South Shields Local History Group

Under Construction

Mason, Donald Lawson & Philips, Ralph (RAF)

-.-.-Two Bomber Command Airmen from South Shields.-.-.-

Avro Lancaster Mk III of 7 Squadron PB357 MG-S took off from RAF Oakington, Cambridgeshire at 23:30h, on the night of 14/15th October 1944. It was on a mission to the Ruhr Valley or ‘Happy Valley’, as bomber crews nicknamed it. The most heavily defended part of Germany.  The target was Duisburg.  It was one of 1005 aircraft that took part in the raid in two waves.

Armourers of 75 NZ Squadron loading bombs into a Lancaster at Base Mepal in 1944
Courtesy Air Force Museum New Zealand

The mission was named Operation Hurricane, which was launched with a daylight raid of 1013 RAF bombers targeting Duisburg and 1251 American bombers targeting Cologne.
The crew were:-
PILOT (175311) F/O Christopher Nigel Charles Crawford 20y, son of Colonel Archibald Crawford & Margaret Ellen. Grave 25.B. 8
FLIGHT ENGINEER (1801136) Sgt. Arthur Henry Frost 27y, son of George William & Isabella Frost of Plumstead, London and husband to Doris. Grave 25. B 2-6
NAVIGATOR (J/89099) RCAF P/O Eric Thomas Rivers 27y, son of Russell Alexander & Edith Gertrude Rivers of Woodroffe, Ontario, Canada. Grave 25. B 2-6
BOMB AIMER (185875) Sgt. Thomas Donald Lawson Mason 23y  South Shields, son of Clifford Donald & Gertrude Mason of Westoe. Grave 25. B 2-6
WIRELESS OPERATOR (1098626) F/Sgt. Thomas Edward Feaver. Grave 25. B 2-6
MID UPPER GUNNER (1677689) F/Sgt. Norman Heslop. Grave 25. B 2-6
REAR GUNNER (1593422) F/Sgt. Ralph Phillips 35y South Shields, son of Albert & Annie Phillips, husband to Zena Frances. Grave 25. B 2-6

Shot down by night fighter pilot Arnold Doring 7/NJG2 over Duisburg.
All the crew perished and are buried in the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, in Germany.
The crew had been on 32 operations over enemy territory together – a very experienced crew.
In Vol2 of the Nachtjagd War Diaries by Boiten & Mackenzie, it is stated that a 4 engine bomber, believed to be PB357 was shot down in the Venlo-Goch area of Germany, at about 03:43h. The claim had been made by Arnold Dorling who was flying a JU88. He was an experienced fighter pilot who had shot down 13 aircraft by night and 8 by day. His same fighter unit were also attacked on the 15th when they were returning to their base as 2 JU88s were shot by a Mosquito of 85 Squadron flown by Squadron Leader Branse Burbridge DFC.


This crew formed up together in the Conversion Unit in early 1943 at 31 Base Tempsford. On the the 19th March 1943, they were posted to 218 Squadron, then on March 22nd to 75 NZ Squadron flying initially Short Stirlings, then the mighty Lancaster.  They were to go on 26 operations over enemy territory. 16 with 75 NZ Squadron and 10 with 7 Squadron Pathfinders.  At the end of July 1944, the crew transferred to 7 Squadron.


Operations with 75 NZ Squadron RAF Mepal


March 26th 1944 – Target Courtrai, Belgium
Seven aircraft were detailed to attack Courtrai, six bombed the target successfully and the other aircraft brought its bombs back.
Crawford Crew Stirling MkIII EF454 AA-A
Take off 19:45 – Landed 23:35
Flight Time 03:50

March 30th 1944 – Mining off the coast of Holland (known as Gardening)
Two aircraft were detailed to lay mines off the coast of Denmark and two off Le Havre. All were successful in clear weather and the trips were uneventful.
Crawford Crew Stirling MkIII EF233 AA-L
Take off 02:20 – Landed 04:55
Flight Time 02:35

May 10th 1944 – Attack against Courtrai, Belgium in preparation for D-Day.
Air tests were carried out in preparation for operations.
Twenty three aircraft successfully bombed the marshalling yards at Courtrai. A concentrated attack was made with very slight opposition. One aircraft (Captain NZ413043 A/S/L L. Drummond) was hit by AA fire on the return journey and the Captain received slight injuries.
Crawford Crew Lancaster MkIII ND801 JN-X “Get Sum Inn/Astra” (nose art) – illustrated.
Take Off 22:14 – Landed 01:20
Flight Time 03:06

Copyright Pauline Whittall

May 21st 1944 – Attack against Duisberg
Weather cloudy, visibility 6-10 miles.
Cross country flights were carried out.
Twenty five aircraft took off to attack Duisberg, of which twenty one attacked the primary target. Three returned early with various technical failures and one failed to return (Captain NZ421803 P/O W. Willis). Another aircraft (Captain AUS413157 P/O A. Humphreys) was attacked by an enemy fighter and the navigator, 1438903 F/Sgt A. Hill was injured, the aircraft also being damaged.
Crawford Crew Lancaster MkIII NE181 JN-M “ The Captains Fancy” nose art – illustrated.
Take Off 22:55 – Landed 03:20
Flight Time 04:25
(William Jarvis Willis of Rangitikei, Nz. Lancaster ND804. All crew members killed.)

