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6 September 2017
Crew 23, Pilot William Bolton Cookson – 462 Squadron RAAF

 

 

 

Wanted: Photo of Cookson Crew, or individuals,
also personal information.

If you can help, please make contact.

This was truly a Crew of the British Commonwealth, made up of
two New Zealanders (Cookson and Pratt),
two Australians (Tolhurst and Power),
two Canadians (Elliott and Toews),
and one from the UK (Jones).

A photo of this crew is shown at www.ovomalley.com, supplied to that site by the family of "Bill" W. E. Toews. Would Jeanette Toews or David Toews of Canada please make contact. An identical photo is on page 196 of "To See the Dawn Again; A History of 462 Squadron, RAAF" (by Mark Lax & Leon Kane-Maguire, 2008).

 

Crew 23, 462 Squadron, Driffield, Yorkshire and Foulsham, Norfolk.

The original crew was made up of the following .......
Pilot: William Bolton COOKSON
Navigator: Owen Dallas PRATT
Bomb Aimer: Wilfrid Henry TOLHURST
Wireless Operator: Leslie John POWER
Flight Engineer: L H JONES
Mid-Upper Gunner: R D ELLIOTT
Rear Gunner: W E TOEWS

Neville Owen REED had replaced Rear Gunner Toews on 14/15 October 1944, when the crew had to bale out from MZ296 Z5-L near Brussels.

Links to information on original crew, and Cookson Crew Ops,
including loss of Halifax MZ296 on the night of 14/15 October 1944.
From 15 October 1944, to late March 1945, there were many personnel changes in Pilot Cookson's later crews.

Reference sources – Australian WW2 Nominal Roll; The National Archives of Australia (Service Files, Casualty Files, Loss of Aircraft Files, 462 Squadron Operational Record Book).

 

 

William Bolton Cookson, DFC, 413028, RNZAF, Pilot in 462 Squadron.
Photo supplied by Michael Courtenay.

 

 

Pilot

Name: William Bolton COOKSON
Service: Royal New Zealand Air Force
Service Number: 413028

This photo was undated, but must be post WW2 as he is wearing his Medal Ribbon Bar, and his Distinguished Flying Cross (pinned to his pocket flap).

His Distinguished Flying Cross was gazetted in the 4th Supplement to the London Gazette, Issue 37277, page 4706, dated Friday 21 September 1945; and awarded to Flight Lieutenant William Bolton COOKSON, NZ.423028, while posted to 462 Squadron. Perhaps the photo was taken after he was officially presented with the Medal(?). According to the squadron ORB, the Cookson crew was posted from 1659 HCU to 462 Squadron on 1 September 1944. Cookson was posted from 462 Squadron during May 1945, destination not recorded.

Cookson may also be seen in photos on the 462 Squadron page – Officers of 462 Sqdn at Driffield in December 1944 (all of whom had previously parachuted to safety); and Pilots of 462 Sqdn, Foulsham, March 1945.
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Navigator

Name: Owen Dallas PRATT
Service: Royal New Zealand Air Force
Service Number: 425934

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Bomb Aimer

Name: Wilfrid Henry TOLHURST
Service: Royal Australian Air Force
Service Number: 427168
Date of Birth: 12 December 1921
Place of Birth: Perth, Western Australia
Date of Enlistment: 24 May 1942
Place of Enlistment: Perth, WA
Next of Kin: Bethia TOLHURST
Date of Discharge: 18 December 1945
Rank at Discharge: Flying Officer
Posting at Discharge: 10 Operational Training Unit
Prisoner of War: No
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Leslie John Power, 436481 RAAF, at enlistment on 15 January 1943, later posted to 462 Squadron.
Photo from the National Archives of Australia: A9300, 436481.

Above: Leslie John Power, 436481 RAAF,
at enlistment on 15 January 1943.

 

Wireless Operator

Name: Leslie John POWER
Service: Royal Australian Air Force
Service Number: 436481
Date of Birth: 25 December 1923
Place of Birth: Forbes, New South Wales
Date of Enlistment: 15 January 1943
Place of Enlistment: Perth, WA
Next of Kin: John POWER
Date of Discharge: 3 December 1945
Rank at Discharge: Flight Lieutenant
Posting at Discharge:
Prisoner of War: No
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Flight Engineer

Name: Leonard Henry JONES
Service: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Service Number: 1896549, later 190273

Next of Kin: Bertha Francis JONES (wife)

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Mid-Upper Gunner

Name: R D ELLIOTT
Service: Royal Canadian Air Force
Service Number: R.219749

 

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Rear Gunner

Name: W E TOEWS
Service: Royal Canadian Force
Service Number: R.278376

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Substitute Rear Gunner for 14/15 October 1944

Name: Neville Owen REED
Service: Royal Australian Air Force
Service Number: 435209
Date of Birth: 30 January 1922
Place of Birth: Caboolture, Queensland
Date of Enlistment: 29 March 1943
Place of Enlistment: Brisbane, Queensland
Next of Kin: Audrey REED
Date of Discharge: 8 March 1946
Rank at Discharge: Warrant Officer
Posting at Discharge: 9 Aircrew Holding Unit
Prisoner of War: No

Reed usually flew with Crew 36, Pilot Walter Donald Friend.
Reed was a survivor of Crew 23, Pilot Cookson, 14 October 1944;
and a survivor of Crew 52, Pilot Alan Edwin Astill, 14 January 1945.

