550 Squadron Photos

F/O S C Beeson and Crew

PA991 was a 550 Sqdn Lancaster lost on the Wemars/Cappel operation on 27 Aug 1944. Crewed on this operation as follows:

This was the last of the long series of raids on the German flying-bomb launching and storage sites in the Pas de Calais area, which was captured by Allied ground troops a few days later. There was 1 aircraft casualty, the 550 Squadron Lancaster PA991, which had just bombed the Wemars/Cappel launching site near Amiens, received a direct hit from a flak battery near Dunkirk. The Lancaster went down in flames and exploded.

The pilot and three other members of the crew escaped by parachute, but the wireless operator and the two gunners were killed. Sgts Norgate, Picton and Trayhorn were thus the last fatal casualties in Bomber Command's campaign against the V-1 flying bomb. The remaining crew members became PoWs.

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

Other information about the flight and the target available here.

F/O Beeson and Crew

Thanks to Lee Norgate (nephew of Sgt John Norgate W/Op) for the following photographs.

Click image L-to-R: F/Sgt F Neal, Sgt J K Norgate, F/O S C Beeson, Sgt J R Hewlett, Sgt J A Trayhorn, Sgt H S Picton and MacQuarrie (RCAF) at No 1 LFS, Helmswell.
MacQuarrie (Nav) was sent back to Canada when he fell ill and S/Ldr MacAleavey finished the ops with this crew
Thanks to Lee Norgate for making the photo available and putting names to faces
Click image 1620610 Sgt John Kenneth Norgate W/Op KIA 28/08/1944
Thanks to Lee Norgate for making the photo available
Click image Bombing Photo taken from Lancaster PA991 BQ-E, 20/07/1944
Thanks to Lee Norgate for making the photo available

F/O Beeson and Crew

Thanks to Phil Trayhorn (nephew of Sgt James (Jimmy) Trayhorn R/AG) for the following photographs.

Click image James Trayhorn (group photo)
Click image James Trayhorn, 550 Sqdn 1944
Click image Jimmy's RAF Crew
Click image Beeson crew, PA991 "E"
Click image James Trayhorn RAF Indemnity Form
Click image Graves of Sgts Picton, Norgate amd Trayhorn
Click image Letter from War Graves Commission informing of memorials on the graves in the Bollezeele Communal Cemetery, France
Click image Jimmy's letter To Frank (page 1)
"This ops racket isn't so hot; I rather think there's no future in it personally. What with Ju 88's and 110's buzzing around ..."
Click image Jimmy's letter To Frank (page 2)
Close encounter with a '88' described
"That makes one swastika painted on our 'kit'. I don't want anymore though."

S/Ldr MacAleavey DFC

S/Ldr MacAleavey was the Squadron Senior Navigation Officer and then Flight Commander A Flight, and was also a member of the Beeson crew after the regular navigator fell ill; he flew missions with this crew until he "caught a packet" (see below) and ended the war as a PoW.

Thanks to relatives of S/Ldr MacAleavey for the following photos and log book pages and the detailed information about both his time in 550 Sqdn but also before and after.

Click image Kevin and Pat's Wedding 20 Oct 1945
Pat met Kevin at a dance in Grimsby in early 1944 where she worked as a nurse and they subsequently were married in October 1945
Click image K Mac Aleavey Log book
Ops with 550 Sqdn
Click image K Mac Aleavey Log book
Ops with 550 Sqdn
Click image K Mac Aleavey Log book
A page from 1942 showing the Battleships flight with Sqn Ldr Bennett
(possibly the (later) W/Cmdr Bennett who was later the first Commanding Officer 550 Sqdn (25 Nov 43 - 17 May 44))

S/Ldr Kevin Mac Aleavey did his basic navigator training course from December 40 to March 41 on Ansons and Fokker F22s (reg G-AFXR/G-AFZP), followed by bombing training on Herefords, Blenheims and Hampdens.

Then he was in 144 Squadron and on his first operation on Hampden AD921 to Ameland on 27 Aug 41.

Between then and 01 April 42, he flew 30 operations including 2 over 9hrs (Berlin on 7/9/41 and Rostock on 11/9/41) and 3 over 8 hrs to Hamburg, Limfjord and Frankfurt (long time to be up in a Hampden!).

On 12/02/42, his logbook records a 4 hr daylight "Operations-Battleships (Channel)" in AD801 - Capt was Sqn Ldr Bennett (see log book page above), quite possibly the (later) W/Cmdr Bennett he flew with in 550 Sqdn in April/May 1944.

From April 42 to Sept 42, his flying seems to be mainly torpedo flights (144 Sqdn transferred to Coastal Command in April 42) and after that non-operational flights (training?) mainly on Hampdens but also on various other types inc Wellingtons, Ansons and Mosquitos. His first Lanc flight was a 'cross country' in October 43 and the next entry in the logbook is the Berlin operation on 01/01/44.

He served in 550 Sqdn as a navigator: he joined 550 Sqdn as Senior Navigation Officer: 25 Nov 43 - 19 Jul 44, and then served as Flight Commander A Flight from 20 Jul 44 until he was shot down on 28th August, or as he said in his first letter to Pat (his later wife) from POW camp - 'caught a packet but luckily was able to “hit the silk” and get on terra firma’.

In total S/Ldr Mac Aleavey flew 16 missions with 550 Sqdn in 1944, the final one being with the Beeson crew to Wemars-Cappel on 28 Aug 1944 when it received a direct hit from a flak battery near Dunkirk. The Lancaster went down in flames and exploded. He spent the remainder of the war as a PoW.

BarthHardTimes05May45 Barth Hard Times - Last edition 05 May 45.
2 page newsletter from his POW camp titled "Barth Hard Times - Last edition 05 May 45".
His log book records his flight home from Barth on 11th May in a B17
Click image Message from K MacAleavey to J J Bennett
Thanks to Jack Harris for making this image available, and the following notes he made

"On 29th Sept MacAleavey wrote a card from his POW camp to Jimmy Bennett. Note that the card is addressed c/o Air ministry. This avoided disclosure of Station or Squadron. POWs had to provide rank, full name and service number but that is all. Any further information could give away useful information about personalities, station or squadron. Jimmy Bennett had left 550 in mid-May."

"The card discloses that the Lancaster was shot down on its third bombing run over the target. Possibly cloud had intervened on the first two runs and prevented them picking up the target indicators or the bombing point. Full marks for pressing on and making the most accurate bomb run you could. However by the 3rd run the aircraft would be on its own and the German guns and radar could give it their undivided attention. Also probably the fighter escort could have turned for home already. One hasto balance the pess on spirit with the survival odds."

S/Ldr Mac Aleavey died in 1972 in Mexico City where he worked as the Director of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). After leaving the RAF in October 1946, he had been Chief Navigator at Aer Lingus before joining ICAO in Montreal in 1948.