A Yorkshire Squadron: History of 431 RCAF Squadron

Bill Heron, of Welland, Ontario has a family whose members served in the Crimean War, the Boer War, the First World War and Second World War. So Bill set off to write the story of 431 RCAF (Iroquois) Squadron, with whom his brother flew while serving in the Royal Air Force (RAF).

Heron’s book is entitled A Yorkshire Squadron: History of 431 RCAF Squadron and More and deals with the years 1942 to 1945 at stations in Burn, Tholthorpe and Croft.

Much of the data was obtained from the National Archives of Canada, as well as firsthand accounts, including “personal accounts from squadron survivors.” The book contains squadron records, and a listing of the 1,383 man air crew, complete with their names, rank and service numbers.

Included are the dispositions (KIA, PoW, escaped, etc.) If airmen were killed in action, burial information and date killed are written in the book. The book was published by The General Store Publishing House in Renfrew, Ontario, Canada and is available from the author at: layman431@hotmail.com. The total print run was 250 copies, so they may not last long.

Read more about Bill Heron’s book in an article by Mark Tayti in The Tribune.

134 thoughts on “A Yorkshire Squadron: History of 431 RCAF Squadron

  1. Hi John,
    Please clarify, when you say “Communications Officer” are you referring to the Wireless Operator on board the aircraft?


  2. My wife’s grandfather was an RAF officer who flew with 431 Sqn. He was Fg Off John Bailey and was awarded the DFC in 1943 when Sgt Sloan flew a Wellington back from Germany after the pilot bailed out. We don’t know much about his service with 431 Sqn but wondered if you had anything about him or if people he flew with we’re still alive (we know Stewart Sloan died in 1994). Thank you

  3. I am researching F/Lt.George Hadley Templeton Eades of 431 (Iroquois) Squadron, the pilot of a Wellington, which took off from RAF Burn on 26th March 1943. It never returned.

    I am not related but he was born and grew up in my village, Blaby, Leicestershire, UK. I am writing an article about him for our community newspaper. I have information that is ready available on Google but it is sparse so if anyone can give me any more information, I would be very grateful,

    Glenise Lee

  4. Glenise, I am currently preparing a small book on Fl/Lt. George Eades on behalf of his family. Be happy to make contact with you if you so wish. It concentrates mainly on his fine poetry work.
    Bill, happy to provide you with a copy of it?
    You can email me direct on kelvinyoungs(AT)mac.com replacing AT with the correct symbol of course
    Kind regards

  5. Hi Glenise,
    Sorry for the delay in replying I have been in Europe and have only just redently returned home.
    F/L G. Eades and crew were flying in a Wellington X serial number HE503 and coded SE-S. The target for this operation was Duisburg. F/L Eades and crew took off from Burn at 18.55 hours since when, nothing was heard from them. Their flght route was as follows. on taking off from Burn they were to head for Hornsea, Egmond and then on to the target Duisbug. The return leg would see them head for Noorwuk. Hornsea then on to Burn.
    Their bomb load was as follows. 3 x 500lb – 3 x 30lb SBC 3 X 4LB SBC. (SBC denotes incendiary bombs)
    THE CREW AS FOLLOWS. Buried/Memorialized
    Pilot Eades Runnymede Panel 119
    W/AG Ducker Kviberg Cemetery
    B/A Garbuck Runnymede Panel 119
    NAV Hill Rnnymede PANEL 172
    A/G Rogal Runnymede Panel 186.
    I hope this is of some help if you think I can help further please don’t hestitate to ask.

    Bill Heron/Canada

  6. Do you have any info on Denis Patrick Kelly, No 1312800, KIA 29/06/43 with 431 Sq? I’m trying to confirm that he came from Southampton, England.
    Dr Andy Russel, Southampton City Council

  7. Hi Andy,

    Sgt. D.P. Kelly 1312800 Air Gunner was a member of a crew of a Wellington X Serial number HE443 nd coded SE-O. This aircraft was part of a mission to bomb the city of Cologne. They took off from Burn at 23.30 hours, since when nothing was heard from them they were an ALL RAF crew.
    The crew were as follows.