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Information on "Original Crew"

The dates of the crew member's previous postings to their Operational Training Unit is not yet known. However from Power's Service File (see later on this page) the original crew of 6 possibly formed at 21 OTU, Moreton-in-Marsh, training in Wellingtons. This may have been prior to July 1944, as Power had leave from 21 OTU between 7 and 16 July 1944.

The date of the crews posting to 1659 Conversion Unit (1659 CU) Topcliffe, Yorkshire, from 21 OTU is not yet known. It is assumed that the Flight Engineer would have joined the crew at 1659 CU, thus completing a crew of seven. A possible time line for posting to 1659 CU was from mid-July to end of August 1944.

The crew's posting to 462 Squadron in September 1944, is recorded in the Squadron's ORB, form 540, page 12, Part II Administration ....

1/9/44 Flying Officer Cookson and Crew, reported to the Squadron for flying duties on posting from No. 1659 Conversion Unit.

and also in the Squadron ORB, form 540, page 12 (Officers) and 13 (Air Crew NCOs), Part III Personnel ..... (with errors in some service numbers)

Officers posted to Squadron during the month ......... F/O W.B. COOKSON (NZ.413208) (sic), F/O O.D. PRATT (NZ.425934), F/O L.J. POWER (AUS) 436481 ......
Air Crew NCOs posted to Squadron during the month ......... AUS.427068 (sic) F/SGT TOLHURST W.H., R.278376 SGT TOEWS W., R.319749 (sic) F/S ELLIOTT R.D., 1896549 SGT JONES L.H. .........

Additional information for the two Australians in the crew
Wilfrid Henry TOLHURST, 427168, RAAF, Bomb Aimer
(information from Casualty File, in addition to that recorded above).

Next of Kin, at enlistment and during his RAAF Service: Wilfrid TOLHURST (father) of Nedlands, Western Australia.
Enlisted at No 4 Recruiting Centre, Perth, WA.
Embarked from Australia for the UK on 30 August 1943.
Rank of Flight Sergeant and Mustering Navigator B, as of 14/15 October 1944.

Leslie John POWER, 436481 RAAF, Wireless/Air Gunner (Information from Service File – some pages may be missing from this file, as there is no information regarding training in Canada (December 1943); no information about training in the UK; no record of posting to 21 OTU, or to any Conversion Unit, or to 462 Squadron; no record of any postings after his Tour was complete; no Service Conduct form, and possibly missing a second leave form.)

29 December 1941 – served as Private NX126468, 54th Australian Infantry Battn., having enlisted at Bellevue Camp, West Aus; next of kin John Power; birth place Forbes NSW. However his birth date is recorded as 25 December 1922, not 25 December 1923 as in his RAAF Service and Casualty Files.
14 January 1943 – discharged from Army at rank of Corporal for enlistment in RAAF.

15 January 1943 – enlisted in RAAF at No 4 Recruiting Centre (4 RC), Perth; classified as AC2, Aircrew V, posted to 4 Recruit Depot (4 RD); age 19 years, height 6ft; weight 166lb; 6/6 vision, blue eyes, brown hair, fresh complexion; next of kin at enlistment John Power, father, of "Calarie", Forbes, NSW; additional person to be notified in event of casualty – Miss L. McIlwraith (relationship not stated) of Mt. Lawley, WA; medical category A3B; previously in Army; civilian occupation "Company Representative"; Education to Intermediate level.
17 January 1943 – No. 209 Recruit Drill Course, to 12 February 1943 at 4 Recruit Depot, Busselton, Western Australia.
27 February 1943 – posted to 5 Initial Training School (5 ITS), Clontarf, WA.

24 April 1943 – promoted to Leading AirCraftman.
29 April 1943 – attended No. 38 Wireless Air Gunner's Course at 1 Wireless Air Gunnery School (1 WAGS), Ballarat, Victoria, to 13 October 1943.

14 October 1943 – remustered as Aircrew II (G).
18 October 1943 – posted to 3 Bombing And Gunnery School (3 BAGS), for No 38 Gunnery Course, to 11 November 1943.

