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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 226662
Last updated: 28 November 2021
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Date:12-MAY-1940
Time:09:30 LT
Type:Silhouette image of generic bttl model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Fairey Battle Mk I
Owner/operator:12 Squadron Royal Air Force (12 Sqn RAF)
Registration: P2204
MSN:
Fatalities:Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 3
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:near Lanaken, Limburg -   Netherlands
Phase: Manoeuvring (airshow, firefighting, ag.ops.)
Nature:Military
Departure airport:Amifontaine, France
Destination airport:
Narrative:
Fairey Battle Mk.1 P2204 (PH-K) 12 Squadron, RAF: Written off (destroyed) when lost on combat operations. All three crew were killed, but two of them were posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross (VC). According to the official Air Ministry File on the incident (File AIR 81/293): "Battle P2204 shot down near Lanaken, The Netherlands, 12 May 1940. Leading Aircraftman L R Reynolds, Sergeant T Gray, and Flying Officer D E Garland: report of deaths".

Crew of Battle P2204:
Flying Officer (Pilot) Donald E. Garland, RAF 40105, age 21, killed in action 12/05/1940, posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross
Sergeant (Observer) Thomas Gray, RAF 563627, age 26, killed inaction 12/05/1940, posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
Leading Aircraftman (Wireless Op./Air Gunner) Lawrence R. Reynolds, RAF 550860, age 20, killed in action 12/05/1940

All three crew fatalities were buried at Heverlee War Cemetery, Vlaams-Brabant, Belgium. P/O Garland and Sgt Gray's were the first air Victoria Crosses of the war.

Flying Officer Donald Garland was to lead 3 aircraft against the Veldwezelt Bridge in a low level attack. Sgt Tom Gray was the Observer/Navigator on Fairey Battle P2204 PH-K, piloted by F/O Donald Garland with LAC Lawrence Reynolds as rear gunner.

They flew below the cloud base at 1000 feet and on reaching the Veldwezelt area started a shallow bombing run. There were estimated to be some 300 guns entrenched in a defensive ring around the bridge, and the aircraft was blasted into the ground. It reportedly come down near Lanaken, Limburg, on the Maastricht side of the Belgian/Netherlands border (at approximate Coordinates: 5053′N 0539′E).

The second Battle L5439, piloted by PO I A McIntosh, was hit in the main fuel tank, setting the aircraft ablaze, he jettisoned his bombs and made a forced landing and survived as a prisoner of war.

The third Battle L5227, piloted by Sgt Fred Marland, released its bombs but then lost control and dived into the ground.

When the smoke cleared it was seen that the western end of the bridge was shattered, and evidence suggested the damage was caused by Garland and Gray's cool attack. It had been Gray's first operational bombing raid.

Flying Officer Garland and Sergeant Gray were both posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. The citation in "The London Gazette," for 11th June, 1940, gives the following details

"Flying Officer Garland was the pilot and Sergeant Gray the observer of the leading machine of a formation of five aircraft that were ordered to destroy at all costs a bridge over the Albert Canal which had not been demolished by the land forces and was allowing the Germans to advance into Belgium. In spite of very heavy defence of the area surrounding the bridge, the formation made a successful dive-bombing attack from the lowest practicable altitude, after releasing their bombs they were attacked by a large number of enemy fighters. Only one aircraft of the five returned to its base. Much of the success of the operation must be attributed to the formation leader, Flying Officer Garland, and to the coolness and resource of Sergeant Gray, who navigated the leading aircraft under most difficult conditions in such a manner that the whole formation, although it subsequently suffered heavy losses, was able successfully to attack the target".

Sources:

1. Royal Air Force Aircraft L1000-L9999 (James J Halley, Air Britain 1978)
2. The Battle File (Sidney Shail, Air Britain, 1997)
3. National Archives (PRO Kew) File AIR 81/293: https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C14142142
4. http://www.626-squadron.co.uk/willem29.htm
5. http://www.epibreren.com/ww2/raf/12_squadron.html
6. http://aircrewremembered.com/norman-thomas.html
7. http://forum.12oclockhigh.net/showthread.php?t=39837
8. https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2777477/garland,-donald-edward/
9. https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2777505/gray,-thomas/
10. https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2777903/reynolds,-lawrence-royston/
11. http://www.oldhaltonians.co.uk/pages/rememb/ROH/20.htm
12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lanaken


Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
28-Jun-2019 23:23 Dr. John Smith Added
30-Jun-2019 10:27 stehlik49 Updated [Operator]

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