint-Martin-l’Hortier the Germans, from August 1943 were constructing a V-1 rocket storage depot. This and other storage sites were not completed because they were destroyed by Allied forces bombing.
Forêt de Mormal is best known to the British for its role in the retreat from Mons in August 1914.
Field Marshall Johannes Erwin Eugen Rommel was injured on 17 July 1944 after his staff car crashed after being strafed by allied fighter aircraft near Sainte-Foy-de-Montgommery, Normandy. He was replaced by Field Marshal Günther von Kluge.
On 20 July 1944, an attempt was made by German officers to assassinate Adolf Hitler (Operation Valkyrie). Count Claus Philip Maria Schenk von Stauffenberg, Chief-of-Staff to General Friedrich Fromm, planted a bomb near Hitler in a conference room at the Nazi leader’s East Prussian headquarters, The Wolf’s Lair (German: Wolfsschanze; Polish: Wilczy Szaniec) at Rastenburg (now Kętrzyn, Poland – formerly East Prussia). The bomb exploded at 12.42 hours, after von Stauffenberg has left. The bomb failed to kill Hitler and the conspiracy fell apart. Field Marshall Rommel was implicated in the plot. Because of Rommel’s status as a national hero, Hitler desired to eliminate him quietly instead of immediately executing him. Rommel was given a choice between committing suicide, in return for assurances that his reputation would remain intact and that his family would not be persecuted following his death or facing a trial that would result in his disgrace and execution; he chose the former and committed suicide using a cyanide pill.
Chester Wilmot, the Australian war correspondent who reported for the BBC and the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) during the Second World War, described the opening of Operation Goodwood: “For forty-five minutes the procession of bombers came on unbroken and when they’d gone, the thunder of the guns swelled up and filled the air, as the artillery carried on the bombardment”.