102 (Ceylon) Squadron

Tentate et perficite (Attempt and Achieve)

Sergeant Edward Ord

 

Please look at Robert Leyland's page for another amazing write up on this whole crew, including Jimmy Page

F/S James (Jimmy) Aubrey Page - Pilot - Aged 32 - (C.W.G.C)

Sgt Ronald Marshall Simpson - Navigator - (C.W.G.C)

Sgt Frederick Court - Bomb Aimer - Aged 39 - (C.W.G.C)

Sgt Robert Leyland - Wireless Operator - Aged 20 - (C.W.G.C)

Sgt John Watkinson - Flight Engineer - Aged 23 - (C.W.G.C)

Sgt Edward Ord - Mid Upper Air Gunner - Aged 21 - (C.W.G.C)

Sgt Robert Henry Brewer - Rear Gunner

Ed  Ord

A forgotten Hero – Edward Ord - Written by Annon.

Tucked away in the pretty little French village of Piencourt is a single grave to 6 RAF airmen of the Second World War. A distinctive grave marker made of Portland stone by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission marks their final resting place. The headstone is slightly out of place with its surroundings but the men have been buried there deliberately by the villagers that found them more than 67 years ago. They have been welcomed to rest alongside the people they fought to liberate. Such was the fondness of so many people imprisoned by the Nazi regime, that they quite literally risked their lives to spirit away the bodies of allied airmen from the burning wreckage of their aircraft and bury them close by. It was a mark of respect and a sign of affection. Who were these men and why do they lie so far away from their homes? Until very recently, I had absolutely no idea. In fact the names of these men meant nothing to me. I’m not ashamed to say it because they are just the tip of one very large iceberg and a terrible statistic of World War Two. Only a member of your own family would endure long after their deaths through the stories passed down by each successive generation. My interest in Bomber Command came about by the death of my Nanna’s baby brother Charlie in the Month of June 1943. That is my connection to Bomber Command. But Charlie’s passing stirred a passion within his Great Nephew to learn and research men like him and that is why I am writing about men I never even knew.


I’m not on my own as I was later to discover when I made contact with Bill Leyland. Bill, an Englishman lost his Uncle Bob in exactly the same way in World War Two. For most of his adult life, Bill was determined not only to mark the life of his Uncle but to make sure his name was not forgotten in the years to come. Pure coincidence led me to purchase a few token momentoes of Sergeant Edward Ord. Edward and Bob Leyland lie alongside one another at Piencourt. They were perhaps the best of mates…comrades that shared life as well as death. I am now the proud though sometimes reluctant custodian of Edward Ord’s memories. It still seems strange and unnatural for someone like me to keep these things. They must have meant so much to his family as they were a palpable reminder of his short life and tragic loss. I have Edward’s log book right next to me as I write these words….each page written by the young hand of Edward himself. You can’t get any closer to the pages of history than that.


So who was this young man? Sadly I know more about his passing than his life and that is very sad indeed. He was a Sergeant Air Gunner and he was posted to 102 Squadron in late May 1944. Aged just 20, he came to RAF Pocklington with 6 other men with whom he had trained extensively for 6 hard months. I am still amazed at the level of training that these men received. It was incredibly intensive and the men that filled the ranks of RAF Bomber Command were some of the finest that their generation could produce. And they had to be. I wonder if any knew what risks they were taking and what the chances of individual survival would be. Well, 1944 was I believe the worst year in terms of casualties for RAF Bomber Command. Edward and his crew were 6 out of a combined total of 11,749 RAF airmen lost that year alone. Edward was the mid-Upper gunner on a Halifax MkIII bomber. His home while flying was a circular Perspex dome mounted on the upper surface of the aircraft and was about halfway along the fuselage.  His Boulton-Paul turret housed four .303 browning machine guns. 


