One for the experts

Discussion in 'World War 2' started by Cobber, Nov 15, 2009.

  1. Cobber

    Cobber New Member

    This is a edited version of a post i came across on my favite site;
    A closed site with Written applications and having to be seconded by a member is only way in, so it happens to have a lot of very good peole so if i feel i can help or whatever another member I will try.

    Information needed on

    - Warrant Officer Leslie James Symonds.

    He enlisted in 1942 into the RAAF - posting to No. 619 Squadron RAF. In mid 1942 he was sent to Strubby, Lincolnshire in England where he served with 619 as an Air Gunner and Pilot. Though he had his wings, he did not fly for 619.

    These are the details of his final flight on 5 January 1945 that I (the author)have managed to piece together.

    Took off from RAF Scrubby, Lincolnshire at 01.22 hrs to attack the German garrison town of Royan, France. 347 Lancaster's and 7 Mosquitoes took part in the controversial attack. The town was under siege at the time by French Resistance force commandeered by the Free French officers appointed by De Gaulle.

    The French without artillery had little effect on the German troops but the German commander offered the civilian inhabitants of the town to leave but many preferred to stay in order to look after their homes. Around 2,000 civilians remained.

    Bomber Command was ordered to attack to soften up the German forces after the French assured S.H.A.E.F. (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) that the only civilians left in the town were collaborators. A last minute cancellation due to some "doubts" about the report was not received by Bomber Command and the raid took place.

    The attack was carried out in two waves in good visibility conditions in the early hours of 5th January. 1,576 tons of high-explosive bombs were dropped on the town. Resulting in between 85-90% of the town being destroyed with the civilian death toll estimated as up to 800. German casualties were given as around 35 - 50 killed.

    Many repercussions followed this raid with Bomber Command being totally cleared whilst the American Officer from S.H.A.E.F. was removed from his command, a French General committed suicide. The Germans did not surrender the town until the 18th April.

    Many versions are reported about this raid - we may never know the real truth.

    4 Lancaster's were lost on the raid and a further 2 were lost after colliding behind Allied lines in France. 33 Crew members were killed and another 1 injured.

    Lancaster ND728 Crashed with the loss of all the crew. (*) Sgt. William Howard Bartholomew is thought to have survived but died a few days later. No other bodies were recovered from the crash site.

    In respect of the fallen, I have managed to find the flight crew. I would officially like to thank all who have helped me over the years to attempt to bring his remains home. Sadly, I am unable to follow through on this promise as no remains have ever been recovered.

    So I say thank you to the following members of flight ND728, Lancaster III:

    F/O. Dean Gray RAAF

    Sgt. Arrol Johnson RAFVR

    Fl/Sgt. Eric Andrew Morley RAFVR

    Fl/Sgt. Howard Insley RAFVR

    Sgt. Ronald Brown RAFVR

    Sgt. William Howard Bartholomew RAFVR

    ..and finally...

    W/O. Leslie James Symonds RAAF

    This case by all means not closed. I am undertaking research for 4 of the families of crew members in an effort to bring them some closure as well. It's been a long 7 years, but it's been one hell of a journey. Thank you to all involved!
    The end.

    Cobber writing.

    So I now hand it over to the experts, i wouldn't ask you to look if i didn't have a high opionon of your work.

    My Thanks in advance


    Some more info WO Leslie Symonds RAAF

    Serial Nimber 424572
    Lancaster ND 728
    Killed jan 5 1945
  2. Dave Barlow

    Dave Barlow Member

    Lancaster ND728; Place - at sea; Date - 5 January 1945

    SYMONDS, Leslie James - (Warrant Officer); Service Number - 424572

    GRAY, Dean – (Flying Officer); Service Number – 417746 AUS

    JOHNSON – (Sergeant); Service Number – 1595131

    MORLEY – (Flight Sergeant); Service Number – 1581491

    PINSLEY – (Flight Sergeant); Service Number – 1507972

    BROWN – (Sergeant); Service Number – 1595165

    BARTHOLOMEU – (Sergeant); Service Number – 1898551
  3. CXX

    CXX New Member

    The following details related to this loss are taken from 'Bomber Command Losses' Vol.6 - W R. Chorley

    4-5 January 1945

    619 Squadron
    Lancaster III ND728 PG-N
    Op. Royan.

    F/O. D. Gray RAAF +
    Sgt. A. Johnson +
    F/S. E A. Morley +
    F/S. H. Insley +
    W/O. L J. Symonds RAAF +
    Sgt. R. Brown +
    Sgt. W B. Bartholomew. inj

    Took off 0122 hrs Strubby to bomb German garrison dominating the entrance to the Gironde river. It is believed Sgt. Bartholomew survived the crash as his date of death is shown as 8 January. he is buried in Soulac-sur-Mer (Olives) Communal Cemetery. the others of the crew have no known grave.


    4/5 January 1945

    Royan: 347 Lancasters and 7 Mosquitos of Nos 1, 5 and 8 Groups. 4 Lancasters were lost and 2 more collided behind Allied lines in France and crashed.

