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[Home] [Profiles 103 Sqn A to M] [Joe Moss 103 Sqn]

F/L Joseph B Moss RAFVR - 79 and 103 Squadrons - RAF Elsham Wolds - 1944 - Pilot

 Failed to Return - 28/29th July 1944 - Avro Lancaster III - PB147 - Op Stuttgart.

103 Squadron - Joe Moss

Flight Lieutenant Joseph Barker Moss was born in Ashton-under-Lyne on 9th June 1912. He attended Ashton Technical School and Manchester College of Technology going on into business as a Motor Engineer with his Father at Fallowfield Garage, MG and Riley Motor dealers, Wilmslow Road, Manchester.

Joe was a popular Rugby player with Heaton Moor Rugby Club and a keen competitive Motor Cycle Rider riding a 350cc Norton and competing in the Ulster Grand Prix, winning the team prize for the Chester Motor Racing club, and Isle of Man Tournament Trophy races, also the sand races at Southport and Wirral. He was a member of the British Motorcycle Racing Club racing at Castle Donnington with the Derby and District Motor Cycle Team and other race meetings, winning and breaking speed records and being awarded many Trophies as the Trophy Cabinet in the Lounge room would attest.


At the outbreak of the War Joe commenced service as Aircraft hand/Flight Mechanic on 6th September 1939 and reported to 3 depot Padgate nr Warrington. He was posted to 79 (Madras Presidency) Squadron Fighter Command at Biggin Hill on 26th April 1940, equipped with the Hawker Hurricane. Shortly the squadron was posted to Merville northern France as part of the 63 Wing Air Component Hurricanes on 10th May to protect the BEF. On this day Neville Chamberlain resigned and Winston Churchill became Prime Minister.

During the 10 days in Northern France 79 Squadron claimed 23 confirmed, 3 probables and lost  10 Hurricanes and 2 pilots killed with 1 POW and 2 wounded. Ground personnel of the evacuating squadrons were more or less left to make their own way back to England. Typical of the experiences were those related by LAC Bill Bowman of 617 squadron.

“Maintenance flight had packed all their personnel tool kits and as many other spares as we could on a trailer and this was hitched to a lorry. We proceeded to Le Havre but no ship was available so we intended to go the Rouen, but we heard the Germans were travelling there as well, so we set off for Cherbourg and eventually arrived on the 21st May at night and on the 22nd boarded a tramp steamer. We arrived at Southampton and were ordered down to the docks to unload the ship as the Dockers refused to work overtime. We didn’t feel too good about this and we were proposing to throw the aforementioned Dockers into the Harbour.”

The Allied troops commenced evacuation from Dunkirk on 26th May.

The squadron as part of 11 Group returned to Biggin Hill on 21st May, then postings to 12 Group at Digby, Lincolnshire, back to Biggin Hill, then Hawkinge, Kent, to 9 Group at Sealand, Flintshire, 13 Group at Acklington Northumberland, then Biggin Hill again. He was recommended for Pilot Training on 27th December 1940, promoted to Leading Aircrafthand and passed his Medical for Pilot Training in February 1941. Thereafter 79 squadron was posted to 10 Group at Pembrey, Carmarthenshire and three months later in June 1941 Fairwood Common, Swansea for well earned rests for the air crew and ground staff. The following year on 4th March 1942 the Squadron was posted to Bombay however Joes RAF career meant he was destined for North America.

He became an Undertraining Pilot Corporal at the end of 1941 and was posted in January 1942 to 7 Initial Training Wing at Newquay where the cadets learned Navigation, Meteorology, Aero Engines, and Principles of Flight. On passing the ground exams the Cadets were sent to grading school for 12 hours of flying training on Tiger Moths. If Cadets showed promise they were sent on a pilots course.

 Cadets waiting to go overseas were sent to Heaton Park near Manchester, where for the first time they were told of the British Flying Schools in North America. Within a few days they were issued with overseas kit and judging by what they were given it would be obvious they would be on their way to America; of course many trained in Canada.


On 2nd July 1942 Joe arrived in Canada having run the gauntlet of the U Boat packs operating in the North Atlantic. It is little realised the dangers of being at sea at this time, during March 1942 for example 500,000 tons of shipping was lost, with a total figure for the year of 1,664 ships totalling 8.2 million tons. The price of keeping the Atlantic lifeline open was the 50,000 allied and neutral Merchant seamen who lost their lives. Nearly the equivalent number to those who lost their lives serving with Bomber Command.

