Twin-engine, medium bomber, Avro Manchester 679 L7303 EM-P of RAF 207 Squadron from RAF Waddington took off at 19.30 hours on a mission to attack Düsseldorf, Germany on the night of 27/28 March 1941. At around 22.30 hours, they bombed the target, making two approaches and dropping a stick of bombs on each run. Flak was intense, one shell burst jolted the starboard wing up in the air.
The pilot was Flight Lieutenant John Aloysius Siebert DFC RAAF (36155). Siebert, aged 23, was the son of Francis Joseph and Ella Mary Siebert, of Kingswood, South Australia. He was the first Allied airman to be buried in Eindhoven after his Avro Manchester, was shot down on the night of 27/28 March 1941. The aircraft came down at a farm between Roessel and Bakel, Noord west of Eindhoven, The Netherlands. Siebert was the last to bale-out, the aircraft was was side-slipping and it is though he hit one of the main wheels, his body was later recovered; his parachute was unopened.
The rest of the crew successfully baled out and captured:
2nd Pilot, Sergeant Peter C Robson RAF (754584)
Observer, Sergeant George T J Fomison RAF (580649)
Wireless Operator/Air Gunner Sergeant James A Taylor RAF (619199)
Middle Upper Air Gunner, Sergeant William J J McDougall RAF (749440)
Rear Air Gunner, Peter Gurnell RAF (566980)
Siebert’s Manchester L7303 was shot down at 23.30 hours by Oberfeldwebel Gerhard Herzog of NachtJagd Geschwader 1 (III./NJGI) flying a Messerschmitt BF 110. Twenty-five minutes before, he had shot down an Armstrong Whitely from RAF 78 Squadron. Oberfeldwebel Herzog himself was later killed in action on 20 October 1943 having shot down between 9 and 12 aircraft.
L7303 was delivered to RAF 207 Squadron and subsequently transferred to the AFDU (Air Fighting Development Unit) for trials in early March 1941.
Siebert was from Adelaide, Australia. He was awarded the DFC late in 1940 for successfully carrying out 200 hours of operational flying, many being made in adverse weather conditions. His courage and determination in attacking the enemy had been outstanding, and he had a long record of consistently good work.
McDougall was the only son of the McDougall family, 29 Whitefriars Street, Dovecotland, Perth. William McDougall was brought up in Dundee and was educated at Morgan Academy – the family came to live in Perth nine years previous.
McDougall served his time as a butcher with William Oake, Gowrie Street, Bridgend, Perth. In May 1939, he started a course to train as a wireless operator with the RAFVR at Perth. He was called up to serve at the outbreak of war. His father was employed at the Perth Abattoir.
The Avro Manchester 679 did not last long in production, it was terminated in 1941. Its operational failure was primarily as a result of its Rolls Royce Vulture engines, which were underdeveloped, underpowered and unreliable. The Manchester was redesigned, it became the four-engine Avro Lancaster, powered by Rolls Royce Merlin engines.
Stalag Luft I also housed wireless operator Donald Henry Pleasence of RAF 166 Squadron. He was shot down during an attack on Agenville, Northern France on 31 August 1944. Pleasance returned to acting after the war and starred in many roles such as Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the 1967 James Bond movie, You Only live Twice. One of his most memorable roles was when he played Flight Lieutenant Colin Blythe in the 1963 movie, The Great Escape. He played the forger in Stalag Luft III who was slowly going blind. Another star of that film, Angus Lennie, spent time treading the boards of Perth Theatre, along with Donald Pleasance and Gordon Jackson.
Sergeant William McDougall, third from right, in front. Picture taken in Stalag Luft I. Perthshire Advertiser 7 January 1942.
Sergeant William McDougall, Perthshire Advertiser 16 April 1941.
AIRCRAFT OF THE ROYAL AIR FORCE 1939-1945: AVRO 679 MANCHESTER. (CH 17289) Manchester Mark I, L7284 ?EM-D?, of No. 207 Squadron RAF based at Waddington, Lincolnshire, in flight. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205127033
AIRCRAFT OF THE ROYAL AIR FORCE 1939-1945: AVRO MANCHESTER. (CH 3879) The forward section of an Avro Manchester Mark I of No. 207 Squadron RAF, while running up the port Rolls-Royce Vulture II engine at Waddington, Lincolnshire, showing the nose with the bomb-aimer’s window, the forward gun-turret and the pilot’s cockpit. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205126910
R.A.F. SQUADRON BADGES (CH 16673) Original wartime caption: The badge of CCVII (207) R.A.F. Squadron – ‘SEMPER PARATAS’ (Always Prepared). Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205455706
ROYAL AIR FORCE BOMBER COMMAND, 1939-1941. (COL 205) The crew of Avro Manchester Mark I, L7483, ‘Hobson’s Choice’ of No.207 Squadron RAF, standing by the nose of their aircraft at Waddington, Lincolnshire. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205207814
ROYAL AIR FORCE 1939-1945: BOMBER COMMAND (CH 3884) An interior view of Avro Manchester Mark I, L7288 ‘EM-H’, of No 207 Squadron RAF at Waddington, Lincolnshire, looking aft towards the rear turret with a member of the crew posing by the flare chute. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205218635
AIRCRAFT OF THE ROYAL AIR FORCE 1939-1945: AVRO 679 MANCHESTER. (CH 3888) Manchester Mark IA, L7486, on an air test shortly after delivery to No 207 Squadron RAF at Waddington, Lincolnshire. It carried the code letters ‘EM-P’ and ‘EM-Z’ during its service with the Squadron. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205126911
ROYAL AIR FORCE BOMBER COMMAND, 1942-1945. (CH 17458) Armourers make final checks on the bomb load of an Avro Lancaster B Mark I of No. 207 Squadron RAF at Syerston, Nottinghamshire, before a night bombing operation to Bremen, Germany. The mixed load (Bomber Command executive codeword ‘Usual’), consists of a 4,000-lb HC bomb (‘cookie’) and small bomb containers (SBCs) filled with 30-lb incendiaries, with the addition of four 250-lb target indicators … Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205210790