Fleck, 532066 Sergeant (Flight Engineer) George, 207 Squadron, Royal Air Force, died on the 5th September 1942. One record says he was the child of William and Elizabeth Fleck, 'Cloneen', Antrim Road, Ballymena, and his name appears on the Presbyterian Church in Ireland Roll of Honour, 1939-1945 for West Church Presbyterian Church. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. The ‘Cookstown War Dead’ website also report that he is on a family plot headstone in Saltersland Presbyterian Church in the Loup, County Londonderry. His CWGC entry lists him as the son of William and Elizabeth Fleck, of Glengormley, Co. Antrim. George’s parents came originally from the Ballymena area. William Fleck, farmer of Glenwhirry, had married Elisabeth (Lizzie) Andrews of Liminary in Ballymena’s West Church on the 13th March 1907. The couple went on to have at least five of a family. Esther was born on the 5 August 1908 at Ballynulto, Ellen at Ballynulto on the 28th October 1910, Rachel at Caugherty, Broughshane on the 12 November 1912, James at Caugherty, Broughshane on the 10 December 1914 and George at Caugherty, Broughshane on the 4th April 1917. Caugherty is closer to Ballymena than Ballynulto. Sergeant Fleck, the Flight Engineer, was on board a Lancaster 1 flown by Australian Pilot Officer Richard Gerald Rowlands, RAAF. The other crew were 120038 Pilot Officer and Navigator Adam Byers Hastings, RAFVR, Wireless Operator 403411 Sergeant John Campbell Luton, RAAF, Air Bombardier 655006 Sergeant Frederick John Charles Barnes, RAF, and Air Gunners 1105186 Sergeant John Wilfred Atkinson, RAFVR, and 778001 Sergeant Cecil Vivian Pattison, RAFVR. They were en route to bomb Bremen, their cargo being five 1900 lb. General Purpose Bombs. The aircraft of No. 207 Squadron Syerston, Lancaster R5755, Code EM-N, took off 00:30 hours from RAF Syerston on the 4th September 1942. There was no wireless communication thereafter, and the plane did not return to base. Reports from aircraft crews stated, that the visibility over the target was good, there being no cloud and only light winds; one crew even reported no enemy opposition encountered of any form. However, it is thought that R5755 was intercepted by night fighter ace Oberfeldwebel Heinz Vinke at 02:50 hrs and, damaged, the aircraft had ditched in the Ijsselmeer, Holland. Flying Officer Rowland’s body came ashore near Staveren on the 12th September and Sergeant Luton’s body was also recovered soon after. Heinz Vinke was a leading night fighter ace, indeed eventually the eighteenth most successful night fighter pilot in the history of aerial warfare to that date, and he is credited with the destruction of fifty four aircraft. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves for his efforts. He and his crew were shot down and killed in action near Dunkirk, France on 26 February 1944.
Foster, 1486961 Gunner John McIlroy, 261 Battery, 94 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery, was 36 years old when he died on the 10 January 1944. The fact that he died and that he is buried in Cullybackey suggests he either died of natural causes or that he died from old wounds. He was born on the 14 November 1907 and was the son of Mary Kernohan, nee Foster, of Ballymena. He is buried in Craigs Church of Ireland Churchyard, Cullybackey. Mary Foster was probably, based on the 1901 census, the daughter of Samuel Blair Foster, an agricultural labourer, and Mary Jane Foster of Slatt, Kells, Ballymena. Mary Jane died aged 43 at Queen Street, Ballymena on the 21 August 1907, and the 1911 census shows many of the family, but not the surviving parent, at Patrick Place, off Queen Street, Ballymena. Samuel Blair Foster, owing to his role as an agricultural labourer, may have lived away from the family for much of the time; Maggie (21) lists herself as the head of the family. Mary appears to have married William Kernohan, Moyasset, Ahoghill in Wellington Street Presbyterian Church on the 5th October 1918. At the outbreak of war, the 94th HAA Regiment was serving under 36th AA Brigade and was mobilized at Edinburgh. On 7 March 1940, 228th Battery was deployed to defend Aberdeen. 261st Battery replaced 228th Battery on 14 February 1941 when that battery was sent to Gibraltar. 261st Battery was independent from 22 April to 23 July 1941, and then the regiment was sent to Egypt in April 1941, arriving there on 13 June. It was sent to the desert war zone and served under 12th AA Brigade in the rear areas of the front. It remained under the brigade in the desert campaign from November 1941 until January 1943, when it transferred for a short period to 2nd AA Brigade in the Tripoli area. It returned to 12th AA Brigade by May 1943 under 8th Army. It then remained in the Middle East, including Palestine and Egypt, until the regiment and batteries were placed into suspended animation on 26 July 1944. This happened to many such groups. The Allies had air superiority by 1944 and had less need for such AA units and infantry regiments were short of men. The HAA men were used to fill gaps.