RAF personnel were temporarily stationed at RCAF base at Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada that acted as a holding camp for aircrew passing in both directions. It was at Moncton where you found out your posting in America. In this case Joe on 9th August 1942 was posted to Terrell, Texas, a four-day train journey for Flight Training with the 11th Course at No.1 British Flying Training School.

Flight training was in the Boeing Stearman primary trainer, the Vultee BT13s for basic training (known by the RAF cadets as the Vibrator) and the advanced Harvard AT6A aircraft. He was awarded his Pilots Flying badge on 20th February 1943.

Not all passed, the failure rate was about 40%, and those who washed out became navigators, bomb aimers or air gunners. Most of the flying instructors were crop dusters, barnstormers and club instructors. The climax of the training was the “Long Cross Country.” A typical flight (as reported by Alan Bramsdon) was some 2000 miles with two cadets, one flying and the other navigating, and changing roles after each landing, which may have been from Terrell to Midland, then El Paso on the Mexican border, Alberqueque, Amarillo, Ponca City and back home to Terrell.

Returning to Moncton via New York the pride of the French Passenger ships the 83,000-ton Normandie was lying on its port side at Berth 87. 

The Americans had impounded the Normandie to convert to a troop carrier to be known as the USS Lafeyette. Unfortunately a fire started, thought to be caused by welding equipment. The volume of water poured onto the vessel created a dangerous list to the extent that on the rising tide it capsized. The vessel was not righted and on an even keel until 27th October 1943.

Returning on the Queen Elizabeth and once again running the gauntlet of the Atlantic U-Boat Wolf packs - 97 ships were sunk in March 1943 - Joe was posted to the RAF regiment at Whitely Bay Newcastle on 14th April 1943 with 31 Personnel Depot. He was promoted to Sergeant Pilot, discharged and granted a Commission as Pilot Officer RAFVR on 30th October 1943. On 4th January posted to No 83 Heavy Conversion Unit at Peplow, Shropshire, probably flying Vickers Wellington Bombers. Then on to 11 Group Heavy Conversion Unit based at Lindholme.  He was promoted to Flying Officer on 20th April 1944.


After 18 months training, Joe and his crew were finally posted on 2nd June 1944 to No 103 Squadron Elsham Wolds, Lincolnshire.

Joe flew his first operation on 16th/17th June as second pilot in the crew of Canadian Pilot Officer AA Moore RCAF to the Ruhr to bomb the synthetic oil plant at Sterkrade. This target attracted 321 aircraft of Bomber Command with 31 being shot down by mainly night fighters, a loss rate of nearly 10%. The bombing carried out through thick cloud was scattered and very little damage was done to the target.  All the returning crews spoke of PFF markers sinking into the clouds and only being visible as a coloured glow.

On the 13th June the long-expected V-1 attacks on London and other southern Cities commenced with ten of the pilotless aircraft launched from the Pas de Calais area. On the 16th seventy-four   V-1s hit London. In June alone 2000 of the pilotless warheads were aimed at London. Joe’s first operation with his crew was on the 22nd June to bomb the V-3 weapons site at Mimoyecques. The target was hit by 1000’s of bombs dropped by both the RAF and also the USAAF.  The British Official Photograph describes the target as being pock marked with hundreds of bomb craters covering the ground like fallen apple blossom!

Thousands of slave labourers had toiled around the clock digging tunnels at Mimoyecques to contain gun barrels 130 metres long with a calibre of 1500 mm able to fire a rocket assisted V-3 projectile capable of reaching London one every 6 seconds. These emplacements were totally destroyed as the reconnaissance photographs depict.

Raids continued at one or two daily intervals on other V Weapon sites to Saintes, Flers, Chateau Benarpre, Domleger, Oisemont. On 1st July he was promoted to the rank of Flight Lieutenant. Further raids followed to Domleger and Orleans. During the D-Day landings Bomber Command flew many sorties to support the troops on the ground in operation Overlord and was a particularly busy time for the two Elsham Wold Squadrons.



The BBC interviewed Joe after the raid on 7th July over Caen for a national broadcast of the operation before the 7.00 o’clock news.  This was a daily update of the progress of the war. A transcript follows:

Newsreader “to complete the picture of the air support being given to our men on the ground by our Heavy Bombers, here is the voice of a Lancaster pilot who took part in the raid, Flying Officer JB Moss.”

