Friday, September 18, 2009

Lost in France

Sgt. John Gregory Woods, R.A.F.V.R . (1921 - 1944)
(Wireless Operator, 101 Squadron)
[Photograph courtesy of Patricia Doyle, kinswoman] 


Sergeant John Gregory Woods, RAFVR, of 101 Squadron, whose photograph can be seen above, was one of nine airmen lost in the vicinity of Voué (Aube), France on 4 May 1944. Eight of the airmen belonged to 101 Squadron of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, while the ninth airman belonged to 166 Squadron. 
The village of Voué is located in the Champagne - Ardenne region of France and is far from the main First World War battlefields of the Western Front and the Second World War battlefields of Normandy and Provence.

May they rest in peace.

Motto of 101 Squadron:
"Mens agitat molem" ("Mind over matter").

Motto of 166 Squadron:
For additional information click on 'Comments' below


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

Below are a few details about the nine casualties buried in Voué Churchyard, mainly based on the Commonwealth War Graves records. In addition, I have a few further details about the first casualty dealt with below (Sergeant John G. Woods, RAFVR) whose name was submitted to Cleator Moor Town Council for inclusion in the town's 'Roll of Honour' in the mid-1990s, a project I began to be involved with in 2006.

As stated above, all these casualties died on 4 May 1944 when they would have been on missions over France. It should be noted that the first eight casualties, belonging to 101 Squadron, are all buried in the same communal grave. They would have been members of the same flight crew. The ninth casualty listed below belonged to 166 Squadron and is buried in a separate grave.

These are the RAFVR casualties buried in Voué Churchyard, Aube, France:

(1) Sergeant John Gregory Woods, RAFVR

Service No: 1486640

Squadron: 101 Squadron

Rank: Sergeant (Wireless Operator)

Age: 23

Buried: Collective Grave No 2

Additional information (obtained from the Church registers of St Mary's R.C. Church, Cleator, Cumberland):
Son of John Woods and Elizabeth Woods (née Murphy). Born 12 March 1921. Baptised at St Mary's R.C. Church, Cleator, Cumberland on 13 March 1921 (Ceremony performed by Father Edward Dominic Fennell O.S.B. with the sponsors being William and Anne Murphy).

[NB - at the time of writing Sgt Woods' Next of Kin, home town or age at the time of death are not listed on the CWGC records]


Friday, 18 September, 2009  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

(2) Sergeant James Bailey, RAFVR

Service No: 1591915

Squadron: 101 Squadron

Rank: Sergeant (Flight Engineer)

Age: 19

Buried: Collective Grave No 2

Additional information:
Son of John Bailey and Alice Bailey of Harden, Yorkshire.


(3) Sergeant Norman Reginald Bishop, RAFVR

Service No: 1578199

Squadron: 101 Squadron

Rank: Sergeant (Air Bomber)

Age: 20

Buried: Collective Grave No 2

Additional information:
Son of Herbert Reginald Bishop and Elsie Bishop of Billesley, Birmingham


(4) Sergeant Eric Edward Borton, RAFVR

Service No: 1868872

Squadron: 101 Squadron

Rank: Sergeant (Air Gunner)

Age: Unknown

Buried: Collective Grave No 2

[NB - Sgt Borton's age, Next of Kin or his home town are not currently listed by the CWGC]


(5) Sergeant Arthur James Bowles, RAFVR

Service No: 1590669

Squadron: 101 Squadron

Rank: Sergeant (Air Gunner)

Age: 19

Buried: Collective Grave No 2

Additional information:
Son of Lieutenant-Commander Herbert Bowles (formerly RNVR) and Hilda Bowles of Gosforth, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.


(6) Sergeant John Joseph Gorman, RAFVR

Service No: 168781

Squadron: 101 Squadron

Rank: Sergeant (Wireless Operator)

Age: 25

Buried: Collective Grave No 2

Additional information:
Son of John William Gorman and Hilda Gorman


(7) Flight Sergeant Nigel Arthur Lacey-Johnson, RAFVR

Service No: 1576434

Squadron: 101 Squadron

Rank: Flight Sergeant (Navigator)

Age: 23

Buried: Collective Grave No 2

Additional information:
Son of Richard Arnold Lacey-Johnson and Florence Christine Lacey-Johnson of Christmas Common, Oxfordshire.


