Flight Lieutenant Richard Webb Sampson RNZAF
Seventy years ago this February, from the wartime airfield located at Hunsdon near Ware, the Royal Air Force carried out what would become one of its most audacious raids. This was a low level attack on a prison on the outskirts of Amiens in Northern France. At the time it was given an official name of 'RAMROD 564', after the war it became known as 'Operation Jericho'. There has been some recent controversy about why the raid took place and the origin of the orders to attack the prison . A recent book by the French historian Dr J. P. Ducellier has opened new avenues of thought, suggesting a slightly different story of what may have happened that day. The book 'The Amiens Raid-Secrets revealed' details the reasons he believes were behind the bombing of the prison, where many resistance fighters and other political prisoners were being held by the
That the raid took place is not in doubt. Nor is the bravery and dedication of the Mosquito aircrews who took off from Hunsdon's main runway on the eighteenth of February 1944. The names of Group Captain Pickard, and his Navigator Flt Lt Broadley, the crew of Mosquito HX922 F-freddy
have gone down in the annals of RAF history and are always remembered. But what of the third man lost on the raid? Flt Lt Richard Webb Sampson was navigator to Squadron Leader Ian Ritchie from 464 Squadron RAAF, and was killed by an anti-aircraft shell as their Mosquito left the target area. Sadly, Dick Sampson rarely gets a mention. But last year his name, along with 125 others was recorded on theRoll Of Honour Memorial that now stands on Hunsdon airfield, that was built by the Hertfordshire Airfield Memorial Group.
464 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force was part of 140 Wing, 2nd Tactical Air Force. It was a true 'Commonwealth' Squadron having British, Australian and New Zealand aircrews. The Wing included two other squadrons of Mosquitos, No 21 Squadron RAF, and 487 Squadron Royal New
Zealand Air Force. All three squadrons had recently converted to fast de Havilland Mosquitos from the slow Lockheed Ventura light bombers they had previously flown, mainly against targets in the low Countries, while operating from Sculthorpe in Norfolk. The complete Wing of three squadrons were posted to RAF Hunsdon on the 31st December 1943. During their time at Hunsdon they
undertook intruder operations against enemy airfields and low level attacks on V1 flying bomb sites in the Pais de Calais. In February 1944, the Wing were called upon to undertake the task of attacking the German-run prison of Amiens.
Flt Lt Richard Sampson's involvement in the Amiens raid really started over eleven thousand miles away, and two years beforehand. He was born on the 21st December 1906 at Dannevirke, a village in the Manawatu-Wanganui region of North Island, New Zealand. He spent his childhood and
went to school there and was where he gained his Education Proficiency Certificate. Dick became a farmer in later life and lived at Te Miro near Cambridge. He was also a keen sportsman and enjoyed playing polo, tennis, swimming and also hunted with the Waikato Hounds.
While working as a stock agent, Dick Sampson also flew for pleasure with the Auckland Aero Club.He decided he wanted to fly to help the war effort and so applied for service with the Royal New Zealand Air Force in January 1940. He falsified his age by reducing it by three years, and was
accepted . He enlisted in June 1940 and began aircrew training at Levin, 90 kilometres north of Wellington then went to Ohakea, North Island where he trained as an air gunner and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.
Dick Sampson arrived in England in early September 1940 on the MV Tamaroa and he reported to the RAF depot at Uxbridge where he was posted to N08 Bombing & Gunnery School at Eventon in Ross Shire. After this training, Dick was posted to 151 Squadron at Wittering where his flying career started as a gunner in Bolton & Paul Defiants. While with the squadron, Dick carried out 64 operational sorties that saw him flying night patrols and protective patrols over convoys of ships plying the east coast route. These patrols saw him being credited with the destruction of two German bombers, a Heinkel 111, and a Junkers 88. The first of these victories was earned after a running battle over the Thames Estuary on May 10th 1941, just eight months after leaving New Zealand.