Copyright R. Baker

May 22nd 1944 – Attack against Dortmund
Weather, fog at first becoming fair later. Visibility 0-15 miles generally.
Night flying and air tests were carried out.
Twenty three aircraft were detailed to attack Dortmund of which eighteen completed their mission successfully. Three aircraft returned early and two failed to return (Captains NZ417016 P/O E. Burke and NZ42354 P/O C. Armstrong) The raid was well concentrated and carried out in good weather with excellent visibility. One aircraft had an inconclusive combat with a JU88. Otherwise the operation was uneventful.
Crawford Crew Lancaster MkIII ND908 JN-M
Take Off 22:55 – Landed 03:30
Flight Time 04:30
(Edgar Lawrence Burke 26y, of Taranaki, NZ Lancaster MkI ME690. All crew members killed. Their aircraft was shot down by Oblt. Hans Wolfgang Schnaufer StabIV/NJG1 and crashed near Neerpelt, 9km east of Lommel, Belgium at 01:23.   Cecil Ernest Armstrong 27y, of Hawkes Bay, NZ Lancaster MkIII ND768.  All crew members died when the aircraft was hit by flak, causing the bomb load to explode)

May 30th 1944 – Attack against Boulogne
Weather, clear skies from dawn to dusk. Visibility 10-12 miles.
Cross country flights, fighter affiliation, local flying and air tests carried out.
Ten aircraft successfully bombed a target at Boulogne, encountering only very slight opposition. The attack was carried out in clear visibility
Crawford Crew Lancaster MkIII NE181  JN-M “The Captains Fancy”
Take Off 23:00 – Landed 01:10
Flight Time 02:10

May 31st 1944 – Attack against Trappes
Weather cloudy during morning, improving during afternoon and cloudy again at night. Visibility deteriorating accordingly.
Navigational cross country exercises and air tests carried out.
Twenty four aircraft were despatched to attack the marshalling yards at Trappes. One was withdrawn and another returned early through technical trouble. The remainder, however, bombed in good visibility, reporting an accurate attack. One aircraft (Captain NZ422098 P/O L. Bonisch) had a combat with an enemy aircraft which was seen to be shot down by another of our aircraft.
Crawford Crew Lancaster Mk III ND801 JN-X “ Get Sum Inn/ Astra”
Take Off 00:05 – landed 05:05
Flight time 05:00

May Outstanding Events on the Squadron:-
NZ 39003 F/O C. Eddy, pilot was made a member of the Military Division of the most Excellent Order of the British Empire, for outstanding courage and gallantry, when on a night in July 1943, he was pilot and captain of an aircraft which crashed when attempting an emergency landing and burst into flames. He received serious injuries, but remained in the aircraft and assisted the Air Bomber from the overturned second pilots’s seat. When clear of the aircraft, he learned that the Mid Upper Gunner was trapped in his turret, he then re-entered the blazing wreckage and assisted a Medical Officer, in a vain attempt to extricate the Mid Upper Gunner. It was not until the heat, fumes and smoke had made a continuance of rescue work impossible, that F/O Eddy was persuaded to abandon his efforts. Further injuries and burns were received by him while attempting to rescue his crew mate and he collapsed immediately on leaving the aircraft.

16th May 1944:-
Visit – Mr Hankinsen of Spectator Short Films Ltd.  accompanied by S/Ldr Lloyd Air Ministry PRO visited the station in connection with making a film about this squadron and film staff remained for the purpose of preparing and taking the film.

June 2nd 1944 – Attack against Wissant
Weather cloudy with visibility 10-25 miles.
Fighter affiliation, height and load tests and one cross country flight were carried out.
Fifteen aircraft were detailed to attack a target at Wissant, N. France. Owing to thick cloud over the target, twelve aircraft were unable to identify the markers and brought their bombs back. No opposition was encountered.
Crawford Crew Lancaster MkIII LL888 JN-X
Take Off 01:15 – Landed 03:15
Flight Time 02:00

June 5th 1944 – Attack against Ouistreham
Weather cloudy. Visibility 10-20 miles.
Air tests carried out.
The target for No. 3 Group was the coastal batteries at Ouistreham in N. France. This target, and others in the same area were attacked by strong forces of Bomber Command aircraft immediately prior to the Anglo-American invasion of the Continent. Twenty six aircraft from this squadron participated and all were successful un bombing their target with the aid of markers. Opposition was very slight.
Crawford Crew Lancaster MkIII ND911 JN-V
Take Off 03:35 – Landed 06:55
Flight Time 03:20

June 7th 1944 – Attack against Massy Palaiseau
Weather cloudy, intermittent rain during afternoon. Visibility 6-12 miles.
Air tests and one night cross country exercise were flown.
Six aircraft were detailed to attack a target at Massy Palaiseau near Paris. Five aircraft bombed successfully, one returning early with instrument trouble. The aircraft captained by AUS421504 F/Sgt J. Perfrement had a brief encounter with a ME210 claiming hits on the enemy aircraft.
Crawford Crew Lancaster MkIII ND917 JN-O
Take Off 00:40 – Landed 04:00
Flight Time 03:20

June 8th 1944 – Attack against Fougeres
Weather cloudy and overcast with intermittent rain. Visibility 4-8 miles.
Air tests only were carried out.
Twenty aircraft took off as detailed to attack Fougeres in N. France. Nineteen aircraft bombed successfully, one bringing its bombs back owing to the Bomb Sight being unserviceable when over the target. Two aircraft had inconclusive combats with enemy aircraft, but the remainder carried out their mission without incident, there being no opposition in the target area.
Crawford Crew Lancaster MkIII ND911 JN-V
Take Off 22:00 – Landed 02:15
Flight Time 04:15

June 10th 1944 – Attack against Dreux
Weather cloudy with occasional intermittent rain. Visibility 4-10 miles, deteriorating to 3 miles after dusk.
Air tests were flown.
Of the twenty four aircraft detailed to bomb Dreux, twenty two successfully attacked in good weather, the marshalling yards being visually identified until they were obscured by smoke. One aircraft had an inconclusive combat with a JU88. The aircrafts captained by NZ422098 P/O L. Bonisch and NZ42267 F/Sgt T Donaghy failed to return
Crawford Crew Lancaster MkI HK554 JN-F
Take Off 23:10 – Landed 03:40
Flight Time 04:30
(Lester Lascelles Bonisch 21y of Auckland, NZ.  All crew members of Lancaster ME702 perished. Thomas Rogers Donaghy 33y of Wellington, NZ. One of the crew, Sgt. K. E. Jackson Mid Upper Gunner, managed to get on his parachute before an explosion and he was catapulted into the night sky. He evaded capture and was sheltered on a farm and left for the UK, from Bayeux 26th August 1944.)