    F/S J. Parker pilot – Sgt. G. Hacker Nav. – P/O C.H. Ashworth B/A
    Sgt. R.H. Willshire W/AG – Sgt. D.P. Kelly A/G.

    There were no survovors and all are buried in Rheinberg War Cemetery Coll Grave 7.B 19-23

    From my records, I have no information as to where Sgt. Kelly was from. I aplogize for the laeness of my reply but I have been in the U.S and just got home recently.

    Bill Heron/Niagara/Canada

  8. Hi Bill

    An update on my post of June this year. We have now established that Fg Off Bailey was a member of Wg Cdr Coverdale’s crew when it was lost. My father in law (John Bailey’s son) thinks that his father volunteered to make up the crew even though he was still on leave after the trip with Sgt Sloan, for which Sloan got the CGM and Bailey the DFC. We would still like to find out more about John Bailey’s service with 431 Sqn and if you have anything on the loss of Wg Cdr Coverdale and crew that would be much appreciated.


    Simon Parkes

  9. Hi Simon,
    On Dec. 1st 1942 W/C Coverdales arived at Burn with a complete crew which included (then) P/O Officer J.B. Bailey W/AG.
    This of course was some months before the crew were lost (06/24/43). So from this I can only deduct that he (P/O Bailey) was part of the original crew.
    In checking the Operations Record Book of the Squadron it appears that this crew did NOT fly on very many Op’s and it also appears that the crew, excluding W/C Coverdale, did NOT fly with any other pilot (with exception of P/O Bai;ey) on May 23rd, so their operational history by comparison was quite limited, at least from the 431 Squadron records unless they had some experience with another Squadron.
    To the Operation of June 21st 1943 – Target Krefeld. They were flying in a Wellington X serial number HF518 and coded SE-J. that took off from Burn at 23.33hours since when nothing was heard from them. F/O Bailey waas awarded his DFC on 03/05/43. It is possible that F/O Bailey was on leave at the time when the operation to Krefeld came up and it is possible that he volunteerd to join his crew but there is nothing in the ORB to support that therefore I can’t confirm it one way or the other. I do have the narrative on the operation to Dortmund on May 23rd 1943 for which then Sgt. Sloan was awarded the CGM. If you would like a copy of it (it’s not that long but needs to be typed into and email from the ORB you can contact me at layman431@hotmail.com make sure you put
    431 Sqdn. in the subject line otherwise your request might get deleted. Sorry I can’t be of anymore help at this time.
    Regards, Bill Heron/Niagara/Canada

  10. Bill:
    Did Emma Nugent ever get back to you wrt the crew photo
    of HE183? I’ve been deployed overseas and have not heard back from her.
    Norm Leslie

  11. Hi Norm, No I haven’t back from her I have been a bit busy this last little while and only just had a look at this site tonight hence the delay ibn replying — sorry about that.


  12. REF. F/L G. Eades

    Your message dated 3.8.12.

    Thanks. You have added another small piece to the jigsaw,

    Glenise Lee (Blaby)

  13. Hi Bill
    I am responding to your answer regarding my query posted on 17/2/12 into the Visit of a 431 Sqdn to Donna Nook.
    I must apologise for not thanking you before now, it obviously slipped my mind. Your answer by the way has solved this particular problem.
    Once again thank you very much

  14. Hi Bill I want to be able to find out more about my father’s experience as an RAF pilot. His name is Mark Joseph Banning. Likewise my uncle Dave Banning who was a member halifax bomber crew. He was shot down over Germany during the last year of the war and spent the rest of the time in a POW camp My father flew beaufort bombers and attacked shipping in Breast. If you do not have any information yourself, can you suggest where I look next?
    Cal Banning

  15. Any info on my father George Eadon(R187841), F/E w/ 431 and 405 would be appreciated. Also looking for H.L.Czyz(R213622), Air Gunner with 431/405. They served together from Oct 1944 to June 1945. George Eadon passed away Dec 31 2012, 92 yrs. Thanks. Glen Eadon