11 November 1943 – awarded Air Gunner's Badge, at 3 BAGS, West Sale, Vic.
11 November 1943 – remustered as Wireless Air Gunner.
11 November 1943 – promoted to Sergeant.
11 November 1943 – granted a Commission.
11 November 1943 – promotion to Pilot Officer.
21 November 1943 – posted to 2 Embarkation Depot (2 ED).

26 November 1943 – embarked from Sydney for Canada and UK on ship "Mount Vernon".
1 January 1944 – embarked from New York.
10 January 1944 – disembarked in UK.
11 January 1944 – posted to 11 Personnel Despatch and Reception Centre (11 PDRC), Brighton.
14 March 1944 – posted to No. ... (O) AFU (? almost illegible),

11 May 1944 – promotion to Flying Officer.

7 July 1944 – to 16 July leave granted while at 21 Operational Training Unit (21 OTU), Moreton-in-Marsh UK; date of posting to 21 OTU not recorded.
16 July 1944 – "Maint. Clothing Coupon Book" issued at 21 OTU.
?? – date of posting to CU or HCU not recorded.
26 September 1944 – to 2 October 1944 leave granted while at 462 Squadron, date of posting to 462 Squadron not recorded. However Cookson's first Op was on 9 September 1944, with the full crew's first op on the 10th.

15 October 1944 – reported safe after being Missing in air ops for a short period, target Duisburg Germany, in Halifax MZ296.
27 December 1944 – attended Nos. 18 & 19 Signals Leaders Course at 14 Radio School, to 10 January 1945.
11 January 1945 – attached to 14 Radio School, RAF Stn., St Athan, Wales.

?? – re-posted to 462 Squadron as Signals Leader, date not recorded.

27 February 1945 – attached to RAF Stn Finningley, Yorkshire, to 2 March 1945.
19 March 1945 – promoted to Acting Flight Lieutenant.

17 October 1945 – disembarked in Aus, posted to 2 Personnel Depot (2 PD), Sydney.
11 November 1945 – promotion to Flight Lieutenant.
3 December 1945 – discharged in Sydney, on demobilisation.

Awards of 1939-45 Star, France and Germany Star, Defence Medal, War Medal 1939-45, Australia Service Medal 1939-45, and Returned from Active Service Badge. In Officer's File, under section of Decorations, Orders, Medals, Mentions – "M.C. 462 Sq 19/44".
Character & Trade Proficiency all listed as V.G.
General Conduct Sheet all "certified No Entry".
Leave Form with various leave types, but does not cover complete period of RAAF service.

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Cookson Crew Ops

Cookson completed a Tour with a total of 35 Ops (one as 2nd Pilot, and 34 as Pilot, with one additional early return not counted in total). His original crew (listed previously) all flew with Cookson on 6 Ops during September and early October 1944. After the loss of Halifax MZ296 on the night of 14/15 October when he took a substitute Rear Gunner, later Ops were flown with many changes to the crew. Their names are included in a later section.
Note: In the ORB, Cookson's various crew members had many errors in Service Numbers, initials, spelling of surnames, and possible transposition of crew positions (or a permanent swap for the gunners?). It was a time-consuming process to sort out. In addition, indistinct records due to badly faded carbon added to identification problems. My apologies if incorrect identification has resulted. If this has occurred, please advise via the contact page.

September 1944 – 4 Ops, from Driffield, bombing.

9 September 1944 – 1 Op for Cookson in MZ296 as 2nd Pilot for Crew 9, Pilot/Captain Ronald Roy Hickey, 425654 RAAF.
September – 3 Ops as Pilot/Captain for Crew 23.

October 1944 – 5 Ops, from Driffield, bombing.

3 Ops with Crew 23.
1 Op in MZ296 on 14/15 October with Rear Gunner Reed as substitute for original Rear Gunner Toews; Aircraft missing after bombing attack on Duisburg (details in later section).
1 Op after safe return from Brussels, with changes to crew.

November 1944 – 7 Ops, from Driffield, bombing, with one early return (not counted in Op tally), and changes to crew.

December 1944 – 4 Ops, from Driffield, bombing, with changes to crew.

January 1945 – 4 Ops, from Foulsham, Special Duties, with changes to crew, and 8th crew member dispensing WINDOW.

February 1945 – 5 Ops, from Foulsham, Special Duties, with changes to crew, and 8th crew member dispensing WINDOW.

March 1945 – 7 Ops, from Foulsham, Special Duties.

6 Ops, from Foulsham, Special Duties, with changes to crew, and 8th crew member for dispensing WINDOW.
1 Op, Cookson's last, in Halifax NA240 Z5-V on 22 March 1945, with a crew of 9, the 8th crew member dispensing WINDOW, and the 9th operating the Radio Counter Measures equipment. (This was the same aircraft which was lost on 10 April 1945, Pilot/Captain Alf Ball and Crew, on a Protective Patrol with the Main Force to Leipzig; with extra German-speaking member of crew to operate the Special Equipment; 7 KIA and 1 survivor/POW F/Sgt Maxwell James Hibberd; NA240 crash details).