In July 1941 he was posted to N06 Air Observers School, RAF Staverton near Gloucester. It was during this course that Dick was commissioned and attained the rank of Flying Officer. He returned to 151 as a qualified Navigator, by this time 151 had converted to the Mosquito NF MkII. He flew armed patrols, shipping strikes and low level attacks, one being on the German radar site at Plancoet, France. Dick was then promoted to Flight Lieutenant on the 31st July 1943 and was posted to Headquarters of N02 Group RAF at Wallingford Berkshire in October for navigational duties. He stayed here until late 1944 when he was posted to 464 Squadron RAAF. On the 31st December the whole of 140 wing moved from Sculthorpe to their new base at Hunsdon. They soon settled into a routine of attacking V1 flying bomb sites and carrying out intruder attacks against enemy airfields
Along with plans being made for the forthcoming invasion of mainland Europe in ' Operation Overlord' a myriad of other diversionary operations and strategies were being developed . In early February 1944 a plan was submitted that involved the breaching of the walls of the German-run prison at Amiens. With several hundred low key resistance and political prisoners incarcerated within its walls, it was suspected that some of those held may have been privy to sensitive information regarding the upcoming invasion and would be tortured to extract that information before being shot.
At Hunsdon, plans were being drawn up to mount a daring low level raid that would have to be flown with utmost precision. It was decided to skip bomb the walls of this formidable prison using the Mosquitos of 140 Wing. The walls would have to be breached but without causing a huge loss of life among those inside. There could only be one attempt at this attack and the task was given to the squadrons from RAF Hunsdon because of their experience with low level operations against the German V1 flying bomb launch sites.
The raid was planned for the period after the 10th of February 1944, but heavy snow at Hunsdon postponed the attack. Time was now becoming critical, on the 17th of February the French Resistance allegedly sent a coded message 'strike now or never, executions imminent' . The weather on the 18th faired little better with snow and gusting wind and under normal circumstances the mission would have been scrubbed, but the raid had to go. The nineteen Mosquitos of 21, 464 and 487, including the film Mosquito B IV variant of the RAF Film and Photographic Unit, started to take off from Hunsdon's main runway from 1030 and climbed out to the west. The formation was due to meet an escort of Hawker Typhoons from 198 Squadron, but due to bad weather in the Channel some of the escort failed to find the Mosquitos. The Wing pressed on as weather conditions for the next few days were forecast to be even worse. Elements of the Hawker Typhoon escort did reach the Amiens area, but were stretched in the help they could give as the Mosquito's themselves were out of position and spread out.
Squadron Leader Ted Sismore had carefully drawn up the navigational route to the target. This took them away from the known gun positions and Luftwaffe airfields, but one German airfield was very near the target. It was hoped that surprise being the key element would enable the Mosquitos to get in and away before Luftwaffe fighters could be launched against them. Following the long Albert-Amiens road, and flying at a height of around 60 feet to avoid the tall poplar trees that lined it, the aircraft of the three squadrons bore down on the prison
The plan was to breach the outer walls of the prison and the walls of the main prison building itself. The outer wall would be bombed by 487 squadron who flew in from a different angle to make their attack while 464 squadron were detailed to breach the main building, 21 Squadron were to bomb the whole prison complex if there was no success at breaching the walls and orbited close by.
The photographic Mosquito pilot Flt Lt Tony Wickham was instructed at the briefing to give the recall to 21 Squadron if Group Captain Pickard's recall message was not heard. That call from G/C Pickard himself never came, by this time Dr Ducellier claims that both he and his navigator were dead having been shot down on their way into the target by a Focke-Wulf 190 from II/JG26 based nearby. The photographic flight finally sent the recall by calling 'Red Red Red' when it become apparent that enough damage had been done to the walls of the prison and the outside walls. They had the better view of events from their loftier position five hundred feet above the prison filming the attack.
Mosquito MM404 SB-T flown by Squadron Leader Ian McRitchie and his Navigator Flt/Lt Richard Sampson did indeed bomb the main prison walls, two of their four bombs causing breaches to the North wall, the other two exploded in a garden close by. While on their route home, Mc Ritchie's aircraft was hit by a German light anti-aircraft gun. It is believed that McRitchie also opened fire with the Mosquito's 20mm cannons at the German gun. Another Mosquito flown by McPhee reported seeing the anti-aircraft gun open fire and that McRitchie's aircraft had one engine on fire.
