P/O William R Oldfield RAF and crew – 103 Squadron - RAF Elsham Wolds – 1942
Failed to Return – 29/30th August 1941 – Vickers Wellington IC – R1213 – Op Mannheim.
William Oldfield was posted to 103 Sqn in the summer of 1941 and he completed 2 ops as co-pilot as follows -
20th July 1941 - Cologne - S/L G V Lane - Oldfield, Figg, Wilkinson, Grassom, Blair
2nd August 1941 - Hamburg - F/L Scott – Oldfield, Turner, Grimes, McComie, Ewing.
Both Lane and Scott were very experienced bomber pilots with excellent crews.
By the 29th August 1941 Oldfield had qualified as captain of his own crew and was detailed for an attack on Mannheim. The crew was made up of
P/O W R Oldfield RAF.
Above - Oldfield is seated front row middle. Immediately behind him is Sgt G P Williams who was Oldfield’s co-pilot. Standing extreme left is Sgt Dunn of the same crew
Sgt Gregory P Williams RAAF – A new pilot from Australia.
Sgt Arthur H Figg RCAF – An experienced Observer who had flown many ops with S/L Lane
Above - Middle Arthur Figg with S/L Gordon Lane on the right and the formidable Air Gunner Jack Blair on the left
Sgt Hugh A Kelly RAFVR
Sgt John Grassom RAFVR ( pictured above and brief bio at the foot of this page ) – An experienced Air Gunner who had also flown many ops with S/L Lane.
103 Sqn detailed 8 bombers for this attack on the German city of Mannheim. They encountered bad weather outbound and Oldfield and his crew failed to return from this operation. It was established in 1972 that the aircraft had been struck by lightning. Returning crews mention thunderstorms in the region of the Dutch coast.
Wellington Mk.1C (R1213) of No.103 squadron - took off at 8.31 pm from Elsham Wolds - was struck by lightning around 23:00, after which the machine crashed near the Valkenisseweg at Rilland-Bath. Four out of six crew members were killed and they were buried in Vlissingen on the 2nd of September.
In mid-February 1972 the remains of this aircraft - mainly a bomb bay structure were recovered by the Royal Netherlands Air Force and also two 250 lbs high explosive bombs and several incendiaries were discovered and safely removed.
Further information from Holland indicates that Oldfield’s crew had reported that the had encountered strong winds and thunderstorms as they approached the Dutch coast. Three of the crew were found dead in the wreck when the aircraft crashed. Another was found dead in the Frederickapolder having baled out too low. Another also baled out and landed on the Westhof Farm where he went through the roof of a barn breaking his ankle. He was taken prisoner by the Germans. It was likely this was Harry Dunn. The other survivor was William Oldfield who must have been injured and found in the wreckage as there is no mention of any others baling out. Local people report seeing the crash and also remember the storm which also caused a fire in the village nearby.
29-Aug-41- Mannheim - Wellington - R1213 - P/O WR Oldfield - FTR - Struck by lightening. Crashed near Vlissingen, Holland.
The fate of the crew members is as follows :-
P/O William Robinson Oldfield – Pilot – 103 Sqn - POW - Camp 10C/L3 - POW no 3760
Sgt Gregory Percival Williams RAAF - 23 – 103 Sqn - Son of Thomas James Williams and Daisy Williams, of Dee Why, New South Wales, Australia – Flushing Vlissingen Northern Cemetery, Netherlands
Sgt Arthur Harry Figg RCAF – Air Observer - 21 – 103 Sqn - Son of Ernest A. and Ethel Figg, of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada - Flushing Vlissingen Northern Cemetery, Netherlands
Sgt Hugh Alphonsus Kelly RAFVR – Wireless Operator / Air Gunner - 30 – 103 Sqn - Son of Patrick and Mary Kelly, of Ballymena, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland - Flushing Vlissingen Northern Cemetery, Netherlands
Sgt John Grassom RAFVR – Wireless Operator / Air Gunner - 24 – 103 Sqn - Son of John and Elizabeth Grassom, of Grangemouth, Stirlingshire - Flushing Vlissingen Northern Cemetery, Netherlands. See foot of page.
Sgt Harry Dunn RAFVR – Air Gunner – 103 Sqn - POW - Camp 9C/L6/L1 - POW no 39395..
P/O Oldfield and Sgt Dunn were taken POW and survived the war.
103 Squadron detailed 8 aircraft for this attack on the German city of Mannheim. Cloud was encountered outbound with 10/10ths cumulus in thunderstorms off the Dutch coast. Over the target visibility was good through the cloud gaps. Bombing was thought to be satisfactory. Two aircraft returned early and one failed to return, that of P/O Oldfield and crew. On return one aircraft hit high tension cables and burnt out with no serious injuries to the crew concerned.
For this attack on Mannheim Bomber Command detailed 94 Wellingtons two of which were lost. The weather was bad and Mannheim reports confirm that bombing results were poor with only scattered damage.
This machine completed 2 operations being lost on its 3rd.
14-Aug-41 – Hanover – Wellington – R1213 – Sgt RK Kitney – Did not take off
19-Aug-41 - Le Havre – Wellington – R1213 – P/O TG Westlake
27-Aug-41 – Mannheim – Wellington – R1213 – P/O TG Westlake
29-Aug-41 – Mannheim – Wellington – R1213 – P/O WR Oldfield – FTR - Struck by lightening. Crashed near Vlissingen, Holland
Sgt John Grassom.
John Grassom was born on the 5th of April 1917. His parents were John and Elizabeth Grassom of Lumley Street Grangemouth. His mother was a dressmaker and his father was a Billiard Saloon Manager. John also had two sisters, Rita and Bessie. Pre war John was a tailoring salesman at a business in the town.
At the outbreak of war John wanted to enlist in the RAF and reported to No 3 Recruit Receiving Centre at RAF Padgate near Warrington in Lancashire on 12th of December 1939. He was passed medically fit for aircrew duties and accepted for training as a wireless operator.
His service postings are as follows -
12th Dec 1939 - No 1 Wing/No 3 Recruit Centre - RAF Padgate.
19th Jan 1940 - No 9 Bombing and Gunnery School - RAF Penrhos.
5th Apr 1940 - No 3 Wing/No 2 Electrical and Wireless School - RAF Yatesbury
7th Sep 1940 - No 7 Bombing and Gunnery School - RAF Stormy Down.
5th Oct 1940 - No 15 Operational Training Unit - RAF Harwell.
24th Dec 1940 - Admitted to Doncaster Infirmary - Reason unknown.
14th Jan 1941 - Discharged Doncaster Infirmary.
14th Jan 1941 - No 15 Operational Training Unit - RAF Harwell.
11th May 1941 - No 103 Squadron - RAF Newton/RAF Elsham Wolds.
Written by David Fell with photos from my own archive and also background information/photos from John Grassom Laird. Many thanks to John for this excellent contribution.