550 Squadron Crew

F/O H Jones and Crew

F/O Jones and crew were posted to 550 Sqdn from No. 11 Base 14.6.44:

Lancaster NE164 failed to return 28/29 July 1944, lost on it's first operation with 550 Sqdn en-route to Stuttgart. This was the Jones crew 12th operation. On this operation the crew flying was slightly different to the above. F/Sgt Sawyers, the regular navigator was not flying, instead the navigator was:

There were three fatalities, two in the aircraft and the third the bomb-aimer Sgt Francis Habgood. Sgt Habgood was captured and, according to a French website (link provided), he was taken to Natzweiler-Stuthof concentration camp where he was executed on or about the 30 July 1944. This was the only permanent concentration camp in France, it was not far from the crash site in the Alsace region and was a place used for the execution of large numbers of Maquis. A few Allied airmen were also killed there, including, it seems, two of the Great Escapers. Sgt Habgood is commemorated on Panel 230 of the Runnymede Memorial, his date of death being recorded as 31 July 1944.

Three members of the crew became PoWs. The last, F/O Dinney RCAF, evaded capture (see file 6/646/2311 in The National Archive). This was one of two 550 Sqdn Lancasters lost on this operation (see also LM455).

Other information about the flight and the target available here.

The entry on the 550 Squadron Roll of Honour is available here.

Crash Site Memorial

On 8th May, 2008, a Memorial Stone was dedicated to the memory of F/O Jones, Sgt Williams and Sgt Habgood. It stands about 100 yards from the actual crash site of the plane, surrounded by the trees of the Alsatian forest, within the boundaries of the city of Ottrott where Jones' and Williams' graves are in the town cemetery. Sgt Habgood has no known grave, hence his entry on a panel at Runneymede.

Click image Memorial Stone for NE164 F/O H Jones, Sgt I Williams and Sgt F H Habgood
Click image Plaque with information on the crew and the crash

Recent Discovery

Sgt Habgood Identification Tag

The following words are from the "Centre européen du résistant déporté, Site de l'ancien camp de concentration de Natzweiler-Struthof" that were posted online in August 2018 (in the search for any surviving relatives of Sgt Habgood):

"Extraordinary and moving discovery in the ash pit of the former Natzweiler concentration camp.
During maintenance work, a CERD officer extracted an identification plate* [dog tag] from the ground.

After research, the CERD was able to determine that it belonged to an English aviator, Frederic Harold HABGOOD, 
a crew member of an Avro Lancaster bomber of the RAF.
On the night of 28 to 29 July 1944, his plane, engaged in a raid on Stuttgart, was shot down by the German hunt.
The bomber crashed in the area of Ottrot (Bas-Rhin). The pilot and co-pilot are killed in the crash but the 
rest of the crew manages to parachute.
Three of the airmen are captured and interned in a camp in Poland. A fourth is saved by resistance.
Sergeant HABGOOD, meanwhile, managed to hide from Ottrot but perhaps denounced, he is captured by the Gestapo. 
Interned in Schirmeck camp, he was transferred to KL Natzweiler where he was hanged on July 31, 1944.
He was 21 years old.

Since all the deceased deportees and those executed at the camp were cremated in the crematorium, Harold's 
body probably suffered the same fate and his remains were thrown into the ash pit with his plate.

*The plate discovered is not regulatory. This is a personal plaque made by the Canadian company Birks Sterling."

The following photographs have been made available by CERD and are reproduced with kind permission from CERD. All are Copyright "Centre européen du résistant déporté, Struthof." See: http://www.struthof.fr/le-kl-natzweiler-1941-1945/.

Click image Sgt Habgood identification tag
Click image Sgt Habgood identification tag (close up)
Click image Sgt Habgood identification tag (close up)
Click image Sgt Habgood identification tag (rear, close up)
Click image Sgt Habgood identification tag (rear, close up)

There is a short account of his fate in Oliver Clutton-Brock's book "Footprints on the Sands of Time".

See also the chapter "Sgt Frederic H. Habgood, RAF, And The Four SOE Women" from another book available at: http://traugottvitz.simplesite.com/437582008.

Update 24th October 2018

"Do you remember the fortuitous discovery of Sergeant Habgood's
bracelet this summer in the Struthof camp ash-pit?
We had the pleasure of welcoming the niece and nephew of the English aviator executed at Struthof following 
the crash of his plane. They were able to see the bracelet and the place of execution. They were accompanied 
by a journalist from the Daily Telegraph, very moved to discover this story. The family also visited Ottrott 
on the [Memorial] built at the crash site.
See report in DNA [in French]: https://www.dna.fr/edition-de-molsheim-schirmeck/2018/10/23/dernier-temoignage-terrestre"

Update 19th September 2021

In September there was a significant update about the Sgt Habgood bracelet discovered in 2018. The precious bracelet was returned to Sgt Habgood's relatives in a event covered by 30 media organisations from across Europe and the UK.

The following item appeared in The Daily Mail Online: Murdered RAF bombardier's family are reunited with his bracelet which was found in concentration camp where he was hanged aged 21 after he was betrayed by a woman to the Gestapo

The full article can be found in The Telegraph online (you will need a subscription to read it): Murdered airman's family reunited with bracelet that survived concentration camp fire pit.

The event is also described on the Struthof web-site: http://www.struthof.fr/actualites/detail/article/restitution-a-la-famille-de-la-gourmette-du-sergent-frederick-habgood/

Note that there is available a complete background to this story. See : Freddie's Story.zip. Beware, however, that is is a very large file (a MSWord document which contains an embedded video) and at ca. 640Mbytes is a significent download.

550 Squadron Association Visit

In April 2018 representatives of the 550 Squadron Association visited the memorial, crash-site and cemetery where two of the crew are buried. See the Ottrott Memorial web-page.