May 1st 1943
On the 30th of April 1943 around 23:53 Halifax JB-803 KN-G, (G for George) of 77 Squadron, took off from RAF Elvington. The mission of this night was to bomb the city of Essen, Germany. On board that night are 7 commonwealth crew members. 5 British crew members and two Canadians.
The crew of JB803 this night are:
Gordon Watson, aged 20 Pilot
Arthur Edward Parsons, aged 27, Navigator and only officer on board
Leon Hannam aged 22, the bomb aimer and air gunner
Ian Douglas Crawford, aged 21, Flight engineer
Thomas Deuel Scarff, aged 23, Tail gunner
Raymond Shepherd, aged 21, Top Gunner
William Robert Louth, aged 29, Wireless operator
On that night, the crew was on their 13th mission, apart from Louth and Shepherd, Louth did the last 6 and Shepherd did the last 4.
Crossing the North Sea was relatively uneventful but after crossing the Dutch coast it did not take long before the flight was picked up by German Radar operators and German pilot Heinz Vinke was send out to intercept the incoming bombers. He caught up with JB-803 above North Holland and started his attack at an altitude of 6,300 meters. It is most likely Vinke started his attack from the rear leaving Sergeant Scarff heavily wounded or even killed.
The attack of Vinke damaged the aircraft significantly and Watson not able maintaining altitude had no other option than to start his descend into the thick cloudlayer below them. The conditions over Holland that night were not the best one could hope for. The drizzle and low cloudbase that night is part of a frontal system passing Holland, The aircraft circled around Muiden and we think they have been trying to establish their position in order to bail out over land instead of water. The thick cloud layer above them blocked all the light from the moon and most likely they have seen a light source causing them to start circling. 5 crewmembers bailed out and landed in the Ijsselmeer (Zuiderzee)
Watson and Scarff both remained on board of the airplane. Watson had to decided if he would land the airplane or to jump. We do not know what happened exactly that night but the airplane crashed at 02:26 hrs. The plane crashed and exploded instantly and fires at the crashsite were observed for the rest of the night. The next day Scarff and Watson were found outside the aircraft. The local doctor stated their injuries would have caused them to be killed instantly.
Watson and Scarff were buried that same day after 20:00, the mayor of Muiden was present at the burial. In the days following the burial the rest of the crew washed ashore unfortunately they did not survive their ordeal of parachuting into water. Sergeant Louth his remains have never been found and he remains missing to this day.
This website is dedicated to the crew of Halifax JB-803, lest we forget……