Fullerton, 1473076 Gunner Hugh, 20th Battery, 2nd Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery died on the 15th June 1947 aged 28 years. His wife was Lizzie Fullerton, his parents Hugh and Margaret Ann Fullerton, Randalstown. He is buried in 1st Presbyterian Churchyard, Randalstown. Hugh Fullerton, a labourer from Kells married Margaret Ann McNeice, Cromkill, in 1st Ballymena Presbyterian Church on the 7th June 1918.
Giffin, D/JX 243308 Able Seaman Archibald, H.M.S. President III, Royal Navy, aged 18, was killed on 5/6th October 1941. He was the son of Francis and Mary Giffin, of 64, Moat Road, Ballymena, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. He is remembered on Plymouth Naval Memorial. President III was the accounting base for Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships in World War 2 and SS Thistlegorm was one such ship, indeed a British munitions ship sunk is in the Straits of Gubal in the Northern Red Sea off the coast of Egypt and opposite Aden by a German bomber in 1941. She was one of a number of "Thistle" ships owned and operated by the Albyn Line, which was founded in 1901 and was based in Sunderland. It had four vessels at the outbreak of World War II, and SS Thistlegorm was one of these. It had been built by Joseph Thompson & Sons shipyard in Sunderland. The vessel is regarded as an armed freighter in WW2 because she was armed with a 4.7-inch (120 mm) anti-aircraft gun and a heavy-calibre machine gun. SS Thistlegorm in its wartime role had completed just three wartime voyages to the USA, Argentina and the West Indies before its ill-fated mission to Suez. She had set sail on her final voyage from Glasgow on 2 June 1941, destined for Alexandria, Egypt. The ship’s cargo included Bedford trucks, Universal Carrier armoured vehicles, Norton 16H and BSA motorcycles, Bren guns, cases of ammunition, and 0.303 rifles, as well as radio equipment, Wellington boots, aircraft parts, railway wagons and two LMS Stanier Class 8F steam locomotives. These steam locomotives and their associated coal and water tenders were carried as deck cargo intended for Egyptian National Railways. The rest of the cargo was for the Allied forces in Egypt. At the time the Thistlegorm sailed from Glasgow in June, this was the Western Desert Force, which in September 1941 became part of the newly formed Eighth Army. The crew of the ship, under Captain William Ellis, were supplemented by nine Royal Navy personnel to man the machine gun and the anti-aircraft gun. Owing to German and Italian naval and air force activity in the Mediterranean, SS Thistlegorm sailed as part of a convoy via Cape Town, where she refuelled, before heading north up the East coast of Africa and into the Red Sea. On leaving Cape Town, the light cruiser HMS Carlisle joined the convoy. Owing to a collision in the Suez Canal, the convoy could not travel through the waterway to reach Alexandria and instead moored at ‘Safe Anchorage F’, in September 1941. She and HMS Carlisle remained at anchor until her sinking on 5/6th October 1941. There was a large build-up of Allied troops in Egypt during September 1941 and the Germans suspected that there was a troopship in the area. Two Heinkel He 111 aircraft were dispatched from Crete find it. The actual search failed but later one of the bombers discovered the vessels. It dropped two bombs on SS Thistlegorm, both of