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[Home] [Profiles 103 Sqn A to M] [John P D Bartleet and crew 103 Squadron]

F/O John P D Bartleet RAFVR and crew – 103 Squadron – RAF Elsham Wolds – 1944

Failed to Return – 14th August 1944 – Avro Lancaster III – ND613 – Op Fontaine-le-Pin.

103 Squadron Bartleet

John Bartleet ( pictured above ) and his crew were posted to 103 squadron at RAF Elsham Wolds from Heavy Conversion Unit 11 base on the 7th June 1944. They were lost on their 19th operation. See below :-

23-Jun-44 – Saintes - Lancaster – ND632 - F/O JPD Bartleet

28-Jun-44 - Chateau Benapres - Lancaster – LM132 - F/O JPD Bartleet

29-Jun-44 – Domleger - Lancaster – PA985 - F/O JPD Bartleet

30-Jun-44 - Oisemont Neuville au Bois - Lancaster – PA985 - F/O JPD Bartleet

02-Jul-44 - Domleger Lancaster – PA985 - F/O JPD Bartleet

04-Jul-44 – Orleans-les-Aubrais - Lancaster – NE136 - F/O JPD Bartleet

07-Jul-44 – Caen - Lancaster – PA985 - F/O JPD Bartleet

12-Jul-44 – Revigny - Lancaster – ND632 - F/O JPD Bartleet - Diverted due to rain and low cloud at base

17-Jul-44 – Sanneville - Lancaster – ND632 - F/O JPD Bartleet

20-Jul-44 – Wizernes - Lancaster - LM243 - F/O JPD Bartleet

23-Jul-44 – Kiel - Lancaster - LM243 - F/O JPD Bartleet

24-Jul-44 – Stuttgart - Lancaster - LM243 - F/O JPD Bartleet

03-Aug-44 – Trossy-St-Maximin - Lancaster – LM243 - F/O JPD Bartleet

05-Aug-44 – Blaye - Lancaster - LM243 - F/O JPD Bartleet - Base closed due to low cloud. Diverted to Ossington.

07-Aug-44 – Fontenay-le-Marmion - Lancaster – LM243 - F/O JPD Bartleet

10-Aug-44 – Dugny - Lancaster - LM243 - F/O JPD Bartleet

11-Aug-44 – Douai - Lancaster - LM243 - F/O JPD Bartleet

12-Aug-44 – Bordeaux - Lancaster – LM243 - F/O JPD Bartleet - Hit by flak. No crew injuries to crew

14-Aug-44 – Fontaine-le-Pin - Lancaster - ND613 - F/O JPD Bartleet – FTR - Flak victim. Crashed in France.

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103 Squadron Bartleet Crew

F/L John Peter Dennis Bartleet RAFVR – Pilot - 21 – 103 Sqn - Son of John Frederick Palmer Bartleet, and of Nancy Bartleet of Camberley, Surrey - Banneville La Campagne War Cemetery, France

Sgt Clarence Barnes RAFVR – Flight Engineer - 19 – 103 Sqn - Son of William and Elsie Barnes of Chilwell, Nottinghamshire - Banneville La Campagne War Cemetery, France

F/S D MacTaggart RAFVR – Air Bomber - 103 Sqn – POW – Camp 9C – POW No 52301

Sgt D S Armstrong RAFVR – Navigator - 103 Sqn - Banneville La Campagne War Cemetery, France

Sgt Frank Lancelot James RAFVR – Wireless Operator - 26 – 103 Sqn - Son of Edwin Ernest and Emily Beatrice James; husband of Betty Patricia James of Keyham, Devonport - Banneville La Campagne War Cemetery, France

Sgt Kenneth Chiles RAFVR – Air Gunner - 103 Sqn - Banneville La Campagne War Cemetery, France

Sgt William Kelvin Jones RAFVR – Air Gunner - 20 – 103 Sqn - Son of Mr. and Mrs. William Jones, of Pengam, Monmouthshire - Banneville La Campagne War Cemetery, France

See Dugald MacTaggart’s account below

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14-Aug-44 - Fontaine-le-Pin

103 Squadron detailed 15 aircraft for this attack on on concentration of enemy troops and armour. The weather was good for take off and improved along route but unfortunately the target area was covered in smoke and haze which made map reading very difficult and forced crews to a very low level. However some target indicators were seen and bombing was very concentrated around these. Reports indicate the attack was quite successful. Bombing was from between 2000 ft and 3500 ft. Defence consisted of light flak in the target area and several crews were able to machine gun German troops on the ground on the run out. F/L Bartleet is missing from this operation but all other crews returned to base safely.

