F/ O E J Presland DFC and crew - 103 Sqn and 576 Sqn.
Ernest Presland came from East Ham Essex. At the time of his death he was engaged to be married to Eileen and the wedding was to be after his second tour was completed. He is one of a select band of very capable pilots who served with 103 Sqn and returned to Elsham Wolds for a second tour and were tragically killed. In Ernest’s case his second tour was with 576 Sqn. Others include Taffy Pugh, Jake Kennard and Ken Berry. All these and a few more were excellent captains and their loss was a serious blow.
Ernest and his crew were posted to 103 Sqn in late April early May 1943.
The crew consisted of :-
Back Row - L to R - Groundcrew, Sgt G Aitken ( Air Bomber ), Sgt C D Hornby ( Flight Engineer ), F/S L D Groome ( Navigator ) , Sgt E J Presland ( Pilot ), Sgt E E Piper, ( Rear Gunner ) Sgt G G Staplehurst ( Wireless Operator ). Front row – Groundcrew, Sgt E R Foster ( Mid Upper Gunner ).
Their first tour was as follows :-
12-May-43 - Duisburg - Lancaster - ED769 - Sgt EJ Presland
13-May-43 - Bochum - Lancaster - ED389 - Sgt EJ Presland
18-May-43 - Biarritz/Biscay - - - coast - Lancaster - ED884 - Sgt EJ Presland
23-May-43 - Dortmund - Lancaster - ED881 - Sgt EJ Presland
25-May-43 - Dusseldorf - Lancaster - ED881 - Sgt EJ Presland
27-May-43 - Essen - Lancaster - ED881 - Sgt EJ Presland
29-May-43 - Wuppertal - Lancaster - ED881 - Sgt EJ Presland
11-Jun-43 - Dusseldorf - Lancaster - ED881 - Sgt EJ Presland
12-Jun-43 - Bochum - Lancaster - ED881 - Sgt EJ Presland
14-Jun-43 - Oberhausen - Lancaster - ED881 - Sgt EJ Presland
16-Jun-43 - Cologne - Lancaster - ED881 - Sgt EJ Presland
21-Jun-43 - Krefeld - Lancaster - ED881 - Sgt EJ Presland
22-Jun-43 - Mulheim - Lancaster - ED881 - Sgt EJ Presland
24-Jun-43 - Wuppertal - Lancaster - ED884 - Sgt EJ Presland
28-Jun-43 - Cologne - Lancaster - ED888 - W/O EJ Presland
03-Jul-43 - Cologne - Lancaster - ED884 - W/O EJ Presland
08-Jul-43 - Cologne - Lancaster - ED881 - W/O EJ Presland
12-Jul-43 - Turin - Lancaster - ED881 - W/O EJ Presland
27-Jul-43 - Hamburg - Lancaster - ED888 - W/O EJ Presland
29-Jul-43 - Hamburg - Lancaster - DV221 - W/O EJ Presland
02-Aug-43 - Hamburg - Lancaster - DV221 - W/O EJ Presland
07-Aug-43 - Turin - Lancaster - DV221 - W/O EJ Presland
09-Aug-43 - Mannheim - Lancaster - DV221 - W/O EJ Presland
10-Aug-43 - Nuremberg - Lancaster - DV221 - W/O EJ Presland
12-Aug-43 - Milan - Lancaster - DV221 - W/O EJ Presland
17-Aug-43 - Peenemunde - Lancaster - DV221 - W/O EJ Presland
22-Aug-43 - Leverkusen - Lancaster - DV221 - W/O EJ Presland
23-Aug-43 - Berlin - Lancaster - DV221 - W/O EJ Presland
27-Aug-43 - Nuremberg - Lancaster - DV221 - W/O EJ Presland
On completion of his tour Ernest was awarded a DFC.
