Seconde Guerre Mondiale
 Soldats allemands emmenant un prisonnier américain

Home     Historical Research POW     Evasion Reports

Lancaster Crash in La Frenaye - 7 August 1944

A Lancaster crashed in a field near La Frenaye, Normandy on the night of 7 august 1944. One of the seven airmen was made prisoner, three managed to escape and return to London after the liberation of the region. Three died in the crash and are buried in La Frenaye cemetery:

F/Sgt Reginald John Owen (Navigator)
F/Ltd, Richard Silvio Palandri (Pilot)
Sgt Arthur Donald Mellish (Wireless Operator)

The information below comes from Ed Owen the brother of the navigator F/Sgt R J Owen:


During the preceding week, the crew had flown five day light bombing missions on targets in Normandy. Those targets included the railway marshalling yards in Joigny, V1 doodlebug launching sites and war munitions factories. Fierce German resistance was slowing the American forces advancing from the Omaha landing beaches of the 6th June invasion. In the 46 days since their first operational flight on the 21st June, a night bombing raid on Gelsenkirchen in Germany’s Ruhr, the crew had flown 18 missions. On that Bank Holiday Monday afternoon, the crew members were given a forty-eight hour home leave, not surprising as they had already carried out five operational missions during the past 6 days. But ill-luck and misfortune was about to plague the rest of that day which was to culminate in tragedy.

There was an emergency: the crew’s forty-eight hours leave was cancelled. The American forces in Normandy called for urgent RAF support to soften up a German position. In 63 days of bitter, casualty filled fighting, the Americain invasion forces were just twenty or so miles inland from Omaha beach. Against fierce German resistance, their slow advance had stalled at Secqueville which is about midway between Caen and Bayeux. In testimony to the many lives courageously lost in ferocious battles that took place in this area, there is a large war graves cemetery in Secqueville.

Reggie Owen and the crew’s Mid Upper Gunner, going off on leave, had been stopped by the gate sentries and told their leaves were cancelled: they were to report to the operations room. Five minutes before, the crew’s leave was cancelled, their Bomb Aimer had left the airbase. Five minute delay going off on leave was to cost Reggie his life. I do not know how and when the crew learned they would be flying a mission with a stand-in Bomb Aimer: I do know that aircrews had many superstitions; one being that a stand-in crew member would jinx a mission. That superstition became a reality and particularly when four crew members, who should have escaped through the nose of their burning Lancaster, only one did: the stand-in Bomb Aimer.

Flight Lieutenant Palindri was assigned to lead a small formation of Lancasters for the Secqueville mission. Approaching the Secqueville target just after midnight of the 7th august 1944, a message was received probably by Joe Palindri’s wireless operator. The mission was to be immediately aborted as the American ground forces had overrun the German position they had earlier called upon the RAF to bomb. Presumably, that message was quickly communicated to the other pilots: the Lancasters, with their full bomb loads intact, turned for the flight back to their base in Skellinthorpe. Joe Palindri was leading that return flight when a German night fighter plane attacked his Lancaster, setting both port wing engines on fire which caused it to crash.

Ed Owen



Ernie Manning also too part in the Secqueville raid onboard another Lancaster and provided the following information:

  On the night of the 7th August 1944, Bomber Command attacked tank emplacements in the woods at Secqueville en Bessin (14 kms NW of Caen). Three Lancaster's crashed that night in the villages of Auberville La Renault, Bolbec and La Frenaye. There were no survivors from the first two but four bailed out of from the third.

The third was Lancaster VN-T L 992 from 50 Squadron 5 Group based at Skellingthorpe. The crew consisted of Pilot F/Lt Joe Palandri, Navigator F/Sgt Reg Owen, WOP Sgt Don Mellish, Rear AG Art Meredith, MU AG Sgt Bill Johnson, F/F Sgt Johnny Firth and Squadron Bombing leader F/Lt Eddie Hearn DFC. Hearn had replaced F/O Mike Manus who was unable to fly that night because of sickness.

Lancaster VN-T was about three minutes late over the target and because of smoke could not identify the target. The decision was taken to return to base and to drop the bombs in the sea. At 23.30 two burst of machine gun fire were heard by the villagers of La Frenaye (10 km NE of Pont de Tancarville and 85 km from target) and later it was confirmed that  JU88 had attacked the Lancaster. The villagers recall the Lancaster circling the area as it descended, during which time four air crew had bailed out. The Lancaster finally crashed in a small wood near La Frenaye.

Ernie Manning



Additional information:

Escape report F/Lt E.H.E Hearn

Escape report Sgt W Johnson

Escape report F/Sgt Arthur Robson Meredith
Sgt J.B. Firth
Article published in le Courrier Cauchois


Accueil     Rapports d'évasion     Articles     Recherche historique     Contact     Liens externes
     Conditions générales     Politique de confidentialité

Home     Historical Research POW     Evasion Reports     Contact     External Links     Terms and Conditions     Privacy Policy

Copyright © 2010-2015, Tous droits réservés, All Rights Reserved