207 SQUADRON ROYAL AIR FORCE HISTORY
Wesseling 21/22 June 1944 - 619 Squadron
Lancaster ME846 PG-C: Davis crew
Newark Air Museum plaque June 11 2005
Nine months on
A Nephews Story
A Nieces Story
'ME846 Family' Reunion 1-3 September 2006
The crew pictured during training in early March 1944 in front of a Short Stirling of 1661 Heavy Conversion Unit [HCU] at RAF Winthorpe.
From left to right they are: F/Sgt Peter Edmund Knox (Bomb Aimer), Sgt Thomas Newberry (Wireless Operator), Sgt Dennis Geordie Belshaw (Flight Engineer), P/O Officer Mark Anthony Hamilton Dave Davis (Pilot), F/Sgt Leslie Tag Taylor (Navigator), Sgt George Harry Moggridge (Mid-Upper Gunner) and P/O John Earnest Ralph Porky Bowering (Rear Gunner). source: Jane Knox and Paul Stevenson
As featured on the Belgian Memorial Plaque to be unveiled at Mol-Postel.
On June 11 2005, a plaque was unveiled at the Newark Air Museum's Winthorpe home in memory of the crew of Avro Lancaster I ME846, which crashed during World War Two. Following training at Winthorpe in early 1944, the crew - Plt Off Mark Anthony Hamilton Davis, Sgt Thomas Newberry, Sgt Dennis Belshaw, F/Sgt Leslie Taylor, F/Sgt Peter Knox, Sgt George Moggridge and Plt Off John Bowering - was posted to 619 Squadron.
The target on their eighth sortie was an oil/fuel store at Wesseling near Cologne, Germany, and they took off from their Dunholme Lodge base in Lincolnshire on the night of June 21/22, 1944. The Lancaster was hit by ground fire and flames engulfed the starboard engine. The aircraft eventually crashed just northeast of Postel Abbey in Bladel Woods, on the Belgian side of the border with Holland.
Despite ME846 being badly damaged, Plt Off Davis remained at the controls, allowing four members of the crew to bale out successfully, but he, together with Plt Off Bowering and Sgt Moggridge did not survive the crash. The two gunners are buried at the Schoonselhof Cemetery in Antwerp, Belgium. Tragically, the remains of the pilot have never been found.
Of the four who baled out, Sgt Knox was found by a farmer and was passed on to the resistance, who helped him escape back to England. The other three survivors were captured.
Present at the unveiling ceremony were 46 friends and family of the airmen, including two who had travelled from Canada and two from the USA. The Rev Norman Taylor made a dedication to the plaque - he is the son of the navigator, F/Sgt Leslie Taylor. Production of the tribute and the arrangements for the ceremony were organised by Paul Stevenson, the nephew of Plt Off Davis.
The only crewmember not represented at the ceremony was the Wireless Operator, Thomas Newberry and those involved with the unveiling are keen to hear from anyone who can help locate him or any of his relatives. It is believed he lived near Dagenham, Essex and any information can be passed on via Howard Heeley or Mike Smith at NAM. Contact: 01636 707170 or e-mail newarkairATonetel.com [replace AT with @ before sending]
from Flypast, September 2005
Lancaster I ME846 PG-C of No.619 Squadron - Nine months on
by Howard Heeley
In June 2005 a group of forty-six friends and relatives of the crew of a crashed Avro Lancaster I - ME846, PG-C from No 619 Squadron gathered at Newark Air Museum's Winthorpe Airfield site to witness the unveiling of a plaque in memory of the crew. Since that gathering Marjan Kiepura and his wife Jane Knox-Kiepura - daughter of the crew's Australian bomb aimer Flight Sergeant Peter Edmund Knox - have continued their search to locate both the remains of the pilot, Pilot Officer Mark Anthony Hamilton 'Dave' Davis and the precise location of the aircraft crash site in Belgium.
Following a visit to the Belgian town of Mol, which is located close to where the Lancaster is thought to have crashed, and with significant input from the Belgian historian Kamiel Mertens, Jane Knox's search has unearthed several new leads and contacts that relate to this remarkable story.
On 3 September 2006, many of the friends and relatives of the crew will again gather together, this time in Mol, Belgium. There they will witness the unveiling of a second Plaque dedicated to the memory of the crew and to the Belgian people who assisted with the safe repatriation of Flight Sergeant Knox to England. For nearly three months during the summer of 1944 Flight Sergeant Knox was helped by brave members of the Belgian Resistance movement to evade capture by the occupying German Forces.
