F/L T Leggett RAFVR and P/O P Gore DFM RAFVR - 103 Squadron.
Left - Tom Leggett. Right - Phil Gore.
In May 2004 Philip Gore from Doncaster, along with members of the family of Flight Lieutenant Thomas G Leggett RAFVR, attended a private wreath laying ceremony at the little church cemetery at Eggewaartskapelle, 6 km south east of Veurne in Belgium.
Philip was mid upper gunner and sole survivor of Tom Leggett's crew who were shot down on the night of the 27/28th May 1944 and crashed 3 km from the village. The party then travelled on to Coxyde Military Cemetery to pay their respects to the 7th member of this crew, Flying Officer Vic Jones RAFVR who rests there. Tom Leggett's crew were first posted to 460 Sqn early in the year and had flown 5 operations with this unit including 3 in the famous Lancaster, G - George, which is now on permanent display in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. The crew were transferred to 103 Sqn on 15th March.
On the 24th April, during an operation to Karlsruhe, this crew were fortunate to survive when, whilst over they target, their aircraft was hit by incendiary bombs dropped from an aircraft above. This seriously damaged their Lancaster (ND638) and rendered it temporarily uncontrollable. Tom Leggett ordered the crew to prepare to bale out. Fortunately, after a considerable loss of height, Tom, with the help of the Engineer, Sergeant Bill Edwards, was able to regain control, albeit with great difficulty. The order to prepare to bale out was rescinded but, in the confusion of the incident, the mid upper gunner, Flying Officer J G Apostilides, had already left the aircraft. On return to Elsham the Lancaster was found to be so badly damaged it was written off as beyond economical repair. The fact that the aircraft got back to Elsham Wolds at all is a testament to the flying skills and determination of Tom Leggett and the resilience of his crew. F/O Apostilides became a prisoner of war at Stalag 3 Sagan.
Philip Gore was a commissioned second tour Air Gunner at Elsham at the time and had been flying operations with 103 Sq as a "Spare Bod". He was offered and accepted the role of permanent replacement to Flying Officer Apostilides and flew as mid upper gunner in Tom Leggett's crew until they were sadly lost.
On the night of the 27/28th May 44 the crew took part in a raid on Aachen. They were badly shot about by a night fighter and severely damaged. They returned across Belgium but were engaged by light flak and received further damage which was now clearly terminal. With the Lancaster now well ablaze Tom Leggett gave the order to bale out.
Philip Gore left his turret and checked the rear gunner, Vic Jones, who had given a damage report to the pilot from his turret moments before. Unable to get a reply from the rear turret he rightly assumed that Vic Jones had already left the aircraft. Philip had considerable difficulty opening the side door which was only dislodged by one last desperate heave as the aircraft started to bank to port. The aircraft went inverted but he managed to scramble out of the side door with some difficulty and landed safely by parachute. The aircraft crashed soon after and exploded in a ball of fire near Eggewaartskapelle.
Vic Jones did leave the aircraft but was later found dead on the ground some distance from the crash with his parachute unopened. Interestingly, prior to volunteering for air crew, Vic Jones had been a police constable in the London Metropolitan Force which was of course a reserved occupation.
Philip was helped to evade by local people but was later captured in civilian clothes and sent to a civilian prison where he was interrogated by the Gestapo for some weeks. He was not aware of the fate of his crew mates. As Montgomery advanced across France and into Belgium he, along with numerous other inmates, was evacuated to a POW camp at Barth in Germany where he was subsequently liberated by the Russians. Philip returned to the UK in May 1945.
Written by David Fell