  16. Hi Bill,
    I’m sure you’re very busy answering many questions about these brave servicemen but I wonder if I could add one more?
    My grandfather Neville Larman was a flight engineer with 431 squadron in 1944 to 1945. He was old compared to most ( 40 yrs ) and in a ” protected profession ( a policeman) but when the desperate call went out for more engineers he voluteered. He survived his full tour but never spoke of it. I’d love to know more. He was awarded a DFC – I think for helping get a damaged aircraft home ( I think 7.2.45).
    His F/L was almost always S.P Sorensen.This is as much as I know. I’d love to purchase one of your books too – if still available?
    ” Nev” or “pop’s” as he was affectionately called by his crew , died at 73yrs ( smoking related !).
    Thanks so much,

  17. hi I am looking for information on a member of squadron 431 his name is Harold sweet air gnr 1230519 KIA 26/5/1943 as I have his medals and would love to know more about his service history thank you in advance regards phil

  18. Hi,
    I’m looking for pictures of 431 Squadron’s Vickers Wellington Mk.X HE374 / SE-X which crashed in Switzerland in April 1943, 20 years before I was born and not far from where I live today. I urgently need this information for a plastic model project. Pictures of any other 431 Wellington showing the position of the squadron code are most welcome!
    Jacqueline from Switzerland

  19. Hello Lucy, I had forgotten all about this place and the enquiries I get sometimes I am really very sorry about this LONG LONG delay and MUST pay more attention in the futurre. Anyway not sure if you are STILL keeping track or not but will give it a shot anyway.
    February 7th 1945 the aircraft in question was KB818 SE-G the report states that the target was Goch and the mission was aborted by the Sorenson crew because BOTH stbd engines were unserviceable, they had one over speeding prop and they crash landed at Ford. They jettisoned the full bomb load over the North Sea consisting of 1×4,000lb +13x500lb bombs. All of the crew were uninjured.My book is going to a limited 2nd printing shortly please contact via my email address.

  20. Hello Jacqueline

    Sorry for the long delay in answering but sorry to say I have no pictures of ANY 431 Sqdn. Wellingtons. If you need information on the crew or the aicraft itself I am willing to help. Sorry.
    Bill Heron Niagara/Canada

  21. Hi Phil,
    Sgt. H. Sweet 1230519 Air Gunner part of the Barclay crew flying in a Mark X Wellington serial number HE990 and coded SE-Z mAY 25th 1943 the target was Dusseldorf. Pilot and Navigator were taken POW balance of the crew were killed. Sgt. Sweet is buried in Jonkerbos War Cemetery. It would appear that he was on his 10th mission when he was killed. If you would like a record of these operations please make contact.

    Sorry for the long delay in answering.

    Bill Heron

  22. Hi Glen as previuosly stated to the posters here I apologize for being tardy in my replies here I keep forgetting to check (poor excuse) but nonetheless truthful.
    Waht information would you like to have regarding the service of your father and airman Czyz?

  23. Hi Cal, The only Banning that flew with 431 Sqd. has the initials A.E. and was a flight Engineer and was killed in Dec. 1943. So this is obviously not the same airman. I suggest you try the 6 Group website run by Richard Koval. If your father flew with a Canadian Sqdn.Richard will be the man to help, sorry I can’t help more.

    Bill Heron

  24. I just found your website. My Father is F/OL Albin Rollack He was the navigator on the Halifax SE-K that was shot down over Hannover October 9/10th,1943. He was the only survivor.Do you have any relevant information on him or any unpublished photographs? My father said when he got back from the UK he only received about 20 photos, but he had taken hundreds.

    I’m Eagerly awaiting your reply.

    Larry Rollack

  25. hi Bill I would love a copy of the records on Sgt h Sweet if possible please thanks so much for the info regards phil

  26. Hi Phil, I will gather the ops for Sgt Sweet and anything else I find in the ORB but I don’t think it a good idea to put them on this website. If you can email me at layman431@hotmail.com and mark the subject line Sgt. Sweet 431 Sqdn. this will give me an email address for you so that I can reply without the info being copied.
    Bill Heron/Niagara

  27. Hi Larry, re F/O Rollack. Sorry to say that he was not a navigator but was a Wireless Air Gunner (W/OP– W/AG) The Navigator on this crew was someone else. But here’s what I have found F/O Rollack was posted into 431 Sqdn. from 1664 C.U on September 21/1943 along with Ryan (his Pilot) & the Mid Upper Air Gunner Rudd. According to the O.R.B. they were on their 3rd mission when they failed to return the others being as follows.

