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Compiled & Copyright © John Williamson 2009

This multinational ‘Special Duties’ (SD) crew from No. 138 (SD) Squadron, flying Halifax LL356 identification “NF-U”, took off from RAF Tempsford Airfield on the night of 27th April 1944 at 2310hrs, destined with Resistance Supplies for a Drop Zone (DZ) in enemy occupied Belgium (no Agents were on board on this occasion). The crew consisted of one Welshman, two Englishmen, two Canadians and two Australians (see picture below). The aircraft and its seven young airmen failed to return.

Nothing was heard from the aircraft following its departure from Tempsford Airfield. Subsequently it failed to arrive at its DZ. There is some documented evidence that LL356 was seen by another SD Halifax pilot, that night at 0015hrs on 28th April, being attacked by flak over southern Holland.1 No mid air explosion was reported and no wireless messages or distress signals from the aircraft were ever received, seen or recorded. Two months later the body of the Australian pilot was found washed up on the North Beach of the Island of Terschelling in the wartime Netherlands. Neither the aircraft nor the bodies of any of the other six crew members were recovered.

The story of this World War 2 Operation, and of the family backgrounds and Air Force lives of each of the seven crew members have been recorded by their family descendants in a small, self-published book, “A Delayed Salute”. Any one interested can contact one of the authors on for further information.

The crew of Halifax LL356, lost on ‘Operation OSRIC 59’, 27/28 April 1944.
(Standing, L to R) 1890979 Sgt George P Croad RAF, Flight Engineer, age 19 years;
R/190191 FltSgt James E Smythe RCAF, Mid-Upper Gunner/Despatcher, age 21 years;
1046454 Sgt Hubert F Benbow RAF, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, age 23 years;
R/157147 Warrant Officer Class II Arthur J G Barnes RCAF, Observer/Bomb Aimer, age 22 years.
(Seated, L to R) 414741 FltSgt George H Williamson RAAF, Pilot, age 29 years;
1032035 FltSgt Herbert Dootson RAF, Navigator, age 29 years;
423063 FltSgt Eric R Clayworth RAAF, tail gunner, age 25 years

Sources: Freddie Clark. Agents by Moonlight: The Secret History of RAF Tempsford During World War II. Stroud, Gloucestershire UK. Tempus Publishing Ltd. 1999:238.

Last updated: 15 February, 2009

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