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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 53046
Last updated: 11 October 2021
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Type:Bristol Beaufort Mk I
Owner/operator:217 Squadron Royal Air Force (217 Sqn RAF)
Registration: AW190
Fatalities:Fatalities: 4 / Occupants: 4
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:North Sea 25 km southwest of Den Helder, Noord-Holland -   Netherlands
Phase: Combat
Departure airport:RAF Manston, Kent
Destination airport:
On 9 December 1941 three Beauforts of 217 Sqn RAF took off at 1542 hrs from Manston to attack a convoy sighted off Hoek van Holland earlier. At 1639 hrs the flight found and attacked a convoy of one ship of 12,000 tons, five of between 1,000 and 2,000 tons and two flak-ships, positioned some 25 km southwest of Den Helder.

Flt Lt Arthur John Heneage Finch went in first and dropped three 500 lb bombs onto the largest ship. He scored direct hits and was badly shaken by the blast of his own bombs. As he was using 11 seconds delay it rather looks as though his bombs went into the boilers.

Plt Off Mark Lee piloting Beaufort I AW190 MW-K was next to attack but was hit in the port engine which caught fire and the Beaufort crashed in the sea at 1739 hrs just in front of the bow of the Madrid.

The third British pilot, Plt Off Arthur Aldridge, having seen this went in at zero feet and while scoring more direct hits missed disaster by inches and good airmanship. His port wing-tip fouled a stay on the ship and left bits and pieces behind. Missing close to two feet of his port wing, Aldridge was surprised to find that his Beaufort was still flying and could skid to avoid the Flak of the German ships. As the sky was turning dark, the damaged Beaufort headed for home, a long way back. The trip was a very silent one, all crew either thinking to the friends that had seen being shot down or whether the structure of the plane would hold up. It did and they landed safely in complete darkness.

Crew of Beaufort AW190 (all killed):
Plt Off Mark Lee (pilot)
Flt Sgt John Ansley Foster RCAF
Sgt Henry Carter
Sgt John Alfred Chadaway

Mark Lee was washed ashore on Ameland on 17 December and buried two days later in Nes General Cemetery, while Sgt Chadaway, Sgt Carter and Sgt Foster, a Canadian from Vancouver, are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

Flt Lt Finch and Plt Off Aldridge were both awarded the DFC for this attack.

The ship they attacked was the 8,741-ton German steaming passenger ship Madrid, that had been built in 1922 as the Sierra Nevada. In 1937 it was bought by the Hamburg Sud Amerikanische Gesellschaft Dampfschiffahrt and renamed Madrid. In September 1939 she was at sea when the war started and took refuge in the port of Las Palmas in the neutral Spanish Canary Islands. A year later she managed to reach Saint-Nazaire, now held by the Germans on the French coast, arriving there on 28 December 1940. She was requisitioned by the Kriegsmarine and served as a training vessel for the 26th U-boote Flotille until 15 February 1941. She then went to Rotterdam for a refit.

The day of the attack she was on the way to Hamburg to serve there as a training vessel for the 28th U-boote Flotille. She joined a fast convoy, all ships being able to do more than 10 knots (Madrid could achieve 13), under escort by four warships.

After the attack, one of the escorts, the VP 1101, reported that Madrid had been hit and was on fire, and needed urgently help. It also signaled that one plane was shot down. Several ships went to assist but at 2200 hrs the VP 1101 signaled that Madrid was beyond saving. The ship drifted due to the wind and current and stranded on the Keizersbult shoal. The lifeboat Dorus Rijkers could not even close the burning ship. Storms of the winter then destroyed the wreck.

The Madrid was the largest German ship sunk by aircraft on the Dutch coast during the war. Twelve people died during the attack.

"The Last Torpedo Flyers: The True Story of Arthur Aldridge, Hero of the Skies", by Arthur Aldridge. ISBN 978-1-47110-275-2

Revision history:

17-Dec-2008 11:45 ASN archive Added
11-Dec-2017 07:15 Laurent Rizzotti Updated [Time, Operator, Total fatalities, Total occupants, Phase, Source, Narrative]
13-Apr-2020 13:06 TigerTimon Updated [Cn, Location, Departure airport, Source]

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