Flying Officer Presland was posted to 576 Squadron at Elsham Wolds in March 1944 from 1667 Heavy Conversion Unit at Faldingworth. On his arrival he took over the crew of A Flight Commander Squadron Leader D D Haig DFC and bar, who had been promoted to command 625 Squadron at Kelstern.
The crew consisted of :-
Sgt A W Knapp RAFVR
Flying Officer C Ashcroft RAFVR
Flying Officer M L Abramson RCAF
Sgt A J Dixon RAFVR
Sgt R E Leatham RAFVR
Sgt A G Wright DFM RAFVR
They had flown 3 tough operations, to Berlin, Leipzig and Schweinfurt, with Squadron Leader Haig . On the Leipzig operation, on the night of the 19/20th February 1944, their Lancaster had been subjected to 5 separate attacks by night fighters which were beaten off by return fire from the gunners, Sgt Leatham and Sgt Wright. 1 enemy aircraft was claimed as destroyed and 1 damaged and Sgt Wright was awarded the DFM for his part in this action.
In addition Flying Officer Ashcroft, Flying Officer Abramson, Sgt Leatham and Sgt Wright had all flown 1 operation each with other crews.
Their tour with 576 Sqn was as follows :-
10/04/1944 - Aulnoye - ME726 - F/O EJ Presland
11/04/1944 - Aachen - ME726 - F/O EJ Presland - Combat with twin engined night fighter. No damage. No hits claimed
18/04/1944 - Rouen - ME726 - F/O EJ Presland
20/04/1944 - Cologne - ME726 - F/O EJ Presland
22/04/1944 - Dusseldorf - ME726 - F/O EJ Presland
24/04/1944 - Karlsruhe - ME726 - F/O EJ Presland
26/04/1944 - Essen - ME726 - F/O EJ Presland
27/04/1944 - Friedrichshafen - LM439 - F/O EJ Presland
30/04/1944 - Maintenon - ME726 - F/O EJ Presland
12/05/1944 - Heligoland - Bight - ME726 - F/O EJ Presland
15/05/1944 - Kiel - Harbour - ME726 - F/O EJ Presland - FTR - Night fighter victim. Crashed near Assens on the island of Fyn, Denmark.
After a period of training with their new pilot they commenced operations on the night of the 10/11th April 1944 when they took part in a raid on the railway yards at Aulnoye. On their second operation on the next night they took part in an attack on Aachen during which they were attacked by a Ju 88 night fighter. The gunners returned fire scoring hits and the enemy aircraft was claimed as damaged. Flying Officer Presland and his crew were uninjured and the Lancaster was not damaged in the incident.
During the rest of the month they flew 7 more raids against German and French targets.
After a break from operations at the start of May they flew a mining operation to the Heligoland Bight on the night of the 12/13th May which was completed successfully.
Their final operation took place on the night of the 15/16th May 1944 which was another mining sortie, this time to Keil Bay. For this operation the crew was made up to 8 with the inclusion of Pilot Officer A E Slade RAF who had been posted to 576 Squadron earlier that month and was going on the operation as second pilot to gain some operational experience before flying with his own crew.
Flying Officer Presland and crew took off from Elsham Wolds in Lancaster ME726 at 2208. They did not return and were one of 3 aircraft shot down in the area of Denmark that night. Flying Officer Presland and crew were the victim of a night fighter attack and crashed at 01.35 local time on the outskirts of the village of Gamtofte near Assens on the island of Fyn, Denmark.
The tail of the Lancaster broke off on impact and the rest of the aircraft ended up in a garden adjacent to 2 farms houses. The wreckage caught fire which destroyed the 2 farmhouses. After 2 minutes one of the mines carried by the Lancaster exploded severely damaging 6 houses and a church nearby. Sadly there were no survivors from the crew and their remains were all buried at Assens ( Fyn ) New Cemetery. The local people erected a memorial to this gallant crew at the site of the crash.
Written by David Fell with thanks to Peter Lund and the Presland family for additional information and photos