Approval for erecting the freestone laser-etched plaque in Mol has been given by the town's Lord Mayor, Burgemeester Paul Rotthier, who has commissioned its production by Mr Bert Leysen, the Mol city engineer, to specifications provided by Kamiel Mertens.
Several people who assisted Flight Sergeant Knox in 1944 and their surviving relatives will be at the ceremony. These will include: Alfons Vermierdt a young boy who found Flight Sergeant Knox in the field after the crash and went to get help; relatives of the SterckxHeyns family who hid Flight Sergeant Knox at the 'Hoge Hof' farm; and Col. Vic Neels of the Belgian Resistance Movement who initially handled Flight Sergeant Knox's case.
Work is still ongoing to piece together missing parts of this complex puzzle and Jane Knox-Kiepura and Paul Stevenson [the nephew of Pilot Officer Anthony Davis] are both very keen to hear from anyone who is able to help them.
They would still like to establish the precise location of the crash site of Lancaster I ME846 in Belgium. It is hoped that this will in turn lead to locating the remains of Pilot Officer Davis, who stayed at the controls of ME846 allowing four crew members to bale out safely.
from INTERCOM, Summer 2006
Adapted from a Press Release from Jane Knox, received 25 August 2006
August 2006: Preparations are well in hand for the unveiling of a Memorial Plaque in Mol, Belgium, which will be dedicated to the memory of the crew and to the Belgian people who assisted with the safe repatriation of Flight Sergeant Knox (RAAF) to England.
The unveiling ceremony will take place on September 3rd 2006 and many of the comrades, friends and relatives of the crew will again gather together to witness this memorable event. Also present will be the Secretary of the 619 Squadron Association, John Whiteley; the Secretary of the 619 Squadron Association, Joe Dutton, Treasurer of 619 Squadron; and Flight Sergeant Reginald Brookes, from 100 Squadron who was hidden in Belgium in1944 with Peter Knox.
In June 2005 forty-six friends and relatives of the crew of a crashed Lancaster 1 ME846, PG-C from 619 Squadron gathered at Newark Air Museums Winthorpe Airfield site to witness a plaque unveiling in memory of the crew. Since that gathering Marjan Kiepura and his wife Jane Knox-Kiepura, daughter of the crews Australian bomb aimer, Flight Sergeant Peter Edmund Knox have continued their search to locate the remains of the pilot, Pilot Officer Mark Anthony Hamilton Dave Davis and the precise location of the aircraft crash site in Mol/Postel region of Belgium on the Dutch border.
Following a visit to the Belgian town of Postel/Mol, which is located close to where the Lancaster is thought to have crashed and with significant input from the Belgian historian Kamiel Mertens and the Lord Mayor Paul Rotthier, Jane Knoxs search has unearthed several new leads and contacts that relate to this remarkable story. Jane has recently compiled a special booklet about the crash; events after the crash; people connected with the aircrew and their relatives.
Contributions for this project have been received from around the world. The recollections of two relatives of crew-members from ME846 celebrate the camaraderie that has been established within the group relatives. Paul Stevenson is the nephew of Pilot Officer Mark Anthony Hamilton Dave Davis and Chris Cardose is the niece of Sergeant Dennis Geordie Belshaw, they both recently recorded their thoughts for the booklet.
A Nephews Story
Paul M Stevenson - Nephew of Pilot Officer MAH Davis
On September 3rd 2006, my wife and I will be in Belgium to visit what is thought to be the last resting place of my uncle, Pilot Officer Mark Anthony Hamilton Davis RAF, or Dave as he was known to the crew of Lancaster ME846, which was shot down in the early hours of June 22nd 1944.
Four of the crew managed to parachute to safety that night as Dave held the crippled plane steady. Unfortunately the upper and rear gunners failed to escape and the fully loaded aircraft blew up close to the ground. The bodies of the two gunners were recovered and eventually buried at the Schoonselhof Cemetery near Antwerp, but my uncles body has never been found and it was not until recently that I learned of the site, in the woods north of Postel Abbey, where it is thought he now rests.
For me this will be the end of a quest that has lasted many years and I am so very grateful to the Belgian people who have located the site and made my visit, and that of some of the families and friends of the crew, possible. I must specifically mention Kamiel Mertens and the Mayor of Mol, Mr Paul Rotthier, for their enthusiasm and dedication in making all the arrangements, for without their invaluable help, this visit would not have been possible.
But on September 3rd we will not only be remembering Dave and his crew. We should and will remember all those gallant Belgians who risked their lives in helping airmen who had been shot down to return home. Many home runs were successfully made with their assistance, including Peter Knox, the bomb aimer from Daves Lancaster. We should never forget their dedication in the face of the enemy, for it endangered not only their own lives, but those of their families as well. So I look forward to our meeting with immense anticipation, when I too can say, thank you.
