550 Squadron

P/O E C Purney and Crew

P/O E C Purney and crew were posted to 550 Sqdn from No. 1 LFS Hemswell on 25.4.44:

A number of other air-crew flew with this crew on some ops, including:

The picture below is of P/O Purney and Crew:

Click image P/O Purney and (some of) the crew: Cruickshank was not on the fatal flight (replaced by Peter King, not pictured) that night. John Sheahan is also absent
Photo from the Rebecq Memorial site

JA712 Crew Information

The P/O Purney crew (with Sgt Peter King as the W/Op on this occasion) were flying 550 Squadron Lancaster JA712/BQ-H when it was shot down by a German night-fighter during the night of 27/28 May 1944 when it was coming back from a bombing mission over Aachen. The aircraft crashed at Rebecq-Rognon (Brabant), 25 km SW of Brussels. In May 2011 a memorial to the crew, and the people of Rebecq, was unveiled: see Rebecq Memorial Project for details about this event.

More information about the lost crew is available at http://www.rebecq-memorial.eu/crew.php. The site has a wealth of information not only about the crew but also about the villagers who suffered as a result of going to the aid of the stricken Lancaster crew.

1.1M Photos and notes about crew member Sgt. Peter King (wireless operator)
Source: Wilfred Burie and Jeremy Parsons

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

Other information about the flight and the target from the squadron record available here.

Following the loss of the Purney crew Sgt Cruickshank, the surviving crew member, transferred to 166 Sqdn where he completed a further 25 sorties and was awarded DFM.

P/O E C Purney RCAF (P)

Click image Elvin Curtis Purney
Source: Wilfred Burie (photo from the Rebecq Memorial site)

Sgt J L Sheahan (F/Eng)

No additional information.

Sgt T E Flanagan RCAF (Nav)

Click image Thomas Edward Flanagan
Source: Wilfred Burie (photo from the Rebecq Memorial site)

Sgt E Molnar RCAF (A/B)

Click image Eli Molnar in Belgium policeman's uniform
Source: Wilfred Burie (photo from the Rebecq Memorial site)
Click image Escape Report
Source: Wilfred Burie (photo from the Rebecq Memorial site)

Sgt T G P Cruickshank (W/Op)

Sgt Thomas Grant Patterson Cruickshank (1922 -1978) transferred in to 550 Sqdn with the Purney crew, but he flew on only four of their seven operations and so was not flying the night the crew failed to return.

Information recently received (December 2020) provides some insight as to why he might not have been flying on those ops.

A nephew of Sgt Cruickshank notes that Sgt Cruickshank's wife gave birth to a daughter in May 1944. Specifically his daughter was born on 26th May in Kilwinning, Ayrshire, Scotland, and the birth certificate states that it was her father, Thomas GP Cruickshank who registered the birth on 29th May 1944! The conclusion is, therefore, that Sgt Cruickshank was granted leave in order to travel to Scotland for the birth.

Following the loss of the crew Sgt Cruickshank transferred from 550 Sqdn to 166 Sqdn on 19 June 1944 and, as noted above, completed a tour while with 166 Sqdn and was awarded DFM.

Sgt D Yardley (MU/AG)

Click image David Yardley
Source: Wilfred Burie (photo from the Rebecq Memorial site)

Sgt K H F de Lengerke (R/AG)

No additional information.

Sgt P C M King (W/Op)

Click image Peter King
Source: Wilfred Burie (photo from the Rebecq Memorial site)

JA712 Aircraft Recovery

Below are copies of two documents: the first concerning the removal by the Wehrmacht of a fueltank (on 12th July 1944) of JA712, and the second in the removal of the rest of plane on 4th August 1944 (two months after the crash). It was only at this time that the bodies of Purney, King and Flanagan were discovered. Many thanks to Wilfred Burie for making the photos available.

Click image Document (dated 12th July 1944) on recovery of the fuel-tanks of Lancaster JA712 in Rebecq
Click image Document (dated 4th August 1944) on recovery of Lancaster JA712 in Rebecq

550 Squadron Commemorations in Rebecq, Belgium

Over the years there have been many visits by the Association to Rebecq following the unveiling of the Memorial in 2011. See the Rebecq Commemorations web-page.