Total 36 Ops for Cookson, but with one early return, final tally 35, thus completing his Tour.

The following Table lists Ops for Cookson and his various crew members, whose names are listed in a later section.

Aircraft Code numbers Z5- are incomplete until they can be verified. (There are discrepancies within the ORB, and between the ORB and various authors, e.g. photos of MZ296 clearly show it was painted as Z5-L, but "Loss of Aircraft" documents recorded it as Z5-N. Perhaps that was a recording error, or perhaps the aircraft code for MZ296 had been changed at some time?)
Times up and down in black are day flights, and times in red are night flights.
Target "Le Havre x 12" means 12 aircraft tasked from 462 Squadron to the target of Le Havre, with Cookson's crew being one of those 12 (and so on for the other dates). There is some variation in the spelling of Target names in the original ORB.
Code for Op Type – B Bombing; SD Special Duties; SP Spoof; W WINDOW; F Flares; TI Target Indicators; I Incendiaries; and RCM Radio Counter Measures using Special Equipment.

 

Date Op No A/c Serial Code Z5- Up Down Target Op Type Comments
09/09/1944 1 MZ296 L 0635 1054 Le Havre x 12 B Cookson as 2nd Pilot for Ronald Roy Hickey (Crew 9); abandoned on orders of Master Bomber; bombs jettisoned.
10/09/1944 2 LL601 ?   1502 1908 Le Havre x 16 B Aircraft listed twice this Op, for Cookson and also for Robert Venters Jubb and crew; based on later Ops, Cookson crew was most likely in LL610, and Jubb in LL601 (but log books are not available to compare)
12/09/1944 3 LK786   1613 2045 Munster x 4 B  
13/09/1944 4 LL610 U 1602 2023 Gelsenkirchen x 15 B  
06/10/1944 5 LL611   1413 1930 Sterkrade x 17 B  
09/10/1944 6 MZ792 P 1740 2304 Bochum x 9 B  
14/10/1944 7 LL610 U 0644 1130 Duisburg x 14 B  
15/10/1944 8 MZ296 L 0006 Missing Duisburg x 13 B

FTR; Missing; all crew baled out near Brussels; all safe.
Aircraft Loss file names MZ296 as Z5-N.

31/10/1944 9 MZ398 X 1756 2300 Köln x 3 B  
02/11/1944 10 MZ461 O 1633 2146 Düsseldorf x 15 B  
04/11/1944 11 MZ461 O 1724 2236 Bochum x 13 B  
06/11/1944 12 MZ461 O 1140 1708 Gelsenkirchen x 14 B  
16/11/1944 13 NA619   1304 1811 Jülich x 16 B  
18/11/1944 14 MZ461 O 1245 1735 Munster x 15 B  
21/11/1944   MZ461 O 1725 2249 Sterkrade x 15 B Early return, 2 inner engines U/S; jettisoned some bombs & some brought back. Not counted in Ops tally.
30/11/1944 15 MZ461 O 1650 2203 Duisburg x 16 B  
02/12/1944 16 MZ461 O 1749 0035 Hagen x 15 B  
05/12/1944 17 MZ402 V 1810 0015 Soest x 14 B  
18/12/1944 18 MZ461 O 0305 0915 Duisburg x 16 B  
21/12/1944 19 NA148 Z 1510 2106 Cologne x 11 B  
02/01/1945 20 MZ461 O 1640 2147 Nuremberg x 8 SD SP W Additional 8th member of crew to dispense WINDOW, T Godsall
06/01/1945 21 MZ461 O 1610 2110 Ruhr x 12 SD SP W Additional 8th member of crew to dispense WINDOW, Edgar George Tattersall
21/01/1945 22 MZ461 O 2005 0025 Bonn x 6 SD SP W B Additional 8th member of crew to dispense WINDOW, Albert Edward Perkes
22/01/1945 23 MZ461 O 1736 0035 Ruhr x 11 SD SP W Additional 8th member of crew to dispense WINDOW, William Anthony Bowden
01/02/1945 24 MZ461 O 1709 2155 Mannheim x 13 SD SP W B Additional 8th member of crew to dispense WINDOW, D F Wadey
02/02/1945 25 NP990   2054 0236 Mannheim x 8 SD SP W B Additional 8th member of crew to dispense WINDOW, Gregory Patrick Farrell; landed away at Woodbridge with A.S.I. U/S.
04/02/1945 26 MZ413 (?MZ431) ? 1756 2213 Ruhr x 10 SD SP W