    This was a tragic raid with a strange - and disputed - background. Royan was a town situated at the mouth of the River Gironde in which a stubborn German garrison was still holding out, preventing the Allies from using the port of Bordeaux. The task of besieging the town had been given to 12,000 men of the French Resistance commanded by Free French officers appointed by General de Gaulle. The commander of the German garrison recognized the Resistance units as regular forces and the normal rules of warfare were observed. The French, lacking artillery, made little progress with their siege. The German commander gave the inhabitants of the town the opportunity to leave but many preferred to stay in order to look after their homes. It is believed that there were 2,000 civilians at the time of the raid.

    On 10 December 1944, a meeting took place at the town of Cognac between French officers and an American officer from one of the tactical air force units in France. After a meal, at which much alcohol is supposed to have been consumed, the American officer suggested that the German garrison at Royan should be 'softened up' by bombing. He was assured by the French that the only civilians remaining in the town were collaborators - which was not correct. The suggestion that the town be bombed was passed to SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force), which decided that the task should be given to Bomber Command: 'To destroy town strongly defended by enemy and occupied by German troops only.' It is said that SHAEF ordered a last-minute cancellation because of doubts about the presence of French civilians but the order, if issued, was not received by Bomber Command in time.

    The attack was carried out by 2 waves of bombers, in good visibility conditions, in the early hours of 5 January. 1,576 tons of high-explosive bombs - including 285 'blockbuster' (4,OOOlb bombs) - were dropped. Local reports show that between 85 and 90 per cent of the small town was destroyed. The number of French civilians killed is given as '500 to 700' and as '800' by different sources. Many of the casualties were suffered in the second part of the raid, which took place an hour after the first and caught many people out in the open trying to rescue the victims of the first wave of the bombing trapped in their houses. The number of Germans killed is given as 35 to 50. A local truce was arranged and, for the next 10 days, there was no fighting while the search for survivors in wrecked houses continued.

    There were many recriminations. Bomber Command was immediately exonerated. The American air-force officer who passed on the original suggestion to SHAEFwas removed from his command. The bitterest disputes took place among the Free French officers and accusations and counter-accusations continued for many years after the war. A French general committed suicide. De Gaulle, in his Memoires, blamed the Americans: 'American bombers, on their own initiative, came during the night and dropped a mass of bombs.' The German garrison did not surrender until 18 April.
  4. Cobber

    Cobber New Member

    Thanks for the replies' unfortunately most of this info is already known, so I'll put it down as going down into the ocean as the town, river and burial place are all in same basic area bang up against the ocean in the bay of Biscay
    So Here's looking at you Spidge and co, do you have anything that you can add.

    The fellow asking is a young bloke trying to help his Great auntie by getting all this info and he is also looking at possible burial although their is no mention of a body surviving, and with the op being so close to the sea with Royan the Gironde river and delta as well as the burial place for Sgt Bartholomew Soulac-Sur-Mer all close by each other in the bay of Biscay. Most likely means the plane went down in the water.

    Cheers and a beer for you all
  5. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

    Chorley has done some amendments to his work online. Considerable work was done by RAAF investigators as follows:

    Now, considering so much work was done to investigate the Australians lost in the collision, one could argue that, surely, an effort would have been made re the Gray crew (i.e. including Symonds) - given their nationality, location of loss, being on the same raid etc - since the investigating officers would have had to use their time most efficiently and effectively given the immense scope of their work.

    Therefore, it would certainly be worthwhile requesting Symonds' casualty file be digitised. There might be an explanation as to why the body was not found/not recovered or the grave lost. If his loss was investigated, details of same will be on his file.

    Edit: Cobber, note the comment about the Lanc portion falling in the water or the town. Either is a distinct possibility re the Gray crew unless witnesses saw it hit the water.
  6. Adrian Jackson

    Adrian Jackson New Member

    WO Leslie James Symonds RAAF was my uncle (my mothers brother). I did not know him as I was born in 1952. He was not married and enlisted into the RAAF in Willowtree, New South Wales, Australia on 16 Sep 1942. He was from a farming family and had 2 sisters and 2 brothers. The other brothers and my mother died in the 1980's but the last sister died in Oct 2012 aged 96. Before she died I told her about the mission he was KIA in.

    The book "619 The History of the forgotten squadron" by Bryan Clark has the story of the Royan bombing mission cock up that saw French civilian bombed with many killed instead of a German garrison (they had gone) and resulted in the loss of 4 aeroplane from the mission.

    Google 619 squadron nd728 pg-n and check out some of the sites on this aeroplane. There is an enlistment photo of Uncle Les on the UK RAF memorial website.

    The Symonds & King families (male line) two or three generations back were from England while the Mitchell and Zietler families (female line) were from Scotland and Bavaria respectively three generations back.

    My email is

    Regards, Adrian Jackson. Middle Park, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  7. Adrian Jackson

    Adrian Jackson New Member

    Some family members are on building family trees online. My Jackson tree is one but the Blake (married name of Les sister who died last year) and the Symonds trees and others have data on Uncle Leslie so he is not forgotten.

    Regards, Adrian

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