Sergeant Benjamin F Goldsmith

This is a most interesting tale for several reasons. Firstly it shows the really extraordinary courage of the man to get back into his rear turret to fly dangerous missions over occupied Europe. He no longer had the false comfort of ‘it could never happen to me’, that bubble was well and truly burst. He now knew the cold, hard reality of war. Secondly it dispels a widely held myth about airmen who had been helped to return to Britain from the continent.

The resistance and Escape lines in Belgium and France had been assured by the War Office that no airman returned to the UK would ever be asked to fly over Europe again. While this was possibly true, the impression that there would be no question of them falling into German hands and betraying the brave patriots who had helped them was just a little misleading. Should an individual airman express a firm desire to get back to the fight then he could again be sent to an operational squadron. Benjamin is not the only example that I have come across.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

He served with 149 Squadron RAF as an Air Gunner in Stirling bombers based at Lakenheath. His first operation was on the night of the 2nd/3rd of May 1942 in Stirling N6081 OJ-G to drop bombs on the docks area of Nantes. Nothing unusual was reported. The captain was Sergeant Clayton and the crew was the same for the trip on the 6th of June when they were shot down.

On the 6th/7th of May he went to Stuttgart in Stirling N6092 OJ-Q as part of Sergeant Witney’s crew, again there were no reportable incidents. On the next night he went with Sergeant Clayton in Stirling N6079 OJ-F to go mine laying in the Baltic Sea. There were no incidents.

Their next trip for Sergeant Clayton and his crew was on the night of 17/18th of May, again to go Gardening, this time in Stirling W7508 OJ-D. Another quiet trip. On the night of the 19/20th of May Sergeant Clayton again took W7508, this time on a raid on Mannheim. He reported large fires in the target area.

The next outing was not so quiet. They again flew in W7508 to lay mines in the area around the Frisian Islands. They were attacked by a German night fighter and the rear turret was rendered inoperable. Whether Goldsmith was able to get out of the turret or had to wait until they landed is not mentioned, but it would have been a fairly fraught time for him either way. He had a lucky escape, the German pilot’s intention would have been to eliminate the threat from the rear gunner.

The night of the 30/31st of May was the first 1000 bomber raid to Cologne when William and his crew had a bad time carrying out their part in the raid. Clayton’s crew were also there in W7508. They returned without incident. Clayton and his crew were out in W7508 again on the night of the 1/2nd of June for a raid on Essen. They reported no incidents.

Goldsmith’s ninth operational trip was on the 6th of June as the rear gunner in Stirling W7508 OJ-D with his usual crew. They were shot down on the way to attack Essen by a Bf110 flown by Oberleutnant Walter Barte 4/NJG4 at 02:27 over L’Ecluse in Brabant, Belgium. Sergeant Dudley James Poynter, the Mid Upper Gunner, also survived but was immediately captured and became a Prisoner of War. After his repatriation he married Doreen M Drowley in 1948, they had three children, Sergeant Poynter died in 1986.

The other six members of their crew perished in the incident. They were interred locally and later all buried together in Adegem Canadian War Cemetery, Oost-Vlaanderen, Belgium. They were:-
Pilot – Pilot Officer Peter Levinge Clayton aged 20 the son of Charles Levinge Clayton and Esta Edith Clayton née Levin, of Bishops Stortford.
2nd Pilot – Sergeant James Hutchison Mouat 22 Son of James Mollison Mouat and Anna Wilson Mouat née Somers, of Inveraray, Argyllshire, Scotland.
Flight Engineer – Sergeant Michael Joseph Kelleher 21 Son of James and Anne Kelleher, of Portstewart, Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.
Navigator – Pilot Officer David Morgan Price Jones Born in 1914 in Builth Wells, the son of John and Mary Jones née Williams.
Wireless Operator – Sergeant Thomas Alfred George 27 Son of Robert Edward and Julia Gertrude George; husband of Eveline George née Ross, of Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, England. Their son Thomas R was born in late 1942.
Wireless Operator & Front Gunner – Sergeant John Frederick Gwyther Born on the 6th May 1912 Son of John Edward and 1909 Florence Elizabeth Gwyther née Lowe (usually known as Alice). He married Charlotte Myra Lumley-Holmes, in 1940, they had no children.

