GEOFFREY FREDERICK ELLIS

Born: 1924, Ipswich.

Died: 16th October 1944; age: 20; Killed when aircraft brought down by night fighters.

 

Rank: Sergeant/Wireless Operator/Air Gunner; Service Number: 2207411.

Regiment: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 34 (S.A.A.F.) Squadron.

From August 4th, the Western Allies had begun supporting the Warsaw Uprising with air drops of munitions and other supplies. Initially the air raids were carried out mostly by 1568 Polish Flight of the PAF stationed in Bari and Brindisi in Italy flying Liberators, Halifax’s and Dakotas. Later, on at the insistence of the Polish government-in-exile, they were joined by the Liberators of 2 Wing – 31 and 34 Squadrons of the SAAF based at Foggia in Southern Italy, and Halifax’s, flown by 148 and 178 Squadrons of the RAF. The drops continued until September 21st. The total weight of Allied drops was 104 tons.

 

Grave Reference:

Coll. Grave 1.B.10.11.

Krakow Rakowicki Cemetery,

Poland

 

Father – Herbert William Ellis, born 1889, Ipswich.

Mother – Alice May Ellis (nee Downing), born 1900, Dublin, Ireland.

 

16th October 1944

 

Aircraft: B-24 Liberator bomber; serial number: KH-152 ‘F’. The 34 Squadron was based at Celone/San Nicola d’Arpi Airfield, near Foggia, Italy. KH-152 took off at 16:30hrs on an operation to help the Home Army ‘Armina Krajowa’ the dominant Polish resistance movement in Poland with an airdrop of food, weapons and medicines. At 20.30hrs, when the aircraft was already approaching the Vistula, at an altitude of 3100 m it was attacked by a German night fighters. From an entry of Samuel Isaac’s log book “flak and searchlights encountered first, controls shot away, then attacked by 2 fighters, hit and set on fire on port wing, then hit in loft and set on fire.”

According to the report of two rescued crew members, after firing, the crew did not immediately leave the aircraft, but attempted to save the transported cargo, throwing it from a burning aircraft, resulting in a significant reduction in flight and shortening of parachute time. parachute time. The burning Liberator continued gliding to the South of Brzezówka and crashed finally in the neighbouring district of Łęg, in Radgoszcz village, two kilometres from Brzezówka. Geoffrey and Tom Myers were still on the aircraft.

Five of the crew lost their lives, three survived.

 

Crew:

James Arthur Lithgow D.F.C.; Lieutenant/Pilot; age 23; S.A.A.F. Killed

Keith Bernnand MacWilliam; Lieutenant/2nd Pilot; age 23; S.A.A.F. Killed

Tom Myers; Sergeant/Bomb Aimer; R.A.F. Killed

William Francis Cowan

William Francis Cowan; Sergeant/Air Gunner; age 31; R.A.F.V.R. Killed

Evan Colbert; Lieutenant/Navigator; age 30; S.A.A.F. Survived and rescued by the Polish resistance movement.

Samuel Isaac Fourie; Lieutenant/Rear Gunner: S.A.A.F. Survived and taken a PoW

 

Graham C. Dicks; Lieutenant; S.A.A.F. Survived and rescued by the Polish resistance movement.

 

This photograph of Lieutenant James Arthur Lithgow was taken just after he had received his DFC together with Major Doug Pidsley for the daring attack on General Erwin Rommel’s Supply Ship the “Proserpina”. He was flying with 15 Squadron SAAF at the time.

                                                                                                                                     Samuel Isaac Fourie

James Lithgow managed to jump out of the burning aircraft in the Brzezówka area. His dead body was found on the grounds of Władysław Szarka’s property in Brzezówka.He had been shot many times, and had suffered broken legs. The circumstances of his death raise doubts whether he was shot by the Germans in the air when landing, or after landing and as he laid wounded, or was killed after being pulled from a tree with his fully developed parachute. After taking his documents, the Germans buried the body at his place of death. Local residents at the burial site of the heroic pilot piled up the grave, and took care of it until the day of exhumation.

Geoffrey and Tom Myers bodies were found in the wreckage of the Liberator, on the grounds of Franciszek Szczopak, of Lag. They were buried next to the crash site.

William Cowan’s body was buried where he had been found on the grounds of Kazimierz Lachut, of Brzezówka.

Keith MacWilliam managed to jump out of the burning Liberator. However, due to the low altitude his parachute failed to open, and he fell on to the property of Szymon Dekan, of Brzezówka. His body was found the next day, and his documents removed by the Germans. Keith was buried by Wladyslaw Knutelski and Bronislaw Dziekan at the place of his death.