June 12th 1944 – Attack against Gelsenkirchen
Weather fair becoming cloudy with intermittent rain. Visibility 10-20 miles deteriorating to 2-3 miles.
Air and night flying tests were carried out.
Fifteen aircraft were detailed to attack Gelsenkirchen and all took part in a very concentrated raid,  AA not being as intense as expected.  Although enemy fighters were active, no combats took place with our aircraft.
Crawford Crew Lancaster MkIII ND904 AA-B “Target for Tomorrow Night” nose art
Take Off 23:05 – Landed 02:55
Flight Time 03:50

June 14th 1944 – Attack against Le Havre
Weather fair with occasional shower. Visibility 15-20 miles.
Air tests and one cross country flight were carried out.
Twenty six aircraft were detailed to attack shipping in the port area of Le Havre. Twenty five aircraft attacked and a very concentrated and accurate raid resulted.  Fires from an earlier attack were still burning when our aircraft were over the target. One aircraft returned early owing to engine trouble. Opposition was slight.
Crawford Crew Lancaster MkI LL888 JN-X
Take Off 23:40 – Landed 03:00
Flight Time 03:20

June 15th 1944 – Attack against Valenciennes
Weather cloudy with occasional showers. Visibility 10-15 miles.
Twenty four aircraft took off as detailed to attack the Marshalling yards at Valenciennes. Twenty three aircraft attacked the primary target with the aid of markers. AA fire was very slight, but fighters were active, two of our aircraft having combats with enemy aircraft. The aircraft captained by 175311 P/O C. Crawford claimed hits on an enemy fighter, but sustained serious damage itself, the pilot, however, was able to land safely at Manston.  (The aircraft captained by NZ421495 F/Sgt Roland Desmond Betley 22y of Hawkes Bay, NZ in Lancaster LL888 AA-X was shot down by night fighter, SW of the target and crashed near Rieux.  There were no survivors. 6 of the crew were found in, or near the wreckage. The body of the 7th was found some distance away, which showed he’d attempted to bale out)
Crawford Crew Lancaster MkIII ND904 AA-B “Target For Tomorrow Night” nose art
Take Off 23:00 – Landed 01:53
Flight Time 02:53

June 30th 1944 – Attack against Villers Bocage
Weather cloudy with slight rain in early morning and during afternoon and evening.
Air tests were carried out.
Twenty four aircraft in daylight were detailed to attack enemy concentrations at Villers Bocage, in support of the British and Canadian Armies advance in Northern France. Two aircraft were withdrawn, owing to technical faults, but the remaining twenty two aircraft all bombed their target successfully, and reported a very concentrated raid. Moderate but heavy AA fire was encountered over the target, but there was no fighter opposition. On return, one aircraft landed at Woodbridge and another put down on one of our landing strips in Normandy ( the Flight Engineer 1586862 Sgt P. W. McDevitt being slightly injured) A unique incident for the squadron. Another aircraft was damaged by AA fire but reached Base and made a successful landing.
Lancaster MkIII ND801 JN-X “ Get Sum Inn/Astra” nose art
Take Off 18:15 – Landed 21:15
Flight Time 03:00

June 30th – Aircraft Explosion:-
At 04:20h an aircraft whilst standing at a dispersal bombed up, exploded causing damage to other aircraft standing near. It is suspected that a long delay bomb in the aircraft detonated, causing the aircraft to be completely disintegrated. Fortunately there were no personnel in the near vicinity of the aircraft and no casualties resulted therefrom, although some civilian houses nearby were damaged.

June – Outstanding Events on the Squadron:-
This has been a record month operationally for the squadron. Attacks have been mainly against targets in Northern France in support of the invading armies and against pilotless plane installations.
On the night 11/12th June, shortly after leaving the target area, during an attack against Nantes, the aircraft captained by NZ 421072 P/O C. McCardle (Lancaster MkI ME751 AA-M) was damaged by what is thought to have been an enemy Anti-Aircraft shell exploding in the cockpit. The captain received severe injuries and the Flight Engineer Sgt R Benfold superficial injuries. The Air Bomber, Aus. 410489 W/O A. Hurse took over the controls and with the assistance of the Navigator NZ 4310159 F/O A. Zillwood brought the damaged aircraft safely back to this country, where a perfect landing was made. In recognition of this outstanding achievement, W/O Hurse was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal and F/O Zillwood, the DFC.

July 2nd 1944 – Daylight attack against Beauvoir
Weather cloudy with occasional intermittent rain. Visibility generally 4-10 miles.
Twenty three out of twenty four aircraft detailed took off in daylight to attack the construction works supply site at Beauvoir.  All aircraft successfully bombed the target and a concentrated raid developed. Opposition from AA fire was slight. Crawford’s aircraft was hit by flak 5 times.
Crawford Crew Lancaster MkIII ND801 JN-X “Get Sum Inn/ Astra” nose art
Take Off 12:56 – Landed 15:51
Flight Time 02:55

July 7th 1944 – Attack against Vaires
Weather cloudy with intermittent rain. Visibility 4-6 miles, improving to 6-12 miles
Air tests were carried out.
Twenty one aircraft were detailed to attack the Vaires marshalling yards, but the operation was cancelled owing to weather conditions.
Crawford Crew Lancaster MkIII ND904 AA-B “ Target For Tomorrow Night” nose art
Take Off 23:01 – Landed 03:26
Flight Time 04:25

July 10th 1944 – Attack against Nucourt
Weather cloudy with occasional showers. Visibility 10-25 miles
Air tests were carried out.
Twenty seven aircraft took off at dawn to attack Nucourt constructional works site, all aircraft bombing through 10/10th cloud, using navigational aids, but the raid appeared to be scattered. Slight opposition from AA fire was encountered.
Crawford Crew Lancaster MkIII ND904 AA-B “Target For Tomorrow Night” nose art
Take off 04:22 – Landed 08:05
Flight Time 03:43

July – Attacks have been mainly against targets in Northern France in support of the Allied Invading Armies. Other targets have been Stuttgart which was attacked 3 times, Kiel and Homburg. From these operations 13 aircraft have failed to return, 7 of these from the attack against Homburg.


