The Crew of Wellington Bomber W5421


On the 5th August 1941 at 22.25 hour a Vickers Wellington II bomber W5421 PH G for George of 12 Squadron RAF took off from RAF Binbrook bound with 12 other Wellingtons for a raid on the railway marshalling yards in the German city of Aachen. The crew of the plane were twenty-four year old pilot Flight Lieutenant 37938 Roy Brouard LANGLOIS D.F.C., Flight Sergeant 748217 Richard Alfred COPLEY the radio operator age 21, 742570 Sergeant Jack L. Newton the front gunner, Sergeant John Warren McLARNON the second pilot, Sergeant Harold Joseph Edwin BURRELL the navigator and Sergeant R.D. PORTEOUS RNZAF the rear gunner
The plane had engine trouble just south of Aachen and was unable to bomb the target. The crew then jettisoned their bombs 15 to 20 miles from the target and turned for home. Over Antwerp the starboard engine caught fire and they began to lose height to 800 feet and they realised they could not reach England. At first they thought they would ditch in the sea off the Belgian coast but after being caught by searchlights and forced to take evasive action they realised they would have to crash-land. Newton in the front turret saw what he thought in the moonlight was two rivers but in fact was the Antwerp-Deurne airfield in occupied Belgium. The plane did a wheels down landing at 02.19 on the 6th August. The Germans at the time were under cover in shelters, as other bombers unable to reach Antwerp by their deadline were jettisoning their bombs near the airfield. That gave the crew nearly half an hour to destroy the aircraft to prevent it falling into enemy hands and escape, Newton firing 12 emergency flares into the fuselage before a German fire-tender arrived. The Germans probably believed the crew had been trapped in the burning aircraft and only in the morning light realised that there were no bodies in the plane, this gave the crew valuable time to climb the barbed wire and escape.

Where are they? Official German photographs showing Wellington bomber W-5431 "G" for George at Deurne airfield. Photographs courtesy of Richard Copley.
The crew decided to split into two parties, Langlois Newton and Copley walked in circles all that night around Antwerp until at BOUCHOUT they rested in a farmhouse. They continued walking until they met up with a man on a bicycle R. DEMOULIN who asked them in perfect English if they were British he hid the airmen in a wheat field and later gave them food and cigarettes. In the 11.30 that evening he came back and took them to the farm of
Sergeant Jack Newton
Alphonse de VOEGT where they stayed the night and were given civilian clothes. The next morning a young woman Mme Van EEKHOVE took them by foot and tram to the well appointed house house of banker P. DUQUENNE in the Avenue de Belgique, Antwerp where they spent another night. At dinner that evening they met Mme Raymonde TROCKAY of the Quai Orban who, the next day, took the three of them by train via Brussels to the city of Liege. From the 7th to the 9th of August they stayed at the house of Doctor De BIE at Rue de la Station, Chenee, the doctor was working for the Red Cross sending parcels to POW's and the house was visited by many people. Soon a large number of people in the city knew of the RAF evaders hiding in the house.
Richard Copley in 1946
The crew than met A.G.PASTEGER from Embourg and engineer Pierre HACHA who thought it was time to move them before the Germans heard the rumours circulating round the town. Pasteger had been a Belgian army liaison officer with the Royal Flying Corps in World War One and could speak English. He had also been the manager of the Englebert tyre factory in Aachen that the crew had been on their way to bomb! They were moved to the house of Hacha's sister and her husband Henri de RIJCKER who was a professor at Liege University. They again stayed two or three days in the house until the couples young children started asking too many questions so they were moved to the cottage of Madame L. FRANCOIS in Bois-Le-Comte, Gomze-Andoumont.

Up until this time the crew had not met anybody who was connected with an escape line but through a Madame MASSON a meeting was arranged between Hacha and Emile WITMEUR who had been a pilot in the Belgian Air Force and belonged to the organization code named BEAVER-BATON which
Roy Langlois on
the run in 1941
had links to London. Witmeur met the airmen in Francois' house on the afternoon of 14th August 1941, he was nervous as he had seen German Feldgendarmerie activity on the road to the house. It was decided to move the airmen that afternoon by bus back to Liege. Witmeur had arranged to meet Paul DONEUX alongside the River Meuse in the city. When they got there Doneux was accompanied by another man Eugene VANDEWEERDT. Doneux and Vandeweerdt confronted Winteur saying "What have you done? These men are not English they are German. They have taken the papers on the corpses of the three airmen who were taken out of the river".
Emille Witmeur