Samuel Fourie was wounded in both arms, face and left leg and both feet. He baled out at 12,000ft, and landed successfully into a forest. He was captured the next day by the Germans and was taken to their divisional headquarters. He was a PoW for seven months, until he was released by the Russians on the 22nd April 1945, at Luckenwalde, Germany. Samuel arrived back in England on the 14th May 1945.

Both Graham Dicks and Evan Colbert landed safely in the woods at Bukowiec. They were found the following day by the local resistance movement, and joined two US pilots who had also been rescued and hidden by the resistance after their bomber had been shot down. By the end of the war, the rescued airmen had been hidden at “Malwina” Army Home Offices in Kanna and Boleslaw. In the manor house of Krzysztof Sroczyński, and in the house of the Mayor of Boleslaw, Paweł Kochanek. Then in the house of the Hudy family. After liberation, in the Boleslaw municipality in January 1945, Graham Dicks went to Moscow. In February 1945, he flew to Cairo then on to South Africa. William Colbert went to Odessa, Ukraine and from there in March 1945 he sailed to Great Britain.

 The graves of the five airmen were cared for by the youth of the Polish Red Cross of the Primary School in Zabrnia. In May 1947, a school headmaster Stanisław Krajewski informed the District Office of the PCK about the burial sites of the Liberator’s crew. The bodies were exhumed and laid to rest at Rakowicki Cemetery in Cracow.

The remains of the wrecked bomber was dismantled by local residents and converted into various household tools. A part of the hull of the aircraft is stored in the Szczucin Road Museum.

 

A copy of an official document to the PCK office in Poland written after the war:
Zabrnie, 20.05.1947

To
The Polish Red Cross Regional Office
in Dąbrowa Tarnowska….

On October 16, 1944, at about nine o’clock in the evening, local dwellers in Bukowiec near Szczucin, noticed an aircraft over woods flying to the East and making a round, then she got a heading to the South. The plane was burning when was flying over Brzezówka , the Szczucin gmina.
The next day, in the morning, it was found out that two British aviators , who were memebers of the aircraft crew , were in hiding in a forest near Bukowiec. Mister Szymon Dziekan, an English translator form Brzezówka, was brought and during a conversation with these airmen he got an information that the aircraft crew consisted of eight members and one of them came from Africa.He was tall and of full face, frizzy with black hair, aged 23. A captain of the Polish Army alias “Wiatr” (Wind) from Świdrówka village, the Szczucin gmina looked after them.
The third man of survived aviators was accidentally captured by housed here Germans.Unfortunately, witnesses cannot mention the names of the saved airmen.
The fourth member of the crew hit the ground at Brzezówka area, on the Szymon Dziekan’s field, getting the immediate death there.According to a witness he could be a quite tall whitey of profuse hair, aged 21. According to the field owner’s statement, his name may have been MacWilliam. The airman was buried in the same place he died by Władysław Knutelski from Słupiec, the Szczucin community and the filed owner’s son Bronisław Dziekan. from Brzezówka.

 

The fifth aviator was found on Władysław Szarka’s field in Brzezówka and was buried in the place where he was found. According to a German gendarme, who took away all his papers ( ID card, etc…), the aviator was an officer. The crew memeber was quite tall and of an oblong face , aged 21. His body was seen by me, who is writing the report, as well.
The body of the sixth airman was found… and buried in Kazimierz Łachuta’s field in Brzezówka. His personal papers were saved and are kept by Józef Sroka in Brzezówka. All of these three dead aviators died when bailing out the burning plane. Their graves are looked after by Youth Section of the Polish Red Cross of the Primary School in Zabrnie, the Szczucin community.
The burning aircraft was continuing farther gliding to the South of Brzezówka and crashed finally at neighbouring district Łęg, in Radgoszcz village , two kilometres of Brzezówka.Two aviators who were still on the aircraft board, were killed when the plane crashed. Both airmen were buried by local people in Franciszek Szczupek’s field from Łęg. Unfortunately there wasn’t any possibility of finding out their names because all their personal records were taken away by Germans.
According to local dwellers, Władysław Irla from Łęg, found near the crash place , a picture of three airmen which had been left by Germans. But it hasn’t been verified.

Stanisław Krajewski
A head-master
in Zabrnie, the Szczucin gmina.
The Patron of the Youth Section of The Polish Red Cross.

 

Extra information and photographs courtesy of Dominik Koscielny.

Plus help from John Allan.

 


 

 

Posted in Second World War

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