S/ L Ian McRitchie, although wounded, crash-landed his Mosquito in a field at high speed near the French village of Fresneville in the area of Villeroy. He survived the crash and was taken prisoner, but 39 year old Flt/Lt Richard Webb Sampson was killed instantly by hits on the aircraft from the German AA gun. Dick Sampson is buried in St Denis Eglise cemetery at Poix de Picardie, 25 kilometres south-west of the city of Amiens.
Right-Dick Sampsons niece Jenny Boon & Husband Roger at the McRitchie/Sampson crash site with witness Henri Morgand & French aviation historian Pierre Ben.
Dick's last flight highlights the contributions the Commonwealth forces made during WWII. Dicks younger brother also lost his life while flying with the RNZAF, for on the 30th July 1942 , 34 year old Henry Wools Sampson, was killed while flying his third operation as a gunner with 149 Squadron. His Short Stirling four-engined heavy bomber was shot down by a German night fighter in North-East France. Research by Jim Cosgrove of the Hertfordshire Airfields Memorial Group show that of the 126 airmen who lost their lives while flying from RAF Hunsdon between 1941 and 1945. Twenty eight Canadians, nine New Zealanders and three Australians were amongst those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
© Denis Sharp 2014
Pilot Officer Ernest Rogers, 464 Squadron RAAF
Ernest Rogers was born in Balmain, a suburb of Sydney Australia on the 9th of July 1913. He went to school at Sydney Grammar School ,an old established Sydney Private School . When he left school he was employed as an accountant at Arthur Smyth and Sons ,an Advertising Agency in Kent St, Sydney He joined the Royal Australian Air Force on the 11th October 1941, aged 28 and started his training at N01 Air Observers School, Cootamundra, in New South Wales.
His flying career began with an air experience flight on the 6th of April 1942 in an Avro Anson AN868. Ansons were a twin engined training aircraft used extensively for aircrew training. With a Sgt Proctor at the controls, the one hour flight took them from Cootamundra to Boorowa and return. Over the next few days in April, various other training exercise flights were undertaken that included Elementary map reading and wind finding. By June the 4th he had accumulated 57 hours of flying.
From July the 3rd 1942, bombing training was to be the next part of his training. This took place on Fairey Battles, his first flight was in Battle No 9129 with Sgt Clarke, on another wind finding flight. The rest of the month was taken up flying in Battles with various pilots until he reached the sum total of 14.05 hours and was signed off by Squadron Leader Gibson on the 27th of July.
A posting followed to No1 Advanced Navigation Course at RAAF Parkes in New South Wales, and another short stint on Avro Ansons followed with a course on Astro sights for the rest of August. This continued up to the 9th of September 1942 where he clocked up another 30 and a half hours flying time. With the completion of this period of basic training, Ernie along with the rest of his course colleagues set out for Canada, Australia being an integral part of the 'British And Commonwealth Air Training Plan' or the BACATP as it was known. New Zealand and South Africa were also part of this scheme set up to train aircrew far away from hostile sky's.
He sailed from Brisbane Australia to Canada on the 3rd of October 1942, arriving on the 25th of October at the Number 3 'M' Depot Edmonton Alberta. From there he went to 34th OTU Pennfield Ridge, Nova Scotia arriving on the 21st November. On the 5th of December 1942, Ernie took his first flight with the man who was later to become his regular pilot, Sergeant Albert Edwin Verren. The aircraft they flew in on radio, and range work, was a Lockheed Ventura code numbered '893', This was an American produced twin engined light bomber, An aircraft they would become very familiar with over the next year.
From January 1st 1943, he and Sgt Verren practised Formation flying, I.F, & Cross country exercises. Time was spent on low level formation flying, map reading exercise and more cross country flights, ranging a little further out each time. Most of these flights were a duration of about an hour and a half, but longer routes were flown in excess of three hours from Pennfield-Ellsworth-Lincoln-Woodstock and back to base. They clocked up over 53 hours flying in that first month.
