On the night of 31 July 1942 at 23.39 Handley Page Hampden AE 244 of 408 Squadron RCAF lifted off from RAF Balderton and headed for its target, Dusseldorf. The crew were, Pilot Sgt Orval Nelson RCAF, Observer Sgt Herbert Warr RAAF, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner F/Sgt Clarence Lloyd RCAF and Wireless Operator/ Air Gunner Sgt Harold Price RAFVR
Having reached the target and successfully bombed they were just coming off the target when they were coned in searchlights. Orval Nelson takes up the story in a letter before he died, “we were blinded by the lights and had to take evasive action, going down from around 1600 ft. to the rooftops to get out of the master searchlight. After we were out of the lights we set course for England and climbed back to 1500 ft. taking evasive action by changing courses and heights to prevent night-fighters from finding us if possible”. Unfortunately their luck did not last as at around 03.30 a Bf 110 night-fighter of ll/NJG 1 flown Oberfeldwebel Fritz Schellwat found them. Orval Nelson again “things seemed to happen so fast, the first indication I had that anything was wrong, I heard guns firing, although I did not see another plane. The next thing I knew our plane was in flames on the port side. The fire extinguisher did not put out the fire. I gave the order for everyone to bale out, I never heard a sound from the rest of the crew, so I am inclined the think the intercom was out of commission. I am not sure how long before the crash that I baled out, all I can say is it got to hot to stay in the plane. It was not long after I baled out that I heard the crash”. The crew with the exception of Orval Nelson were killed in the crash. Orval Nelson was on the run for five days until he was eventually captured and became a POW.
After extensive research Wings Museum along with the good people of Zevondonk near Turnout in Belgium Located the crash site and set about having a memorial stone erected at the spot. On 5th May 2019 the memorial was unveiled in a moving ceremony, a piper playing a lament for the fallen. There was also a ceremony at the graveside of the crew killed in the crash. The graves are tended by the good people of turnout Orval Nelson died in Port Perry, Ontario, Canada in June 2000.
The museum has erected a number of memorial stones and will continue to honour our fallen airmen. Wings Museum is at Balcombe in West Sussex.
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Wings Museum 2019