“My Lancaster Bomber “I for Item” was in the 2nd wave and we took off at 1945 hours climbing to 7,000 feet above base. My Navigator (F/O MRF Oliver RCAF) a Canadian, who never lets anything or anyone worry him, gave me the course and air speed. As we flew along in the evening sunshine over England, we gradually merged into the Bomber stream. Ahead, above and either side of us were Lancasters and Halifaxs from other stations, all heading for their target. As we approached the English coast we decided to loose height to make certain of bombing under cloud.

The Allied lines were only 2,000 yards from the target and we had to be sure of bombing accurately. We came down to below 5,000 feet, about 15 miles from the French coast we carried out our usual bombing check. Visibility was perfect and my Bomb Aimer (Sgt SJ Honour RAFVR) could map read his way to the target; and there was no mistake as to what was the target. Bombing had already started, and from 10 miles away we could already see bomb bursts appearing like mushrooms on the aiming point, where the enemy was known to be concentrated.

To make doubly sure that no bombs were dropped in our lines, Pathfinders were dropping target indicators with clock like regularity. One of them was acting as a master of ceremonies, (Wing Commander S P Daniels of 35 Squadron) and was broadcasting a running commentary all the time, telling us which indicator was the most accurate. The commentary became all the more necessary as the attack developed, because the target area was rapidly being covered by a huge cloud of dirty smoke and although it was fortunately blowing away towards the east, this smoke was obscuring much of the ground. Light flak was flying towards us horizontally. This always looks more formidable than being fired at from directly below, because then you can’t see it so well.

Our Bomb Aimer gave the necessary small corrections, and as we had already opened the bomb doors we steadied up for the release. Almost immediately afterwards we felt our aircraft shudder as the 1,000 pounders went away. “ Bombs gone” called the Bomb Aimer, and as soon as we had checked that all the bombs had gone, we closed the bomb doors and turned sharply to starboard, because the aircraft ahead was getting rather a large share of flak and we expected to get it next. The mid upper and rear gunners both said they could see vivid explosions taking place on the ground. As we flew away from the target the smoke was now up to about 3,000 feet and still more bombers were coming in.”  - sudden end of recording

Over this target the Lancaster of Pilot Officer AA Moore RCAF who took Joe on his first raid, was involved in a mid air collision which tore away the rear turret. The gunner Flight Sergeant FG Roberts unfortunately was killed, but Pilot Officer Moore was able to bring the plane safely back to Tangmere for an emergency landing.

A total of 457 aircraft took part in the ground support raid dropping 2,300 tonnes of bombs.

On 12th July just five days later Lancaster ND 993 “I-Item” which Joe was flying in the raid in support of ground troops described above, was fired on by a Lancaster of 166 Squadron on the operation to Revigny. I-Item crashed 30 kms SSE of Bar-Le-Duc and all of the crew are buried at Montiers-sur-Sanlx Communal Cemetery.


Joe flew a total of eighteen operations, one more than his crew, and further raids followed to Revigny, Revigny again the following night, Sanneville, Wizernes, Kiel, Stuttgart, Bois des Jardins, and finally Stuttgart.

The crew of Lancaster PB 147 PM-C on their last raid on the 28th/29th July 1944 comprised:

Flight Lieutenant Joseph Barker Moss Pilot 32 years from Manchester, Lancashire, England

Sergeant Ronald Hardy Flight Engineer 22 years from Swansea, Wales

Flight Sergeant Stanley Honour Air-Bomber 23 years from Corfe Castle, Dorset, England

Flying Officer Michael Oliver RCAF Navigator 26 years from North Vancouver, Canada

Sergeant Neville Bradshaw Wireless Operator 21 years from Normanton, Derbyshire, England

Sergeant Clement Osborne Air-Gunner 20years from Murrow, Cambridgeshire, England

Sergeant Arthur Crooke Air-Gunner 20 years from Belfast, Northern Ireland


Returning from Stuttgart, Elsham Wolds crews reported 10 combats with 1 fighter claimed as destroyed, 2 probables and 3 damaged. Four 103 squadron aircraft failed to return and it was by far and away the worst night for the two squadrons based at Elsham Wolds, as 576 squadron also lost four aircraft. However Bomber Command claimed more victories that night over enemy aircraft than on any other occasion. Our aircraft claimed 27 enemy aircraft destroyed, 6 probably destroyed and 12 damaged.