Operations with 7 Squadron (Pathfinders) RAF Oakington

Pathfinders Glossary :-
BACKERS UP – Pathfinder crews who dropped secondary target indicators visually, on the red primary target indicators, ensuring the target was always marked.
BLIND MARKING – Aiming bombs or target markers referring to the use of electronic aids like H2S, Oboe, or GEE.
BLIND MARKER ILLUMINATORS – First pathfinder aircraft on the scene who used H2S to drop illuminating flares and Green or Yellow target indicators.
H2S – Airborne ground mapping radar carried by a bomber. It could distinguish built up areas and was effective identifying coastlines and rivers for navigation.
OBOE – Navigational blind bombing aid using beams from 2 base stations in England. Extremely accurate but could only be used by a few aircraft at a time.
SUPPORTERS – Experienced crew to swamp the defences making it difficult for radar predicted flak guns to lock onto an aircraft.

August 15th 1944
Lancaster PB976 ‘N’
Target Soesterberg (Utrecht, Netherlands) (Luftwaffe night fighter air base)
Up 10:24 Down 13:051/2
10X1000 USA M65.G.P.  2X500 G. P. T. D. 025 2X500 G. P. L. D.
Red TI’s ( target indicators) cascaded and fell midway along easterly runway and own bombs released on these. Subsequent bombing was extremely well concentrated on the airfield and very soon the target was obscured by smoke.
Station Summary:  Target, airfields in Holland. The main force of 7 Sqn took to the air at 10:20 and consisted of Master Bomber, Deputy, 3 Backers Up and 4 Supporters. The target Soesterberg airfield was plainly visible 30 miles away, as the weather was clear and visibility excellent. The Red TIs (target indicators) dropped by MB (master bomber) were bang on aiming point and instructions given to bomb same. Target quickly obscured by smoke and bombing very well concentrated on whole airfield. Several direct hits were noted on the runways and adjacent buildings. There was only moderate to heavy flak.

August 16th 1944
Lancaster PB357 ‘S’
Crawford was piloting a different experienced crew. Presumably to learn from them. The usual pilot flew as second pilot. F/Lt H. C. Brilliant.
Up 21:22 Down 02:45
Target Kiel – Which was a major naval base and shipbuilding centre with a slave labour camp.
Blind Backer Up. 3 Flares Red/Yellow. 6X2000 HC. Illuminator flares seen on arrival but Red and Green were only seen a minute later. Master Bomber was not heard but centre of Reds and Greens selected as own point of release. This was seen to be correct from H2S (navigational aid on board) check. Bombing was scattered and some sticks seen near spoofs (German fakes) like white spot fires. 3 fires seen in target area and for some distance on return.

August 18th 1944
Lancaster ND387 ‘O’
Up 21:31 Down 02:55
Target Bremen – Military targets in Bremen were Shipyards of Vulkan, AG Weser, Atlas Werke, Valentin Submarine Pend, Oil Refineries, aircraft works of Focke-Wolf,  AG Steel Mill and railway station.
Supporter. 9X1000 USA M65 T. D. 025. First flares and Green TIs seen at about 00:04h. Fair concentration over town. Red/Green TIs fell at about 00:03h in approximately centre of concentration. Own bombs aimed at it. No results seen.
Station Summary : The aircraft detailed to attack Bremen took off at 21:20.  They consisted of Primary Visual Marker, 6 Blind Marker Illuminators, 2 Blind Backers Up and 4 Supporters. The raid opened on time in clear weather with good visibility at first. Many illuminator flares and Green TIs were well concentrated over target area. The Visual Marker was able to identify the aiming point very clearly and saw his own TIs overshoot to East by 100/200yds and another salvo of mixed Reds and Greens to be 500yds NW of aiming point. Bombing was good and concentrated and many explosions were seen throughout the attack, one at 00:15h shooting yellow/red flames to 2000ft and giving off clouds of black smoke. Extensive fires seem to have taken hold very quickly and Mosquito crews returning from Berlin report that at 01:00h the town seemed to be ablaze from end to end, with a large oil fire blazing in NW part of town, giving off black smoke to 15,000ft. Moderate heavy flak was predicted and accurate and many searchlights were seen, though ineffective.

August 25th 1944
Lancaster JA911 ‘A’
Up 20:49 Down 04:38
Target Russelsheim – Opel Plant manufacturing Aircraft parts. (During the daylight raid by the Americans, 9 USA airmen who baled out were attacked with rocks, hammers, sticks and shovels. 6 died. It is known as the Russelsheim Massacre.)
Supporter. 4X2000 H. G. Arrived late on target as H2S was u/s (useless) Saw Red TI which burnt out another. Red went down 1/4 mile West of first Red TI. One large fire started on first TI and lot if smoke seen. Dropped bombs between TIs.
Station Summary:  20:45 was take off time for 12 a/c (aircraft). The squadrons force consisted of Primary Visual Marker, 2 Blind Illuminators, 3 Blind Markers, 1 Visual Centrer and 5 Supporters. The weather was clear with some haze in the target area of Russelsheim. The target was well illuminated by flares. Squadron Blind Illuminators unloaded their flares. Unfortunately, although our Primary Visual Marker identified the aiming point, he was unable to drop any of his load, although he made 2 runs at it, owing to hydraulic failure of bombing gear. The attack had every appearance of having been a successful Newhaven (a method of ground marking), with concentrated Red/Green TIs on or near the aiming point, accurately backed up later by Red TIs. First bombing appeared concentrated but there was one report of a tendency for incendiaries to creep back. Our last a/c to bomb did not have any detailed observation as fires had started in the target area, which were giving off greyish black smoke rising to 10,000ft.  Several very big explosions were seen. One Lancaster VI took part in this raid but had to bring his load back as referred to above. One other a/c ‘V’ returned early owing to starboard inner engine failure, which made it impossible for the aircraft to climb. Slight to moderate flak was encountered and many inaccurate searchlights were in action. There was also enemy fighter activity on the leg to the target and on the way out as far as Luxemburg. ‘D’ was missing from this raid.