    October 03/1943 target KASSEL (they returned early due to being 30 minutes late at the turning point) They jettisoned their bomb load and returned to Tholthorpe (Base) their aircraft was a mark V Halifax coded DK264 SE-V.

    October 04/1943 target FRANKFURT they bombed as planned an returned to base without incident. Their aircraft was a mark V Halifax coded LK918 SE-F.

    And of course the night they were lost was October 8/9/1943 target Hanover. They took off from Tholthorpe at 2243hrs since when nothing was heard from them.

    F/O Rollack was taken POW and sent to camp Stalag Luft 3 (SAGAN) his POW No. was 259005. Sorry to say I have no photographs of him or the Ryan crew. Photographs from those early years of the Sqdn. are very hard to find unless donated by a family member.

    Hope the above is of some help.

    Bill Heron/Niagara

  28. To PHIL PARKER, PHIL i HAVE JUST FOUND TWO INTERROGATION REPORTS AS TO THE DOWNING OF HE900 SE-Z. THESE WERE TAKEN FROM Barclay and Dix on return to England after the war, you might find themof some interest.


  29. Hello Bill,

    I am looking for the names of the crew members from the Wellington X crashed 26-5-1943 in Oostrum Holland. I saw Sweets name already and Barclay. I am not sure of a certain Turecky was on board a polisch men?


    Joop hendrix

  30. Hello Joop, Wellington X HE990 SE-Z (431 Squadron) failed to return from a mission to Dusseldorf May 25/1943, the crew were as follwos

    Pilot Sgt. R. Barclay —— POW — Camp367
    Navigator Sgt. K. Dix —– POW — Camp L6
    Bomb Aimer P/O A. Bonner — Buried Jonkerbos War Cemetery
    Wireless Operator/A/G Sgt. M. Jeffries Buried Jonkerbos War Cemetery
    Air Gunner Sgt. H. Sweet — Buried Jonkerbos War Cemetery

    Hope this is of some assistance


  31. Hi Bill,

    Its with great sadness I notify you that WW2 Pilot Ben Jackson D.F.C, 431 Sqn has past away aged 97 years of age.

    Andy Denholm
    County Durham

  32. Hello Bill,
    Do you have any information please on a Flying Officer John Brian Godfrey Bailey 48551 D.F.C RAF. Who died aged 22 on the 22nd June 1943. He is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial and states he was with Sqdn 431.
    Any information would be fantastic.
    Thank you for time,

    Karen Harris
    London UK

  33. 48551 F/O JBG Bailey was the Wireless Air Gunner flying with the crew of Wing Commander John Coverdale RAF, the squadron C.O. On June 21/1943 Bomber Command scheduled an operation to Krefeld. This crew flying a Wellington X serial No. HE518 and coded SE-J failed to return and all of the crew were reported killed. They took off from Burn @ 23.33 hours since when nothing was heard from them.
    F/O Bailey arrived at Burn on December 01/1942 as part of the Coverdale crew.The following are the ops that F/O Bailey took part in according to the Operations Record Book of 431 Squadron.
    03/12/43 Essen (aircraft) HE182 SE-A
    03/28/43 St. Nazaire (aircraft) HE182 SE-A
    05/01/43 Laying Sea Mines (aircraft)HE183 SE-J
    05/12/43 Duisburg (aircraft) HE183 SE-J
    06/21/43 Krefeld (aircraft) HE518 SE-J —- Failed to Return.

    F/O Bailey is memorialized on Panel 123 at Runnymede.

    I hope this information is of some assistance.

    Bill Heron/Niagara/Canada

  34. Hello Bill
    Thank you so much for the information on JGB Bailey.
    It has been a great help in filling in gaps in the family tree and the information you have me given is priceless.
    Thank you very much.