However, it is now over 60 years since the aircraft was shot down and memories fade with time. The site at present identified as the crash site may possibly not be correct site as so many aircraft came down in this area during the war. There is another known crash site a few kilometres north just across the boarder into Holland that may be where Dave lies. We probably will never know the exact location, but September 3rd will bring me closer to him than ever before and I am therefore grateful to those Belgian people who have made this possible.
A Nieces Story
Chris Cardose - Niece of Sergeant Dennis Geordie Belshaw
As children, my sister Alison and I grew up avidly listening to my mum, Vera, tell us of her childhood in Bearpark in Durham where she grew up with her beloved brother Dennis, and their mum, my grandma, Dorothy. We heard of their pride as Dennis grew up and joined the RAF, and of his precious time spent with them on leave- and ,of course, his abiding comradeship and friendship with his fellow crew members of the Lancaster, especially Peter Knox and Porky Bowering. Mum remembers the day he asked my grandma if two crew members, one from Australia, the other from Canada, could come to Bearpark on leave as it was to far for them to go home. The answer was a firm yes, and so the journey of memories began.
Good memories - socialising at Durham ice rink, sitting by the fire at Kingston Avenue looking at the Picture post with Porky, whilst Pete sat with grandma by the fire, discussing world events and village life! Worrying times when they were shot down- and relief when they heard that Pete and Dennis were safe- devastation at the news that their dear friend Porky had died.
Mum often spoke of Petes dad, Errol, (Brig. Sir Errol Knox) who had called to Bearpark to visit the family to say thank you for looking after Pete. She knew that there was a connection with journalism in the form of the paper The Argus in Australia- and many years later I was to look up the name on the internet, went into the website- and lo and behold, there was a picture of my Uncle Dennis, and the crew whom I felt I knew so well from the talks Id had with my mum. Also an email address Jane Knox Kiepura. The rest, as they say, is history!
My mum, grandma, Dennis and the boys could never have dreamt that we would all meet one day and become so close, and more importantly, come full circle, back to the place where the plane came down. Especially poignant for Paul Stevenson, whose uncle bravely fought to keep the plane steady, and whose body has not been found.
This will evoke many feelings - of sadness for those who paid the ultimate price so that we can be here today as free people. Immense gratitude to those who helped as part of the resistance but most of all a sense of belonging to a part of history which has a personal place in all our hearts.
Some friends and family know that one of my favourite films is Its a Wonderful life!!
Those who know the film will remember Clarence the angel saying to George Bailey -
Youve been given a great gift George- a chance to see what the world would be like without you. I think we know that the world would have been a sadder place without the lives memories of those seven young men of the Lancaster 619 squadron. Clarence also received his wings in the film the crew certainly earned their wings in life, and they are all, Im sure watching us today and smiling.
The recently completed Memorial Plaque at Mol-Postel, Belgium that will be formally unveiled on September 3, 2006.
source: via Howard Heeley
close up of the crew, L-R: F/Sgt Peter Edmund Knox (Bomb Aimer), Sgt Thomas Newberry (Wireless Operator), Sgt Dennis Geordie Belshaw (Flight Engineer), P/O Officer Mark Anthony Hamilton Dave Davis (Pilot), F/Sgt Leslie Tag Taylor (Navigator), Sgt George Harry Moggridge (Mid-Upper Gunner) and P/O John Earnest Ralph Porky Bowering (Rear Gunner). source: Jane Knox and Paul Stevenson
'ME846 Family' Reunion 1-3 September 2006
Memorial dedication ceremony Mol-Postel, Belgium
Fourteen months after 46 friends and relatives first gathered at Newark Air Museum to witness a Plaque unveiling in memory of the crew of crashed 619 Squadron, Lancaster 1 ME846, the ME846 Family gathered together again in Belgium over the weekend of September 1 to 3, 2006. This growing family have been drawn together by the common bond of the events surrounding the loss of ME846 and the shared desire to travel to Belgium to celebrate the unveiling of a Memorial Plaque in Mol Postel, Belgium.
Everyone initially gathered together in Brussels where on the Friday and Saturday evenings they attended receptions at the Radisson SAS Royal Hotel, hosted by Marjan Kiepura and his wife Jane Knox-Kiepura, daughter of the ME846s Australian bomb aimer, Flight Sergeant Peter Edmund Knox. Marjan Kiepura launched the proceedings by performing Chopins Raindrop Prelude with great artistry and depth followed by an intermingling of speeches and further musical interludes. James Baxter, Counsellor of the Australian Embassy attended the opening ceremony. Once again friendships were renewed, information was shared and new bonds were forged before everyone prepared themselves to travel to Mol for the unveiling ceremony at 11am on Sunday September 3, 2006.