which struck Hold 4 near the stern of the ship at 01.30 hrs on 6 October. The bomb and the secondary explosion of some of the ammunition stored in Hold 4 led to the sinking of the ship and the loss of four sailors and five members of the Royal Navy gun crew. The survivors were picked up by HMS Carlisle. Captain Ellis was awarded the OBE for his actions following the explosion and a crewman, Angus McLeay, was awarded the George Medal and the Lloyd's War Medal for Bravery at Sea for saving another crew member. The casualties aboard SS Thistlegorm were: Fireman Alfred Kean, Merchant Navy; Ordinary Seaman Joseph Munroe Rolfe, Merchant Navy. He was just 17 and the son of Samuel Richard and Eliza Munroe Rolfe, of Hendon, Sunderland, Co. Durham; Donkeyman Sakando Kahil, Merchant Navy; Fireman and Trimmer Alexander Neil Brown Watt, Merchant Navy. He was 21 and the son of Mary A. L. B. Watt, of Paisley, Renfrewshire; D/JX 243308 Able Seaman Archibald Giffin, Royal Navy. CWGC have him listed as the son of ‘Francis and Mary Gimn, of Ballymena, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland’; D/JX 243316 Able Seaman Arthur Kain, Royal Navy; C/SSX 12629 Able Seaman, Donald Masterson, Royal Navy. He was aged 32 and the son of Thomas William and Edith Mary Masterson; husband of Violet Masterson, of Isleworth, Middlesex; D/JX 243317Able Seaman Christopher Travers Todds, Royal Navy; D/JX 237855 Able Seaman Thomas Woolaghan, Royal Navy. He was aged 24 and the son of Mrs. A. Woolaghan, of Morecambe, Lancashire. Most of the Royal Navy men were all drawn from the ‘stone frigate’ HMS President III.
Given, 112706 Flight Lieutenant Hugh MacIvor, 27 Squadron, Royal Air Force died aged 28 on the 8 February 1943 and he is buried in Ranchi War Cemetery, India. He was born on the 24 July 1914 at Dunnygarron, Cullybackey and was the son of the late Robert Given, JP and Kathleen Given (née Oliver), later of Markstown, Cullybackey. He was the husband of Margaret Helen Given, of 'The Warrens', Broughshane. Hugh Given had attended Ballymena Academy, Ballymena, and in 1934 graduated from Queen’s University Belfast as a qualified medical doctor with an MB, BCh, BAO. Before the outbreak of war, he practised medicine in Belfast, Omagh, Dungiven, and on the Ards Peninsula. Hugh joined 27 Squadron RAF in 1941. 27 Squadron, based in Malaya when the Japanese invaded, used its Blenheims as long range fighters, but quickly received heavy losses and was effectively wiped out as a fighting unit by early 1942. A new No. 27 Squadron was formed in India on 19 September 1942, receiving Bristol Beaufighters, which it used for ground-attack missions over Burma and anti-shipping strikes. In April 1943 the squadron received a number of de Havilland Mosquitoes for evaluation, but preferred and retained Beaufighters for continued ground attack and anti-shipping strikes. Given, home on leave, married Margaret Helen Thompson of The Warrens, Broughshane, Co. Antrim in 1942. Helen, her preferred name, came from Cantley, Yorkshire, but she lived in Broughshane and taught at Downpatrick High School, Co. Down. Flight Lieutenant Given died only four months after his wedding to Helen. Given was not directly involved in any of the military activity outlined above. He had been serving as a Medical Officer with No 27 Squadron, and probably died from an illness or as a consequence of an accident.