September 6th 1944
Lancaster ND912 ‘P’
Up 16:21 Down 20:18
Target Emden – Oil Refinery and Storage.
Supporter 6 X2000 HC First Red TI went down at 18:26h slightly west of Aiming Point. Master Bomber instructed bomb Red TI just after bombs were dropped, and to ignore the Green TIs. Master Bomber then instructed to bomb centre of smoke and any Reds visible. Large explosion in ?? SE of Aiming Point at 18:28h black smoke soon obscured target.
Station Summary: Emden.  A much larger effort was required of the squadron today, 12 aircraft were detailed to attack Emden. 16:15 was take off time and the squadron consisted of Master Bomber, Deputy, 4 Backers Up, 6 Supporters. The attack opened in clear weather with good visibility with Red Tis cascading slightly ENE of the Aiming Point. Master Bomber proceeded to mark the target and his TIs fell to touch the western edge of the first lot. He immediately instructed that these Reds should be bombed. After repeating these instructions at minute intervals, smoke made it necessary to qualify these instructions by adding ‘and built up area’. Smoke partly obscured the target at this time, so instructions were changed to bomb Green TIs, which had just cascaded into the centre of the smoke. Some Green TIs were seen to go down well to the NW of target and these were ordered to be ignored. In the last stages of the attack it was necessary to instruct the main force to bomb the centre of the smoke. A high concentration of bombing was achieved, and two large explosions were seen. There was moderate heavy flak fairly accurate and predicted. One aircraft F/Lt G. Wilson DSO IFC DFM, Deputy Master Bomber ‘Q’, failed to return with the other aircraft, which landed at this time 20:25.
(Extract Germany 1939-45 Vol. 3 by Sir Charles Kingsley Wester. Emden. On 6 September a force of 181 Lancasters and Halifaxes covered by 6 squadrons of Spitfires and 4 of Mosquitos was despatched to Emden, where a successful attack began just before 6:30pm. One of the Pathfinders Lancasters crashed near the target)

F/Lt Granville Wilson DSO IFC DFM of N. Ireland, 23y, Deputy Master Bomber flying Lancaster PB466 MG-Q, was hit by flak and crashed east of the city centre in Bansmeer. 5 crew men died. There were 2 navigators as Sgt Brunsden was operating the H2S set. The pilot and two navigators were killed instantly, when on the second run in over the target, at 10,000ft, the Lancaster was hit from the front, below the cockpit area.
The aircraft flew on with glass nose section completely blown out, with a ferocious headwind inside the open plane. F/Lt Peter Cutchey DFC, the Visual Marker, managed to reach back into the fuselage to grab his parachute and launched himself, against the airflow out of the broken glass. (Interview Mike Reid 2013)

September 11th 1944
Lancaster PA978 ‘Z’
Up 16:40 Down 20:12
Target Kamen – Oil Refinery
F/O C. A. Clarkeson replaced Frost as Flight Engineer
Supporter 1X4000 HC Mirol 16X500  C. P. T. D. 025 Bombed visually as no TIs were down. Master Bomber at 18:40h instructed to bomb fires on Aiming Point visually. One Red TI seen at SW corner of Aiming Point at 18:40h. Smoke seen up to 15,000ft

The Master Bomber was Squadron Leader Alan Laird Craig DSO MBE DFC AFC 1923-1971 always in Lancaster JB675 ‘O’ whilst in 7 Squadron. He served in squadrons 7, 35, 156 and 161. He did 71 operations over enemy territory, 41 as Master Bomber.

Station Summary: Continuing the round the clock bombing, S/Ldr A J Craig was again Master Bomber on an attack against Kamen. His Deputy on this occasion was S/Ldr R P Stroud DFC AFC and the rest of the force consisted of 3 Backers Up and 6 Supporters. In all then, 11 aircraft left base to find clear weather with good visibility on reaching the target. Master Bomber’s bombsight was unserviceable so he instructed his Deputy to mark. This he was unable to do until he had made a second run, as he had difficulty identifying the target. Nevertheless, all other crews were able to identify the target and the first bombs to drop, started large fires and dense clouds of smoke. The Red and Yellow TIs dropped late fell accurately, but were almost superfluous as the column of dense black smoke rose to 15,000ft from a flaming base, left no doubt as to the location of the aiming point. The target is considered obliterated. In the early stages of the attack there were moderate to intense heavy flak, predicted, but this later changed to a barrage. All aircraft safely landed at base.

September 12th 1944
Lancaster PB481 ‘U’
Up 19:06 Down 01:03
Target Frankfurt – Ball bearing production and other armaments industries
Clarkeson replaced Frost as Flight Engineer and S/L C. A. Stocks replaced Mason as Air Bomber
Blind Illuminator. 10 X CP No 3  4 X 1000 GP.025 Yellow TIs seen. Then made GP1 and H2S check and dropped flares and bombs. Red and green TIs very close to Aiming Point. River seen very clearly, but no results observed.

