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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 50940
Last updated: 5 October 2020
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Time:21:51 LT
Type:Vickers Wellington Mk XIII
Owner/operator:415 (Swordfish) Sqn RCAF
Registration: HZ655
C/n / msn: NH-A
Fatalities:Fatalities: 8 / Occupants: 8
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:North Sea -
Phase: En route
Departure airport:RAF North Coates
Destination airport:
In November 1943, 254 Sqn RAF proposed to use small numbers of Torbeaus (torpedo-carrying Beaufighters) on night sorties on the Dutch coast both during moon periods and in complete darkness with the assistance of flare-dropping aircraft. So far, 254 Sqn had only flown ’Rover’ patrols along the Dutch coast in moon periods. The suggestion met with approval, as during this month German E-boats sank four Allied merchantmen in just two operations, and Swordifhs and Albacores of the Fleet Air Arm were having difficulty countering small fast vessels.

254 Sqn’s proposal formed the basis for a tactical instruction known as ’Operation Gilbey’, which was issued on 18 January. On the receipt of a report from a reconnaissance aircraft giving details of a German convoy’s location, a flare-carrying Wellington was to relocate the target and drop flame floats. It was then to fly to a position 60 degrees on the seaward side of the convoy and, at 10 miles, drop a row of marine markers parallel to the convoy’s course. This indicated to the following Beaufighter strike force the track it had to follow in order to find the target. The Wellington, in addition to laying sea markers, also provided the strike force with valuable information on the convoy’s disposition and weather conditions over the target area, including wind velocity. This relieved aircrews, particularly navigators, in the following aircraft of much of the burden involved in calculating the time of arrival over the convoy and the angle of approach for dropping the torpedoes. When it was established that the Beaufighters were on cours, the Wellington was to drop flares over the vessels, giving the Torbeaus sufficient illumination in order to make their attack.

The first two Gilbeys were flown on 21-22 and 30-31 January, but were unsuccessful, the targets not being seen. 12 Gilbeys during February yielded two attacks, although the results could not be confirmed. The first confirmed sinking during a Gilbey operation was on the night of 5-6 March.

On 7 February 1944, the Wellington XIII HZ655 ’A’ of 415 Sqn RCAF took off at 1808 hrs from North Coates for a Gilbey operation. At 2015 hrs it sent ’Nil’ sighting message to the Beaufighter formation. At 2026 hrs it sent message to base "Port engine gone. S.O.S." and then went missing, according to the squadron ORB’s Form 541. The Form 540 reported that the crew reported being attacked by an enemy fighter before going missing, but no German claim is known. The whole RCAF crew of the Wellington was lost and is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial, except Plt Off Dissing who is buried in Bergen General Cemetery, Netherlands.

Crew (all lost):
Flt Lt John Frederick Acer (pilot)
Plt Off Jens Lawrence Dissing (pilot)
Plt Off Cyril James McCarvill (navigator/air bomber)
Plt Off Norman Charles Edward West (wireless operator/air gunner)
Plt Off Jack Earl Russel (wireless operator/air gunner, not listed as belonging to 415 Sqn by the CWGC)
Plt Off Charles Edward Simpson (wireless operator/air gunner)
Plt Off Joseph Edward Johnston Dorval (wireless operator/air gunner, not listed as belonging to 415 Sqn by the CWGC)
Lac. J.W. Husselbee R/88864 RCAF / Fitter from 8415 Servicing Echelon. Got permission from pilot to join the crew.


ORB of 415 Sqn RCAF, February 1944 (available online at and
"A Forgotten Offensive: Royal Air Force Coastal Command’s Anti-Shipping Campaign 1940-1945", by Christina J.M. Goulter. ISBN 978-0-714-64617-6

Revision history:

17-Dec-2008 11:45 ASN archive Added
08-Feb-2016 15:02 Laurent Rizzotti Updated [Time, Operator, Total fatalities, Total occupants, Phase, Departure airport, Source, Narrative]
14-Oct-2018 06:57 stehlik49 Updated [Operator]
21-Dec-2019 20:16 TigerTimon Updated [Time, Cn, Total fatalities, Total occupants, Location, Country, Source, Narrative]

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