Additional 8th member of crew to dispense WINDOW, Gregory Patrick Farrell; MZ413 most likely an error for MZ431 (MZ341 was on the same Op, Pilot Hancock)

22/02/1945 27 MZ431 J 1740 2344 Ruhr x 8 SD SP W Additional 8th member of crew to dispense WINDOW, Gregory Patrick Farrell
28/02/1945 28 NR284 Q 2017 0217 Freiburg x 7 SD SP W Additional 8th member of crew to dispense WINDOW, D B Patterson
03/03/1945 29 NA147 G 1935 2346 Dortmund Ems Canal x 8 SD SP W F Additional 8th member of crew to dispense WINDOW, Gregory Patrick Farrell
07/03/1945 30 NR284 Q 1827 0039 Rostock x 6 SD SP W Additional 8th member of crew to dispense WINDOW, Gregory Patrick Farrell
08/03/1945 31 NR284 Q 1803 2356 Dortmund x 5 SD SP W I Additional 8th member of crew to dispense WINDOW, Gregory Patrick Farrell
10/03/1945 32 NA147 G 1753 2312 Munster x 4 SD SP W I Additional 8th member of crew to dispense WINDOW, Gregory Patrick Farrell
13/03/1945 33 NR284 Q 1751 2315 Frankfurt x 11 SD SP W I Additional 8th member of crew to dispense WINDOW, Gregory Patrick Farrell
15/03/1945 34 PN442 H 1753 0047 Munster & Hagen x 8 SD SP W TI I Additional 8th member of crew to dispense WINDOW, T Godsall
22/03/1945 35 NA240 V 0138 0636 Bremen x 5

SD SP W TI I RCM

Additional 8th member of crew to dispense WINDOW, Rollo Roy Stephen Sharpe;
Additional 9th German-speaking member of crew to operate Special Equipment, W F Keehn RCAF.
(This aircraft was lost 10 April 1945, on a Radio Counter Measures flight with the Main Force to Leipzig, Pilot Ball & crew.)

 

Halifax LL610 Z5-U was lost on 2 November 1944, Pilot Robert Venters Jubb; with Jubb an Evader, and the other six of the crew PoWs.
Halifax MZ461 Z5-O was lost on 24 February 1945, Pilot Vivian Clive Ely; with all eight of the crew Killed in Action.
Halifax NA240 Z5-V was lost on 10 April 1945, Pilot Alfred Desmond John Ball and crew; seven Killed in Action, and the R/AG a PoW.
Photos of Halifax MZ431 Z5-J, and Halifax NA147 Z5-G may be seen on the Halifax page.

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Loss of Halifax MZ296
Photos of Halifax MZ296 Z5-L may be seen on the Halifax page. One is from the Australian War Memorial, and the 2nd is from the family of Rear Gunner Neville Owen Reed.

462 Squadron ORB, October 1944, Form 541, page 102, Bombing Attack on Duisburg, Summary .... (quote) .....

13 Aircraft were detailed and became airborne.
11 A/C attacked the target, 1 A/C missing.
12 A/C returned safely.

Total bombs on primary:- 3 x 2000 HC N. INST –
35 x 500 No.14 CLUSTER – 49 x ANM 59 TD.025
14 x ANM 64 TD.025 – 28 x 500 GP LD 37.

Weather. Small amounts of cloud over England but
broken CU and SC over channel and continent tops 8/10000.
Clear over target. Viz. generally good throughout
though slight haze over continent.

The attack is considered successful and the markers to
be in the correct place as two areas of fires were seen
on approach and the markers were in the Southern area. The
TIR were close together and bombed by most crews. The
TIG were just slightly to E. of TIR and bombed by odd
crews. A very large area of fire was N. of the docks
and seen by approaching A/C from over 80 miles away.
Fires were also going south of the docks and fresh ones
sprang up in this area. Smoke was all over the town
and some columns are reported up to 19,000 ft. One
good blaze was seen on the southern edge of fires and
two explosions are reported, one at 0332 north of the
docks, and other at 0324 at S. end of T/A. The glow of
fires were seen up to Antwerp area on return. Defences
consisted of mod. H/F but S/LTS were very numerous. 2
Jubb, 2 S/EU/1 and 1 T/EU/1 fighters were seen in T/A and
fighter flares are reported in Ruhr area & on return route.


462 Squadron ORB, night of 14/15 October 1944, Form 541, pages 103 to 107 inclusive, Bombing Attack on Duisburg, Aircraft & crews ... (quote) ...

