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13.05.1940 No. 264 Squadron R.A.F. Defiant I L6958 P/O. Thomas Location: Gat van de Kampen, Petrusplaat Island. +
Mission: Patrol - German troop transports

Date: 13th May 1940 (Monday)

Unit: No. 264 Squadron

Type: Defiant I

Serial: L6958

Base: Duxford (via Martlesham)

Location: Gat van de Kampen, Petrusplaat island

Pilot: P/O. Samual Thomas Evaded (1)

Air/Gnr: L.A.C. John Stuart Mee Bromley 521432 R.A.F. Age 24. Killed (2)

REASON FOR LOSS:


Took off at 04.15 hrs from Martlesham along with 5 other Boulton Paul Defiant's together with 6 Spitfires from 66 Squadron. The object being to patrol the Dutch coast between Ijmuiden and the Hague to attack German troop transport.
They flew across the North Sea, making landfall about ten miles north of The Hague at 0515, after which all aircraft turned north.

Over IJmuiden they were fired on by Dutch anti-aircraft guns located on the south side of the harbour. The guns were firing accurately but they ceased fire immediately the British signalled the Dutch letter of the day. All aircraft turned about and flew south along the coast. More fire, this time German, was met over Maassluis which caused sections to take evasive action.

Shortly after, the No. 66 Squadron Spitfires turned east towards Rotterdam where there were fires raging in various places while the Defiant's followed a more southerly route. Approaching Rotterdam, the crews of both flights saw about seven German Ju 87 Stukas (belonging to 12. Staffel of Lehrgeschwader 1) dive-bombing a target to the south-east.

The Defiant's went in to the attack and a ferocious air battle developed. Shortly after, Bf 109s from 5. Staffel of Jagdgeschwader 26 joined the battle, which then developed into a series of individual dogfights.

thomas
P/O. Samual Thomas (Source Jan Jolie)

P/O. Thomas report:

‘I was pilot of a Defiant aircraft in the formation led by Flight Lieutenant Skelton. At 0545 hours we encountered seven Ju 87s south of Rotterdam. They were not carrying bombs, which might have indicated that they had already bombed their objective. I noticed that Rotterdam was blazing fiercely in several places. The aircraft were immediately formed in line astern and kept turning. I got into position on one Ju 87 and my air gunner shot it down. I saw this aircraft go down apparently out of control. Then, afterwards, another Ju 87, which was coming up behind us, was also shot down apparently out of control.

Then about 27 Me 109s joined in the combat and I heard my air gunner, LAC Bromley, give a cheer and I think that this meant that he had got an Me 109 which had been trying to get on my tail. I could not be certain of this as immediately afterwards the air gunner was killed. I think.

‘My starboard tank caught fire and a stream of bullets came from the rear and shot away the dashboard and part of the control column. I lost control for some time but eventually managed to turn the aircraft on its back, as had been pre-arranged with the air gunner in order to facilitate bailing out. I could get no reply from the air gunner. I bailed out when the flames were coming up right to the cockpit. I landed on an island south-east of Dordrecht among some tall reeds. While lying on my back after landing I saw one Defiant explode in the air. About one hour later the enemy fighters had disappeared completely.

‘I explored the island which appeared to be uninhabited and then went towards a house two miles away in a south-easterly direction. In order to reach this house I had to swim two channels approximately 100 yards wide. I then saw a houseboat moored and climbed into it. After resting I walked west keeping the sun behind me until I came to a house with a barge outside it but the house was empty.

I then found a small boat and rowed for about 200 yards until I came to a very high dyke. I climbed this and saw another house from which a farm labourer and his wife came to meet me. The time was then approximately 0800 hours. I managed to make him understand that I was English as I was carrying my tunic over my arm.

2--springssluis--meet-thomas
Area where P/O. Jack Hatfield and P/O. Samual Thomas met up after the combat (Source Jan Jolie)

a-mark-of-honour-lac-bromley-2
Very low Flypast by a Harvard on the 13th May 2000 in honour of L.A.C. John Bromley (Source Jan Jolie)

‘By this time the Germans were bombing Dordrecht. This attack lasted all morning. Dordrecht was about 15 miles away from the farmhouse. This information I got from the farmer. As far as I could see, the aircraft carrying out the bombing were He 111s and Ju 87s. At about 1200 hours the farmer locked up the house and rowed me and his family to another island. On the way across I saw 20 Me 110s which were circling and proceeding further north-east with each circle, which would rather indicate that they were searching the ground for suitable target to ground-strafe.

‘We eventually reached another farmhouse from which the military were communicated with. And then the labourer offered to take me to the military on the back of his bicycle. After cycling about three miles we came to a dam and were met by Dutch soldiers. It was here that I met Pilot Officer Hatfield of Blue 1.