For this attack on 7 German troop positions facing the 3rd Canadian Division, which was advancing on Falaise Bomber Command detailed a total of 805 aircraft - 411 Lancasters, 352 Halifaxes, 42 Mosquitos A careful plan was prepared with Oboe and visual marking, and with a Master Bomber and a deputy at each of the 7 targets. Most of the bombing was accurate and effective but, about half-way through the raids, some aircraft started to bomb a large quarry in which parts of the 12th Canadian Field Regiment were positioned. This mistake may have been caused by the yellow identification flares which were ignited by the Canadians. It was unfortunate that the target indicators being used by the Pathfinders were also yellow. Bomber Command crews claimed that the Canadians used the yellow flares before any bombs fell in the quarry; the history of the Canadian units says the bombs fell first. The Master Bombers tried hard to stop further crews bombing in the wrong area but approximately 70 aircraft bombed the quarry and other nearby Allied positions over a 70-minute period. The Canadians took shelter in their slit trenches and most emerged unscathed though shaken, but 13 men were killed and 53 were injured and a large number of vehicles and guns were hit. This was believed to have been the first occasion on which Bomber Command aircraft had hit friendly troops during the Battle of Normandy. The Canadian artillery regiment was machine-gunned by RAF Spitfires and USAAF Mustangs the following day!

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Lancaster – ND613

This machine was lost on its 15th operation.

20-Jul-44 - Wizernes Lancaster - ND613 - F/O DA Ryserse RCAF

23-Jul-44 – Kiel Lancaster - ND613 - F/O DA Ryserse RCAF

25-Jul-44 – Stuttgart - Lancaster - ND613 - F/O DA Ryserse RCAF

28-Jul-44 – Stuttgart - Lancaster - ND613 - F/O DA Ryserse RCAF

30-Jul-44 – Foret-de-Nieppe - Lancaster - ND613 - F/O MJ MacDonald RCAF

31-Jul-44 - Le Havre - Lancaster - ND613 - F/O M Garton

01-Aug-44 - Belle-Croix-Les-Bruyeres - Lancaster - ND613 - F/O DA Ryserse RCAF

03-Aug-44 – Trossy-St-Maximin - Lancaster - ND613 - F/O DA Ryserse RCAF

03-Aug-44 – Trossy-St-Maximin - Lancaster - ND613 - F/O M Garton

04-Aug-44 – Pauillac - Lancaster - ND613 - F/O DA - Ryserse RCAF

05-Aug-44 – Blaye - Lancaster - ND613 - F/O DA Ryserse RCAF - Base closed due to low cloud. Diverted to Ossington.

07-Aug-44 – Fontenay-le-Marmion - Lancaster - ND613 -  F/O DA Ryserse RCAF

10-Aug-44 – Dugny - Lancaster - ND613 - P/O RG Farris RCAF

11-Aug-44 – Douai - Lancaster - ND613 - P/O RG Farris RCAF

14-Aug-44 – Fontaine-le-Pin - Lancaster - ND613 - F/O JPD Bartleet – FTR - Flak victim. Crashed in France.

Item compiled by David Fell with photos from the MacTaggart family.

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Dugald MacTaggart

103 Squadron MacTaggart

F/S MacTaggart D 1564919 RAFVR

On completion of training as a Bomb Aimer at No 8 B & G School Lethbridge and No 2 AOS Edmonton, Canada, I returned to the UK in September 1943. Following a short toughening up course with the RAF Regiment at Whitley Bay, I was posted to No 6 (0) AFU based at Stayerton and Moreton Valance. Training at these units was carried out on Ansons. Map reading and bombing practice over the densely populated areas of England was quite different to that experienced over the prairies of Canada.

Early January 1943, heralded a posting to No 83 OTU at Peplow and an introduction to the famous 'Wimpy'. It was here that the crew in which I served as Bomb Aimer was formed and comprised:

  • F/O Bartleet (Peter) - Pilot
  • Sgt Armstrong (Derek) - Navigator. University Air Squadron trained
  • Sgt James (Frank) - Wireless Operator
  • Sgt Chiles (Kenneth) - Mid Upper Gunner
  • Sgt Jones (Bill) - Rear Gunner
  • Sgt Barnes (Larry) - Flight Engineer. Joined the crew later at Heavy Conversion Unit.

