2024 marks the 80th Anniversary of the loss of Lancaster ME685


Lancaster ME685 EM-C from 207 Squadron RAF Spilsby was commanded by Warrant Officer J R “Ray” Senior age 23. He and his crew lost their lives near Montaudran, Toulouse, France when their aircraft was hit by flak and exploded.

The crew formed at Spilsby in late February 1944 and undertook five ops together in March 1944, to Frankfurt, Berlin, Essen and Nuremberg.

Their next op was on 5th/6th April. This was the sixth sortie for the crew and their first time on ME685 which had only been in service for three weeks and had flown 39 operational hours. They were the 8th aircraft to take off from 207 Squadron RAF Spilsby, airborne at 2020 hours.

Wing Commander Leonard Cheshire had already departed in a Mosquito, repeating the low level marking experiment for the targets which were the S.N.C.A de S.E aircraft assembly plant, the Louis Breguet aircraft factory, the Ateliers Regionnaux de l’Artillerie de l’Air aircraft repair plant and Montaudran Airfield in Toulouse. Cheshire’s aircraft was hit repeatedly by German fire but survived intact and on his third pass, he was able to place his target markers accurately before two Lancasters of 617 Squadron supplemented the marking effectively confirming the accuracy for the main force.

Thousands of tonnes of bombs were unleashed by a wave of 144 Lancaster bombers composed of aircraft and crews from 617 Squadron (special duties squadron, Lancasters & Mosquitoes), Lancaster equipped Pathfinder squadrons 83 Squadron and 97 Squadron, Lancaster heavy bomber squadrons 9 Squadron, 106 Squadron, 44 Squadron, 207 Squadron, 49 Squadron, 463 Squadron, 50 Squadron, 467 Squadron, 57 Squadron, 619 Squadron, 61 Squadron and 630 Squadron.

Of those 144 Lancasters, only one failed to return to base. ME685 was hit by German anti-aircraft guns and exploded in mid air, killing all 7 crew.

They were laid to rest in La Fourguette Communal Cemetery on the 8th April 1944. Flight Engineer Arthur Woolley had been due to marry his fiancée Eileen on that day.

With the help of Gilles Collaveri, President of Aerocherche Society in Toulouse, and the cooperation of the Mairie of the City of Toulouse, a memorial plaque to the crew was created and unveiled at a ceremony on the 6th April 2024.  Major Shaun Brown, Australian Army, led a private memorial service for the crew, representing the families of The two Australian crew Flt Sgt Frederick Bruce from Sydney (Mid Upper Gunner) and Warrant Officer William John Waycott from Perth (WOP/AG), the RAAF crew.


We will remember them.

The graves are located at La Fourguette Cemetery, Place du 8 Mai 1945, 31100 Toulouse. 

The memorial plaque can be visited at St Etienne de Montaudran Church, 45 Chemin de Bitet, 31500 Toulouse. 

Story submitted by Claire Jenkins-Robinson


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