Remember! Remember the 5th of November

Halifax Yorkshire Air Museum

The date of the 4th / 5th November 1944 is indeed remembered here at the Allied Air Forces Memorial, as it was the night of another heavy RAF Bomber Command raid on the German steel producing city of Bochum, which was of high importance to the Nazi war machine. It was the 150th time the city had been visited by Bomber Command.

On this night, Bomber Command launched a raid of 749 aircraft from Nos. 1, 4,6 and 8 Groups, comprising of 384 Halifax bombers, 336 Lancaster’s and 29 Mosquito fighter / bombers upon the city. RAF Elvington, part of 4 Group, put up 25 aircraft from the two French Squadrons of 346 “Guyenne” and 347 “Tunisie”. For Guyenne Squadron, the night was to be particularly horrific, as, bringing up the final wave of the attack in the early hours of 5th November, their 16 Halifax bombers were the most vulnerable to attack by enemy fighters. Consequently, they lost 5 aircraft, each with seven aircrew aboard, amounting to 35 men, no, friends, on this fateful night. Of these, 11 were taken as Prisoner of War after bailing out, one successfully evaded capture but the rest lost their lives. Interestingly, there was also a ‘passenger’ on board the aircraft of Commander Robert Baron (on his 26th and last operation), this being Lt. Col. N. Dagan from the Free French Air Force HQ in Whitehall, who also lost his life. He was undertaking an assessment operation of a typical mission and the hazards encountered by aircrew.

It was the longest of nights for base Commander Puget, as he paced the floor of Elvington’s Control Tower, which still exists today, until it was clear that these aircraft were not coming home. It was the worst night of losses that the French were to endure during their service with Bomber Command.

The Allied Air Forces Memorial & Yorkshire Air Museum will be represented at the annual Mass commemorating this fateful mission, which takes place at the cathedral of Les Invalides, the Military Museum in the heart of Paris on 4th November. Ian Reed, Museum Director, will make the journey to join members of Groupes Lourds, the French veterans association for the ceremony.

Ian Reed commented: “The memory of this raid is one of the factors that makes the following annual Remembrance Sunday Service at the French Memorial, Elvington, so important and poignant, and draws a significant contingent from France every year, gathering with the hundreds of villagers, Yorkshire Air Museum Members and military personnel from various nations who come to pay their respects to the fallen of all nations.”

The Service takes place at 11:00am on Sunday 13th November, at the French Memorial, York Road, Elvington, with a later Service at the Station Chapel at the Yorkshire Air Museum at 13:30pm, which all our visitors are welcome to attend.

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