Peter was an experienced pilot and a member of the Goldfish Club having ditched in the Irish Sea on a training exercise when serving as an Instructor at AFU. During training at OTU, Link trainer and fighter affiliation exercises were carried out along with bombing, gunnery and cross country flights. A good team spirit soon developed both in the air as well as socially, With fuel in short supply for the stove in our Nissen hut we spent many convivial evenings in the warmth of the local hostelry. Lectures from an Intelligence Officer on evasion, escape and interrogation techniques formed important and interesting features of our training. The latter being of particular value at a later date.

    Our first venture into occupied Europe took place on the night of 24 March 1944 on Wellington BK 335 to 7.30 pm from Peplow OTU when we went on a special exercise to Paris. No leaflets or bombs were carried and this mission which served as a diversion for a main force attack on a German city was uneventful as far as our crew was concerned. We returned to base six hours later.

    The next step in training took us to No 1656 Conversion Unit at Lindholme, in addition to circuits and landings on Halifaxes, cross country exercises using H2S as a navigational aid were carried out. A total of five hours was spent on Link training, Parachute drills (8) and crash landing exercises (16) also formed part of the course. On 3 June 1944 (my 24th birthday) we made our first flight in a Lancaster (W4264) at LFS Hemswell.

    A few days later, spent mainly on circuits and landings, we logged a total of six hours, 10 mins a day and three hours 40 mins night flying before posting to 1 Group, Bomber Command, No 103 Squadron at Elsham Wolds.

    Our first operational flight was to Saintes on 23 June 1944 to 10.10 pm, duration seven hours 55 Mins. Thereafter, we carried out 19 operations including 'V1' Sites, Kiel, Stuttgart, Revigny, Caen and the Battle Area in Normandy. Whilst exciting 'moments' were experienced on some of these trips we had so far come through them unscathed. Other crews were less fortunate and empty beds and new faces in the Mess and Crew Rooms were a feature of life on the Squadron. Our 19th operation was to Bordeaux ‘U’ Boat Pens on 12 August 1944 (seven hours 20 mins) where we were hit by flak near the target. A starboard engine was badly damaged but we bombed along with the others. Being a daylight raid, the prospect of being left behind the main stream was unnerving. However, an American fighter seeing our plight escorted us to Normandy where a Spitfire took over. This feature amply demonstrated Allied co-operation and superiority in the air.

    As a consequence of our aircraft LM 243 'T' being out of service on which we had carried out nine operations, we were allocated ND 613 'R' for the raid to Fontaine-Le-Pins in the Battle Area, on 14 August 1944. As the target was German troops facing a Canadian division advancing to Falaise the importance of map reading and bombing accuracy was stressed at briefing. On nearing the Normandy coast it could be seen that a fierce bombardment was taking place. With the Battle Area covered by haze and smoke we dropped height drastically by shoving the nose down on the. run up to the target. On releasing the bombs, Peter our skipper called out "Good Show we went in at 2100 ft". However, within seconds all hell seemed to be let loose, flak was coming up in all directions and Kenneth our MU gunner announced that the starboard wing and engines were on fire. It was immediately evident that the situation was hopeless and the skipper gave the order to "bale out".

    I was still in the bombing compartment and on baling out (after some difficulty with the hatch blowing back). I just recall pulling the ripcord handle and then landing close to the exploding aircraft. Not knowing whether I was in allied or enemy territory, I ran to a nearby hedge, where the owner of the land, Monsieur Marischael of Logis Du Bas Hamel, and his nephew on hearing me whistle to them, attempted to cover me up. However, the Jerries were searching for me and on being spotted it was a case of "Hands Hoche". Sadly, the rest of the crew did not survive, They are buried at Bannerville La Campagne war cemetery, Calvados, France.

    "For you the war is over" one of my captors greeted me, little did I realise that the coming months would be adventurous. (My captors being near the front line and encircled in the Falaise gap by the British and Canadians to the north and the Americans approaching from the south possibly thought that they themselves could be captured showed no emnity towards me.) Having burns on my left leg and right hand, I was escorted to a First Aid post at a chateau owned by Madame Focault where I received treatment from a Wehrmacht MO.

