198 SQUADRON NOTES 1
Flt/Lt O. H. ODEN RNZAF
The loss of Flt/Lt Oscar H. Oden RNZAF took place on the 11th of December 1944 when he was shot down by flak north east of Zaltbommel, however he is reported to have died from his injuries the following day in a German Field Dressing Station.
F/O M. A. MILICH RNZAF
According to our information and that of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Mate A. Milich RNZAF was a Flying Officer at the time of his death on the 8th December 1944. For some unknown reason his private memorial headstone at Woudenberg General Cemetery, Netherlands, shows his rank as Flight Lieutenant which is something we can't account for.
Sdn/Ldr C. C. F. COOPER RAF
Occasionally it is claimed that Sqn/Ldr Cooper was a C/O of 198 Squadron for a few days between the 27th September 1943 and the 4th of October that year when he was shot down by flak. Neither the "Association" or 198's Operations Record Book can confirm this. As happened several times during 198's career two Squadron Leaders were serving at the same time with the Squadron. On this occasion the other being Sqn/Ldr J. M. Bryan DFC who remained the Commanding Officer.
Flt/Sgt FRANCOIS BONNET (Free French)
Francois Bonnet, also known as Francis Buranelli, was born on the 26th July 1917 at Ancone, Italy. Being from Italian origin his real name was Franco Buranti. (Bonnet being his mother's maiden name) He trained originally with 57 OTU at Eshott before flying with Free French Alsace squadrons 341 and 342 then joined 198 Squadron RAF on the 19th July 1944. Reported as "Missing From Operations" on the 19th August 1944 in the Vimoutiers - Falaise Gap area his body and/or grave was never found and for years after the war Sqn/Ldr Y. Ezanno made repeated efforts to locate Flt/Sgt Bonnet's remains, but without any luck. (George Lane of 198 later recalled that he had met Flt/Sgt Bonnet on the 20th August 1944 in a barn at Saint-Germain-de-Montgommery in which he had been deposited over night after being shot down and taken POW. Apparently Bonnet had been injured when the tail plane of his aircraft had caught him behind the left knee when bailing out. Subsequently a local resident remembered that a body had been found nearby in a ditch shortly after which was thought to be one of the prisoners who'd tried to escape from the barn.)
Flt/Lt VICTOR SMITH DFC, RAFVR.
Returning from support and escort sweep duties with bombers of the 8th USAAF on the morning of 20th December 1943 his aircraft (JP316) developed engine failure and he was killed when it crashed into the bank of the river Waal about half a mile north of Dreumel, Holland, at 10.40 hrs. Subsequently Flt/Lt Smith was buried as "Unknown Airman" on the 23rd of December 1943 in what was then known as the Municipal Cemetery, Uden, Holland. (Later renamed the British War Cemetery, Uden.) It is believed his remains were not positively identified until the summer of 1946.
Flt/Lt PIERRE BRISDOUX GALLONI C de G, (Free French.)
Born on the 28th of October 1914 in Algeria he had originally fought with the Free French in Lybia with GC 1 "Alsace" before moving back to the UK with his squadron. For a time afterwards he flew operationally with 340 Squadron "lle de France" before moving to an operational training unit for conversion to Hawker Typhoons from which he joined 198 Squadron RAF. Killed on the 8th of December 1944 near Hoevelaken, Holland, he was at first buried at Roosendaal, before his remains were subsequently exhumed and reburied in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France.
Flt/Lt DENIS CHARLES COLEBROOK RAF
On the 28th November 1944 Typhoons of 198 and 164 Squadrons RAF attacked the German HQ in the village of Houten, Netherlands. During the course of the attack Flt/Lt Colebrook, flying JP900, (TP.O) was hit by flak and crashed landed at Culemborg. Subsequently he was taken POW on the 21st December after making several attempts to elude capture by crossing the river Waal with the aid of the Dutch Resistance. Transported to Stalag 111A he was liberated from captivity by a Russian armour spearhead on the 9th of April 1945 before returning to an RAF career after the war. It is thought that Flt/Lt Colebrook, from Upminster in Essex, died during the late 1990's.
P/O E. VALLELY RAFVR (MN527 or JR527?)
Enquiries made of the RAF's aircraft movement cards show MN527 as the Hawker Typhoon P/O Vallely was flying at the time of his death on the 24th May 1944. However, recent research has positively shown that P/O Vallely was killed while flying JR527, and not MN527.
Sgt ALEXANDER MCAFEE RAFVR
Sgt McAfee, Service Number 1017565, served with 198 Squadron RAF during the war as a Fitter but following the Squadron's disbandment in September 1945 it was thought he had either returned to civilian life or been posted to another unit or squadron. However, according to the Commonwealth War Grave's Casualty Records he died on 9th January 1947 at the age of thirty five while still in service with the RAF and for some unexplained reason his unit text is given as 198 Sqdn.
W/O CHARLES E. STRATFORD RAFVR
Marceau Coutey was a fifteen year old boy working on his father's and uncle's farm near Martainville. France, when W/O Charles Stratford RAFVR was killed on the 22nd August 1944 and vividly recalls the following: (Translated from Jean Coutey's original French communication)
"Marceau Coutey, my father, had been obliged to shelter his family for several days before the crash, with my uncle, Pierre Coutey, in the place called le perrier arruet at Martainville. This was because in the town of Martainville, where he lived, a plane had straffed the main street and bullets had lodged in the sideboard of his house. As an anecdote, at my uncle's, they had at this time, cut a trench where they could take shelter from the lower noise of the aeroplane. The evening of 22nd August, he was leading a cow when he was surprised by the passage of a plane at low altitude. So low that he instinctively ducked his head. He arrived without hurt such was the ground grazing of the pilot, where to his surprise it touched the top of the hedge which was adjacent to the cow's barn owned by my uncle. Finally the plane finished its journey in the oaks of the next hedge of large trees (it did not make a wood but it was a good hedge), of which two years later there were still marks of the crash. The plane exploded with a thousand fires at the moment of crash. It was so strong that my father rushed to the house to protect himself. Afterwards he went with the others and discovered Bill Stratford thrown several metres from the rest of the plane. He was dead attached to his seat by a strap of several centimetres. All of this was near to a pond which has now dried up.
He did not know by what followed what had happened to the rest of the planes. A rumour had gone round the village that another pilot had got out unscathed and been hidden by a neighbour. A rumour that you have given the lie to by saying that the Hawker Typhoon is a single seater. Just to finish, my father and I are at your disposition about the rest of the squadron or the rest of the family who might want to return to these places.
Again thankyou for your help in helping our understanding of our little history.
We still wonder why this crash happened about 20 kilometres after the shooting at Bernay by the German forces. Was he wounded or was it impossible to guide his plane?"
(198's ORB is uncertain on the loss of W/O Stratford, it presumes the cause as shot down by flak.)