Twenty kilometres west of Stuttgart the Luftwaffe had set up an Operations Centre equipped with Jagdschlos radar. This was one of only three of the new generation radar, which had a range of 120 kilometres and was technically the most advanced control device that there was at the time.

Bomber Command had attacked Stuttgart for two previous nights with light losses. However Hauptmann Walter Knickmeier, the operations officer of NJG1, reports that in anticipation of further raids, “the first thing I did was to find out the location of the various fighter units I could call upon to defend Stuttgart and the likely direction of approach of the Bombers. Then I established that there were radio beacons within 120 kms of Stuttgart, where I could assemble my fighters. It was of course important that I found beacons within range of the Jagdschlos.”

“It was quite late in the night when the bomber stream came in. I remember we had a perfect picture of it approaching. I seem to remember the stream coming in over France and then dividing into three. However I was able to control the fighters, which were from NJG1 and therefore very experienced, into the stream and kill followed kill. I think most of the victories were on the approach to the target.”

The operational record book describes this as a good attack on a difficult target.  The three raids that week claim to have killed 900 citizens and left 100,000 homeless. Moderate flak was encountered and fighters were very active on route to the target. Lancaster PB 147 C exploded in mid air at 01.15 local time on the outward journey and crashed approximately 300 metres NW of Xaronval, which is a five kilometres due west of Charmes, Vosges, France. The bodies of Osbourne, Hardey and Crooke were identified and their graves marked accordingly. The remainder of the crew is buried together next to their companions with their own individual Headstones.

Nearly two months later on the 16th September the 79th Infantry division of the US Army liberated and stayed over night at Xaronval on its sweep through Europe.


F/L Joseph Barker Moss RAFVR - Pilot – 103 Sqn - Son of Ernest and Annie Moss, of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester – Charmes Military Cemetery Essegney, France

Sgt Ronald Redfern Hardey RAFVR - Flight Engineer – 22 – 103 Sqn - Son of Francis Albert and Eva Lavinia Hardey, of Town Hill, Swansea – Charmes Military Cemetery Essegney, France

F/S Stanley James Honour RAFVR - Air-Bomber – 23 – 103 Sqn - Son of Percy Eli and Amy Elizabeth Honour, of Corfe Castle, Dorsetshire - Charmes Military Cemetery Essegney, France

F/O Michael Richard Frewin Oliver RCAF ( pictured below )– Navigator - 26 – 103 Sqn - Son of Sydney Milton Oliver and Edith Marion Oliver of Langford, British Columbia, Canada - Charmes Military Cemetery Essegney, France

Sgt Neville Bradshaw RAFVR - Wireless Operator - 21 - Son of Albert and Lizzie Bradshaw of Bulwell, Nottingham - Charmes Military Cemetery Essegney, France

Sgt Clement Basil Osborne RAFVR – Air Gunner – 19 – 103 Sqn - Son of Mrs. H. J. Pointer of Murrow, Cambridgeshire - Charmes Military Cemetery Essegney, France

Sgt Arthur Woodrow Crooke RAFVR – Air Gunner - 20 – 103 Sqn - Son of Thomas J. Crooke and Edith A. Crooke, of Belfast, Northern Ireland - Charmes Military Cemetery Essegney, France

103 Squadron Oliver Moss

F/O Michael Richard Frewin Oliver RCAF



The British Military Cemetery is at Essegney five minute drive east from Charmes, on the road to Rambervillers or as the Commonwealth Graves Commission would direct you Damas-aux-Bois. The cemetery is well kept and contains the graves of mainly WW1 soldiers with many Indian and Chinese soldiers from the sub-continent and the Far East along with the crew of 77 squadron Whitely Bomber which crashed in the area in November 1939 being also buried here.

The Whitley N1364 KN- had taken off on 10th November 1939 from Villeneuve-les-Vertus on Operation Nickel with Frankfurt as the target. The sortie was completed but whilst trying to re- locate Villeneuve the Bomber crashed at Bouxurelles (Vosges) 6 kms SW of Charmes. The crew comprised (Chorley Vol. 1 page 22): -

Squadron Leader JAB Begg

Sergeant R Walsh

Sergeant C Thomas

Sergeant H Taylor

Sergeant H Laybourne


From letters, we know that one of Joes mates was F/O Kevin Humphris RAAF from Melbourne, Pilot of Lancaster NE 144 of 460 Squadron AR -F2 flying from Binbrook and shot down in the Baltic on a raid to Stettin.

Kevin was able to bail out and spent the rest of the war a prisoner at Stalag Luft Barth Vogelsang.