Station Summary:  The squadron detailed 11 aircraft to attack Frankfurt. One aircraft ‘Z’ was withdrawn on account of radiator trouble. S/Ldr Craig DFC flew in the capacity of Primary Visual Marker, being supported by 4 Blind Illuminators (one is pilot Crawford’s aircraft) 3 Primary Blind Markers, 2 Blind Secondary Markers and one Supporter.  The weather was clear and on approaching the target some Yellow TIs were seen. Illuminator flares were then dropped, and later, the Primary Visual Marker dropped mixed Red and Green TIs, which were seen to drop on the aiming point. The bombing was well concentrated round the Red and Green TIs and one large fire was seen burning N of river and was seen 10 miles away. There was only slight heavy flak, but intense searchlight activity, which was very effective. One of our aircraft ‘R’ captained by F/Lt R. J. Banks failed to return. The other aircraft landed safely.
F/Lt Robert James Lloyd Banks of Wembley, flying Lancaster NE126 MG-R crashed at Damscheid.  All crew members perished.

September 13th 1944
Lancaster PA978 ‘Z’
Up 16:29 Down 19:54
Target Nordstern – Oil plant.
Clarkeson replaced Frost as Flight Engineer.
Supporter 1 X 4000 HC Minol 16X500  G. P. T. D. 025 On arrival no TIs were down. First Red landed in West of target area at 18:30h No other TIs seen. Bombed long shed in SE corner of target
Hole from enemy action in port side of rear turret.

Station Summary :  Nordstern was the target for 10 aircraft of this squadron. This consisted of Master Bomber Wing Commander B. H. D. Foster DSO DFC, Deputy F/O K. H. Perry DSO, 3 Backers Up and 5 Supporters. The aircraft left at 16:25h and found drifting alto stratas and ground haze, with tops of clouds variously  described as from 6/17,000ft on arrival at the target. This cloud and haze made it difficult to identify the target until immediately over it and this prevented all our markers, except the Deputy and one Backer Up from marking the target. The other 8 aircraft bombed visually, or on the Red TIs, but no crews were able to report any result of the attack. Bombing appeared scattered over a wide area. An intense heavy flak barrage and predicted heavy flak was encountered and several of our aircraft were holed, but all our aircraft landed safely.

September 20th 1944
Lancaster ND912 ‘P’
Up 15:35 Down 17:58
Target Calais – In support of the Canadian 3rd Infantry Div. operation to liberate Calais.
F/Lt E. D. Whybray replaced Frost as Flight Engineer. F/Sgt T. D. L. Naylor replaced Mason as Air Bomber.
Defence 6 D Supporter 11X1000 USA M59 SAP 4X500 G. P. T. D. 025 Green TIs seen slightly to west of Aiming Point. Red TIs were on Aiming Point. Good concentration of bursts in target area but some overshot.
Station Summary : The squadron was again called upon to make a big effort, 14 aircraft consisting of 2 forces, one of 9 and one of 5, taking part in attacks against two aiming points in the Calais defence area. Master Bomber S/Ldr Craig DFC, Deputy squadron commander, Wing Commander R. W. Cox DFC AFC, with 3 Backers Up and 4 Supporters, left to attack target, 6c 8/10th strata at 4,000ft with slight haze at 3,000ft was met and vertical visibility at that height was good. Owing to this haze, it was difficult to see TIs going down, so Master Bomber ordered all aircraft to descend to 3,000ft. All aircraft then identified the aiming point and there was no difficulty in this seeing the ground detail and Green TIs, were seen to straddle the aiming point. TI Reds were also well placed on the aiming point, and the Master Bomber instructions, which were varied to meet each situation, were well obeyed. Consequently the bombing was in a good concentration, but the main force were bombing up to 150yds to the East of the aiming point, although it was certainly a concentrated attack. There was no opposition throughout the attack and all aircraft returned to base safely.

October 5th 1944
Lancaster NB912 ‘P’
Up 19:17 Down 00:37
Completely different crew with Crawford the pilot. Panton/Jones/Waters/Poynter/Mayers/ Pratt
Target Saarbrucken – To destroy Supply lines at the request of the US Army.
10XGP No3  4X1000 USA 159.025 Illuminator. Many illuminating flares were seen and a good concentration of markers. These markers were close to “Oboe” spot fires. When our bombs were released target was well alight and at 22:46h a very large explosion seen, while satisfactory explosions seen on approach. 10CP No3 returned

October 7th 1944
Lancaster PB544 ‘Y’
Up 12:29 Down 15:45
Target Emmerich – Oil refineries campaign
Crawford the pilot with different crew – Smith/Talbot/Stanton/Mailu/ Tracey/ Drinkwater/ Grant
4 TI Red 4 TI Red LB 6X1000 M. G. T. D. 025 B/H. TIs not visible on arrival, smoke covering ground. As run in was made Master Bomber ordered bomb N edge of smoke overshooting 2 secs. Bomb S edge of smoke. We did the latter. The river front was just visible. No bomb bursts or TIs seen owing to pall of smoke. The whole town area was well alight with no bombs outside target area.

October 12th 1944
Lancaster PA978 ‘Z’
Up 08:20 Down 11:52
Target Wanne Eickel (Marshalling Yards)
Feaver Wireless Operator replaced by Sgt. J. R. Powell and Frost Flight Engineer, replaced by Sgt. R. H. Martin.
11X 1000 M. C. T. D. 025 4X500 M64. Supporter. On approaching target, no Red TIs seen so went in and dropped bombs on oil tank in Aiming Point. At 10:14h first TIs seen. Master Bomber instructed bomb near edge of these. Red TIs appeared NW of Aiming Point. A large sheet of flame went up after bombs dropped and oil tank appeared hit. All bombs went.