Gray, 180030 Flight Lieutenant Robert, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, died at age 27 on 24th March 1945 while serving with the RAF. He was the son of John and Mary Gray, of Ballymena, Co. Antrim. He is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial. Robert Gray was born at Springwell Street, Ballymena on the 16th March 1918 and was the son of John Gray and his wife Mary Wylie. A marriage record for the couple cannot be found but the singletons appear in the 1911 census. John, a butcher, was boarding with the Laird family on Broughshane Street, and Mary, a daughter of cattle dealer John Wylie and his wife Elizabeth, was a shop assistant in a butcher’s and lived at nearby Mount Street. Gray was killed on an operation linked to Operation Plunder, the amphibious assault across the Rhine. On the night of March 23, 1945, the Allied forces of that crossing had gathered along the Rhine and launched their invasion. Operation Varsity, the largest airborne assault of the war and involving more than 16,000 paratroopers and thousands of aircraft, began on the 24th March 1945. Robert Gray was at that point attached to 1 Wing, The Glider Regiment AAC, and died at the operation’s outset. The plan was to seize vital territory in the Wesel area, east of the Rhine in preparation for the main thrust of the Allied forces into Germany and to relieve pressure on land forces crossing the River Rhine. The British 6th Airborne Division was ordered to capture the villages of Schnappenberg and Hamminkeln, clear part of the Diersfordter Wald (Diersfordt Forest) of German forces, and secure three bridges over the River Issel. The operation also exploited the fact that German forces were already diverted by the US Army’s famous seizure of the bridge at Remagan, and the establishment of a strong bridgehead in that area. That didn’t mean it was easy. Denis Edwards was with D Company, 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, speaking of Operation Varsity, said, ‘Regrettably, the Germans knew only too well that we were on our way and they were ready and waiting. Following the British glider-borne landings in Normandy and Arnhem in 1944 the Germans had certainly realized that the most effective way to deal with the British troop-carrying Horsa, and the equally large and flimsy Hamilcar gliders, was to hit them with incendiary bullets …The gliders had to land in open ground and the well-positioned German forces equipped with their tanks, artillery, mortars, heavy, medium and light machine guns, accompanied by well-positioned snipers, picked us off at will as we sought what little cover was available. The casualty figures testify to the advantage enjoyed by the defenders as we delivered our cargoes of thirty men at a time, gift-wrapped in plywood Horsas.’ Quoted from Denis Edwards: Devils Own Luck: Pegasus Bridge to the Baltic 1944-45 It was tough going and there were casualties like Gray but in just one day, this airborne effort helped the Allied troops secure victory on the ground, and take control of crucial German towns, villages, and strongholds. Some say Operation Varsity was more than a success; it was a historic event and laden with interesting strategy, for contrary to airborne strategy used throughout the war, the airborne troops dropped after the ground forces successfully crossed the Rhine River. Furthermore, the airborne troops landed quite close to the troops on the ground, allowing them to connect quickly – not ‘A Bridge Too Far’. The lessons of Arnhem (Operation Market Garden) had been learned. Defending German Major-General Fiebig remarked that he was amazed at Operation Varsity’s surprising speed.
Green, Sergeant (Flight Engineer) John (Jack), 106 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, died on the 23rd August 1943. He was aged 24. He was the son of Frederick and Ellen Green of Harryville, Ballymena. He was killed whilst flying in aircraft JA871, Code ZN-?) a Lancaster Ill of No 106 Squadron, which crashed near Dusseldorf during a raid to Leverkusen. All the crew were killed, and they are buried in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. The remainder of the crew were F/O J/22773 George Donald Kain, Royal Canadian Air Force, P/O 139620 George Eitaro Fraser, 1324504 Sergeant Charles Kenneth Marsh, 1090357 Sergeant Maurice Hunter, 640916 Sergeant Frederick Roy Wills, 2216002 Sergeant Lawrence Green. What caused the crash is unknown. The Leverkusen Raid of the 22/23 August 1943 involved 462 aircraft - 257 Lancasters, 192 Halifaxes, 13 Mosquitos. The IG Farben factory was chosen as the aiming point for this raid. The company was a major government contractor. It had purged its Jewish employees, and has been described as "the most notorious German industrial concern during the Third Reich". IG Farben relied in the 1940s on slave labour from concentration camps, including 30,000 from Auschwitz. One of its subsidiaries supplied the poison gas, Zyklon B, that killed over one million people in gas chambers during the Holocaust. There was thick cloud over the target area on the night of the raid and there was a partial failure of the Oboe signals, the radio direction signals that guided bombers to their target. Bombs fell over a wide area, and at least 12 other towns in and near the Ruhr recorded bomb damage. Three Lancasters, including JA871, and 2 Halifaxes were lost, though this represented only 1.1 per cent of the force.