The memorial incorporates a freestone laser etched plaque mounted in a small blue brick wall. It has been built next to a major cycle track in the woods at Mol Postel close to the believed ME846 crash site. The memorial has been constructed thanks to the generosity of the towns Lord Mayor, Burgemeester Paul Rotthier, who commissioned its production by Mr Bert Leysen, the Mol city engineer to specifications provided by Belgian Historian, Kamiel Mertens. The plaque features a picture of the crew taken during training with 1661 HCU at RAF Winthorpe and an inscription in memory of the crew and the Belgian people who assisted in the safe escape of Flight Sergeant Peter Edmund Knox.
Throughout the short dedication ceremony a guard of honour was provided by members of several Belgian Armed Forces Veterans Associations and the Mol Fire Brigade Band. Ms Carol Nicoll, or Minister-Counsellor Educations, Science and Research represented Australia. The ceremony was overseen by Kamiel Mertens who introduced people associated with the instigation of the memorial, who each in turn gave a short speech. This included: Jane Knox-Kiepura, daughter of Flight Sergeant Peter Edmund Knox; John Whiteley, the Secretary of the 619 Squadron Association; and Burgemeester Paul Rotthier. After these speeches the memorial plaque was formally unveiled by Jane Knox-Kiepura and Paul Rotthier.
The Reverend Norman Taylor [Vicar of Durrington] and the son of Flight Sergeant Leslie Taylor, the Navigator on ME846, led the gathered assembly of more than 120 people in a short service of dedication and blessing. Reverend Taylor reflected on the sacrifices that are still being made by members of the armed services and asked everyone to give a special thought for the 14 crew members of the Nimrod from 120 Squadron, which had crashed in Afghanistan the day before. This was followed by everyone joining together to recite the International Prayer for Peace.
A wreath in memory of the crew of ME846 was laid by Paul Stevenson, the nephew of the ME846 pilot, Pilot Officer Mark Anthony Hamilton Dave Davis, whose remains are still missing along with the crashed aircraft. This poignant moment was followed by the Fire Brigade Band playing the Last Post.
Despite the grey skies and intermittent rain that fell during the ceremony, this was not a sad occasion but one of reflection and a shared bond forged by an event that originally took place in the skies over northern Belgium on June 21/22, 1944. There was a particularly poignant moment during the ceremony when the British, Belgian and American flags briefly became entwined, as if to signify the camaraderie of something that happened more than 62 years before.
After the ceremony Marjan Kiepura and Jane Knox-Kiepura hosted a lunch for everyone at the De Postelche Hofstee restaurant, close to the memorial site. During the lunch everyone was able to reflect on the weekends commemorations and perhaps the most common two words to be heard were, what if?
Many people present owed their existence to the brave efforts of Pilot Officer Davis in keeping the aircraft level and allowing some of his crew to escape from ME846 what if he had been unable to do that?
Some relatives of the crew reflected on the bravery of the local Belgian people and members of the Belgian Resistance, which helped members of ME846s crew, evade capture. In the case of Flight Sergeant Knox he was able to escape to England, whilst Sergeant Belshaw and Flight Sergeant Taylor were initially helped to evade capture before becoming prisoners of war - what if these Belgians had not been such brave people would the survivors have been captured earlier?
It came to light that as the aircraft was crashing, mid-upper Gunner Sergeant Moggridge tried to help his fellow crew member, rear gunner Pilot Officer Bowering try to escape, what if he had not acted so bravely, might he have survived?
Another factor that shone through during the whole weekend of events in Belgium was how privileged the ME846 Family felt to share the company of a number of people who were central characters in the still unfolding story of Lancaster 1 ME846, these included:
Alfons Vermierdt who as 15 year old boy first found Flight Sergeant Knox.
Dimpna Sterckx daughter of the family that hid Flight Sergeant Knox.
Louis Lafili and his wife represented Zosine Lafili (deceased) a brave Belgian lady who assisted Flight Sergeant Knox and many other US, Canadian, Australian and British airmen to escape.
Col Victor Neels a leader of the Belgian Resistance in the Mol-Postel area.
Flight Sergeant Reg Brookes a crew member from a crashed 100 Squadron Lancaster, LL887 who was hidden with Flight Sergeant Knox in 1944 by the Sterckx family.