 

Aircraft Serial Captain Up Down Comments
Halifax III LL598 Rate 0037 0604 Bombed primary from 19,000ft at 0327½hrs; Photo report:- Fires and TIS
Halifax III MZ429 Finley, DFC 0044 0607 Bombed primary from 19,000ft at 0330hrs; Photo report:- Fires and TIS
Halifax III NA521 Nelder 0014 0611 Bombed primary from 19,000ft at 0326hrs; Photo report:- faint ground detail unplotted, TIS and Fires.
Halifax III MZ341 Hourigan 0054 0616 Bombed primary from 20,000ft at 0320½hrs; Photo report:- A/P.
Halifax III MZ306 Cuttriss 0034 0634 Bombed primary from 19,000ft at 0329½hrs; Photo report:- A/P.
Halifax III MZ296 Cookson 0006 Missing Aircraft outstanding. Emergency message received by Flying Control. Subsequently H.Q. No.4 Group reported that the crew had baled out and the Captain was safe in Brussels. Later reports state that all the crew are safe.
Halifax III MZ792 Marchant 0026 0605 Bombed primary from 19,000ft at 0328hrs; Photo report:- A/P.
Halifax III NA619 Cockerill not listed Not listed Landed at Manston.
Halifax III LL601 Jubb 0031 0635 Bombed primary from 19,000ft at 0332hrs; Photo report:- Built up area on East bank of Rhine 3,500 yds S.W. of A/P in centre of picture.
Halifax III LL610 James 0017 0559 Bombed primary from 19,000ft at 0325½hrs; Photo report:- faint ground detail unplotted – TIS and Fires.
Halifax III NA622 Mitchell 0010 0556 Bombed primary from 19,000ft at 0327hrs; Photo report:- A/P.
Halifax III MZ448 Sanderson 0030 0608 Bombed primary from 19,000ft at 0330hrs; Photo report:- Very faint ground detail unplotted. TIS and Fires.
Halifax III MZ457 MacDermott 0025 0612 Bombed primary from 19,000ft at 0327hrs. Photo report:- TIS and Fires.

462 Squadron ORB, October 1944, Form 540, Part 1 Operations, page 17 .... (quote) .....

"15/10 – Fourteen Aircraft detailed for operations on Duisburg again. Take off
soon after midnight. The weather was perfect and thirteen A/C became airborne, "D",
P/O. Robinson was a non starter due to badly oiled up plugs on Port Outer Engine, and
high oil temperature on Port Inner Engine. One of our A/C is missing from this
operation, "N", F/O. Cookson, but there is great hopes that they are all safe as an
emergency call was received from them but with no details. "Q", F/S. Cockerill landed at
Woodbridge with flak damage. F/S. Cockerill was injured, and the rear gunner baled out
over this country. No further details to hand. All our other Aircraft returned
safely after a very successful raid."
(Note that Cookson's missing aircraft was recorded in this section as "N". However photos of MZ296 clearly identify it as Z5-L.)

NAA Series A11385, Control 1714/5/P1 [462 Squadron] – Loss of Aircraft FA 15/10/44 Halifax III MZ296 – Flying Officer Cookson, W B. (Please note that original documents were not filed in order of date, and some are faded – my apologies for any inadvertent errors. In several documents in this file, MZ296 is recorded as "N", however photos of this aircraft show nose art, serial number MZ296 and Code Z5-L clearly marked.)

15 October 1944 – Immediate Secret Cypher Message from 25 Sector to 4 Group RAF Driffield, with initial report of Loss of Halifax, N for Nuts, (sic) at 0327 hrs on 15 October 1944, intense flak, with suspected flak hit causing fuel leak, Fuel shortage caused Pilot to order crew to bale out, aircraft crashed. Sgt Jones slightly injured reported to this unit (i.e. to 25 Sector).

15 October 1944 – Signal P5 from 462 Squadron to Air Ministry, Kingsway; No. 4 Group; Records Gloucester; RAAF Overseas H.Qrs, Kingsway; RCAF Overseas H.Qrs, Lincoln-in-Field; RNZAF Overseas H.Qrs, Halifax House, Strand, for the Attention of Accidents & P4 Cas.This Signal reported that Halifax III MZ296 Z5-N (sic) failed to return from a raid on Duisburg, Germany on 15/15th October 1944. All four engine serial numbers were listed, as well as all of the crew by name, rank, service number and crew position. F/O Cookson was listed as safe in Brussels, with the fate of the remainder of the crew unknown, but having baled out. The aircraft was carrying equipment I.F.F., H2S, GEE and Fishpond. The aircraft had a shortage of fuel owing to flak damage. English based Next-of-Kin for Elliott and Jones had been been informed, but the overseas Next-of-Kin for the other crew members were yet to be informed.