Hilton, 7019976 Rifleman Francis, 1st (Airborne) Bn., the glider-borne infantry of the Royal Ulster Rifles. The unit took severe casualties during the battles of the Rhine Crossings in 1945. He was born on the 30th November 1914 at Duke Street, Ballymena, the son of groom and horse-trainer Frederick Hilton and his wife, formerly Agnes Gordon, 5, Garfield Place, Broughshane Street, Ballymena. He had completed five years' service before he died on the 31 March 1945. The context reveals Hilton’s experiences leading up to his death. The role of the 1st Royal Ulster Rifles during Operation Varsity, 24th March 1945, the airborne part of Operation Plunder, was to land on LZ-U to the south of Hamminkeln, capture a bridge crossing the River Issel, secure the Ringenberg Railway Station, and then take up positions in the surrounding area. Anti-aircraft fire was particularly heavy, much directed towards them when their gliders came in to land. "D" Company, despite numerous casualties and the absence of two of their four platoons, took their objective. They even repelled five self-propelled guns approaching their position at one point, destroying one with PIAT handheld anti-tank devices. "A" Company had been tasked with the capture of the railway station, but as with "D" Company, only two of their platoons had landed on target. Nevertheless this force reached the station, encountering unexpectedly little resistance on the way, and discovered a platoon of the 12th Devonshire Regiment waiting nearby with a collection of fifty German prisoners who had been eager to surrender. "B" and "C" Companies were to secure the surrounding terrain, but fierce resistance in their sector of the landing zone resulted in high casualties. However, once the Ulstermen had located and begun to attack these positions, they found the will of the enemy to fight crumbled remarkably quickly and a considerable number of prisoners were taken. By the afternoon, the Battalion was in complete control of their area, but the day had been extremely costly with two hundred and fifty-nine casualties sustained. On the 26th March, the 6th Airlanding Brigade, including 1st Bn (Airborne), RUR, led the Division's advance into Germany, and participated in an attack on the high ground near Brunen. Stiff opposition was encountered. However, the RUR gained the position with the assistance of RAF Typhoons. On the 30th March, the Battalion was ordered to attack a determined S.S. force on another area of high ground near Coesfeld. With the support of the tanks of No.2 Squadron, 4th Battalion Grenadier Guards, the objective was taken after overcoming resistance that was supported by five 88mm guns and several 20mm quick-firing anti-aircraft guns. The battalion’s war diary states that at this time the battalion was moving between Coesfeld and Greven and that there were nine casualties that day. One of these was Hilton.
Houston, D/SSX 16513 Able Seaman James, HMS Spartan, Royal Navy, died on the 29 January 1944. His parents are impossible to identify on the basis of currently known data. James’s CWGC entry which records his parents as ‘H and L Houston’ and he was said to be the husband of Jessie Houston, Belfast. He is remembered on Plymouth Naval Memorial. Corporal James Alexander Houston, age 22 and of the 3rd Royal Irish Rifles, living at 22, Oregon Street, Belfast, married Jessie Kirby, 21, also of 22, Oregon Street, in the Register Office in Belfast on the 13th December 1916, and the couple’s son, also James Alexander, was born at Oregon Street on the 28th August 1917. Unfortunately, Corporal James Alexander Houston listed his father as John Houston, not compatible with ‘H and L Houston’. Jessie Kirby listed her father as George William Kirby, and the 1911 census records him and her at Columbia Street, Belfast. HMS Spartan was sunk off Anzio, western Italy. The weather at this stage in the Anzio landings had been extremely rough and the landing of reinforcements and supplies had been impeded. At sunset on 29th January, the Luftwaffe began a glide bomb attack on the ships still delayed in Anzio Bay. HMS Spartan was providing AA protection for the supply ships in the vicinity of the beachhead. Smoke had been ordered in the anchorage but was not fully effective owing to the short time it was in operation and the strong winds. HMS Spartan was not herself covered by the smokescreen when aircraft approached from the north and delivered a beam attack against the ships that were silhouetted against the afterglow. The timing of the attack, poor visibility and ineffective radar owing to land echoes meant the vessels had limited warning. However, the first six bombs fell into the water. Shortly afterwards, at approximately 17:56, hrs a radio-controlled Henschel Hs 293 glider bomb was seen approaching the starboard side of the ship. It was first believed likely to pass astern but altered course during the final stage of its approach and struck the ship near “B” funnel casing. Indeed, the projectile passed through the ship and exploded high up on the port side of the main watertight sub-division containing “B” Boiler Room. The main mast collapsed, and boiler rooms were flooded. Steam and electrical power failed, a serious fire developed, and the ship listed to port. HMS Spartan was immobilized, and about an hour after being hit, she had to be abandoned in the dark. She settled and sank quickly in shallow water. Adjacent ships evacuated her complement of 450 to 500 men, but five officers and 59 ratings had been killed. Houston was initially posted ‘missing presumed killed’ but was soon declared ‘killed’.