(8) Flying Officer Kenneth William Angus Muir, RAFVR

Service No: 146137

Squadron: 101 Squadron

Rank: Flying Officer (Pilot)

Age: 22

Buried: Collective Grave No 2

Additional information:
Son of William Angus Muir and Clara A. Muir; stepson of Nora Muir, of Whatlington, Sussex.


(9) Sergeant Jack Arthur William Bodsworth, RAFVR

Service No: 1853136

Squadron: 166 Squadron

Rank: Sergeant (Air Gunner)

Age: 27

Buried: Grave No 1

Additional information:
Son of Arthur Bodsworth and Alice Daisy Bodsworth Bromley, Kent.


Additional comment:

Unfortunately I do not have any specific details about the missions they were involved with on 4 May 1944. However, this was about a month before the D-Day Landings in Normandy. At that time much of the effort of Bomber Command and the RAF in general was involved in supporting the build-up to D-Day, which included bombing strategic targets and supplying the French Resistance fighters with munitions.

Any comments or additional information that anyone can add to this article about the activities of 101 Squadron and / or 166 Squadron, or about the war in Voué would be appreciated.

Friday, 18 September, 2009  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Supplementary information:

(10) 101 Squadron and 166 Squadron in May 1944

The following information was obtained from reference works about Bomber Command in WW2. These were consulted at my local library (references given at the end).

From September 1942 until the end of the war 101 Squadron was part of 1 Group of Bomber Command. In January 1943 166 Squadron also became part of 1 Group. The airfield bases for 1 Group of Bomber Command were mainly based in the northern and western parts of Lincolnshire in the East of England [HQ at Bawtry with bases at Sandtoft, Lindholme, Blyton, Henswell, Faldingworth, Wickenby, Ludford Magna, Kelstern, Binbrook, Grimsby (North Cotes), Kirmington, Elsham Woods and North Killingholme].

As previously referred to, at this time in the spring of 1944 Bomber Command effort was turned over to a supporting role for the imminent invasion of North West Europe, which took place on D-Day 6 June 1944. The idea was to limit the German potential to send reinforcements to repel the Allied invasion. This phase of Bomber Command's strategy began in April 1944. Many of these bombing raids targeted the French railway network, munitions factories, ammunition depots, military camps, coastal batteries and other strategic targets.

On the night of 3 / 4 May 1944 the target for No 1 and No 5 Groups of Bomber Command was a German military camp at Mailly-le-Camp. This village is in the north of the Aube departément, France and therefore Mailly-le-Camp is not too distant from Voué.

The airfield bases for 5 Group of Bomber Command were also mainly in Lincolnshire - a little to the south of the airfields used by 1 Group. The 5 Group airfields included Waddington, Woodhall Spa, East Kirkby and Coningsby.

The raid involved 346 Lancaster Bombers, 14 Mosquitoes from 1 and 5 Groups plus 2 Pathfinder Mosquitoes. Approximately 1500 tons of bombs were dropped on the camp. There were no French civilian losses due to the bombing although there some were killed when a Lancaster was shot down and hit a house.

As a result of the bombing, the German losses at Mailly-le-Camp were:

114 barrack buildings
47 transport sheds / ammunition buildings
102 military vehicles (including 37 tanks)
218 German soldiers killed
156 German soldiers wounded.

Bomber Command lost 42 Lancaster bombers (11.6% of the total), of which 28 were from 1 Group and 14 from 5 Group. The total Allied loss in manpower was about 300.

The 8 aircrew members from 101 Squadron (part of 1 Group) who are buried in Voué Churchyard were from a Lancaster Mk III (LM 467). This had taken off from Ludford Magna airfield and would have been shot down by a German night-fighter.

Further reading:

Overy, Richard (1997), 'Bomber Command 1939 -1945: Reaping the Whirlwind', Harper Collins, Leicester. ISBN 0-26167-258-4

Middlebrook, Martin & Everitt, Chris (1985), 'The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book 1939 - 1945', Penguin Books Ltd, Harmondsworth. ISBN 0-670-80137-2

Monday, 21 September, 2009  
Blogger Peter G said...


Eight of the airmen you mention were the crew of Lancaster III LM467 SR-J of 101 Squadron, one of the 43 Lancasters shot down on the night of 3/4 May 1944 on the massive raid on Mailly-Le-Camp.