Having baled out of the stricken aircraft Goldsmith landed in a cornfield, where he hid his equipment under the hedge. Crawling under some barbed wire he fell into a flooded ditch on the other side. When he came to a farm he knocked on the door and called out “RAF.” The farmer quickly pulled him inside and showed his location on a map. Using the dictionary and money from his escape kit, Goldsmith offered to pay for shoes, as he wanted to make his way to Brussels, where he had heard there was an escape route operating, The farmer then took him to the local gendarmerie where he was given coffee and a bed to rest up before being fed. The farmer returned later to take him to the village of Grèz-Doiceau where he spent the night at the home of a man (possibly called Leblicq) who was with the Belgian Resistance. On 7th of June, he was taken to Wavre where he spent the night in a technical institute, with an English woman married to a Belgian (possibly Daisy and Desire Gain). The whole family spoke English. He forgot their names, but reported that the woman’s sister was a Mrs. Lovejoy, who lived on The Broadway in Hendon. He was the first English aviator they saw.

On the 8th of June their daughter Raymonde took him to Brussels by the local tram. From there Desire Gain and another man took him to a boarding school for girls at Bodart. He was the first airman to be sheltered there and would stay for about five days. He was taken to a photographer’s house who took the pictures to be used for his ID card. Marguerite Van Lier then accompanied him to the home of Carl Servais the radio operator at 28-30 Stevens Delannoy Street in Laeken where he stayed from 11th to the 23rd of June. This is where he met W.R. Griffiths, and the rest of their journey is recounted in Chapter 19.

Shortly after his return to home shores Sergeant Goldsmith rejoined 149 Squadron and continued to serve as a rear gunner. His first operational trip after his return from Europe was on the 4th of September 1942 when he joined the Greenslade crew. This trip to Bremen in Stirling W7628 OJ-B was largely routine and all went well. The navigator was Pilot Officer F C Jones, the others as listed below. On the 6th the same crew took Stirling BF311 OJ-G on a raid to Duisberg and reported no opposition. Goldsmith’s next mission was on the night of the 15/16th on a trip to the Bay of Biscay to lay mines in the area just south of La Rochelle again in BF311. They reported no incidents. They also went gardening on the early morning of the 23rd of September in W7628 OJ-B. They had to jettison the mines and return early as the port outer engine failed, and the port inner would only run on reduced power.

On the night of the October 2nd 1942 the Stirling bomber R9167, call sign OJ-N took off at 19:30 from RAF Lakenheath to bomb Krefeld in Germany. At around 21:30 they were intercepted by a Messerschmitt Bf110 night fighter over Horst flown by Oberleutnant Hans-Dieter Frank and his radar operator/rear gunner Unteroffizier Erich Gotter. They jettisoned the bombs but it made little difference. The Bf110 attacked once more and the Stirling crashed in flames. One of the airmen, Sergeant Ernest Leslie Moore, lay mortally wounded in the field near the wreckage and died before he could be transported to hospital in Venlo. He had pointed constantly to the ring on his left ring finger, and a local chap managed to get the ring off. This was sent to his parents shortly after the liberation.

None of the rest of the crew survived the crash. They are all buried together in Jonkerbos War Cemetery.

The crew of the Short Stirling R9167 OJ-N were:
Pilot – Squadron Leader William Roy Greenslade, DFC AFC Age 25. The son of William Henry and Irene Greenslade of Hanna, Alberta, Canada
Flight Engineer – Sergeant Marshal Kenneth Smith Age 21. Son of Leonard Frederick and Emily Gertrude Smith; husband of Evelyn May Smith, of Cambridge.
Navigator – Flight Sergeant Robert Francis McIntyre R.C.A.F. Age 25 Son of Andrew Nesbit McIntyre and Kathleen Mary McIntyre, of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Wireless Oerator/Air Gunner – Sergeant Frederick Leonard Hughes Age 21. Son of Frederick and Violet May Hughes, of Shoreditch, London.
Wireless Operator/Air Gunner – Sergeant Ernest Leslie Moore Age 20. Son of Ernest William and Kate Moore, of Leicester.
Air Gunner – Flight Sergeant William Orange, born in Bedlington, Morpeth on the 27th March 1915, the son of Robert Orange and Susan Snape.
Air Gunner – Sergeant Benjamin Frederick Goldsmith Born in 1920 in Edmonton, the son of Leopold Jacob and Margaret Marie Bacon, of Prestwich, Lancashire.

There is now a memorial to the crew in Bedelaarspad near Kronenberg.


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