The extensive research carried out by Jane Knox-Kiepura, Paul Stevenson, Neil Webster, Kamiel Mertens and Dr Johan Claes has been likened to a great jigsaw puzzle. Even now further pieces are coming to light, which in turn are opening up further avenues of investigation.
In the weeks leading up to the ceremony a news item in the Northern Echo newspaper in the north-east of England enabled the ME846 Family to establish contact with the widow of Sergeant Belshaw. She was able to travel to Belgium with her daughter and grand daughter, where they were welcomed into the ME848 Family. They were able to provide details from Sergeant Belshaws diary, which may help establish contact with the Wireless Operator on ME846, Sergeant Thomas Newberry or members of his family. This came in the form of an address for Thomas Newberry - 16 Freshwater Road, Chadwell Heath in Dagenham.
Kamiel Mertens and Dr Johan Claes have also now obtained copies of the German [Abschussmeldung] incident report for the crash. This indicates that ME846 was actually shot down rather than being hit by flak. The report indicates that the aircraft was hit following an attack by a Messerschmitt Bf 110 G-4 equipped night-fighter at 01.14 hours on June 22, 1944.
There is little doubt that the recent gathering in Belgium has been a life changing experience for people from many different generations. Likewise it is a live and ongoing project, which will hopefully establish contact with the family of Thomas Newberry, locate the precise location of the 619 Squadron Lancaster 1, ME846 crash site and perhaps one day recover the remains of Pilot Officer Mark Anthony Hamilton Dave Davis.
To be continued
Paul Stevenson lays a wreath in memory of the crew of ME846 at the new memorial in Mol-Postel
image via Howard Heeley
The freshly unveiled memorial at Mol-Postel, in memory of the crew of Lancaster ME846
and the Belgian citizens who risked their lives to rescue & hide the one evading crew-member
image via Howard Heeley
The wording on the Plaque:
In the night of June 21-22, 1944 the RAF-Lancaster 1, ME846, 619 Squadron crashed at Mol-Postel.
* Sergeant W Dennis Geordie Belshaw (RAF): flight engineer (pow)
* Pilot Officer John Earnest Ralph Porky Bowering (RCAF): rear-gunner (died)
* Pilot Officer Mark Anthony Hamilton Dave Davis (RAF): pilot-captain (body never found)
* Flight Sergeant Peter Edmund Knox (RAAF): gunner (saved by Belgian people and returned back to base)
* Sergeant George Harry Moggridge (RAF): mid-upper gunner (died)
* Sergeant Thomas A Tom Newberry (RAF): wireless operator (pow)
* Flight Sergeant Leslie Tag Taylor (RAF): navigator (pow)
In remembrance of these brave airmen and in honour of those Belgian citizens,
who risked their lives to rescue & hide the one escaped crew-member
The families Mol-Postel, 2006, September 3
1. The Crew
In March 1944 the crew trained on Short Stirlings with 1661 Heavy Conversion Unit [HCU] at RAF Winthorpe and they were then posted to 619 Squadron at RAF Dunholme Lodge. In the crew were Pilot Officer Mark Anthony Hamilton Dave Davis [Pilot], Sergeant Thomas Newberry [Wireless Operator], Sergeant Dennis Geordie Belshaw [Flight Engineer], Flight Sergeant Leslie Tag Taylor [Navigator], Flight Sergeant Peter Edmund Knox [Bomb Aimer], Sergeant George Harry Moggridge [Mid-upper Gunner] and Pilot Officer John Earnest Ralph Porky Bowering [Rear Gunner].
2. The Raid
The target on their eighth operation with 619 Squadron was an synthetic fuel hydrogenation plant at Wesseling near Cologne, Germany and they took off from Dunholme Lodge on the night of June 21, 1944. At approximately 01.20 hours British Standard Time [BST] the following morning, their Lancaster was hit by ground fire and flames engulfed the starboard engine. The aircraft eventually crashed two or three kilometres north-east of Postel Abbey in Bladel Woods, on the Belgian side of the border with Holland.
Despite ME846 being badly damaged Pilot Officer Davis remained at the controls of the aircraft, allowing four members of the crew to bale out successfully, but he, together with the Rear Gunner, Pilot Officer Bowering and the Mid-Upper Gunner, Sergeant Moggridge did not survive the crash. The two gunners are buried at the Schoonselhof Cemetery in Antwerp, Belgium; unfortunately the remains of the pilot and the aircraft have never been found.
The Wesseling Raid
This page is provided by 207 Squadron RAF History and was last updated on 13 Sep 2006