    Karen Harris
    London UK

  35. F/O John Brian Godfrey Bailey
    John Bailey was my uncle, and for many years I have tried to find out what happened to him on the night of June 21/22 1943. My father was a prisoner of war at the time,and only found out his brother had been killed on his return in 1945, so he equally wanted to know what happened.
    Similar to an earlier post on this site, the family story (unsubstantiated) was that John had been posted to a training squadron, and was on leave, in the wake of him receiving the DFC for his part in bringing home the crippled and pilotless Wellington the month before.
    John Coverdale, the Wing Commander, was short of a WOPAG for the Krefeld mission, and John who normally flew with Coverdale agreed to go on this last mission. Ultimately it was his last mission.
    Research on the internet, and again unsubstantiated I believe,puts HF518, their aircraft, as being shot down off the dutch coast on the return journey at 02:33 hours. On what this is based I do not know, but if it is true, then they were undoubtedly shot down by Wilhelm Johnen, a German night fighter ace, who survived the war and wrote a book about his experiences. The book ‘Duel under the stars’ describes how Johnen had already shot down two aircraft when he detected another on his radar and gave chase out to sea. (Page 73 of Book) He describes the battle with the Wellington, how the pilot weaved and dived; how the gunners framed his aircraft with tracer, but ultimately how he was successful.
    I hope this has been of help, and provided a little more information. It is unlikely we will ever know if this aircraft, shot down off the dutch coast, was HF518.
    I believe though that websites like this, and the interest shown in the brave bomber crews, is a most fitting memorial to those that gave their lives.

  36. Fourteen crews were briefed for a bombing raid on Krefeld. Fourteen took off at 23.30 hours. Twelve successfully bombed target on T.I. markers from 16,000 –18,000 feet. Aircraft “C” pilot F/Sgt. Poole J.S. returned early as he could not attain the ordered height and speed straight and level was 130 mph with full boost. Aircraft “J” pilot Wing Commander Coverdale failed to return. Fires in T/A were reported as very extensive. Weather was clear although some cloud in T/A. Defences described as ineffective with only moderate heavy light flak and few s/lights. The Squadron as a whole regret the loss of W/Cdr. Coverdale who has been O.C. Squadron since it’s formation and who by his cheerfulness and understanding has endeared himself to all. With him were lost two who had been recently decorated for gallantry. F/O. J.B.C. Bailey D.F.C. and Sergeant G.C. Parslow D.F.M.
    431S/320/17/P.1 Burn Nr, Selby, Yorks.

    22nd June 1943

    The Under Secretary of State
    Air Ministry
    73 – 77 Oxford Street,
    London W.1.

    On 21/22 June 1943.

    With reference to this Unit’s signal P. 341
    dated 22nd June 1943, the following confirmation is submitted regarding this casualty.

    The aircraft took off at 23.33 hours on the 21st June 1943. The target was KREFELD. No news of the aircraft was received after it took off. The crew were as follows: –

    27048 W/C. Coverdale J. Pilot

    1332251 Sgt. Parslow G.C. D.F.M. Navigator

    Can. R.93489 Sgt. Fawns H.S. Bomb Aimer

    48551 F/O. Bailey J.B. D.F.C. WOP/AG

    Can. R.59129 F/S. Fudge B. Air Gunner

    The next of kin were informed by signal with the exception of Sgt. Fawns H.S. The next of kin of F/S. Fudge, his wife, who lives in England, was informed. However his mother, who is also to be informed in case of casualty, lives in Canada and was not informed.

    Signed by Squadron Leader Commanding
    431 (R.C.A.F.) Squadron

    Copy to H.Q. 4 Group Recds. Gloc.

    Gordon just a little more information.

  37. Gordon, In looking at the information I have here and as above, the ORB shows that 14 aircraft took off from Burn, 1 was an early return (HE 204-SE-C)but the report also states that only 12 bombed the target and 1 failed to return that being HF518 SE-J. This raised a question in my head and I wonder if HF518 made it to the target OR the fact that they were unable to report bombing the target because they FTR was a factor in only showing that 12 aircraft bombed the target, not quite sure how to interpret this one but will make some enquiries as to the interpretation. I thank you for the additional information.


