Failed to Return

F/O H Dodds and Crew

F/O H Dodds and crew and crew were posted to 550 Sqdn No. LFS on 13.8.44:

The ORB lists Sgt J W Brown (2210108) posted to 550 Sqdn from No. 1 L.F.S. w.e.f. 13.08.44 with the Dodds crew as the Flight Engineer. A number of the operations undertaken by the crew also list J W Brown. But P/O A R Brown (182555) is the airman killed on 14 October 1944 (below). Letters from Arthur Reginald Brown, and showing both services number, confirm they are one and the same and that the initials "J W" seem likely to have been an error in the ORB. The service number change is normal when moving from non-commissioned to commissioned officer.

There is also come confusion (in the ORB) over the Lewis and Laidlaw service numbers and their MU/AG vs. R/AG positions, but they appear to settle on Laidlaw being the MU/AG and not the R/AG as some other sources claim.

On occasion other airmen flying with the crew included:

Lancaster PD319/BQ-G was flown by F/O Dodds and crew when it when it was lost on the 14/15 October 1944 taking part in Operation Hurricane against Duisburg. This was one of two 550 Lancasters lost that night, the other being Lancaster NG133 flown by the F/O Abrams crew (see Duisburg/NG133).

The crew on that last flight was not the full regular Dodds crew, as shown below:

F/O Black (A/B) and F/O White were both F/O Tapsell crew regulars and F/Sgt Beckingham (W/Op) was another crew-man who was not in the original crew that transferred in to 550 Sqdn with F/O Dodds. But F/Sgt Beckingham was a regular and was only replaced by F/S Horlor on 3 of the crew's 11 operations.

On that fateful night the following is known (information from Norval Black (son of F/O Black (B/A)): "The story I got from my mother is that on 14 October, Moran, the navigator, was sick and Ken White was drafted in to replace him, and as navs and bomb aimers worked closely, and as they were best pals, my father went with him. The sickness story is almost certainly true, for the Squadron records have Moran being posted out on 14 October to No.3 Base NE (non-effective), which I have come across before, and was probably a hospital facility."

The aircraft crashed in the August-Thyssen-Strasse in Wehofen, NE outskirts of Duisburg.

Other information about the flight and the target available here.

The entry on the 550 Squadron Roll of Honour here.

P/O Arthur Reginald Brown (F/Eng)

Photos of Sgt (later Pilot Officer) Brown kindly made available by Stephen Roke.

Click image Sgt Arthur Reginald Brown
Photo annotated on the rear "Reg"
Click image Sgt Brown and another airman (unknown)

As noted earlier the ORB lists Sgt J W Brown (2210108) posted to 550 Sqdn from No. 1 L.F.S. w.e.f. 13.08.44 with the Dodds crew. But P/O A R Brown (182555) is the airman killed on 14 Oct 1944. Letters from Arthur Reginald Brown, and showing both services number, confirm they are one and the same and that the initials "J W" seem likely to have been an error in the ORB. Also shown below is his service record showing, among other things, his transfer date to North Killingholme (which agress with that for "J W Brown" in the ORB) and the dates of his commission.

Reunion 2014 Welcome Pack Arthur Reginald Brown (2210108 and 182555)
Parts of two letters from A R Brown, the first with service number 2210108 (Sgt Brown) and the second with service number 182555 (P/O Brown, by now stationed at North Killingholme)
Reunion 2014 Welcome Pack P/O Brown service record

Sgt Albert Laidlaw (MU/AG)

Sgt Albert Laidlaw flew as a gunner with 550 Squadron. Sgt Laidlaw, along with the rest of the crew, was killed on 14 October 1944 when PD319 was shot down.

Click image Sgt Albert Laidlaw
Picture courtesy of Evelyn Miller
Click image D-Flight
Picture courtesy of Evelyn Miller
Click image D-Flight signatures (rear of photo)
Picture courtesy of Evelyn Miller

The pictures labelled "D Flight" are a little bit of a puzzle. The picture showing the signatures is clearly labeled October 1943 D Flight". Indeed one or two signatures are individually dated at what looks like 21/10/1943.

The reason for the puzzle: on the 550 Squadron history page ( is noted that the squadron was formed out of 100 Sqdn "C Flight" in November 1943 and originally started with two flights, growing later to three (Flights A, B and C).

