Operation Crossbow – Bombing V1 sites near Adourval and Pommerval – Pommerval, France

Entrance in the woods to Memorial on Lancaster crew and Robert Roeland

A mission during Operation Crossbow

On the night of 24th to 25th June 1944 seven hundred airplanes took off in England from different airfields. Their mission was to destroy seven V1 launch sites in France. RAF 106 Squadron with seventeen planes from Metheringham joined a larger force, 102 Lancasters and four Mosquitos in total flew on V1 Launch sites near Pommerval in France. In the woods near Pommerval and Ardouval were seven active Launch sites and two new V-1 Launch sites were almost completed.

Memorial on Lancaster LL975 ZN-H and Robert Roeland
Memorial on Lancaster Crew LL975 ZN-H and Figther pilot Robert Roeland

Lancaster LL975 ZN-H

The air fleet left at 22:35 on the 24th and around 00:10 on the 25th they reached their target. The sky was clear with good visibility, no enemy fighters were sighted. The Lancasters dropped their bomb load of eighteen 500 pound bombs on their targets, each bomber carrying two 500 pounders with delayed fuses.

The Lancasters on this bomb run flew on heights between 200 to 280 meters. Although the enemy did not deploy fighter aircraft, Flak was heavy and accurate. Four of the Lancaster bombers were shot down by anti-aircraft fire, the Lancaster bomber type BI with serial number LL975 ZN-H was one of them.
Lancaster LL975 ZN-H from 106 squadron was operated by an Australian crew:

Pilot Officer S.M. Wright – Kia
Mechanical Engineer W.S. McPhail – Pow
Navigator H. Mcp Smith- Kia
Bomber W.R. Knaggs – Evaded capture en joined resistance
Radio operator L.J. McGregor – Kia
Sgt A.T. Clarke – Kia
Sgt W. Beutel – Kia

Memorial on Lancaster Crew LL975 ZN-H and Figther pilot Robert Roelandt
Memorial on Lancaster LL975 ZN-H and Hawker Typhoon pilot Robert Roeland
Memorial on Lancaster LL975 ZN-H and Robert Roeland

Flight Sergeant William Stevenson “Mac” McPhail and Bill Knaggs were the only two wo managed to bail out after the Lancaster came down. McPhail was found hanging by his parachute and taken prisoner by the Germans. He was interrogated by the Gestapo and sent to Stalag Luft 7. He escaped from imprisonment and traveled via Poland and Russia back to the United Kingdom.
Bill Knaggs evaded capture and joined forces with the French resistance. He spent the rest of the war in France. After the war he wrote a short book on his adventures: The Easy Trip.

Information on McPhail is given by his daughter, official reports suggest a slightly different road back to England but with the same outcome;
William Stevenson McPhail, Flight Sergeant, 1125822, 106 Squadron, Bomber Command, RAF. McPahail was captured 6 miles south of Calais on 24 June 1944. He escaped in or near Karlsruhe, Germany on 20 January 1945 and arrived in the United Kingdom on the 18th of March.Source National Archives – WO 208/3326/2932 (https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/).

Memorial on Lancaster LL975 ZN-H and Hawker Typhoon pilot Robert Roelandt

The crew was reburied at the Commonwealh St. Sever Cemetery in Rouen France.

Lancaster LL975 ZN-H crew member W. Beutel and A.T. Clarke – Courtesy R. Biaux


In Eawy forest a memorial on the crash site can be visited, open alle day, 365 days a year. Park the car nearby and walk a small 15 minutes into the forest, a small remembrance with information signs welcome you.
There is a burial site at the Bully Cemetery nearby for Typhoon Robert Roelandt and Lancaster Beutel and Clark.

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