Houston, 1063716 Sergeant (Pilot) Matthew Cumming, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, died aged 21 on the 4 February 1942. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. William Houston, of Broughshane, Co. Antrim. He is buried in Catania War Cemetery, Sicily. Blenheim IV, number Z7341, of 21 Squadron, piloted by Sergeant Matthew Cumming Houston, flew into a cloud-covered hillside while undertaking an attack at Palermo Harbour in Sicily on the 4th February 1942. All of the three-man crew perished, the other members being Pilot Officer (Observer) J O’Grady and Sergeant L Frost (Wireless Operator & Air Gunner). No.21 Squadron was a light bomber squadron in 1939, equipped with Blenheim IVs. Its quiet start to the war ended in May 1940 with the German invasion of the Low Countries. No.21 Squadron took part in the costly attacks on the advancing Germany columns, before at the end of May moving to Lossiemouth, to join Coastal Command. The squadron spent most of the next two years operating as an anti-shipping unit, alternating between Lossiemouth and Watton between June and December 1941, before moving to Malta at the end of December 1941 to attack the vital Axis supply convoys attempting to get supplies to Rommel in North Africa. It was at this time that Matthew Cumming Houston was killed. Shortly after Houston’s death the squadron was disbanded on Malta, 14 March 1942, and immediately reformed at Bodney, this time as a day bomber squadron. The new squadron inherited No.82 Squadron's Blenheims, which were soon replaced by the Lockheed Ventura, but it was not until the arrival of the Mosquito FB Mk.VI in September 1943 that the squadron gained a truly effective bomber. Its first operation as a day bomber squadron was an attack on the Philips works at Eindhoven on 6 December 1942. The Mosquitoes were used for a mix of pinpoint daylight raids and night raids until February 1945, when the squadron moved to France. The most famous attack in which they were involved was Operation Jericho, the Mosquito Attack on Amiens Prison on the 18th February 1944. The Mosquitos of 487 Squadron were assigned the task of bombing the prison guards’ mess hall and breaching the outer prison wall in two places, while 464 Squadron’s aircraft were tasked with bombing the prison’s main walls if no prisoners were seen escaping. No. 21 Squadron was assigned with the grim alternative of bombing the prison and all in it, as requested by those prisoners aware of the proposed mission, should the initial bombing runs fail. From then until the end of the war the squadron flew night intruder missions over Germany, helping add to the "mosquito panic". After the war the squadron spent two years as part of the occupation forces in Germany, before being disbanded in November 1947.
Johnston, 14418330 Rifleman James, 2nd Battalion London Irish Rifles (formerly of the Royal Ulster Rifles) died on the 28th October 1943 and was aged 23. He was the son of Archibald and Margaret Johnston of Glarryford. He is buried in Moro Rover Canadian War Cemetery, Italy. On the morning of 5th October 1943, the 2nd Battalion London Irish Rifles having sailed with 38 (Irish) Brigade from Barletta to Termoli, were met on landing by artillery fire. Over the previous day, there had been a strong counterattack by 16th Panzer Division against what was then the newly established beachhead, and it was only the arrival of the Irish Brigade that stabilised the situation. The next day, the brigade attacked northwards to secure the perimeter, before consolidating their positions over the next ten days. On the night of 19th October, the unit undertook a successful single battalion attack on the Petacciato ridge which allowed observation over the Trigno river valley. Then, after a week of patrolling activity and maintaining a small exposed bridgehead on the north side of the river, the night of 27th October saw the Irish Brigade attacking the hill top town of San Salvo with a two-battalion front comprising 1 Royal Irish Fusiliers and 2nd Battalion London Irish Rifles. This assault was met by a ferocious German defensive action and this generated substantial casualties, among them James Johnston. The attack was ultimately unsuccessful and 2nd London Irish Rifles was withdrawn from the front line for some much-needed rest and reorganisation.
