Avro Lancaster LM 585 (HW-S)
100 Squadron R.A.F.
LM 585 was the “old-faithful” flown by Flt/Lt Harold Paston-Williams and his crew for fourteen operations on their first tour. The crews’ last trip in LM585 was to be on the 28/07/44 to Stuttgart. This aircraft is referred to by Flt/Sgt Laurence R.Watts in his last letter home dated 11/08/44 to his sister Mrs Denise Pilfold, less than two days before his own tragic demise. In his letter Flt/Sgt Watts states “We lost our own aircraft, S for sugar and are waiting for a new one to come along, so I hope it will be as good as our old S.” (Two days earlier, on 09/08/44 the crew had performed an air test on LM 658 (HW-W) maybe unaware that this was to be their replacement aircraft).
However Flt/ Sgt Watts and his crew would be only too aware of the reasons that LM 585 would not see them through to the end of their tour, but the constraints of censorship would not have allowed him to include any details in his letter home.
Almost two weeks prior on 31/07/44 Paston-Williams, Watts and the rest of the crew were not detailed to fly on that particular night so LM 585 was to be flown by another crew:
Pilot Flt/Sgt J.R.Tones (RNZAF)*
Navigator Sgt L.A. Miller
Flight Engineer Sgt F.J. Smith
Wireless Operator Flt/Sgt J.D. Syverston (RNZAF)
Bomb Aimer Sgt R.A. Gale (pseudonym)**
Mid Upper Gunner Sgt A. Osborn
Rear Gunner Sgt G.L Copeland
**Sgt Gales’ real name was Sgt A.C.E. Sinclair and he was Jewish. It was common practice for Jewish aircrew on op’s over enemy territory to use a pseudonym, even to the extent that the false name was entered in the squadron operational records. It was widely thought at the time that full details of serving allied aircrew may already be in enemy hands, so this was done with the intention of avoiding the obvious dire consequences for any captured Jewish airmen.
*Also worthy of note Flt Sgt Tones was only early into an eventful tour, he had only flown his “second dickie” (familiarisation tour) on the 26/07/44 to Stuttgart. On 28/07/44 the target again was Stuttgart, the same night that Paston-Williams and crew flew LM 585 for the last time. Flt/ Sgt Tones and crew took off from Waltham in ND 356 (HW-O) and arrived over the target in heavy cloud. On their return ND 356 had an engine failure and fuel loss, almost on empty she was forced to crash land at Kelstern on the morning of 29/07/44, overshooting the runway into an adjacent field, all survived.
So just two days after this incident on 31/07/44, Flt/ Sgt Tones and his crew were detailed to fly LM 585, they took off from Waltham with fourteen other aircraft as part of a 1 Group force of 104 Lancasters plus 76 Halifaxes from 6 Group. They were to attack the concentrations of V1 rocket storage sites in the Foret De Nieppe, south of Hazebrouk, Pas De Calais, France. Although the target was under 10/10ths cloud cover the crews bombed on the markers under the instructions of the master bomber. Only one Lancaster was lost on this raid, LM 585 was hit by heavy flak over the target and went down, crashing at Haversquerque. Just one parachute was seen to open before LM 585 hit the ground, but whichever member of the crew did make it out of the stricken aircraft he did not survive. They are all interred together in the British cemetery at Haversquerque as just one more crew of seven young men, who were destined never to return home.
Thanks to Mr Greg Harrison, Mr Laurence Pilfold and Mr Ian Reid (Author of “To Fly Over Waltham”) for the above information I merely compiled the facts supplied!
Alan J. Barrow