    My first night in captivity was spent in a bedroom of the chateau. Initially, I felt quite calm but reaction set in and I stood in front of a wardrobe finding difficulty in convincing myself that it was not all a bad dream. What do I do now? Nothing, was the answer, except attempt to eat the black bread and sausage (it tasted awful!) given to me by my captors and watch the Spitfires with guns blazing flying overhead. War is strange - in the next room, Jerries could be heard singing and playing accordions and violins. From time to time a Jerry would visit me and whilst one would tell me they had a secret weapon (V2) which would bring them victory another would delve into his pockets to show a leaflet saying to surrender to Allied troops.

    The following morning, the Jerries were preparing to retreat and after some days travelling in different directions and never far from the sound of gunfire on a truck along with their wounded, I was eventually taken to a large makeshift hospital in Bernay. I met up here with five Allied servicemen including Squadron Leader, Tommy Brannigan an RCAF Spitfire pilot who crash landed and suffered injury to an arm. The stench of mutilated bodies pervaded the air and with a shortage of medical supplies and anaesthetics, screams could be heard from the Jerry wounded. Those with leg wounds could be seen hobbling with broken chairs serving as crutches. We were not being guarded closely and Brannigan and I explored the roof space of the building with a view to hiding and possible escape.

    However, we decided to stay with our fellow POW's hoping that we would soon be overrun by the Allies. That was not to be! Within a couple of days the Jerries had broken from the Falaise gap and about a dozen of us including recently captured Canadian soldiers were on the move. Not long after leaving Bernay the convoy of armoured vehicles and trucks which we joined was strafed relentlessly by RAF rocket firing Typhoons. It was a terrifying experience lying in ditches as rockets whistled through the air. In the aftermath wreckage was strewn for miles and cattle lay dead at the roadside.

    After breaking away from the convoy we spent the night along with our guards sheltering in a small barn on the banks of the River Seine which we had crossed on a barge. Thereafter, we went on to Mons and then to St Catherine’s Hospital in Brussels. We were closely guarded here along with other captured servicemen in a timber building close to the hospital and under the care of German medical staff. The conditions here were good and after a couple of weeks on the road and sleeping rough it was wonderful to have a proper wash. Even in adversity there is always someone to help keep the spirits up and I recall a wounded American GI (I think his name was Fillipo) who would sit up and sing the popular hit by the Inkspots -'I am going to buy a paper doll that I can call my own’ etc.

    As the Allies continued to advance our stay in hospital was short and we left Brussels just before it was liberated. My battle dress and shoes had gone missing and in the haste to get out of the city the Jerries kitted me out with an American denim suit, jackboots and a couple of flannel squares for socks. The convoy which we joined got out of the city without mishap despite pockets of resistance, only to be under attack from USAAF fighters. Again, this was a frightening experience but we came through it without injury.

    On leaving the farmhouse where we had taken shelter our truck wove its way through blown up troop transport and armoured vehicles to a convent/hospital at Venlo in Holland. The nuns here kept us informed of the latest news from the front and looked after us for a day or two.

    Our next move took us to a prison camp (mainly French POW'S) on the outskirts of Dusseldorf. It was from here that Brannigan and I being airmen were taken by train to the interrogation centre at Frankfurt (Oberusal). Our guard was war weary and at one stage showed us photos of his wife and family. Our journey was interrupted by air raids near Cologne and some hours elapsed sheltering in the station before moving on to Frankfurt. The station at Frankfurt was in a shambles as a result of air raids and whilst congregating with other airmen before proceeding by truck to Oberusal we were gazed at by the travelling public. Fortunately, our guards fended off anyone showing signs of hostility towards us.

    103 Squadron MacTaggart POW photos

    MacTaggart POW ID pics

    On arriving at the interrogation centre at Oberusal, I joined a somewhat haggard looking bunch of airmen (myself included) in a room, some of whom were wearing lucky charms. (I still had a luck penny in my body belt, both of which were later confiscated.) A Canadian sitting beside me was festooned with a rabbits paw on a chain round his neck and as we gazed at each other afraid to speak, I suppose we were all thinking to ourselves, "Is there a stool pigeon in the company".

    Lying back in a cell, to which I had been taken, in solitary confinement was soul searching and the instructions given at OTU were uppermost in my mind - give only your name, rank and number and strike out any questions on forms bearing a Red Cross which at this stage in captivity would be bogus.   The interrogations I was subjected too took the pattern almost exactly as described at OTU. Facing an interrogating officer eyeball to eyeball with each other was not exactly a pleasant experience especially when he showed signs of anger for not answering his questions. Nevertheless, it was not too hard to endure and with this procedure over, I was moved to another compound. After a few days, I was on my way with other POW's by rail to the transit camp at Wetzlau (Dulag Luft) where we were kitted out with an RAF uniform, greatcoat, boots and a case containing shirts, underwear, towels etc. The Red Cross had done a magnificent job and as I was now officially a POW I was given a card to send home saying that I had been taken POW and would be transported from Dulag Luft (Wetzlau) to another camp. This card dated 15 September 1944 is in my possession along with a French Red Cross card which I completed in Normandy dated 18 August l944 and delivered ahead of the German card to my father November 1944.