At about the same time as they left their aircraft on the airfield at Antwerp another Wellington bomber crashed in the Meuse. The Germans had recovered three of the crew dead and used their flying clothes to disguise some Germans as evading aircrew in order to trap people willing to help evading British airmen.
" I am sure they are British" Witmeur continued. "They were forced to land in Antwerp, on the airfield at Deurne"
"Where? On the airfield.....you fool, why not on the moon. They have told you that because you will not be able to enter the airfield to confirm their story".
Doneux refused to take the airman and so Witmeur, convinced the airmen are British, decided to take them to his own house, when they arrive German soldiers are standing in the street. Witmeur, Doneux and the airmen turn back. Meanwhile Venderweerdt has alerted other Beaver-Baton agents, Doctor Georges GILLES and Fernand CARLIER, they all had a meeting in a cafe.
Doneux said, "Even if they are Germans all is not lost, if I can reach the hotel without being followed. We will radio London and check their story. If they are Germans we will kill them."
At seven in the evening the airmen and their helpers arrived at the Hotel de Provence, 127 Rue des Guillemans owned by Eugene DEMEURRE. The airmen had to tell their story again and during the night London was contacted. The story checked out, they were not German. The next day Langlois was taken to the flat of Jean HUFKENS at the Place St. Paul, Newton to Rene DEBAITS (picture left) house and Copley to gendarme Armand LOVENFOSSE's house.

The plan was to fly the three airman back to England from an airfield in France. This plan and a letter to Monsieur Pierlot ( the Belgian prime-minister in exile in London) asking for the release of certain money, were baked in a cake for Langlois to take to England. They remained in these houses until the 8th September 1941 when it was arranged by Nicholas MONAMI the Mayor of Bassence and head of Beaver-Baton and Police Commisioner Louis RADEMECKER to take them to the escape organisation in Brussels. The airmen met up again in the square in front of the Post Office in Liege and were taken by two men on the train to Brussels, arriving at 20.00 hours.


The airman arrived in Brussels at a dangerous time, from the beginning of September 1941 the Germans had began to crack down on the organisation. There was talk that a red headed English or Irish soldier who had been captured earlier had, under German threats, infiltrated the organisation to betray it. Langlois and Copley were taken to a different house from Jack Newton and from then on his experiences would radically differ from the other two.
Langlois and Copley's first three days in Brussels were spent in the old and beautiful house of a wealthy Lieutenant in the Belgian Army and his sister, he was an Olympic standard swordsman.

Langlois and Copley hiding in Brussels.

Langlois and Copley were looked after in Brussels by Baron Jacques DONNY aka Pere NOEL (Father Christmas) he was unable to accommodate them in his own house but took them to stay the night of the 12th September with an unknown woman. Possibly this is when they stayed at Jeanne Monnier's house. The next day Baron DONNY took them to the home of Jean VANDENHOVE above his tobacconists shop at 66 Rue Washington. Whilst there they also visited other homes, the names of the householders unknown or forgotten with the passage of time. One was the upper story apartment of a doctor and his wife, they also visited a vineyard by train, the owner was short, slight of stature and had a small dark moustache, a double of Charlie Chaplin. Another visit to the countryside just outside Brussels was to a smallholding where the owner was a body builder. They were also given identity cards and visited by an Englishwoman who was to give them French passports and Spanish visas. They were to travel with three ex-Belgian army officers as guides to Montpelier, and then make contact with a Spanish guide. Langlois had also been given various pieces of military information to take back to England.

John Ives RCAF

So the network had sent some soldiers on to Spain but all the time others were arriving. Michel KOWALSKI and Stephan TOMICKI 305 Squadron Wellington crashed near Charleroi on the same night as G for George. They had been on a mission to Frankfurt. Taken to Brussels they met up with Allan Cowan and the other Scottish soldiers.

RAF Lindholm, probably July 1941. The S/Ldr Scibior crew: (from left) Sgt Waclaw Rybak gunner, F/O Mieczyslaw Saferna navigator, S/Ldr Szczepan Scibior pilot, F/O Jerzy Sukiennik navigator, Sgt Stefan Tomicki pilot, and Sgt Michal Kowalski wireless operator. The crew shot down over France in Wellington W5593/SM-P on August5, 1941. Saferna, Sukiennik and Rybak were killed, Scibior became POW, while Tomicki and Kowalski evaded capture. (Courtesy of Simon Roguska)

John IVES RCAF R-62735 51 Squadron who had been an Observer on a raid to Cologne on the night of 18/19th August 1941. After taking off from RAF Dishforth at 21.51 their Whitley V bomber Z6569 MH-S was shot down by a night fighter over Vliermaalroot, Limburg 9km SE of Hasselt. Ives evaded capture and stayed at a farm in Diepenbeek near Hasselt. He arrived in Brussels on the 28th August 1941.

By now The Geheime Feldpolizei was closing in on the group, the first arrests had been made, disaster was about to strike.

RAF Airmen Hidden in Brussels in 1941.

F/Lt Jan Ryszard JANICKI P1405 300 Sq RAF Born 8/7/1912. Arrested Gare Du Midi Brussels 26/9/41 POW. Janicki returned to Poland in 1946.