For their time, these guns provided a formidable system of protection. Ed would have had the most extraordinary views from within his turret, even at night. A commanding panoramic view of the bomber itself and its element the surrounding sky. Ed apparently never fired his guns in anger and if he did, he decided not to mention it in his logbook. He did however fly the most exhausting tour in a very short space of time. In the Month of June alone his crew flew 13 missions in one of the most rewarding and intensive operations of the war. Aerial Bombing remains to this day a controversial means of war but in June 1944, the men of RAF Bomber Command were given the job of supporting the Allied invasion of France by bombing rail yards, troop concentrations and V1 rocket sites. This was precision bombing that many thought the boys of Bomber Command were incapable of carrying out. In actual fact even their Commander Sir Arthur Harris was surprised at how good these boys really were. Not only were they good at their jobs, they were exceptionally brave as well.


Ed’s logbook records all the missions in detail. In red ink are the night-time sorties to places such as St. Lo and Boulogne in France and Sterkrade on the Ruhr. Ed has written the daytime sorties in green ink. It seems the crew led a largely charmed existence. There’s no mention of enemy fighters or flak. These were the greatest enemies of the bomber crews. Their usual aircraft Halifax NA504 carried them through their tour without so much as a scratch. That is until the morning of July the 25th 1944. Through my correspondence with Bill Leyland, I learnt that Ed and his crew were not flying their usual aircraft. I wonder how they felt about that. Crews were notoriously superstitious and many took exception to any last minute changes to their routines. Bill also mentioned that his father once told him that they weren’t even ‘chalked up’ to fly that mission until an airman was taken sick. Rather than just pop another gunner in the crew, the powers that be simply opted to put Ed and his crew in someone else’s Halifax to fly. It was of course a bad omen, although we will never know if anyone in the crew had any inkling of their fate. They set off for the German City of Stuttgart, widely regarded as a dangerous city to attack, and simply never returned. Time of take off is given in the records as 9:30 at night.


Thanks again to Bill Leyland, without whom most of this information would be sketchy to say the least, we are almost certain that Ed and his crew were the victims of a marauding German Me110 that had followed Halifax LL552 across France. A gunners’ life was not an easy one. They peered out into the darkness, squinting for hours at a time for something that more often than not was skulking far underneath them and well beyond their field of vision. The fighter attacked setting fire to the starboard wing and Bob Brewer called up on the aircraft’s intercom. He could hear only the voice of the bomb aimer up the front, who had already been hit, though we don’t know how badly. There were no other voices to be heard, so Bob simply followed his instincts and bailed out of his turret. All of this would have taken a matter of seconds and before long the damaged wing folded back on itself removing any likelihood of escape for the remaining crew. Bob Brewer was taken prisoner and spent the last year of the war in captivity. The other six men of his crew perished in the plane. Ed Ord aged just 21 came from Seghill in Northumberland. Flight Lieutenant Aubrey James Page aged 32 came from Norbury in Surrey and left behind a Wife and two children. Sergeant John Watkinson was 23 and came from Cricklewood in Middlesex. Flying Officer Ronald Simpson was a 27-year-old native of Dundee in Scotland and left behind a wife and son who would never know his father. He was just weeks old. Sergeant Fred Court was 26 and he came from the City of Exeter.

The loss of one son would have been bad enough but barely a year later, Fred’s younger brother, Private Stanley Court was also killed in action just weeks before the war in Europe ended. Sergeant Robert Leyland is of course the Uncle of Bill Leyland and he was the youngest member of the crew at 20. 20..I can scarcely believe it….

Sergeant Robert Henry Brewer may well have spent the remainder of his life pausing on July the 25th to remember the men he lost. Or perhaps he spent the remainder of his life trying to forget that day. However it affected him will of course remain unknown, except possibly by his family. Bob passed away in Surrey at the relatively young age of 61 in 1982 and his Wife Ada lived on for another 23 years. His Grandson carries his name and I hope very much to make contact with him…..it is a very sad story but now at least, it has been told and the memory of these fine young men may endure for a long time to come. That’s my hope.

May Ed and all the boys of Halifax LL552 be remembered.

ed ord

EdwardNichollswithwreckageJuyl49

Edward Nicholls with wreckage Juyl 49


Ed Ord's father is 3rd from the right, his mother 4th.

 

 

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