On the night of 20/21 May 1940, Vickers Wellington Mk.Ic R3152 (KO-J) of RAF 115 squadron was lost, on a combat tactical operation in support of the Allied armies in France, during an attack on the Meusse River Crossing at Dinant, Belguim, and German troop concentrations and transport about 100/150 km to the west in the Cambrai, Le Cateau-Cambrésis, Saint-Quentin triangle. Ten aircraft, five from each squadron flight took off at intervals. R3152 was the first away at 21.15 hours from RAF Marham, near King’s Lynn, Norfolk.
The Germans invaded the Low Countries on 10 May 1940, the campaign plan, Fall Gelb (Case Yellow) had involved a decoy operation in The Netherlands and Belgium, with the main effort being made through the Ardennes, across the Meuse River, advance down to the Somme river valley, towards Amiens. The aim was to cut off the main French and British forces in the North of France.
The first French defeat was at the second Battle of Sedan, 12 to 15 May 1940, about 75 km south on Dinant. This led to another battle, the Battle of Arras on 21 May 1940, which was retaken by the Allies the following day. This delayed the Germans, which allowed more time for the evacuation of Allied troops at Dunkirk. The Dunkirk evacuation commenced on 26 May 1940 and lasted until 4 June 1940.
Vickers Wellington R3152 crashed near Le Havre (Seine-Maritime), France, on 21 May 1940; the crew all perished in the crash:
Pilot Officer Douglas William West Morris, RAF (41048), pilot, age 23
Sergeant Francis Williams, RAF (566298), 2nd pilot, age 24
Sergeant Francis Alfred George Lowe, RAF (581516), observer, age 19
Leading Aircraftman Harold George Griffin, RAFVR (755893), wireless operator/air gunner, age 31
Aircraftman 2nd Class Thomas Kennedy, RAF (632947), wireless operator/air gunner, age 25
Aircraftman 2nd Class Allen Robinson, RAF (631370), wireless operator/air gunner, age 18
The crew are buried Cimetière Saint-Marie, Le Havre, France. Le Havre was one of the evacuation ports for the British Expeditionary Force in 1940. Unconfirmed reports suggest that Vickers Wellington R3152 was shot down by ‘friendly fire’ from a French anti-aircraft battery at (possibly), Octeville-sur-Mer, just to the north of Le Havre.
From the Operations Record Book of RAF 115 Squadron:
Ten of our aircraft, an equal number from No.38 Sqdn., and 12 from HOMINGTON with 12 250 lb. bombs D.A., attacked road targets in area – CAMBRAI – GUISE – HIRSON – ST. QUENTIN. Hits on enemy troops and concentrations obtained.
F/O GIBBES’ aircraft was hit in front and rear turrets by A.A., and both gunners wounded, but not seriously, by shrapnel.
P/O MORRIS and F/S. MOORES did not return. The former received a first class bearing somewhere near LE HAVRE.
Kennedy was the second son of Harry and Winifred Kennedy, 18 Davie Park, Blairgowrie. He joined the RAF in 1937 as a wireless operator. In a letter sent to his mother a few days before he died, he stated that he expected to be home on leave for a few days that weekend. His father Harry served with the Scot’s Guards in the Great War and his brothers Norman, Henry and William also served with the RAF. Flight Sergeant Henry Kennedy, the eldest son was awarded the DFM in 1941. He took part in many bombing raids over Germany. Henry was a slater by trade and also learned to be a cinema operator in Quinn’s Picture House in Blairgowrie. In 1936, he went to London to work as a cinema operator.
At the end of March 1939, RAF 115 squadron was re-equipped with Vickers Wellingtons. The first operation was to attack the German fleet off Norway on 8 October 1939, but no ships were sighted. The first successful raid was on 3 December 1939 when German shipping at Heligoland was bombed. Heligoland is a small archipelago in the North Sea, to the north of Bremerhaven. Until March 1940, the squadron undertook night-time ‘Nickel’ raids (dropping pamphlets). In April 1940, shortly after the German invasion of Norway they attacked the airfields at Stavanger/Sola.
R.A.F. SQUADRON BADGES (CH 15841) Original wartime caption: The badge of No.115 Bomber Squadron, RAF ‘DESPITE THE ELEMENTS’. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205454942
AIRCRAFT OF THE ROYAL AIR FORCE 1939-1945: VICKERS WELLINGTON. (CH 16994) Wellington Mark III, X3662 ?KO-P?, of No. 115 Squadron RAF, at Marham, Norfolk. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205127032
ROYAL AIR FORCE BOMBER COMMAND, 1942-1945. (CE 79) Back at their base, East Wretham, Norfolk, two members of the crew of Avro Lancaster B Mark II, DS669 ‘KO-L’, of No. 115 Squadron RAF, examine the rear of their aircraft, where the rear turret, with its unfortunate gunner, was sheared off by bombs dropped from an aircraft flying above, during a raid on Cologne on the night of 28/29 June 1943. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205090434
AIRCRAFT OF THE ROYAL AIR FORCE 1919-1939 (H(AM) 198) Loading 250 lb bombs aboard a Handley Page Harrow bomber of 115 Squadron, Royal Air Force, at RAF Marham. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205197485