Aviation Archaeology: Solving the mystery of the RAF Halifax bomber, EB140 624 squadron, crashed on Wednesday, December 1st, 1943

Interviews, WW2, WW2 in Greece, WW2 Wrecks

By Pierre Kosmidis

Christos Tsiolas and Yiannis Yiannoulas: Crash site and recovered Halifax parts photos

Karl Kjarsgaard, Director at the Bomber Command Museum of CanadaDocumentation and period photos

Chris Stone: RAF 624 Squadron photo

Additional information on Operation Swifter by Manolis Bardanis

 

UPDATE: According to respected researcher Mr. Manolis Bardanis, the Halifax was on its way to Albania, to the SWIFTER Mission. This Operation was aimed at assisting local partisans in their fight against Axis forces in the mountains west of Korytsa in Albania. The 5 men, apart from the 7 crew, were members of  Force 133 (former ΜΟ4 of SOE)according to the book “Unearthing Churchill’s Secret Army: The Official List of SOE Casualties and their stories”, by John Grehan and Martin Mace

 

Excerpt from the book "A Special Duty" by Jennifer Elkin, referring to the last flight of the Halifax
Excerpt from the book “A Special Duty” by Jennifer Elkin, referring to the last flight of the Halifax

A WW2 aircraft crash site produced far more questions than the ones answered, as the riddle on the exact specifics of the last fateful mission and the role of the aircraft’s 5 passengers, possibly saboteurs -apart from the 7 aircrew- remains shrouded in mystery.

COVER1

Back in 1943, Greece was struggling under the boot of the Axis forces, an occupied land which suffered a lot.

In the early hours of Wednesday, December 1st 1943, the roar of the aircraft’s engines broke the eerie silence of the winter night and the darkness was lit by an explosion

XALIFAX 5

In the mountainous region of central Greece, the locals heard a deafening noise. A violent explosion and the sudden flash took the villagers by surprise. They rushed out of their homes, only to find the charred remains of an aircraft that had crushed on the slopes of the nearby mountain.

EB140 - crash details and other Army crew

No survivors were found, only remains of what appeared to have been over 10 men living just minutes ago, scattered all across the terrain, badly burned and mutilated.

Dennis John Howlett
Dennis John Howlett

The villagers took extra care to bury those unfortunate men who fell from the sky in the village’s cemetery, while they also salvaged whatever could be of any use, aluminium panels, pieces of tangled metal and whatever else could be collected at the crash site and carried back home.

XALIFAX 15

Researchers Christos Tsiolas and Yiannis Yiannoulas recently visited the crash site and found some pieces of the aircraft which was lost back in 1943.

Capture26fgh

With expert assistance from Karl Kjarsgaard, Director at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada the items were clearly identified as parts of a Halifax bomber, belonging to the wing structure or the fuselage.

XALIFAX 1

Most witness accounts from locals attest that the aircraft crashed on the slope, under severely adverse weather conditions, while there are claims that a huge explosion disintegrated the Halifax bomber in the air, thus scattering debris over a wide area, with some hunters locating aircraft parts deep in the forest, that may have once belonged to the doomed aircraft.

4

Still, the exact specifics of the aircraft’s loss are not clear.

The crash site of Halifax
The crash site of Halifax EB140, 624 sq. RAF is on the left of this photo. During winter, this area is covered in snow and is inaccessible.

The fact is that the RAF Halifax bomber, EB140, belonging to 624 squadron, crashed on Wednesday, December 1st, 1943, taking together all souls aboard.

ΧΑΛΙΦΑΞ 23

And this is exactly where the plot thickens:

Typically, Halifax bombers had a crew of seven airmen, consisting of a Pilot, a Flight Engineer, a Navigator, a Bomb Aimer, a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, a Mid Upper gunner and a Rear Gunner.

ΧΑΛΙΦΑΞ 31

EB140 had an additional 5 persons on board, coming from the Royal Signals, the R.A. the Cameronians 2nd Battalion, the King’s Royal Hussars and the Royal Tank Regiment, as can be seen in the Grave Registration Report below. The 5 men, apart from the 7 crew, were members of Force 133 (former ΜΟ4 of SOE), according to the book “Unearthing Churchill’s Secret Army: The Official List of SOE Casualties and their stories”, by John Grehan and Martin Mace.

Royal Air Force 624 Squadron 'B' Flight Special Duty Squadron North Africa 20th April 1944
Royal Air Force 624 Squadron ‘B’ Flight Special Duty Squadron North Africa 20th April 1944

All men were moved after the war was over from the mountainous cemetery of the aircraft crash to the Allied War Cemetery in Phaleron, Athens, Greece.

3

“The aircraft was on a course due South, flying from the North, as we can see from the crash site’s location”, researcher and author Mr. Christos Tsiolas said to www.ww2wrecks.com.

The questions now are, what was the aircraft’s mission? Were these men part of a sabotage team? Did they operate in Greece or in any of the neighbouring countries, such as Albania or Yugoslavia? Were they on their way back to northern Africa, after completing their mission, or on their way to a still unknown operation?”

5

Adding to the mystery of the exact specifics of the operation is the nature of 624 Squadron RAF, which was a special duties squadron of the Royal Air Force during World War II.

No. 624 Squadron was formed by raising No. 1575 Flight RAF to squadron status at Blida in Algeria, North Africa at the end of September 1943. The squadron continued to carry out special duties operations formerly done by 1575 flight into Italy, Southern France, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia.

Capture

These operations included supply dropping and the insertion of agents to the resistance. For these duties the squadron operated at first with Lockheed Venturas and Handley Page Halifaxes, and later Short Stirling Mk.IVs.

ΧΑΛΙΦΑΞ 28

As a result of the allied advances in France and Italy, the need for 624 squadron in this role had declined and it was therefore disbanded on 5 September 1944.

“While we now have all the details regarding the doomed aircraft’s crash, along with the names and the final resting place of its crew and passengers, we still have no answers as to which was the exact nature of its last mission and this is why we ask researchers to help us shed light to those obscure details, in order to pay tribute to the 13 men killed in 1943”, Mr. Christos Τsiolas concludes.

IF YOU HAVE ANY INFORMATION ON THIS MISSION OR ARE AWARE OF ANY RELATIVES OF THE KILLED MEN, PLEASE CONTACT WWW.WW2WRECKS.COM 

 

UPDATE

According to respected researcher Mr. Manolis Bardanis, the Halifax was on its way to Albania, to the SWIFTER Mission. This Operation was aimed at assisting local partisans in their fight against Axis forces in the mountains west of Korytsa in Albania. The 5 men, apart from the 7 crew, were members of  Force 133 (former ΜΟ4 of SOE)according to the book “Unearthing Churchill’s Secret Army: The Official List of SOE Casualties and their stories”, by John Grehan and Martin Mace