Revigny, 18/19th July 1944 - the Dallen crew

Lancaster ME814 EM-E of No.207 Squadron based at RAF Spilsby in Lincolnshire took off at 2251hrs on Tuesday 18 July 1944 to take part in a raid on the key railway junction at Revigny, Marne. Early on Wednesday 19 July, en route for the target it was hit by enemy fire. It crashed between Lignon (Marne) and Margerie-Hancourt, 20 km SSW of Vitry-le-Francois, some 48km SW of the target.

It was the 15th loss of that night, out of 24 losses.

Two other crews of the ten taking part from 207 Squadron were lost on that raid:

PD210 EM-C (F/O William Ross McNaughton)
ME681 EM-T (F/O Norman Weekes)

There was only one survivor from these two crews.

The Dallen crew that night was as follows: -

Pilot F/O Jesse Gray Dallen RAFVR
Son of John Robert and Adelaide Dallen, of Moordown, Bournemouth, Hampshire.
age 20 NKG Panel 205, Runnymede Memorial
Flight Engineer Sgt William Shaw RAFVR
Son of Thomas Campbell Shaw and Mary Shaw, of Kirkcaldy, Fife; husband of Lizzie Shaw, of Kirkcaldy.
age 19 kia Grave 157, Margerie-Hancourt churchyard
Navigator P/O Albert John Williamson RCAF
Son of Robert and Annie Williamson, of Little Current, Ontario, Canada.
age 23 kia Grave 156, Margerie-Hancourt churchyard
photo from Ronnie Woodward, son Wireless Operator
Sgt Bertie Woodward RAFVR
Son of Jack E. Hannah Woodward and Jane Woodward; husband of Lilian Woodward, of Pendlebury, Lancashire.
age 32 kia Grave 155, Margerie-Hancourt churchyard
Bomb Aimer F/S Leonard Aitken RAFVR   evaded  
Mid Upper Gunner (photo taken when under training)
Sgt Francis Bertram Smith RAFVR
Son of Bertram and Mary Elizabeth Smith, of Kirk Langley, Derbyshire.
age 20 kia Grave 154, Margerie-Hancourt churchyard
Rear Gunner Sgt Douglas Wensley RAFVR
Son of Ralph and Clara Wensley; husband of Lenora Wensley, of Hopton, Yorkshire.
age 25 kia Grave 12, Lignon churchyard

NKG = no known grave : kia = killed in action


Early photo of graves of Sgt Shaw, P/O Williamson and Sgt Woodward, note model plane and actual propellor blades

Early photo of grave of Sgt Woodward
- side view
Photos: via Ronnie Woodward

Early photo of graves of
P/O Williamson
and Sgt Woodward

Early photo of grave of Sgt FB Smith
via his sister and Ray Cullis

Early photo of graves of Sgt Smith, Sgt Woodward, P/O Williamson and Sgt Shaw
via the sister of Sgt FB Smith, and Ray Cullis

1989: The graves of four of the Dallen crew buried in Margerie-Hancourt churchyard (from the back: Sgt William Shaw, P/O Albert John Williamson, Sgt Bertie Woodward, Sgt Francis Bertram Smith).
Margerie-Hancourt is a village 48 kilometres south-east of Chalons-sur-Marne and 20 kilometres south of Vitry-le-Francois. The Church is located in a central postion in the village.
photo source: Oliver Clutton-Brock

1989: The grave of Sgt Douglas Wensley in Lignon Churchyard. Lignon is a village and commune 27.5 miles (44 kilometres) south-east of Chalons-sur-Marne, and some 10 miles (16 kilometres) south of Vitry-le-Francois. The church is to be found in the centre of the village.
photo source: Oliver Clutton-Brock

Ceremony at Margerie-Hancourt


map of the Margerie-Hancourt/Lignon area via Google Maps

F/S Len Aitken, the bomb aimer, was the sole survivor. He bailed out near Margerie-Hancourt at about 0130. Like several others that night he lost his flying boots when his parachute opened. After hiding his flying equipment he set out along a third-class road in his stockinged feet. Passing through Margerie-Hancourt he continued across country for several miles until he arrived at a farm, where he was immediately taken inside, given a meal and put to bed. This was at La Cense Neuve, about 1.6km to the East of Margerie-Hancourt, down a remote track. His host was Georges Humbert, with whom he remained for the next two days.

During his stay he met Sgts Hillborne and Stones who were living in a nearby chateau and on 21st July they were picked up by the Maquis and taken by car to some woods near Levigny where they met several other evaders. On 30th July, Aitken and Hillborne decided to try for Switzerland and set off that evening, leaving Stones at Levigny. Resting at a farm the next day (31 July) they hurried off after they became suspicious that their hosts might be sympathetic to the Germans.

They continued to near Bar-sur-Aube where they were almost arrested by a German patrol but managed to escape. For the next three days they hid up and moved through some dense woods, living off their escape aids. They then approached a farm halfway between Bar-sur-Aube and Lignol le Château - this was the Ferme de Moslains, home of the Esmard family. Here, within spitting distance of the Route Nationale 19 which was being heavily used by the Germans, they were given food and shelter. On 6th August, escorted by Marcel Esmard, they headed south east through the great forest of Clairvaux, arriving that evening at les Vieilles Forges, the farm of the Demarson family near the village of Montheries. On 14th August Pierre Demarson took them by bicycle and lorry to an SAS camp run by Captain Hibbert near Chatillon sur Seine.

On 28th August they decided to break throught to the American lines and set off in a jeep across the Route Nationale at Aisey. On the way they were ambushed by the Germans but managed to return to Ainay le Duc, which was held by the Maquis. They were furnished with guides and two days later reached the American lines at Bar sur Seine, from where they were sent to the beach-head, eventually leaving France on September 7th 1944.

Mrs Margaret Aitken attended 207's 2002 reunion in Derby as a Friend Member. Len died some years ago.

Ronnie Woodward writes: I have been over several times, and have been given a very warm welcome. I and my family met Georges Humbert and many others from the Maquis. As you probably know, the graves are well looked after and honoured. We have attended their annual ceremonies in June a couple of times, the last in 1999.

Norman Dallen, a brother of Jesse, is also in touch.

The background to the Revigny raids is explained (in French and English) by the former Secretary of the Association, Ron Winton ISM, at The Revigny Raids, 207 Squadron RAF History


The sister of Sgt FB Smith, via Ray Cullis of The Church on Rise Park, Nottingham
Mr Ronnie Woodward
Mrs Margaret Aitken
Aitken debriefing report WO208/3322 S/P.G. 2269
Massacre over the Marne, Oliver Clutton-Brock (Patrick Stephens, 1994). Oliver is now a Friend member of the Association.
Bomber Comand Losses of the Second World War, 1944: WR Chorley (Midland Countries Publishing, 1997)
Commonwealth War Graves Commission

this page was created on 29 June 2002 by Frank Haslam: please contact me via the website below if you can provide more information/photographs or put us in touch with the other families.
last updated 19 Jan 2009: 18 Nov 17

207 Squadron RAF History