As you say, 346 Lancasters and 14 Mosquitoes, of which 46 Lancasters were lost. The main reason for this high attrition rate, 11.6% of the force, can be attributed to some very bad luck.

The 'Marker Leader' was none other than Wing Commander Leonard Cheshire. He pinpointed the target and ordered the main force to come in and bomb, but the 'Main Force Controller', Wing Commander L. C. Deane, could not transmit the order to do so to the waiting Lancasters because the v.h.f. radio set was being drowned out by an American Forces broadcast and his wireless transmitter was wrongly tuned. German fighters arrived during the delay and casualties were heavy. The main attack eventually started when the Deputy Controller, Squadron Leader E. N. M. Sparks, took over. The raid then proceeded with great accuracy.

The Lancaster piloted by P/O K. W. A. Muir, Lancaster I LM 467 SR-J, took off from Ludford Magna, one of three 101 Squadron Lancasters tasked with ABC (Airborne Cigar) duties which was then shrouded in secrecy. They crashed at Voue. All were killed, including the ABC specialist operator, Pilot Officer Gorman. Flight Sergeant Lacey-Johnson's brother Lionel served in the army and attained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. In 1991 he wrote an account of the raid, "Point Blank and Beyond, as a tribute to his brother. It was reprinted in 2002 and is considered a classic.

The 9th airman you mention, Sergeant Jack Arthur William Bodsworth, was on another aircraft, Lancaster I, LL743 AS-U, of 166 Squadron. It took off from Kirmington at 22.00 hrs on 3 May. It crashed soon after passing through the target area , coming down between Chapelle-Vallon and Voue. This plane was crewed by:

F/S J. A. Sanderson, RNZAF
Sgt F. J. Solomon
Sgt R. G. Marks
Sgt C. Farley
(these four became PoWs)
Sgt W. T. Violett (he evaded capture)
Sgt J. T. Cockburn (killed and lies buried in the communal cemetery at Chapelle-Vallon)
and Sgt Bodsworth (who you found in the churchyard of Voue)

Flight Sergeant Sanderson was on the run for a while, during which time he received help from a number of people in the area, including Mme Duquenne, Dr Bouvier, and the Patris family.

Chorley Bomber Command Losses, Vol. 5.
Middlebrook & Everitt The Bomber Command Diaries

Tuesday, 22 September, 2009  
Blogger Dave Gardner said...

Visiting this grave site again this week on the anniversary of the events of May 1944. As a proud member of 101 Squadron, we pay our respects to the fallen each year at this time. Annual parade at Mailly Le Camp, small events at Voue, Saint Remy Sous Barbouse, Poivres, Aubeterre, Chapelle Vallon & Saint Mesmin.

Friday, 27 April, 2012  
Blogger Dave Gardner said...

Visiting this grave site again this coming week as we pay our annual respects to the fallen of 101 Squadron. As a proud member of 101 Squadron, we annualy take part in a parade at Mailly Le Camp along with other small presentations at Voue, Poivres, Saint Remy Sous Barbouse, Aubeterre, Chapelle Vallon & Saint Mesmin.

Friday, 27 April, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On this remembrance day (2013)I was searching for information regarding John (Jack) Woods who was my mother's cousin. I still have his photograph which used to belong to my grandmother, his mother's sister. I looked at the village of Voué on Google maps and found the church. Thank you so much for this information.

Sunday, 10 November, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Remembrance Sunday 10/11/2013

May they all rest in peace.

Sunday, 10 November, 2013  
Blogger Dave Gardner said...

Ref John (Jack) Woods, thought you might be interested:

Monday, 11 November, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

November 2013:

The family photograph of Sergeant John Gregory Woods has been included above by courtesy of one of his kinfolk, Patricia Doyle.
Many thanks.

Sunday, 17 November, 2013  
Blogger Joe_L said...


This chap (John G Woods) is also a relative of mine, my great-uncle.

I've also been doing some genealogy and I see that he had a sister - can anyone tell me her name etc?

I presume this has come from Patricia Doyle, whom I'd like to contact regarding genealogy and distant relatives!

Many thanks,


Saturday, 13 May, 2017  
Blogger Unknown said...

Sgt W.T. Viollet - the evader from 166 Squadron is still alive and lives in Northampton.

Monday, 21 August, 2017  

Post a Comment

<< Home