207 SQUADRON ROYAL AIR FORCE HISTORY

MARGNY COMMEMORATION

The Operations to Revigny-sur-Ornain July 1944

by Ron Winton en franšais

Revigny lies on the banks of the river Ornain in the district of Marne, 80 kilometres south east of Reims. Although being a small town it boasted a very large and important railway junction. It was on a direct route from the important Ruhr to North-Eastern France and the Germans were making full use of it to supply the battle zone. It therefore had to be destroyed. The first operation to carry out this destruction was made on the night of 12/13 July by No.1 Bomber Group based in North Lincolnshire but due to poor weather conditions it was generally assessed as a failure. 10 Lancasters were lost.

Understandably, operations by Bomber Command on targets within the Occupied Countries had to be carried out in ideal conditions to prevent heavy casualties among the civilian population. If a target could not be positively identified, marked and successfully attacked then the captains of aircraft were instructed to return to base with their bomb loads. The second operation was carried out again by No.1 Bomber Group, this time backed up by No.8 Pathfinder Group. Once again bad weather prevented a successful operation. 7 Lancasters were lost.

After two such attempts to attack this target in such a short space of time it had become obvious to the Germans that Revigny was considered by Bomber Command to be an important target and that the intention was to deny them the use of an important rail link. Because of this the anti aircraft and night fighter defences were considerably increased.

It was now the turn of No.5 Bomber Group based in South Lincolnshire, considered to be the Specialist Bomber Group, to try their luck. The third operation was planned for the night of 18/19th July, the force comprising 110 Lancasters, 5 Mosquito Pathfinders and target Markers and the Master Bomber's P38 Lightning. The weather conditions were much improved and a raid assessment after a Photo-Reconnaissance operation considered it to have been a complete success. Unfortunately because of the increased defences, 24 Lancasters were lost. 207 Squadron's attacking force was 9 Lancasters of which 3 were lost - one third of the Squadron's complement resulting in the loss of 19 men killed. Two men survived and successfully evaded.

The crews of the 207 Squadron Lancasters lost were:-

ME681 EM-T: this crew was on their 4th operation:

Pilot: Flying Officer Norman L Weekes
Flight Engineer: Sergeant Robert G Lappin
Navigator: Flight Sergeant Alwyn ES Holt
Bomb Aimer: Flying Officer Lloyd R Fennell (RCAF)
Wireless Operator: Sergeant James A Findlay
Air Gunner (Mid Upper): Sergeant Francis DP Longman
Air Gunner (Rear): Sergeant Keith Paine

The Lancaster took off from Spilsby at 2259hrs. It was shot down by a night fighter outward bound at 0121hrs and plunged into a field near to Margny (Marne). All the crew members were killed and are buried in Margny Communal Cemetery. Our party will be visiting the Cemetery on Saturday 21st July for a service and to unveil the stone which carries the Squadron badge.

ME614 EM-E : this crew was on their 13th operation:
Pilot: Flying Officer Jesse G Dallen
Flight Engineer:Sergeant William Shaw
Navigator: Warrant Officer 2 Albert J Williamson (RCAF)
Bomb Aimer: Flight Sergeant Leonard Aitken (evaded)
Wireless Operator: Sergeant Bertie Woodward
Air Gunner (Mid Upper): Sergeant Francis B Smith
Air Gunner (Rear): Sergeant Douglas Wensley

The Lancaster took off from Spilsby at 2251hrs. It is believed to have been hit by Flak outward bound and crashed between Lignon (Marne) and the nearby village of Margerie-Hancourt 20 Km SSW of Vitry-Le-Francoise. Flying Officer Dallen is commemorated at the Air Forces Memorial Runnymede. Four of the crew are buried in the Churchyard Cemetery at Margerie-Hancourt, while Sergeant Wensley rests in Lignon Churchyard Cemetery.

PD210 EM-C : this crew were on their 6th operation:
Pilot: Flying Officer William Ross McNaughton
Flight Engineer: Sergeant Alfred Supkovitch
Navigator: Flight Sergeant John Hague
Bomb Aimer: Flying Officer Rowland Tibbs
Wireless Operator: Sergeant John K Chapple (evaded)
Air Gunner (Mid Upper): Sergeant Charles Higgins
Air Gunner (Rear): Sergeant Howard F Edmunds (RCAF)

The crew are buried in the Churchyard Cemetery at St Germain-la-Ville. On Saturday April 21st 2001 their graves were visited by members of the Redditch branch of the Parachute Regiment Association at the invitation of their French counterpart, L'Amicale Parachutistes. Six red rosettes supplied by our Association were placed on the graves during a short service conducted by the Parachute Regiment Padre. Included in the party were the widow of Flying Officer R Tibbs, Mrs Stella Caldwell and her son. Stella had become a Friend member of our Association only a short while before learning of the visit and so was delighted to be included.

Her husband's Lancaster took off from Spilsby at 2253hrs. Whilst homeward bound it is believed to have fallen victim to a single engine FW190 fighter belonging to a Wild Boar operational unit. (Wild Boar units were day fighter units operating as night fighters crewed by very experienced Pilots).
It is believed that the Lancaster exploded during the attack and Sergeant JK Chapple, the Wireless Operator, was thrown clear and descended by parachute. He eventually evaded.

The operation cost No.5 Group 24 Lancasters and the lives of 129 men. The heavy loss of life was indeed as the title of the book about the three operations describes it Massacre Over the Marne. The tragedy of this sacrifice was that in a very short space of time this important rail link for the Germans in the supply of material to the Normandy front would almost certainly have been re-established. On the other side of the coin the sacrifice made by the No.5 Group crews may have been instrumental in saving many more allied lives in the Normandy battle area.

No.5 Group Squadrons involved in the operations on Revigny 18/19 July 1944: all were operating Lancasters:

Sqn

Location

loss

9 Bardney 1
49 Fiskerton 4
50 Skellingthorpe 1
57 East Kirkby 1
61 Skellingthorpe 1
207 Spilsby 3
463 Waddington 2
467 Waddington 2
619 Dunholme Lodge 5
630 East Kirkby 4

41 Lancasters were lost on the three Revigny operations, and 231 aircrew were killed.

Editor's thanks to: RS Winton ISM; Fred Pearce for the loan of 'Massacre over the Marne': WR Chorley's 'Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War' Vol 5, 1944 is the source of the details of 207's losses: also to Pascal Boucle for arranging the French translation.

English translation of some words from Frank Haslam, a Friend Member of the 207 Squadron Royal Air Force Association, Editor:

"Mr Mayor, ladies and gentlemen, veterans, colleagues of 207 Squadron Royal Air Force Association: We are here today because I read in the book Massacre over the Marne that the wife of the Mayor of Margny still laid flowers on the grave of a 207 Squadron crew.

We are very grateful for the honour you have paid to our dead for all the years since the Second World War. People tell us "It is simple. They fell for our liberation." In England we do not know the tragedy and sadness of being occupied.

So, today, we are saying, very simply, "Thank you". Thank you for the care which Margny has given to the grave of our seven men who rest in the simple beauty of your graveyard. Seven men at rest in their eternal youth."