Other survivors were Sgt S Wild, Sgt GD Walsh, and F/O JB. MacNeill RCAF.

F/O RK Straford DFM is buried at Anhot Cemetery Denmark his body having been washed ashore.

Sgt D Fallon and Sgt PB Aviet both air gunners are buried at Falkenburg Forest Cemetery Sweden.

F/O K Humphris and his crew had flown 17 missions, 10 of which were Special Duties Flights, which were shared with 460 Squadron providing the target markings for 1 Group.

Another of Joe’s & Kevin’s mates was Flight Sergeant Ron L. Jack RCAF, crewmember of Lancaster

PB 131of 115 Squadron based at Witchford. KO-W was shot down on the same raid to Stettin. The crew was: -

F/O NG Berkeley Pilot Montreal Canada.

Sgt JK Sim

Sgt JFM Webber


Sgt DCE Aspinall

Sgt RR Wood

Sgt HAN Yule

WR Chorley reports in “Bomber Command Losses” the average age of the crew was 20 years and Sgt DCE Aspinall Air Gunner was 17 years of age and joined at the ripe old age 15! These brave boys carried out 10 sorties. All are buried at Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery Poland.

103 Squadron carried out the most bombing raids of 1 Group. Also suffered the most losses of 1 Group and the highest percentage losses. 103 Squadron were the only Squadron to operate Halifaxes and thus to operate all four types of aircraft flown by 1 Group.

I thank and acknowledge particularly the assistance of David Fell Ulceby England Bomber Command Historian and the following: -

Extracts from The Other Battle (Luftwaffe Night Aces) by Peter Hinchcliffe

The story of No 1 BFTS Alan Bramson UK Chairman No1 BFTS Association

Henry Madgwick The present Mayor of Terrell Texas and previously No 1 BFTS

WR Chorley Bomber Command Losses

Whilst WR Chorley refers to MRF Harvey as the Navigator, in fact the same person is correctly named as MRF Oliver of Vancouver. Also K. Humphris is referred to as Humpries. The correct spelling of Kevin’s surname is as noted in the text.

Michael Batty 2000


Additional Information

28-Jul-44 - Stuttgart

This attack is described in the Stuttgart 28/29th July 1944 Article in the relevant section here.


Lancaster - PB147

This machine was lost on its 20th operation. See below :-

14-Jun-44 - Le Havre - Lancaster - PB147 – P/O FG Durrant RCAF

16-Jun-44 - Sterkrade - Lancaster - PB147 – P/O FG Durrant RCAF

22-Jun-44 - Mimoyecques - Lancaster - PB147 – P/O JA Harrison

23-Jun-44 - Saintes - Lancaster - PB147 – F/S HJ Shean

25-Jun-44 - Flers - Lancaster - PB147 – P/O JA Harrison

28-Jun-44 - Chateau Benapres - Lancaster -  PB147 – F/O JB Moss

29-Jun-44 - Domleger - Lancaster - PB147 – F/O JB Moss

30-Jun-44 - Oisemont Neuville au Bois - Lancaster - PB147 – F/O JB Moss

02-Jul-44 - Domleger - Lancaster -  PB147 – F/O JB Moss

04-Jul-44 - Orleans-les-Aubrais - Lancaster - PB147 – P/O FG Durrant RCAF

04-Jul-44 - Orleans-les-Aubrais - Lancaster - PB147 – P/O BH Hayes

07-Jul-44 - Caen - Lancaster - PB147 – F/O JB Moss

12-Jul-44 - Revigny - Lancaster - PB147 – P/O BH Hayes - Diverted due to rain and low cloud at base

17-Jul-44 - Sanneville - Lancaster - PB147 – P/O BH Hayes

18-Jul-44 - Scholven Buer - Lancaster - PB147 – P/O AA Moore RCAF

20-Jul-44 - Wizernes - Lancaster - PB147 – P/O BH Hayes

23-Jul-44 - Kiel - Lancaster - PB147 – F/O R Armstrong

24-Jul-44 - Stuttgart - Lancaster - PB147 – F/O JG Avon RCAF

25-Jul-44 - Bois-des-Jardine - Lancaster - PB147 - F/O JB Moss

28-Jul-44 - Stuttgart - Lancaster - PB147 – F/O JB Moss – FTR - Night fighter victim. Exploded in mid air and fell near Charmes, France.

Item compiled by David Fell. Photos from Michael Batty


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