16 October 1944 – Signal P7 – from No 34 Wing to 462 Squadron, and subsequently forwarded to Air Ministry, Kingsway; No. 4 Group; Records Gloucester; RAAF Overseas H.Qrs, Kingsway; RCAF Overseas H.Qrs, Lincoln-in-Field; RNZAF Overseas H.Qrs, Halifax House, Strand, Halifax III, 462 Squadron, Driffield; Map Ref Sheet 8 Brussels 784594, 2 miles S E Erps Querbs (sic, probably Erps-Kwerps) aircraft abandoned 0430 hrs 15th October, five of crew named; Pilot at B58 Airstrip, location remainder of crew unknown; carrying Radar G and Y; Lack of petrol due to supposed puncture of tanks, of petrol lines by flak.
A second signal with this date also states that there was a mechanical fault and the crew abandoned the aircraft near Louvain (sic, Leuven), Belgium at 0438 and all crew baled out successfully, and Navigator Pratt and the Mid-upper (i.e. Reed, but actually Rear Gunner) were in hospital in Brussels.
A third signal from No 34 Wing with this date advised that Pilot Cookson was not a casualty, and that Reid (sic, Reed) was slightly injured and in Number 8 RAF General Hospital Brussels.
These Signals were forwarded by 462 Sqdn to the Air Ministry etc., as 462 Sqdn Signal P10.

16 October 1944 – Signal – NZ/425934 F/O O.D. Pratt and 1896549 Sgt L.H. Jones returned to the UK and admitted to RAF Hospital Wroughton.
16 October 1944 – Signal – Aus/436481 F/O L.J. Power and R.219749 F/Sgt R.D. Elliot returned to Unit, safe and uninjured.

18 October 1944 – Entry in ORB Form 540, Summary of Events ...... (quote) ... "P/O Cookson, F/O Power, F/S Tolhurst and F/S Elliott have also arrived back from Brussels, and do not appear to be any the worse for their experience."

18 October 1944 – Signal – from Number 8 RAF General Hospital Brussels, to 462 Sqdn advising that "435209 Flight Sergeant Reed admitted this hospital 15 October, condition good, patient understands his next of kin have been informed Missing from Operations, please take necessary actions to convey correct information to next of kin".

19 October 1944 – Signal P12 – from 462 Squadron to Air Ministry etc – correcting names and crew positions for Elliott, Mid-upper Gunner, and Reed, Rear Gunner (but still with errors). Also advised that Cookson, Tolhurst, Power and Elliott had reported back to the Squadron.

25 October 1944 – Signal P15 – from 462 Squadron to Air Ministry etc – further correcting names and crew positions for Elliott, Mid-upper Gunner, and Reed, Rear Gunner. Again advised that Cookson, Tolhurst, Power and Elliott had reported back to the Squadron.

24 October 1944 – Letter from Aus. 435209 F/Sgt N.O. Reed in Ward 13, RAF Hospital Wroughton, near Swindon, requesting that personal belongings he left in envelope "N" 462 Sqn in the briefing room on the night of 15-10-44 (sic) be sent to him by registered post. There was about £7 in his wallet, as well as important addresses that he was anxious to write to, also his pen. He suggested that postage be taken out of the money, and asked that the pen be "fixed so that it won't be damaged in the post". He also needed "the dought" (i.e. money?) and "the bank book".
Note that Reed's envelope was recorded in this section as "N". However photos of MZ296 clearly identify it as Z5-L.

28 October 1944 – Letter to the Under Secretary of State for Air, Air Ministry, from Wing Commander D.E.S. Shannon, Commanding 462 Squadron. He referred to Signal P5 (15 October 1944) and wrote ...... (quote) ... "Halifax III aircraft MZ296 captained and flown by Flying Officer W.B. Cookson, was detailed for a bombing attack on Duisburg on the 14th October 1944. This aircraft took off at 00.06 hours on the 15th October 1944. Over the target heavy flak was experienced and it was suspected that the fuel system was damaged. The target was bombed however, and the course was set for Brussels. When over Belgium the captain gave the order to abandon aircraft and the crew baled out at 04.00 hours on the 15th October. Flying Officer Cookson baled out over Brussels and the aircraft crashed and burst into flames about half a mile away. Three members of the crew were admitted to hospital – F/O Pratt Navigator, F/Sgt Reed Mid-Upper Gunner (sic) and Sgt Jones the Flight Engineer." The Crew were then listed by name, rank, service number and crew position, with Reed listed correctly here as the Rear Gunner; However only six of the crew were listed, with the Mid-Upper Gunner Elliott omitted.

20 November 1944 – Letter to the Under Secretary of State for Air, Air Ministry, from Wing Commander D.E.S. Shannon, Commanding 462 Squadron. He referred to his previous letter of the 28 October 1944 and wrote ...... (quote) ... " ...in connection with the flying accident on the night of 14th/15th October involving Flying Officer W.B. Cookson and his crew. It is very much regretted that the name of one member of the crew was omitted from the last paragraph of my letter ..." The seven crew members were then correctly listed by name, rank, service number and crew position.