Johnston, 1481596 Sergeant (Air Gunner) James, 104 Squadron RAF Volunteer Reserve, died aged 21 on the 23 January 1944. He was the son of Adam and Sarah Johnston of Clough, Ballymena. He is interred in Belgrade War Cemetery. All five crew members died on the night of Sunday, 23rd January when Wellington X, number LN333 ‘B’, of 104 Squadron, probably lost to a night fighter, failed to return from a raid on Maribor, Yugoslavia. The men, apart from Johnston, were 1371574 Flight Sergeant Neil Montgomery, 1562576 Sergeant Arthur Harold Campbell, 1552822 Flight Sergeant John Smith Brand, and 1318094 Sergeant Kenneth Henry Brittle. Maribor, a major industrial centre with an extensive armament industry, was systematically bombed by the Allies in the closing years of World War II. There was a total of twenty-nine raids, and these devastated some 47% of the city area. Maribor was also the site of a German prisoner-of-war camp from 1941-45 for many British, Australian, and New Zealand troops.
Johnston, D/JX 151626 Able Seaman Robert David, Royal Navy died aged 18 in the sinking of HMS Glorious on the 9 June 1940. His parents were David Johnston, mill worker, and Jane Montgomery, a farmer’s daughter from Fenagh, Cullybackey. They had married in Cullybackey Presbyterian Church (Cuningham) on the 4th September 1901 and later lived at of 11 Hill Street, Ballymena. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial. HMS Glorious was stationed at Alexandria with the Mediterranean Fleet at the start of the Second World War. She was in October 1939 part of Force I, her role to support the battleship HMS Malaya as she patrolled the Gulf of Aden in search of German merchant ships and the pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee. Following the invasion of Norway on 9 April 1940, HMS Glorious was recalled to England and left Malta on 11 April 1940 in great haste. She had been remodelled in the 1920s to become one of Britain's largest and fastest aircraft carriers and was used for transporting RAF aircraft to Norway. However, during Operation Alphabet, the evacuation of Allied forces from Norway, HMS Glorious and her escorting destroyers HMS Acasta and HMS Ardent were intercepted by the German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. HMS Glorious et al had been given permission to leave the main convoy and proceed to Scapa Flow on their own. Regrettably, and possibly because their deck was crowded with aircraft from the Norwegian debacle, they were unable to fly their own aircraft to give themselves early warning of danger. They were unlucky too; the third German salvo hit HMS Glorious from a distance of about 26,000 yards, almost 5 miles, the longest known hit to that date. All three were sunk and the German battleships, which filmed part of the battle for propaganda purposes, did not stop to pick up survivors. The British were unaware of the ships’ fate until the following day, and when Norwegian ships finally found them nearly three days later, only about 40 survived. The 1,519-death toll exceeded that of any of the other great British naval disasters of the war.
