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49 Squadron's participation was prompted by a signal from Group received at 10.00hrs requesting 20 aircraft to attack the 'Scharnhorst' and 'Gneisenau' at sea.
The crews were briefed at about midday, their mission being to bomb the ships.
Four aircraft of 49 Squadron were lost in the attack in which all are thought to have crashed into the sea in that appalling visibility.
It is now believed that two of the aircraft were shot down by German fighters, AE132 piloted by F/Sgt Charles Pollitt and AE396 flown by Sgt Edward Phillips.
The German Luftwaffe 4./JG1, stationed at Leeuwarden, that morning received orders to transfer to Haamstede Airfield on the island of Schouwen-Duiveland in the southwest of Holland because of the planned escape of the German battleships. The other crew members have no known graves and are commemorated on the Rnnymede Memorial.
It is believed that 144 Squadron Hampdens AD824 and AE392, who had taken off were shot down soon after 3pm in the Terschelling area by Oberfeldwebel Detlev Lüth while attempting to lay their mines in the waterway 10 miles east of Wangerooge. Oberfeldwebel Detlev Lüth, the German pilot who had shot down the aircraft was also to be killed later in the war.
It was part of a 96 bomber force detailed to bomb the port of Wilhelmshaven.
His citation reads 'He was an wireless operator with 58 Squadron, flying Whitley bombers out of Linton on Ouse, in Yorkshire."As Wireless Operator, this airman has completed 19 operational flights including attacks on Berlin, Mannheim, Cologne and other parts of Germany and German occupied territories.
Sergeant Courser has not once failed in communicating with his base, and enemy opposition has no effect on his cheerful enthusiasm or his ability to carry out his duties.
W/Op./Gunner Sgt Robert Fortune Jamieson Duncan (22) was the son of Arthur Grant Duncan and Elizabeth Jacqueline Duncan, of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It took off from RAF Linton-on-Ouse at 5.45pm on 16th January 1941 on another Wilhelmshaven raid.
The second pilot, Sgt Howard Piper Shipley, was born in 1917, son of of Mr. Its last message was received by an RAF radio monitoring station near Lympne, Kent at 8.30pm when it was apparently OK.
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It appears to have been damaged by anti-aircraft fire, believed from a local radar-guided Marine unit, MFla A.808, based at Den Helder.