This crew were involved in a very tragic incident when they were shot down in the night of 23 July 1943 over the Dutch town of Utrecht. Five of the crew were killed, as were several Dutch civilians. See this page: Life and Death in the PFF: The Cost to The Occupied Countries
Pilot: P/O George Wesley Armstrong (RCAF)
F/E: Sgt Edward Bellis
Nav: F/S John James Mansfield
B/A: Sgt Jean Baptiste Sylviel Paul David (RCAF)
W/Op: Sgt David Ellis Williams
M/U Gunner: P/O Sydney Blackhurst
Rear gunner: F/S Alexander Rutherford Laing
The crew photographs which appear below are from the collection of Co Maarschalkerweerd except those of Alexander Laing, which came from his nephew Simon Murphy, and David Williams, which came from Mark Hart.
From left to right: first row, David Williams. Sydney Blackhurst; second row: John Mansfield and family, Paul David (Sgt Jean Baptiste Sylviel Paul David was known at home as Paul); third row: Edward Bellis and family, Alexander Laing
Andrew Laing above
SOME FURTHER DETAILS FROM SIMON MURPHY
“My uncle Alexander Rutherford Laing was posted to 97 Squadron at RAF Woodhall Spa (together with the rest of his crew) on 14th March 1943 from the No 1661 Heavy Conversion Unit (then based at Winthorpe in Notts).
The crew carried out the following operations:
1.28/29 Mar 43 St Nazaire
2/3 Apr 43 minelaying – returned early
2.13/14 Apr 43 Spezia
From RAF Station Bourn, in Cambridgeshire
3.30 Apr/1 May 43 Essen
4.4/5 May 43 Dortmund
5.12/13 May 43 Duisburg
6.28/29 May 43 Wuppertal
7.16/17 Jun 43 Cologne
8.21/22 Jun 43 Krefeld
9.22/23 Jun 43 Mulheim
On 22nd June 1943 they took part on a mission to Mulheim during which their aircraft was attacked by a night fighter over the city of Utrecht in Holland and exploded in mid-air. Debris from the stricken bomber fell into a residential neighbourhood, causing many casualties and extensive damage to property.
My uncle and Sergeant Bellis were the only survivors of the crew. My uncle had been wounded and received first aid from a local doctor. He and Sergeant Bellis were later taken into captivity by the Germans and remained POWs for the rest of the war.
I believe my uncle was held prisoner in East Prussia and took part in the Langsdorf Death March before being liberated by the US Army and returned home to England.
I wish I could say that there was a happy ending to my uncle’s story but sadly this was not to be. His health had been seriously affected during his captivity and after a long and distressing illness he died at the tragically young age of thirty three.
I believe Edward Bellis died in 1994.
My recollections of my uncle are very vague as I was very young when he died. What I know of his story I learnt mainly from my mother. Like so many of his comrades he apparently spoke very little of his experiences, preferring, I suppose, to concentrate on getting on with life after the war.
The story does not quite end here. In 1993 my mother received a letter from a Mr J.C. Maarschalkerweerd. He had been a very young boy living in the street on which my uncle’s bomber crashed. He explained that this experience had kindled within him a life-long interest in the European air war. He sent me a copy of his article in After the Battle.”