The 100 Squadron webpage ( essentially confirms these details although noting:

"In October of 1943, 100 Squadron produced an 'offspring' when 'C' Flight was formed into 550 Squadron to be based at North Killingholme. 550 Squadron was to inherit EE139 HW-R ROGER the 'Phantom of the Ruhr', which went on to complete over 100 missions."

So perhaps the picture is of 100 Sqdn "C Flight" expanding rapidly immediately prior to 550 Squadron formation and they were simply adopting the next available letter, and that within a month things had moved on to 550 Squadron proper. Where the photograph was taken is unclear, but the white flashes on the caps indicate "aircrew in training" and so the photographs may well have been taken in Canada.

To see a list of the last few operations the F/O Dodds crew, including Sgt Laidlaw, took part in click here (document courtesy of Peter Miller).

Sgt Harold Lewis (R/AG)

Click image Sgt Harold "Lou" Lewis (1924 - 1944)
The photo hangs on a wall of the church of Farmborough, Somerset where he lived.
Picture kindly provided by Theo Vervoort (received via Stephen Roke)

PD319 Returned to North Killingholme

At the Remembrance Sunday services in November 2012 a fragment of PD319 finally returned to North Killingholme, after 68 years. Norval Black, son of F/O Henry Black (B/A), presented a fragment of the aircraft, found in Germany, for display in the Squadron Museum in North Killingholme.

Reunion, North Killingholme, 2012
November 2012
(click on picture)

Research Reported from Germany

Information from two sources has been received in relation to the loss of PD319.

In the course of research for the book Bomber Command Operation Hurricane (see below) Marc Hall recovered fragments of the aircraft including the panel of PD319 returned to the son of Henry Black as reported above.

Jörg Helbig reports: "PD319 received a direct hit from flak and crashed at Duisburg (08.48 hrs (local) in the August-Thyssen Strasse at Wehofen, Duisburg) and the crew were laid to rest at the Jewish Cemetery of Holten next to those whose died from Lancaster LL909 (12 Squadron). The graves were exhumed by the Americans and the bodies transported to Holland. LL909 was shot down at the same time 8.48 hrs (also by flak) and crashed at the Mattlerbusch in the Wehofer Strasse."

For the location see: (search: August-Thyssen Strasse Wehofen)

Thanks to Marc Hall and Jörg Helbig for information provided.

Stichting Adoptiegraven CWGC Venray War Cemetery

A scheme known as the "Stichting Adoptiegraven CWGC Venray War Cemetery" allows local families to adopt the grave of a WWII combatent and provide it with special attention in addition to the CWGC care normally given. This is a means of "giving these fighters a face" as well as helping younger generations, who did not experience the effects of the war, to understand better the sacrifices made in the liberation of Europe.

The are seventeen 550 Sqdn aircrew buried at Venray including F/O Henry Black.

Thanks to Norval Black for sending in the information and photos and to the Gommans family to taking a 550 Sqdn airman to their hearts.

Click image The grave of F/O Henry Black held in remembrance by the Gommans family
Click image CWGC Venray War Cemetery at Christmas
Click image The Gommans family who have adopted the grave of Henry Black
Venray Cemetery Visit April 2023

In April 2023 Stephen and Janet Roke visited Venray to meet local volunteers who have adopted the graves of individual service men and to lay a wreath for P/O Reg Brown. Attached below is a detailed account of his visit.

Reunion 2014 Welcome Pack Venray Cemetery Visit, April 2023
Click image Stephen and Janet Roke at the grave of P/O A R (Arthur Reginald) "Reg" Brown

At the time of the visit the cemetery was undergoing some rework (as detailed in the above document) so it was not quite looking tip-top; but I'm sure following that planned re-work it will finally be looking in the top condition that the CWGC always maintains:

Click image Click image
Click image Click image

Among the volunteers who have adopted the graves of men from the F/O Dodds crew are:

Click image

Arno & Mariska Gommans look after the grave of F/O Henry Black (Bomb Aimer)
Click image

Erwin Lups looks after the grave of Sgt Harold Lewis (Mid Upper Gunner)
Click image

Theo van den Hoogen and his granddaughter Diede look after the grave of Sgt Albert Laidlaw (Rear Gunner)
Click image

Theo Vervoort and his daughter Lieke look after the grave of P/O Arthur Reginald Brown (Flight Engineer)

The remaining crew members have been adopted as follows:

Bomber Command Operation Hurricane

A book was published in May 2013 on Operation Hurricane. The crews that failed to come home were one of the key items addressed in the book. See: Bomber Command Operation Hurricane.