The date of the 4th / 5th November 1944 is indeed remembered here at the Allied Air Forces Memorial, as it was the night of a heavy RAF Bomber Command raid on the German steel producing city of Bochum, which were of high importance to the Nazi war machine.
On this night, Bomber Command launched a raid of 749 aircraft from Nos. 1, 4,6 and 8 Groups, comprising of 384 Halifax bombers, 336 Lancaster’s and 29 Mosquito fighter / bombers upon the city. RAF Elvington, part of 4 Group, put up 25 aircraft from the two French Squadrons of 346 Guyenne and 347 Tunisie. For Guyenne, Squadron, the night was to be particularly horrific, as, bringing up the final wave of the attack in the early hours of 5th November, their 16 Halifax bombers were the most vulnerable to attack by enemy fighters. Consequently, they lost 5 aircraft, each with seven aircrew aboard, amounting to 35 men, no, friends, on this fateful night.
It was the longest of nights for base Commander Puget, as he paced the floor of Elvington’s Control Tower, which still exists today, until it was clear that these aircraft were not coming home. It was the worst night of losses that the French were to endure during their service with Bomber Command.
The Allied Air Forces Memorial & Yorkshire Air Museum will be represented at the annual Mass commemorating this fateful mission, which takes place at the cathedral of Les Invalides, the Military Museum in the heart of Paris on 4th November. Ian Reed, Museum Director, has made the journey to join members of Groupes Lourds, the French veterans association for the ceremony.
The memory of this raid is one of the factors that makes the annual Remembrance Sunday Service at the French Memorial, Elvington, so important and poignant, and draws a significant contingent from France every year, to join the hundreds of villagers, Yorkshire Air Museum Members and military personnel who gather to pay their respects to the fallen of all nations.
The Service takes place at 11:00am on Sunday 8th November, at the French Memorial, York Road, Elvington.