  38. Bill,
    Thanks for responding. I had found the operational record from paperwork in the Public Records Office in Kew, London some years ago, but the ’12 bombing’ discrepancy did not have much significance at the time, as it was many years later that I stumbled across the possibility that they were shot down by Johnen on their return journey. I always assumed they had not made it to the target.
    Like you, I do not know whether it was common practice to radio back to base the successful bombing of the target, or whether this data was only recorded by debriefing the crews on return. The latter would explain the discrepancy. The former may imply they weren’t the aircraft shot dwon over the sea at 02:33 on the return.
    Any further info would be great

  39. Gordon, i am french and searching for the squadrons of the 4th group RAF which were on mission on june 6th/7th 1944 over normandy. Where was the 431st and, if you know where were the others?
    Thanks for your help

  40. Hi Lionel, June 6/7 1944 431 Squadron RCAF was NOT part of 4 Group but was part of 6 Group as were ALL Canadian Squadrons if you are looking for information on 431 and the rest of 6 Group I can help but if you are looking for information on 4 Group RAF I have no information on THIS Group. Pleae confirm which Group your are looking for. Sorry for the long delay in replying.

  41. My grandfather, Don Hagar, was in the 431 out of Croft. . He was a pilot, that is about as much as I know. I have been trying to confirm to what extent the 431 was involved in the bombing of Dresden

  42. Hi Jeremy, 431 Squadron was only involved on operations to Dresden once and that was on 02/13/1945. 14 aircraft from 431 took part in the OP.1 returned early due to mechanical problems and the remainder attacked the target with al returning safely to base. F/O Hagar and crew did not take part on this Op.If you would like a summary of his time with 431 it is too large to post here please send email address and I will send to you.
    Regards, Bill Heron.

  43. Hi Norm, In contacting the RAF Museum at Hendon sometime ago where I have a contact, they advised that the reason I didn’t get a copy was because there is not one in their records, sorry.

  44. Dear Bill
    I came across your site as I am a local village historian (Temple Ewell in Kent)and neighbour to the sister-in-law of Pilot Officer 178241, Gilbert Alfred John Curtis who flew with 431 Squadron and was killed with his crew (8 in total ?)on the 8th June 1944 in northern France. It would be great if you could help provide any information or even a photo of him and any details of his service record and the circumstances of his demise. I know the crew are all buried together at Blevy Communal Cemetery.

  45. Hi Glenn,
    So having had a look at the ORB, I foound that this crew had 18 operations together(just too many to list here), however I will give you a little (very breif) what I can decipher on the day this crew failed to return from operations. On this day they were part of the operation to bomb the railyards at Versailles,10 aircraft from 431 Squadron were assigne as part of this force. 9 of the ten reported attacking the target, the 10th F/Sgt. Curtis’s aircraft were reported missing and therefore it is unknown whether they indeed reached the target or not. Some of the returning crews reported icing conditions, none of these crews reported any anti aircraft fire,nor did any of them report any encounters with enemy aircraft. That being said, it is not possible for me to say what caused the aircraft and crew fail to return, it is possible that they could have had some sort of mechanical failure ut without anything concrete to determine this it is ONLY a possibility.From the ORB it is plain to see that F/Sgt was awarded his commission posthumously, this was not unusual. If you would like a copy of his operational service I will be happy to that for you but would need a mailing address. I am sorry to ssay that in checking my 431 Squadron phot collection I do no t have any pictures of him ohis crew or of any aircraft in which they flew. I hope this has been of some assistance to you. Regards, Bill Heron.

  46. My 95 year old father served with the 431 squadron during the war in 1944. His name is Fredrick William Jeacock and he was a flight engineer. The pilots name was I believe Bob Tonnailier(sp)
    I would love to buy your book for him for his 96th birthday in September. Could you please tell me the cost and where I could buy it in Britain
    Thanking you
    Alan Jeacock

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