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Another interesting story from WW2 for NEW visitors
Posted by Norman Dunn on January 16, 2023, 19:09:41
Some older regulars know of this Wartime tale, I've posted it again for our newer board visitors.
Hebburn WW2 Flight Sergeant & 'Bomb Aimer' Howard Langlands
By Norman Dunn 2002
At 2.23am on the morning of the 4th of July 1943, when most people were tucked up in bed, a British Wellington Bomber, belonging to 196 Squadron was returning from a bombing mission over Cologne, Germany when it was shot down by a German Night-fighter over the village of Solre-sur-Sambre in Belgium. The night fighter was I/NJG4 piloted by Major W Herget based at Florennes Airbase south of Charleroi. The Wellington's Flight Sergeant, 'Bomb Aimer' was Hebburn man Howard Langlands age just 24. He along with five crew & an occupant of the house they crashed on were killed. The Wellington had taken off on this mission from RAF Leconfield in Yorkshire, less than 4 hours earlier, with its 4000lb bomb load. The mission had involved a total of 683 aircraft including Lancaster's, Stirling's, Halifax's, Wellington's & Mosquito's. In 2002 a Sol-sur-Sambre researcher, Daniel Brasseur was investigating the 6 man crew of the Wellington HZ478 that crashed onto his Village and found that Howard was from Hebburn so he asked on Mike Ellison's original Hebburn.org message board if anyone could help him. I knew the name Langlands so got in touch, offering to help. While helping I found another Hebburn man,Tommy Kidger had been a classmate of Howard's at the 'Quay Board School'. Tommy survived the war & was awarded the DFC presented by ‘Bomber Harris’. He’d flown 30 missions over Germany in ‘Stirling’ bombers and a couple of the missions were to bomb an aeroplane factory in northern Italy and also the German V1 & V2 Rocket Factories at Peenemunde off Denmark. Tommy hadn’t told anyone other than family that he was the holder of the DFC. Here he is below with his daughter.
Tommy didn’t know Howard had joined the RAF aswell & had been shot down. During my enquiries I obtained a Quay Board class photo from Norman Robb another classmate, and Howard is on the photo but the day the photo was taken Tommy was off sick with the Mumps.
Norman pointed Howard out on the class photo and pointed to himself in the centre of the second row from the front.
Poor Norman had dementia and died not long after wards. His son was amazed he could remember faces from the early 1930s. Norman loaned further photos with Howard on them from when Howard worked at Hawthorn Leslie’s. Daniel the researcher said he has a good resolution '196 Squadron' photograph taken from a negative loaned by Mr Roland Williamson a Navigator in the Squadron. The photo was taken before June 28th 1943 which was Roland's last mission with the Squadron. The photo could be the actual Bomber that Howard died in. Daniel didn't know which man Howard was so I asked for a copy & took it to my uncle Stan Hanwell (ex RAF) and he pointed him out on the photo. Howard is 7th from the left in the back row.
Daniel was happy he could put a face to 'his' Bomb Aimer.
I found more information about Howard. He was born in 1919 to Ann Stobart Davies & Howard Langlands and lived in Leslie Ave and was an only child. At some point they moved to 36 Jutland Avenue. Before the war he was a Joiner at Hawthorn Leslie’s and such a good craftsman they employed him on model-making. He was also a good cricketer & played for Hawthorn Leslies. After his death in 1943, his parents never got over it and lived on into the 1970's in their Jutland Avenue home.
Daniel Brasseur writes: Many inhabitants of Solre-sur-Sambre still remember the night of July 3-4, 1943 when a British Bomber crashed near the village cemetery. They are all buried at the cemetery of Gosselies, near the city of Charleroi. 'It was on a hot summer night & some houses had their windows open when a deafening engine noise disturbed the tranquility of the village. 'Some persons still remember the flames in the sky, the plane, the horrible explosion, the violent shock, the dispersed remains, the blazing fuel that flowed over the Emile Bosseau Street and the dead who arrived to remind people this night that there was still a war going on. A blazing wing and an engine have crashed on the roof of the family Vigneron. 'M Charlemagne Vigneron ensured his son was alive, and asked his wife & son to follow him, before jumping out of the window. 'Surprised in their sleep, Madame Vigneron & her son escaped from the house by the back door. Everything was on fire & there were explosions all around. 'At the moment that Madam Vigneron jumped out of the window onto Emile Bosseau Street, a wing from the plane crashed into the street. A ball of flame erupted, and Charlemagne Vigneron was trapped in his home where he suffered an appalling death. His wife & son were saved due to fleeing out of the back door. One engine crashed in the garden of M Crigne and the cockpit landed on the property of M Arnould, with the body of one of the RAF men still at his position. A second crew mans body was found nearby, and the other RAF men were found dead in their parachutes ready to jump. A card showing the Wellington's flight plan was found in the garden of M Delahaut in Pont Bara Street & he burned it due to fear of reprisals from the occupying Germans. Debris from the Bomber was scattered over a wide area, and the Germans immediately barricaded the crash site & forbade all access. Strangers flocked to the village & rumours abounded that a crew member had survived- sadly not the case- and that a German officer- possibly Major Herget the pilot who shot the bomber down- had came to see his handiwork. A recovery team, the Bergunskommando, arrived from the Gosselies airfield to remove the RAF men’s bodies & the aircraft remains. It took two days to gather the wreckage of the Bomber & load it onto trucks, so it could be taken by railroad to the recovery park in Paris where all the remains of Allied Planes that came down in Belgium were taken. The crew of the Wellington HZ478 were among millions of casualties of the Second World War, but these RAF crew are people Solre-sur-Sambre will remember for generations Researched by Daniel Brasseur & Norman Dunn.
Re: Another interesting story from WW2 for NEW visitors