A further bout of training, including Pilot gunnery with the fixed forward armanent, and bombing practice was on the menu for much of the first nine days of February 1943. The bombing range at Tuskett being their target. It was here where they learned to drop bombs from 6000 feet down to zero feet. This was interspersed with the odd cross country flight culminating at the Tuskett range to drop practice bombs before returning to base. Information for the rest of February is lacking, but probably entailed Ernie and Sgt Verren preparing for the upcoming Atlantic crossing to the UK. Both men embarked from Canada for the UK on the 8th of March arriving at Liverpool on the bleak, grey River Mersey in England on the 17th of March 1943. From here they were posted to 464 Squadron RAAF at Methwold in Norfolk.
At Methwold, Ernie and Sgt Verren were re-united with the Lockheed Ventura, this would become their regular steed again, and on the 1st of June took to the skies of the UK in Ventura coded 'Q-Queen' for a local flying exercise & familiarisation flight.
They flew on cross country and local formation practice flights for the next three days, but on the 5th Ernie flew a cross country with Sgt Bert Orris as pilot, and again two days later with Sgt Goldstiver on an air test. A mixture of low level cross country and formation practice flights followed until the 20th of June when with Sgt Verren they flew their first Operational mission to Flushing, a small port on the Belgian coast. The rest of the month was taken up with more training flights both by day and night. This was quite the order of life on 464 squadron for the rest of July. More bombing practice both high and low level with cloud flying noted in the logbook for the 23rd of July
August dawned, and yet more training entailed to keep the crews busy, air tests and cross country flights, some of these were quite long and detailed with many waypoints to adhere to. One such night flight they took off from Methwold and flew the few miles to March in Cambridgeshire-Goole, East Yorkshire - Market Harborough, Leicestershire - Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire - Stowmarket, Suffolk - Wells On Sea, Norfolk - Halstead, Essex - Huntingdon, Cambridgshire - and back to base in Norfolk, a round flight of three hours. Near to the end of August Ernie and Sgt Verren ferried a Ventura from Methwold to the nearby airfield of Swanton Morley in Norfolk, It was from here they would now operate. They also undertook a fighter affiliation flight to observe how fighters would attack bombers. This gave the air gunners a chance to see how attacks would develop and to test their response to the mock attacks. These were flown by Hawker Hurricanes from RAF Sutton Bridge acting as the 'enemy' against the Squadrons Venturas.
More ferry flights took place from September 1st to the 8th, but on the 13th 15th and 16th of Sept Ernie flew first with Flight Lieutenant Bance, then F/S Querns and F/O Archer in an Airspeed Oxford to train on 'Gee' , a radar navigational aid. On the 26th September 1943, Sgt Verren flew a Mosquito VI solo for the first time. After one more day of Gee training in an Airspeed Oxford, Ernie joined Sgt Verren in Mosquito VI Squadron code SB-B for a VHF training flight in the local area. 464 Squadron, along with 487 RNZAF and 21 Squadron RAF were all in the transition stage from flying the Ventura, or the 'Pig' as it was often referred to, to the sophisticated and modern deHavilland Mosquito FB VI. All three squadrons being grouped together as 140 Wing. With the Mosquito, the Wing were about to embark on a new chapter.
October 1943 opened with Flight Sergeant Verren and Ernie on yet more flying exercises as part of 'B' flight. All of the squadron who had transitioned to the Mosquito were undertaking the same. On the 19th of October these long cross country flights were coupled with a low level bombing practice exercise, one such flight on the 21st of October took in Hunsdon - Oundle, Cambridgeshire-Mablethope, Lincolnshire - Alnick, Northumberland - Annan Scotland - Peel - Douglas , Isle Of Man- on to Rhyl, Wales - Rudgely Staffordshire - Chatteris, Cambridgeshire and back to base at Hunsdon, a total flight of four hours and five minutes.
Then a Sergeant, Ernest (front row left) poses outside the Mercury Club in Canada
November 1943 followed much of the same pattern as the previous month. The intensive training and working up with the new aircraft going into overdrive with more low level bombing training, night cross country flights of about two hours duration coupled with low level bombing and formation flying during the daytime. Two air firing sessions at towed drogue targets were undertaken but no results were noted in the log book. It is worth noting that up to the end of the month, over 245 flying hours were now recorded in Ernies log book.