October 14th 1944
Lancaster PB357 ‘S’
Up 23:30
Target Duisburg – Thyssen Mines
4 Flares R/Y Star 1X4000 HC Minol 6X500 M64 9X500 G.P. T. D. 025 BSM.
Missing. Nothing heard after take off.
The force attacked in two waves, 675 aircraft bombing between 01:22 and 01:50 and second wave of 330 aircraft, bombing between 03:20 and 03:35. One aircraft lost from second wave and was seen to go down, just after leaving the Ruhr on its return flight.

Document – RAF Graves Service Rheinberg BAOR 34 27/3/1950

F/O C. N. C. Crawford & Crew Lancaster PB357

This aircraft crashed and was completely destroyed. The actual scene of it was on the corner of Karl-Albertstrasse. Fuselage and wings were found here, the engine in the centre of the town market, one engine at the Post Office nearby. All traces of the aircraft have been removed.

One body – Fell into the garden of the Dutchman Wilms and was recovered shortly afterwards, but where is unknown.
A second body – was found in the meadow of the Esscher Brook and was buried personally by this Dutchman. This body was taken away on the 7/5/1946 on the orders of the Military Governor of Hamborn. It was taken to the North Cemetery Hamborn and later Duisberg Cemetery.
Four other bodies – were found in a grave in Nattenbergshof nearby. They were believed to be English or Canadian pilots, undoubtedly members of the same crew. They were exhumed by arrangement with a German doctor, possibly Dr. Weisweller, present. They were taken first to Hamborn Cemetery, then Duisburg Cemetery.

Description of the 2 bodies given by the Dutchman
1st body – One English Wireless Operator named Fraver or Faver from Newcastle, 23y, labourer, airman since 1941.
2nd body – No papers found on him. The Dutchman believed that since the body had been there 2 days before he saw them, the papers may have been removed. On the front of his uniform was a wing with a ‘B’ on it. Sewn on his uniform jacket of the right pocket, was a long, oval piece of leather with the name Mason, written in ink. His stature was about 170cm, dark fair hair. He believed he was a Belgian flyer.
The Dutchman, Johann Wilms, lives at 61 Arnoldstrasse.

Eric T. Rivers
He was the Navigator of the crew and at the time of death, aged 27. He was born in Woodroffe, Ontario Canada and was educated at Woodroffe Public School and Nepean High School. He joined the permanent Canadian air force in 1938. He was remustered to air crew in 1942 and travelled overseas in the Spring of 1943. Rivers was on his second last operation over enemy territory, before completing his second tour of operations. He had a brother, Glenn Rivers and a sister Reta River.

Letter to his mother Mrs Edith G. Rivers September 2nd 1950 :
(All the next-of-kin of this crew would have had the same letter)

Dear Mrs. Rivers,

It is with profound regret that I refer to the loss of your son, P/O Eric T. Rivers, who lost his life on air operations against the enemy October 15th 1944 and I am sorry indeed there has been such a lapse of time, before it was possible to convey to you, the location of the resting place of your son.
I know that it will not lessen your sorrow when I say that at the cessation of hostilities over 43,000 British air crew, of which 10,000 were RCAF were, like your son, missing and unaccounted for, and an organisation under the name of the Royal Air Force and Dominions Air Forces Missing Research and Enquiry Service have, in an effort to locate crashes and the graves of British aircrew, it naturally followed that some were located first, others are still being located, and unhappily, many thousands will never be located.
After intense investigation it was ascertained that your son’s aircraft had been shot down not far from Duisburg, Germany, which is in the Ruhr Valley, an area in which British aircrew lost their lives. It was also ascertained that your son and the members of his crew had been buried in 3 graves, in the Duisburg Wald Cemetery by German civilians, and in accordance with the agreed policy of the Nations of the British Commonwealth, that all British aircrew buried in Germany would be moved to Permanent British Military Cemeteries located in Germany. The graves of your son and the members of his crew were moved to the Permanent British Military Cemetery in the Reichswald Forest, Germany. The cemetery is located 3 miles SW of Cleve, Germany, or 12 miles SE of Nijmegen, Holland.
Most unfortunately, individual identification could not be obtained of your son and 5 members of the crew, in fact, F/O C. N. C. Crawford (pilot) was the only member of crew to be individually identified.

He goes on to describe the beautiful landscaping of the cemetery and flowers. That her son’s resting place would be cared for in perpetuity.

Christopher Nigel Charles Crawford was born 11th Nov 1923 Medway, Kent. His mother’s maiden name was Hornby.
His parents Archibald Crawford and Margaret Ellen Hornby were married in Westminster in 1910.
Archibald Crawford served in the Royal Artillery. In 1917 he had the rank of Colonel and in December 1912 was the Commandant of Artillery and Director of Ordnance, of the Egyptian Army.
Christopher Crawford was attending Wellington College in 1939.
His siblings were: John A. Crawford born 1910 Kensington, Reginald Ewart Crawford 1912 Medway, Kent, Margaret D.C. Crawford 1913 Kensington and Mary St. B. Crawford 1917 Medway, Kent.
Thomas Edward Feaver was born 4th September 1922 Greenwich. His mother’s maiden name was Ferrell.
In 1919 Frederick E. Feaver married Clara Maud Ferrell in Greenwich.
The Feaver family were living at 4 Percy Rd, Bexley, Kent in 1939. Clara M Feaver was a housewife born in 1896. Her husband Frederick is absent at this time. Thomas was working as a furniture shop assistant. His sister, Marian M. Feaver (later Davis) was born in 1931 and still at school.
Other Siblings:- Frederick A. Feaver 1920 Greenwich, John V. Feaver 1924 Greenwich, Robert W. Feaver 1927 Greenwich and Richard A. Feaver 1933.