Kelly, 971259 Sergeant (wireless operator/air gunner) Hugh Alphonsus, 103 Squadron, RAFVR died on the 29th August 1941 and aged 30 years. His parents were Patrick and Mary Kelly of William Street, Ballymena. He is buried in Flushing (Vlissingen) North Cemetery, Holland. Wellington, type 1c, number R1213, took off from RAF Elsham Wolds, Lincolnshire at 2301 hours on the night of Friday/Saturday, 29th/30th August 1941, one of eight planes en route to bomb Mannheim, Germany. The crew were 86693 P/O Captain (Pilot) William R Oldfield; 402428 Sergeant Gregory Percival Williams, (2nd Pilot), RAAF; R/60716 Sergeant Arthur Harry Figg, (Observer), RCAF; 971259 Sergeant Hugh A Kelly (Wireless Air Gunner), RAFVR; 974494 Sergeant John Grassom, (Wireless Operator & Air Gunner), RAF; and 1378581 Sergeant Harry Dunn (Rear Gunner), RAF. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after its departure and it was one of three lost. They encountered bad weather outbound and it was said that the aircraft had been struck by lightning. Returning crews at the time reported thunderstorms in the region of the Dutch coast. The other two aircraft lost were Wellington Type Ic, number X9826, flown by 20-year-old 930728 Sergeant. John Kemp Murdoch, RAFVR from 115 Squadron; all that crew were killed when they were attacked by a night fighter over Martlesham Heath in Suffolk. Wellington Ic, number R1604, flown by 20-year-old, R/58084 Sergeant. Edward Wilson Foxlee, RCAF. All his crew also lost their lives in the same area as R1213 and it believed for the same reason. The brother of this pilot, 27-year-old, P/O. William Royston Foxlee 120920 RAFVR was classed as missing the following year on the 4th September 1942. In mid-February 1972 part of aircraft R1213 was recovered by the Royal Netherlands Air Force and it was established in 1972 that lightning had destroyed the outbound aircraft; some bombs were still aboard. Three of the crew had been found dead in the wreck in 1941. Another was found dead at that time in the Frederickapolder; he had bailed out too close to the ground. Sergeant Harry Dunn bailed out and landed at Westhof Farm. He crashed through the roof of a barn and broke his ankle. He was taken prisoner by the Germans and spent the war as PoW No. 39395 in Stalag Luft Heydekrug. The other survivor was the pilot, William Oldfield. He had been injured, was found in the wreckage, and became PoW No. 3760 in Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria.
Kennedy, 971349 Sergeant (Flight Engineer) Andrew, 10th Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, died on the 26th March 1944. He was born at Queen Street, Ballymena on the 28th April 1916, and was the son of Alexander and Martha Kennedy, nee McCartney, later of nearby 2 Paradise Avenue, Ballymena. The couple had married in Wellington Street Presbyterian Church and the 7 July 1911, and it appears Andrew was their only child. 10 Squadron was based initially at RAF Dishforth, then RAF Leeming, and finally at RAF Melbourne. Actually East Common just outside the village of Seaton Ross had been requisitioned for use as a grass airfield in November 1940, and in late 1940 the airfield was used by Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys of 10 Squadron as a relief landing ground for RAF Leeming. The airfield soon closed for redevelopment and the first user of the rebuilt airfield was again 10 Squadron. They were by then operating with the Handley Page Halifax four-engine heavy bomber. The squadron was busy, in part because RAF Melbourne was one of seventeen sites equipped with the FIDO fog dispersant system. This made the airfield a popular destination for other squadrons returning from operations to Yorkshire in bad weather. 10 Squadron lost 109 aircraft on operations during the war. On late Sunday, 26 March 1944, some of the bombers of 10 Squadron, took off for a mission to Essen in Germany. 705 aircraft, this total made up of 476 Lancasters, 207 Halifaxes, 22 'Oboe' equipped Mosquitos for various squadrons, took part in this raid of the 26th/27th March 1944. Oboe was a British aerial blind bombing system. The system consisted of a pair of radio transmitters on the ground, which sent signals which were received and retransmitted by a transponder in the aircraft. By comparing the time each signal took to reach the aircraft, the distance between the aircraft and the station could be determined. The Oboe operators then sent radio signals to the aircraft to bring them onto their target and properly time the release of their bombs. It was very effective. The sudden switch by Bomber Command to a Ruhr target just across the German frontier on 26th/27th March caught the German fighter controllers by surprise, and though Essen was covered by cloud, the Oboe Mosquitos marked the target well and this was considered a successful attack. 971349 Sergeant Andrew Kennedy (Flight Engineer) participated in this raid and was on board a Handley Page Halifax, Type III, serial LV859 and code ZA-C. The others on board were 173596 P/O (Air Bomber) Frank Alfred Moody, 174672 P/O (Navigator) Edward Albert Colborn, 173147 P/O (Wireless Operator and Air Gunner) Cyril Ernest Girling, 169117 P/O (Pilot) Thomas Wilson, 1603285 Sergeant (Air Gunner) Bernard Raymond Guy Walker, and 652906 Sergeant (Air Gunner) Robert Hutcheon. Their aircraft was one of the three Halifax III’s lost on the raid, shot down it seems by a night fighter near Westum, Germany. All were killed. All the crew are buried in Rheinsberg War Cemetery.