With the amount of training undertaken, it appears that they were starting to fly a regular aircraft, Mosquito HX964 SB-Y, the previous month they had used this aircraft three times, but nearly every flight in November was in this particular aircraft. It was in this aircraft that they flew their first Mosquito operation. This took place on the 21st of November on a low level bombing mission to St Agathe d'aliermont but were recalled, the same mission was on for the 22nd, but this time the raid went ahead and four 500lb MC bombs were dropped.
On the 23rd another low level raid was called for on a construction site at Pommerval France. These contruction sites were going to be V1 launch sites, but this was not known at that particular time. Two more training flights followed on the 29th of the month, both of these in two different aircraft . A low level cross country and bombing practice in HJ772 SB-W and an air firing exercise in HJ774 SB-J.
Another V1 construction site the Germans were working on at St Plouy-Fermea in France was the target for the 31st , this time back in their regular aircraft SB-Y. They dropped four 500lb MC bombs on the target and returned with no damage to their aircraft.
January 1944 dawned and the second day of the month started with a night flying exercise. They took off at 2200 hrs and carried out a local flight that took an hour. On the 4th January, they took SB-Y up for an air test at 2:30 in the afternoon. This was just a twenty minute flight to test the aircrafts systems before carrying out a night operation. At 1725, they were airborne from Hunsdons main runway for their first night 'Intruder' flight. Intruder missions were just that, an armed flight into enemy held France to keep an eye on military targets and the German night fighter airfield at Rennes in Brittany France. If no activity could be found at the target area, then the airfield and any other targets were fair game, truck convoys, trains, marshalling yards and army barracks all came within scope of 'secondary targets.
Two more night flying tests were carried out in SB-Y on the 5th and 6th January. The night intruder operation set for the 6th was against the German airfield of Montdidier where two 500lb MC bombs were dropped on the airfield. A local flight was made with P/O Goldstiver on the 8th followed by another intruder flight that night. This time it was a return sortie against military targets around Rennes where a pair of 500lb bombs were dropped.
Two air tests were flown in SB-Y on the 9th and the 10th but no ops were undertaken. No more entries were logged in the crews logbooks for the next 10 days. This was probably due to bad weather. On the 21st of January they were briefed for ops and carried out an air test of just 15 minutes but no mission was flown.
Ernests pilot P/O Albert Verren, through training in Canada, to their posting to 464 Squadron at Methwold and Hunsdon
Then on the 22nd, a 'FLOWER' ops was on the cards, a 15 minute air test then briefing for that nights work. This time the nature of the operation was to deny the use of an airfield to the Luftwaffe by shooting down aircraft trying to land, or in the circuit, while the flarepath was lit, upon hearing the Mosquito orbiting the airfield, the German aircraft were often diverted to another airfield. Being short of fuel many opted to try and get down but fell victim to the immense firepower of the Mosquitos four 20mm Cannon. Those German aircraft that did divert, often found that the diversionary airfield also had a Mosquito lurking in the circuit!
The target for Ernie and P/O Verren and their trusty Mosquito SB-Y that night was the German night fighter airfield at Leeuwarden in Holland. The aircraft was loaded with 2 x 500lb MC bombs, these were specially short tailed bombs and were carried in the bomb bay nestling behind the breech blocks of the four 20mm cannons.
During the attack their aircraft was badly shot up and they limped home to Hunsdon. They arrived over the airfield at 2200, on approach to the northern end of the secondary runway the cockpit instrument lighting failed. With the pilot P/O Verren not being able to see the airspeed or other vital instruments, HX964 stalled a wing and the aircraft came down heavily in a field just 400 yards short of the runway suffering severe damage as it did so. Both Ernie and Pilot Officer Verren were seriously injured. The were taken to the nearby Haymeads Hospital in Bishops Stortford where they were both treated for their injuries. Pilot Officer Verren returned to duties almost a month later on the 23rd of February.
Pilot Officer Ernie Rogers was still on the seriously ill list for another three days, and was released from Haymeads Hospital on the 26th of February. He then spent considerably more time at the RAF Hospital at Ely in Cambridgeshire until he was well enough to be discharged. He never flew on ops again. Ernie had spent 335 hours and 55 minutes in the air, a long journey from Cootamundra, New South Wales to Hunsdon in Hertfordshire. Upon his return to Australia, Ernest resumed his career as an accountant
© Denis Sharp 2014