We were taken in a car to get his arm dressed and after about an hour we were taken to a place called Sleeuwijk where we were interrogated by Dutch Intelligence officers who seemed to think I was German. One of the Dutch officials questioned me and asked where I came from (by this time I had lost most of my uniform). When I said Swansea I was asked to draw maps of the main streets.

p1010001
(Source Jan Jolie)

‘We were taken to a hospital and then a card was tied around my neck on which was written my name, description and number. My tunic was taken from me here. After being detained for some time in a room with some civilians we were marched to a boat and taken across to Gorinchem which had apparently been bombed just before we arrived.

We were escorted by two guards, and were interrogated at police headquarters by a police officer who could speak good English. We explained that we were British airmen and were asked if we could speak Dutch, and were not believed when we said that we could not. I asked the police official to send a cable to the British Air Ministry and wrote a message out.

I do not know whether this message was sent.

jack0027s-way-though-the-biesbosch
Route taken. (Source Jan Jolie)

‘We were taken then to the military barracks and questioned by an intelligence officer whose name was 2nd Lieutenant Bouvy, who took all particulars and promised to send a cable to the Air Ministry as well. Two hours later this officer took us by car to The Hague. On the way we ran into a large motorised column of Dutch soldiers. The soldiers searched the party in the car and then they discovered that 2nd Lieutenant Bouvy, our escort, was a Fascist. At this point we thought that were going to be shot out of hand. However eventually we were taken on to The Hague. By that time it was about 0200 hours.

‘After a very long time we arrived at The Hague between 0530 and 0600 hours. We were taken to the Dutch military barracks and saw the commanding officer who spoke perfect English. After we had explained the situation to him we were driven to the British Legation but found everybody had left so we went to the American Legation where a Major Colbourne was very helpful indeed, and we finally went in a Buick car escorted by one soldier and the driver to the Hook of Holland where there was a British destroyer. At the Hague there were British troops and Irish and Welsh Guards.

During the journey German bombers came over and five Blenheims were also seen. Eventually a British naval officer allowed us on board the destroyer and we landed at Dover at 1930 hours on May 14.’

Post script: (1) During the rest of the war, Thomas was a very successful pilot and distinguished himself in many air battles, especially those above Dunkirk. On September 5, 1943, his flying career was interrupted when, as a squadron leader in No. 3 Squadron, he was shot down over south-west Holland flying a Typhoon.

After an emergency landing near Bruinisse he managed to set his plane alight but was captured by the Germans and transported to Stalag Luft 3 at Sagan and later Belaria. Post-war Thomas remained in the RAF but his name disappears from the Air Force list after July 1962.


coll.-biesbosch-museum--browning
(Source Jan Jolie)

In July 1994 a group of Dutch holidaymakers stumbled upon the remains of an aircraft in the waters of a creek called the ‘Gat van de Kampen’ just south of Petrusplaat island in the wetlands of the Biesbosch. The group warned the Water Police at Drimmelen who in turn notified the Marechaussee (Dutch Military Police), the Explosieven-Opruimingsdienst (Dutch Army Ordnance Disposal Service) and a Dutch Air Force diving team.

Initially the aircraft was thought to be a Hurricane, but later investigation by a team from the Dutch Air Force Bergingsdienst (Recovery Service) led by Kapitein John van de Berg confirmed that it was in fact a Defiant and subsequent research proved it to be L6958, the aircraft of Thomas and Bromley. Some personal effects and fragments of human bones were also recovered from the crash site.
As Thomas was known to have escaped from the aircraft when it was shot down, it must be assumed that LAC John Bromley was still in the aircraft when it crashed. Unfortunately, despite this evidence, the amount of human remains recovered was considered so small that a positive identification was not possible and officially Bromley therefore remains 'missing' with no known grave, his name commemorated on Panel 22 of the Runnymede Memorial.

monument-biesbosch-museum-2
Monument at Biesbosch Museum (Source Jan Jolie)

The engine and other items from the aircraft were subsequently recovered and put on display in the Biesbosch Museum at Werkendam where on May 4, 2001; a monument to LAC Bromley’s memory was unveiled by Group Captain Huge Tudor DFC, AFC, and Burgomaster H. A. G. Hellegers of Werkendam with former members of No. 264 Squadron attending.

(2)Unfortunately, despite efforts by the author to trace surviving relatives of Bromley in his birthplace of Liverpool, none have so far been discovered. We would very much like to hear from anyone who are able to assist with this.

Burial Details:

L.A.C. John Stuart Mee Bromley Runnymede Memorial Panel 22 Son of Frederick Mee Bromley and Constance Bromley, of Liverpool.

The Balance Sheet May 13th 1940 (HERE)
Researched by Jan Jolie (Dutch researcher)

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