    After the meagre rations which I had since being captured, the meals at Wetzlau made up from Red Cross parcels tasted wonderful. The camp leader was a USAAF officer and on the night before departing by train for Stalag Luft VII at Bankau in Silesia he had us singing "Here we go into the wide blue yonder" to boost our morale - and it worked! As a precaution against escaping we had to hand over our boot laces and braces to the Jerries. The journey took a number of days and was interrupted by being shunted around various stations. It was evident from burnt out engines and rolling stock that the rail system had been extensively damaged from air attacks; unless the journey was really necessary, any German travelling by train was a brave person!

    On arrival at Bankau station on 25 September 1944 we were met by guards along with their Alsation dogs and marched to Stalag Luft VII. A thorough search of our possessions and documentation took place - (not for the first time since being captured) - and on entering the main compound it was great to see familiar faces from training and 103 Squadron days. Initially, we were housed in huts which resembled and seemed no bigger than dog kennels, before moving to new and much better quarters in an adjoining compound. Glad to be alive, I settled in to the routine of the camp and met up with many interesting fellows from various walks of life, all of which had their own experiences to relate. Food was just adequate and inevitably we had our good days and bad days.

    There was much sadness too. Leslie Stevenson, RCAF who was with me in the 'dog kennels', on hearing an air raid 'All Clear' signal from the town of Bankau, mistakenly took it as coming from the camp and on running out of the hut was without warning shot dead by a guard. This act cast a gloom over the camp and showed the German at his worst. However, the time passed even through the roughest days and it was a case of hoping and believing that the war would be over by Christmas 1944. That came and went, but in early 1945 the news from the camp 'Canary' otherwise known as a secret radio was good. The Russian offensive got under way on 15 January 1945 and it was thought if it continued westward we would be in the path of the advance. The prospect of early liberation was the keynote of our conversations, but our hopes were soon to be dashed. On 17 January, at 11.00 am we were told to pack our kits and be ready to march out of the camp in an hours time. At the same time we were informed by Ober Feldwebel Frank that for every man that fell out of the column on the march, five men would be shot. The start was postponed until 3.30 am on 19 January. From then until 5 February we marched some times by day and at times by night and often during blizzard conditions a total of 240 kms before reaching Goldberg where we were put into cattle trucks, an average of 55 men to each truck.

    We were on the train from the morning of 5 February until the morning of 8 February. There were many cases of dysentery and the majority had-no water for two days. On arrival at Luckenwalde we were housed at Stalag III A. There were 30,000 attached to the camp which was originally built for 8,000. The conditions were poor, we slept on the floors so close together it was difficult to move and no Red Cross parcels arrived until five weeks later. Many suffered from malnutrition and some were counted in the barracks as they were too weak to stand on parade. Max Schmelling the German boxer paid us a visit with autographed photos of himself. The Jerries knew that the war was coming to an end otherwise he would not have made an appearance. He was given scant attention in my block.

    The Russians continued to advance and arrived in force on Sunday, 22 April 1945 at noon with tanks charging up and down and tearing away the wire in places. The Russians for some reason or another did not release us immediately. However, Jock Lamont from Aberdeen and I along with some others decided to go off on our own having heard that American trucks would be parked nearby and would take us over to the American zone. On reaching the River Elbe we crossed over to Magdeburg, where Yanks put us up for a day or two before flying in a Dakota to Brussels. (The Yanks were tremendous with the food and the cigarettes they gave us.) We were then taken to a unit where I was kitted out with a Canadian army battledress before flying back to England in a Lancaster. On arrival in England we were taken to RAF Cosford. The arrangements here were wonderful, my wallet, fountain pen and small personal items which I had left in a locker at 103 Squadron were waiting for me. Debriefing took place, report prepared, new uniform and kit provided and after excellent meals and a night in bed with linen sheets, I was on my way home on 14 May 1945 exactly nine months after being taken POW.

    Dugald MacTaggart

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