11th July 1941
300 Squadron Wellington IC R1184 BH-B T/O Swinderby on operation to Cologne. Shot down, landed by parachute near Turnhout. All the crew POW's

Flight Lieutenant 37938 Roy Brouard LANGLOIS D.F.C. 12 Sq RAF FTR 5/8/41. Arrested 1/10/41 rue Washington, Brussels POW. Took part in "The Great Escape" Stalag Luft III Sagan. Died 1993.
Flight Sergeant 748217 Richard Alfred COPLEY radio operator 12 Sq RAF FTR 5/8/41. Arrested 1/10/41 rue Washington, Brussels POW
Sergeant Jack L. NEWTON 742570 front gunner 12 Sq RAF FTR 5/8/41. Comete Line Evader. Died 2003.
Sergeant John Warren McLARNON 964321 second pilot 12 Sq RAF FTR 5/8/41. Arrested Toulouse POW
Sergeant Harold Joseph Edwin BURRELL navigator 12 Sq RAF FTR 5/8/41. Arrested Toulouse POW
Sergeant R.D. PORTEOUS RNZAF rear gunner 12 Sq RAF FTR 5/8/41. Arrested Toulouse POW

5th August 1941
12 Squadron Wellington I W5421 PH-G T/O Binbrook on operation to Aachen, Forced landing Antwerp/Duerne airfield.

Squadron Leader Szczepan SCIBIOR 305Sq. RAF FTR 5/8/41. Arrested August 1941 Brussels POW. Executed Warsaw 7/8/1952 as British spy.
Sgt. Stefan TOMICKI 782361 305Sq. RAF FTR 5/8/41 Comete Line Evader. After his return to the UK his Wellington Bomber HE 148 crashed on 9.4.1943 in the North Sea near the Dutch coast. His body was never found.
Sgt. Michal Ryszard KOWALSKI 782276 305 Sq. RAF FTR 5/8/41 Comete Line Evader. He lived in Canada after the war and died in Montreal in 1996.

5th August 1941
305 Squadron Wellington II W5593 SM- Took off Lindholme on operation to Frankfurt. Crashed near Charleroi , three crew killed. Charleroi Polish Memorial

Sergeant Albert D. DAY 10263 RAF 77Sq. RAF Comete Line Evader. Al died in 2007.
F/Lt Douglas Gordon BABER 89376 77 Sq. RAF Arrested in Brussels 27th August 1941.
W/O William Frederick THUELL 89376 77 Sq. RAF Hidden at Zingen but arrested in Brussels 27th August 1941. Died 1990.

5th August 1941
Whitley V Z6826 KN- on operation to Frankfurt T/O Topcliffe diverted to bomb Koblenz hit by flak crashed near Meulbeke, West Flanders. Rest of crew POW's.
Sgt John Learned IVES RCAF R-62735 51 Sq. RAF Comete Line Evader. Killed plane crash 28th April 1945

18th August 1941
51 Squadron RAF Whitley V Z6569 MH-A T/O Dishforth 21.29 on operation to Cologne. Shot down by night-fighter, crashed Vliermaalroot Limburg. Rest of Crew 1 Killed 3 POW.

Sgt Leonard Arthur WARBURTON 992847 Comete Line Evader
Sgt John William (Jack) HUTTON 1678696 Comete Line Evader. Killed 31/07/1944 Buried Clichy Northern Cemetary.

31st August 1941
101 Squadron Wellington Ic R1703 SR-J T/O Oakington for operation on Cologne. Crashed at Boxbergheide near Ghent, Three crew killed buried at Schaffen Communal Cemetary, one (R.T. Wood) POW.
See Frank Haslam's website on the Boxbergheide Memorial
Sergeant Hilary (Larry) Eldred BIRK 402634 RAAF 99 Sq. RAF. Comete Line Evader. Killed plane crash 15th July 1942. Buried Benghazi War Cemetary.
Sergeant W.H.DYER Evader reached Spain February 1942

28th September 1941
99 Squadron Wellington IC X9761 LN- T/O Waterbeach on operation to Frankfurt. Sergeant J.B. DICKS Evaded to Spain but did not go to Brussels.

Pilot Officer Howard CARROLL 68806 207SQ. RAF. Comete Line Evader. Killed plane crash 19th November 1945. Buried at Hanover War Cemetary.
Sgt Gilbert Thomas (Tom) COX 1251523 Comete Line Evader

14th October 1941
207 Squadron Manchester I L7321 EM-D on operation to Cologne. Shot down by night-fighter crashed Hozemont Belgium. Five crew killed buried at Heverlee War Cemetary.
Information from
"Royal Air Force BOMBER COMMAND LOSSES of the Second World War 1941 by W.R. Chorley" Published by Midland Counties Publications.

The Commonwealth War Graves website.

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© John Clinch 2002