The following from Dave:
I first learned about F/L Thomas Leithead DFM quite a few
years ago when I was tracing my family history and later doing a One Name
Study, which is still ongoing, on the whole Leithead clan which is about 300
strong in the UK.
I have not yet been able to show that I am directly related to Thomas but we share the same surname.
Thomas was a member of 102 Ceylon Squadron and died along with the rest of his Crew when they failed to make it back to base at Pocklington after laying mines in the Baltic and came down in the North Sea off Bridlington in the early hours of 26th February 1944. No trace of the aircraft or Crew was ever found. Thomas was the Signals Leader of 102 Squadron at the time of his death at the age of 29.
The following is the sum total of my knowledge to date on F/Lt Thomas Leithead DFM.
I would be most grateful to receive any further information on Thomas.
I recently discovered that Thomas may have volunteered for the mission on which he died, to take the place of a crew member who was ill. The possibility exists therefore that the crew and/or aircraft listed below were not his regular crew/aircraft. The ORB's results will hopefully clarify this.
F/Lt Thomas Leithead DFM
born 6 December 1914 at Hawick, Roxburghshire.
From: Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
Name: LEITHEAD, THOMAS
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Flight Lieutenant
Regiment/Service: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Unit Text: 102 Sqdn.
Date of Death: Saturday 26/02/1944
Service No: 128409
Awards: D F M
Additional information: Son of Mr. and Mrs. David Leithead; husband of Lottie Leithead, of Darlington, Co. Durham.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Panel 202.
Memorial: RUNNYMEDE MEMORIAL
SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, 26 JUNE, 1942 2819
Distinguished Flying Medal.
Awarded DFM as Sgt with 51 Sq
977643 Sergeant Thomas LEITHEAD, No. 51 Squadron.
From Ian Tavender’s book “The Distinguished Flying Medal Register for the Second World War” :
Leithead Thomas 977643 Sergeant No. 51 Sqn.
LG 26/6/1942. Sorties 28, Flying hours 179.09 W.Op/Air Gunner
Sergeant Leithead joined the Squadron on 12th. May 1941, and since that date has been continuously employed on operations, completing in all 28 sorties including four of over eight hours duration. He has always shown outstanding ability, particularly on his visit to Frankfurt on 24th. October 1941, when Sergeant Leithead was responsible for bringing back the aircraft by obtaining 5 fixes and 20 Q.D.M’s during the return journey of a flight which lasted 9 ½ hours. It is felt that Sergeant Leithead has earned the award of the Distinguished Flying Medal.
17th. April 1942
Remarks by Station Commander:
A keen, calm and courageous Wireless Operator / Air Gunner whose operational record cannot be too highly commended. His devotion to duty has inspired confidence in the rest of his crew. Recommended for the award of the Distinguished Flying Medal.
Flt Lt: Leithead is listed on the War Memorial at Melrose, the home town of his parents.
From “RAF Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War” by W.R.Chorley. Vol.5 page 106:
102 Sqn Halifax II LW331 DY-D Op: Gardening
F/S Sidney John Rogers RCAF - Pilot - Aged 24 - (C.W.G.C.)
WO2 Joseph Albert Rodrigue Wilfrid Lalonde RCAF - Nav - Aged 26 - (C.W.G.C.)
F/S Joseph Metka RCAF - BA - Aged 22 - (C.W.G.C.)
F/L Thomas Leithead - DFM - WOp - Aged 29 - (C.W.G.C.)
Sgt Edward Robert Burns RCAF - MidAG - Aged 23 - (C.W.G.C.)
Sgt James William Brown - RAG - (C.W.G.C.)
Sgt David Glanville Lloyd - FE - Aged 20 - (C.W.G.C.)
T/o 2012 Pocklington similarly tasked(*). Came down in the North Sea off Bridlington. An extensive ASR operation was mounted, but no trace of this aircraft or its crew were found. All are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. F/L Leithead, the Squadron’s Signals Leader, had flown with 51 Squadron, details of his DFM being Gazetted on 26 June 1942. Note by DL: (*) = operations over the Baltic (Kiel Bay). 2 other aircraft were also lost on this operation.
I am informed by Thomas’s nephew that Thomas worked for the Royal Bank of Scotland before the War.
Thomas was married to Lottie (either 1938 at Hawick, or more probably 1942 at Northallerton) but they did not have any children. They had a house in Darlington.
The saddest piece of information also came from Thomas’s nephew whose Mother had told him that her brother had volunteered on the night he died to take the place of a crew member who was ill.
The Bridlington ASR unit mentioned was probably No.1104 Marine Craft Unit, RAF Bridlington.