~ FOR SEVERAL years, on Remembrance Day, I’ve sent people to my memorial-page for my great-uncle Gren Stanley, shot down in 1943. Feel free to go read it again, to get the background. He fought and died for the freedom we enjoy from that day to this.
Out Of The Blue
As it turns out, there is an amazing second chapter to Grenville’s story, all because of that original posting. This e-mail arrived last Remembrance Day, 2013, from the Wings Museum in England.
I am writing regarding the brother of your grandmother, Flight Sergeant Grenville Gordon Stanley RCAF. I am writing on behalf of Kevin Hunt, curator of Wings Museum in England. He and others have located the Halifax bomber remains that your great uncle was on and are erecting a memorial in honour of that flight crew. They are looking for relatives to attend this memorial service in 2014. It looks to me like you should be one who is invited to attend. Can you help me out with more information and likewise I can reciprocate.
ps: I was at a similar memorial service this last May, 2013 for my uncle whom I am named after and was very satisfied with the respect and dignity bestowed upon the flight crew that the memorial and what it represented to both the locals and the relatives who attended.
My post, Googled, led to this museum doing something wonderful & moving.
As it turned out, on June 21st 2014, Gren’s great-nephew and great-niece (my brother Michael, and 1st cousin Karin), and Gren’s nephew and his wife (John, above, & his wife Maxine) attended the special ceremony for the crew of Halifax DT556 in Kasterlee Belgium, on the actual site where Gren’s bomber crashed. They also visited his grave in the war cemetery nearby.
Simply awesome. What a gift for our family, and so many others. A proper museum doing such an important work, for relatives, for those times, for airplanes lost, for many in Europe who are still grateful for their freedoms paid for at such a price. This work continues– please consider a donation.
Marking The Spot
From the dedicated Memorial Stone, via the Wings Museum Webpage, a wealth of information:
On Saturday 21st June 2014 a memorial was unveiled at Gootress near the town of Kasterlee in Belgium to the crew of a 76 Squadron Halifax bomber which was shot down in the early hours of 2nd March 1943. The memorial was a joint venture between the Wings Museum, the Heemkundige Kring a local history group in Kasterlee and the community of Kasterlee. 11 relatives of 2 of the crew attended the memorial service traveling from England & Canada.
The investigation into the circumstances of the loss of Halifax DT556 & her crew were first investigated in 1998 when the Wings Museum wrote to the local Mayor for information on the incident. Several searches were made over the years by the Wings Musuem with lots of small fragments being recovered, these findings backed up eye witness reports that the Halifax exploded over the small hamlet of Gootress scattering wreckage on the surface of the fields. These pieces also confirmed that this was indeed a Mark II Halifax by identification from part numbers located on the wreckage. The investigation came full circle when finally in 2014 a memorial was unveiled to commemorate the crew.
The Last Flight of DT556…
Handley Page Halifax II Serial Number DT556 MP-U was one of two 76 Squadron Halifaxes lost on the night of the 1st/2nd March 1943. The crew of DT556 took off at 18.27 from RAF Linton-on-Ouse to bomb Berlin. A second pilot by the name of Arthur Thomas Wheatley was on board DT556 to gain combat air experience.
After bombing the target and on the homeward leg of the flight DT556 was shot down by a German night fighter at 00.13 at Grootrees near Kasterlee in Begium. The aircraft exploded in mid air scattering wreckage over a 1km radius. Tragically out of the 8 crew members on board only 3 managed to bale out, 2 being captured by the Germans and 1 managed to evade back to England. 5 of the crew were buried at SCHOONSELHOF Cemetery.
On 1/2nd March 1943 a bomber force of 302 aircraft which was comprised of 156 Lancasters, 86 Halifaxes, and 60 Stirlings were briefed to bomb Berlin. During the raid the Pathfinders experienced difficulty in producing concentrated marking because individual parts of the extensive built-up city area of Berlin could not be distinguished on the H2S screens. Bombing photographs showed that the attack was spread over more than 100 square miles with the main emphasis in the south-west of the city. However, because larger numbers of aircraft were now being used and because those aircraft were now carrying a greater average bomb load, the proportion of the force which did hit Berlin caused more damage than any previous raid to this target. This type of result, with significant damage still being caused by only partially successful attacks was becoming a regular feature of Bomber Command raids. Some bombs hit the Telefunken works at which the H2S set taken from the Stirling shot down near Rotterdam was being reassembled.
The set was completely destroyed in the bombing but a Halifax of 35 Squadron with an almost intact set crashed in Holland on this night and the Germans were able to resume their research into H2S immediately. 17 aircraft, they being 7 Lancasters, 6 Halifaxes, and 4 Stirlings were lost on the raid. Returning from the raid shortly after midnight the aircraft was intercepted by an German night-fighter and shot down at 0013 hours, crashing between Kasterlee and Turnhaut (Antwerpen), Belgium. Five of the crew were killed and are interred in the same cemetery, two were captured, but Flying Officer E. L. Souter-Smith avoided capture and reached Switzerland where he was interned. After the Second World War he moved to Australia, but was sadly killed in a motoring accident in 1973.
Saith Teh Binks
We learned a few things about the loss of Halifax DT556: first, that indeed Gren had a fiancee; second, that three of the aircrew bailed out, and survived– “2 being captured by the Germans and 1 managed to evade back to England” according to museum research.
I give thanks this Remembrance Day 2014 for the good people at the Wings Museum in England; the people of Kasterlee, and the local historical association, my relatives for attending (I cannot travel much), and for a young man 71 years ago, who made the supreme sacrifice, that we might be free. Thanks, Great-Uncle Grenville. You are still missed. ~