Father, Frederick is listed on a passenger ship’s manifest going to Newfoundland in 1937, giving his address in Percy Rd and as having the occupation of Civil Servant. In 1938 he made the same voyage. He was born 18th March 1895 in Sevenoaks, Kent. When he was 12 he enlisted in the Royal Navy for 12 years. He was 5ft 1” at the time with fair brown hair, grey blue eyes. Once he was 18 he was 5ft 6”.  It appears before he set sail for Newfoundland, he was given the post of Wireless Telegraph Operator for the Air Ministry.  In Gander, Newfoundland was a radio station for use to track shipping and aircraft. By June 1943 Frederick was Overseer-in-Charge of an Air Ministry Radio Station.
This is probably why his son Thomas was an RAF Wireless Operator.

Clara died in 1968 in Bathavon, Somerset and Frederick in 1961 in Bristol, Gloucestershire.


Arthur Henry Frost was born 7th October 1916 in Plumstead. He married Doris Parsons in Woolwich in 1940.
Children:- Brian T. Frost 1940 Hendon, Anthony G. Frost 1945 Hendon.
His parents were living at 21 Princes Road, Plumstead in Greenwich in 1939. George William Frost was born in 1886 and was a Munitions Factory Worker (probably the Royal Arsenal), Isabella his wife was born in 1892 and looked after the home, son Robert J Frost was born in 1923 and was a Labourer weighing and gauging small arms, son Albert T Frost born in 1924 was Packing small arms in the Woolwich Arsenal. Arthur was working as a Laith Hand on motor cycles. The couple had lost one son George H Frost born and died in 1915.
George W Frost died in 1957 in Woolwich. He had been in the Carpenters & Joiners Union since 1912


Norman Heslop – sadly, nothing available

Ralph Phillips was born 29th May 1909 in South Shields. His mother’s maiden name was Foster.
In 1911 the family were living at 10 Collingwood Terrace, South Shields. Dad Albert Phillips was born in 1885 in North Shields and his Mother Annie (nee Foster) in 1888 in South Shields. Albert was an Assistant Pilot on the river Tyne. Their other children were Albert born in 1905, William Foster born in 1906 and Miriam in 1908.

In 1921 Ralph had joined the Merchant Navy and was described as 5ft 7” tall with brown eyes and dark brown hair. He had a tattoo on the right inner forearm. Then, in 1936 he married Zena F. Harris born 1912, in South Shields. They had daughter Ann in 1936 and Valerie in 1937when they were living at 33 Erskine Road. The 1939 Register had his parents Albert, a River Tyne Pilot and Annie, a homemaker living at 22 Percy Park Road, Tynemouth. Ralph was described as working at the Commission Moorings Department (Waterman) Tyne Improvement. In 1938 Ralph had a telephone, the number was 976.

After Ralph was killed, a memorial plaque was erected in 1947. The Rev. J. K. Morgan, padre of the South Shields Mission to Seamen, unveiled and dedicated the plaque on the bridge of No.4 T. I. C. Screw keel at T. I. C. Howden, in memory of F/Sgt Ralph Phillips RAF, a former master of the vessel.

Zena Frances Phillips appears never to have remarried after the death of Ralph. She was living Flat 10, North Avenue in South Shields when she died in 2003.
Ralph’s Father, Albert died 7th January 1959, aged 75, whilst living at 51 Queen Alexandra Road West in North Shields. He appears to have still been working in February 1953 as there was an entry in the newspaper  “Tyne Pilot Albert Phillips of 15 Windsor Gardens North Shields and some local companies adjusters, who sailed from the river on Saturday in the Oswestry Grange, were unable to leave the vessel because of the rough seas and were expected to land at Dover.”  He would have been 69.


Thomas Donald Lawson Mason was born on the 3rd January 1921 in South Shields. He studied architecture at Durham University.  There was an entry in the Shields Gazette 21st June 1940 listing the exam results for the University and Thomas was mentioned as attaining his diploma.

His father Clifford Donald Mason was a pharmacist with 3 Chemist shops, one of which was on King St. South Shields, (illustrated) near the Market Place and opposite Woolworths. During WW1 Clifford, born in 1894 in South Shields and attended the Boys High School,  was an Acting Captain D/251 Brigade Royal Field Artillery.  He was awarded the Military Cross for undertaking reconnaissance patrols under heavy fire at Malard Wood, Happy Valley and Billon Wood 8-23rd August 1918.

On the 24th June 1936 there was an article in the Shields Gazette concerning his shop on Westoe Road, South Shields. “South Shields police are still investigating a mysterious robbery at the Westoe Road branch shop of the well known South Shields firm of Chemists, Mason & Co. Ltd.  Thieves entered the shop by pushing open a heavy trap door on which a five gallon drum of methylated spirits had been placed.  They had entered the cellar by means of a manhole in the back yard.  The thieves took a considerable sum of money which had been left in the till, but they did not touch any of the stock.  Interviewed by a Shields Gazette reporter, Mr. Clifford Mason said “The whole thing is a mystery.  The thieves entered the cellar through a manhole in the backyard.  They then climbed up the steps in the cellar to the trap door which they pushed open.  They upset the five gallon drum of spirits, but fortunately it did not run out completely.  The drum was fairly heavy and would necessitate a strong push on the trap door before it could be moved” he added.

The Mason family lived in Westoe Village in a house called Meadow Croft, which is a listed building.  In July 1955 Thomas’ Dad had problems with bees. “Attempts by two local beekeepers to remove a swarm of bees from a laburnum tree in the garden of Meadow Croft, the home of Clifford Mason.  The bees swarmed 15ft up in the branches and were there for 2 days. The swarm is the size of a football.  This is the second bee swarm in South Shields in two days”.

Thomas Donald Lawson Mason’s medals, illustrated above from the web site of Noonan’s Mayfair Auctions, were sold on the 17th July 2019 for £320 – a paltry sum considering the price Thomas paid – a gifted young man with a future in architecture who definitely, along with his crew, made the ultimate sacrifice and gave his tomorrows for our todays.

Written and researched by Dorothy Ramser May 2023

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