20 December 1944 – Signal amending casualty for Reed, and advising that Jones was now back at the Unit (462 Squadron).

21 December 1944 – Signal P30 from 462 Squadron to Air Ministry, Kingsway; No. 4 Group; Records Gloucester; RAAF Overseas H.Qrs, Kingsway; RCAF Overseas H.Qrs, Lincoln-in-Field; RNZAF Overseas H.Qrs, Halifax House, Strand, advising that ..... (quote) .... "the following Officers and NCOs have reported to this unit on 19 October 1944" and went on to give details of Cookson, Tolhurst, Power, Elliott and Jones. It also confirmed that "The following Officer and NCO are safe in the UK and in hospital" (Pratt and Reed).

All of the members of this crew returned to 462 Squadron. Cookson's crew 23 went on to fly with their usual Rear Gunner Toews. Toews also flew with Crew 55 (Pilot/Captain Alan Gibson Swann, 401175 RAAF), probably as a catch up for the flight he missed on the 14/15 October 1944. Crew 23 completed 35 Ops by the end of March 1945.
Rear Gunner Neville Owen Reed went on to fly with his usual crew, minus their original Pilot Walter Donald Friend, but with replacement Pilot/Captain Alan Edwin Astill 421143 RAAF, renumbered as Crew 52.
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Cookson's later crews

After the loss of Halifax MZ296 on the night of 14/15 October, later Ops were flown with many changes to the crew.
The crew names, listed by crew position (including the aborted Op) are ........

Bomb Aimer
1. Wilfrid Henry Tolhurst 427168 RAAF was the original and only Bomb Aimer for Cookson, flying in 35 Ops.

Navigator
1. Owen Dallas Pratt 425934 RNZAF, original Nav for Cookson's crew, 7 Ops.
2. Basil Gordon Nichols 1339111 (later 190760) RAFVR, 14 Ops
3. Maxwell Arthur Smith 424803 RAAF, 2 Ops
4. Frank Lewis Birch 434165 RAAF, 11 Ops
5. D E Miller 1397845 RAF, 1 Op

Wireless Operator
1. Leslie John Power 436481 RAAF, original W/Op for Cookson's crew, 27 Ops
2. William Anthony Bowden 418792 RAAF, 5 Ops
3. W A Turner 410108 RAAF, 1 Op (possibly an error for Bowden? Turner not otherwise located in ORB)
4. Frank Maxwell Barkla DFC 407924 RAAF, 1 Op
5. Clifford Kingsley Barnett 432090 RAAF, 1 Op

Rear Gunner
1. W E Toews R.278376 RCAF, original R/AG for Cookson's crew, 10 Ops (later moved to the MU/AG position)
2. Neville Owen Reed 435209 RAAF, 1 Op
3. R D Elliott R.219749 RCAF, 23 Ops (had moved from the MU/AG position)
4. R Handyside 1825585 RAF, 1 Op

Mid-Upper Gunner
1. R D Elliott R.219749 RCAF, 11 Ops, original MU/AG for this crew (later moved to the R/AG position, thus a total of 34 Ops with Cookson)
2. H J Irons 1384313? RAF, 1 Op
3. T Godsall 1579155 RAF, 2 Ops
4. W E Toews R.278376 RCAF, 20 Ops (had moved from the R/AG position, thus a total of 30 Ops with Cookson)
5. F T Hutton 1826421 RAF, 1 Op

Flight Engineer
1. Leonard Henry Jones 1896549 (later 190273) RAFVR, original F/E for Cookson's crew, 34 Ops
2. William Folger Readhead DFC 50956 RAF, 1 Op

Special Duties – Foulsham only, 8th crew member to dispense WINDOW (several had flown with this crew in their substantive role).
1. T Godsall 1579155 RAF, 2 Ops
2. Edgar George Tattersall 437020 RAAF, 1 Op
3. Perkins (most likely Albert Edward Perkes 429346 RAAF), 1 Op
4. William Anthony Bowden 418792 RAAF, 1 Op
5. D F Wadey 1602161 RAF, 1 Op
6. D T or D B Patterson 1827279 RAF, 1 Op
7. Gregory Patrick Farrell 432776 RAAF, 8 Ops
8. Rollo Roy Stephen Sharpe 427558 RAAF, 1 Op

Special Duties – Foulsham only, 9th member of Crew to operate Radio Counter Measures equipment, for Cookson's last Op.
1. W F Keehn R164634 RCAF, 1 Op

Thus Cookson flew with 31 different crew members during his posting to 462 Squadron.
Total Ops for each of the original crew flying with Cookson – Tolhurst 35, Pratt 7, Power 27, Toews 30, Elliott 34, Jones 34.
They may have crewed with other pilots to increase their final total Op Tally.
Cookson was one of the few Pilots in 462 Squadron to complete more than 30 Ops while posted to this Squadron, with even fewer completing 35 Ops.

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