By Pierre Kosmidis
Source: 211 Squadron RAF
Photos: As credited
On the afternoon of Easter Sunday, 13 April 1941, six of the Squadron’s seven remaining serviceable Blenheims took off from Paramythia for an unescorted daylight attack on German forces some some 120 miles away to the NNE, advancing South via the Monastir Gap through Florina in Northern Greece.
On the return leg, the formation was intercepted by Luftwaffe Me 109s of 6/27JG shortly after 16:00hrs.
All six aircraft and 16 of the 18 aircrew were lost: 14 of them were 211 Squadron men of considerable experience, the remaining two being senior officers of Western Wing HQ, observing the scale of the German attack.
The six aircraft of the Easter Sunday unescorted daylight operation:
In L1434, F/Lt LB “Buck” Buchanan DFC was thus accompanied by the Deputy OC Western Wing, S/Ldr LE Cryer DFC, as Observer. Buchanan himself had joined the Squadron in April 1940 from 113 Squadron. By April 1941 he had flown at least 40 operations. Since August 1940, Sgt G “Geordie” Pattison had flown at least 35 operations as WOp/AG in the turret for senior 211 Squadron pilots, latterly most often with “Buck”.
Shot up and reportedly in flames, Buchanan was able to forced-land his damaged Blenheim in the shallows at the SE end of Lake Mikri Prespa. Geordie Pattison was dead in the turret. Buchanan and Cryer are reported to have later died in an Albanian hospital. Despite the efforts of 5 Missing Research and Enquiry Unit post-war (and, in later years, by Messrs Bryce and Marshall, Quill, and Dunnet and Nourse) none of these men were ever identified. They are commemorated on the Alamein Memorial. The wreckage of L1434, recovered from the lake by a Greek inter-services team in 1993, is displayed in the HAF Museum at Dekelia-Tatoi.
Near the village of Karies (Karia) F/Sgt Jimmy James, F/Sgt Andy Bryce and Sgt AJ “Pongo” Waring came under Me 109 cannnon-fire. His crew dead, James was able to bale out at low level, spraining an ankle. The aircaft crashed just South of the Mikrilomni—Karies road, near Karies, about 2 miles from Lake Mikri Prespa and the village of Mikrolimni. James was able to reach Larissa with the other survivor, P/O Alan Godfrey, having buried those of their friends they could find. Waring was not among them.
Evacuated from nearby Kazaclar on 15 April aboard two 208 Squadron Lysanders, they were again attacked by the Luftwaffe. Lysander L4690 was shot down, P/O JW Stewart surviving slightly injured. His passenger, Jimmy James, did not survive and remains missing to this day. Andy Bryce lies in Phaleron War Cemetery, identified thanks to the efforts of his brother and Jock Marshall DFM. Jimmy James and Pongo Waring are commemorated on the Alamein Memorial.
Flying as Observer to Pilot P/O RV “Herbie” Herbert was the OC Western Wing, W/Cdr PB “Paddy” Coote. Having given the ops order for the raid, Coote went to “have a look” at the situation himself, as he was wont to do from time to time. In doing so, he took the place of Sgt James Dunnet. In the turret was F/Sgt WN “Jock” Young. Dunnet and Young had been Herbert’s regular crew since February. Under attack, Herbert took evasive action and turned East, climbing to avoid the hill-tops. Nearing the village of Trigonon, his aircraft hit, Herbert gave the order to bale out. The Blenheim crashed close to the village. It was the last aircraft to be shot down. Only one parachute was seen, partly open, descending into the forest where the airman was later found dead in the branches. All three men lie in Phaleron War Cemetery.
Jack died in L8449 on the awful Easter Sunday raid in 1941, along with Sgt Observer JBT “Peggy” O’Neill, their aircraft shot down in flames, to crash not far from Mikrolimni on the shore of Lake Mikri Prespa. His pilot F/O Alan Godfrey, ‘B’ Flight leader, was able to bale out and, with the help of Jimmy James, buried his crew—who today rest in Phaleron War Cemetery.
Blenheim L1434 was shot down by the Bf109 of Hauptmann Gerlach.
F/Lt (40885) Lindsay Basil Buchanan DFC (pilot) RAF – killed.
S/Ldr (37084) Leslie Edward Cryer DFC (obs) RAF – killed.
Sgt (640059) George Pattison DFM (Wop/AG) RAF – killed.
Several items from this Blenheim, including a wing and engine, were recovered from the lake bed in 1993, and transported to the museum. Recovery work was halted when it was realised the wreck still contained four live 250 pound bombs.