Sgt. Wilfred L. Renner evasion story starts with the crew of Halifax JD463 departing from Middleton St. George
on the night of October 4/5 1943, with a mostly an RAF crew departed for an operation on Frankfurt. There is not a great deal of information on the events before or after the
loss of the Halifax|
Halifax JD463's crew:
F/S Robert E. Paddison, Air Gunner
F/O Arthur R. Fare Pilot RAF
Sgt. William R. Boyce WAG RAF
Sgt.George E. Chapman Navigator RAF
Sgt.Wilfred L. Renner Bomb Aimer
Sgt. George H. Beach Air Gunner RAF
Sgt. Cyril R.Winterbottom F/E RAF
They had been posted to 419 squadron on August 20th 1943, Sgt. Boyce had been with the squadron since February 27th.
The crew had been part of many operations into Germany including Berlin, Pilot F/O Fare was on his eleventh operation when he was killed, the other crew members had at least 8 operations completed. The squadron operations log shows very little combat actions against the crew or which ever aircraft they flew on during each of missions deep into German territory. The only mention of any sign of trouble prior to their October 4th operation was on a raid carried out on Munich on the night of September 6/7. The log shows that some enemy night fighter activity was present in the area of the raid but that no attempts at passes were made on Sgt. Fare and his crew.
On this fateful operation to Frankfurt the crew had completed itís bombing run and were headed back to base when they were attacked by a night fighter of Luftwaffe 1/NJG4 . The aircraft came down at Ham sur Heure (Hainault) which is 11 km SSW of Charleroi Belgium.
Sgt. Wilfred L. Renner, the only survivor of the crew became an evader and later after his return to Britain was able to give this report on the loss of Halifax VR-D. The Halifax was hit by enemy fire without the slightest advance warning. The target had been successfully bombed and the Halifax was over Belgium near Namur, flying through atmosphere that seemed absolutely clear of flak, searchlights, and other hostile element when it occurred. There was just one explosion and the aircraft went out of control. Renner stated that there was no sign of a fire, the engines appeared to be functioning satisfactorily, and no member of the crew was injured.
But the kite was rapidly losing height, and the pilot, Sgt. Fare found it impossible to control the aircrafts movements. He gave the inevitable orders, to bailout. Renner turned to get his parachute and then blacked out completely. When he came to, he was dangling from his open chute and was about to hit the ground. He landed at Cour-sur-Heure and sustained no injury in so doing.
During his black-out period, however, he had somehow suffered two broken ribs, which could have been a second explosion that threw him from the aircraft and wounded or hampered the other crew members in exiting the crippled aircraft. Later he learned that VR-D, had crashed three or four miles from where he had landed. According to onlookers it had fallen in flames and exploded upon hitting the ground.
(A member of the Underground was later to add that the bomber had been shot down by a night-fighter and that he had heard a claim to this effect made by the fighter pilot concerned.)
All six of Rennerí s crew companions were killed, three bodies being found inside the aircraft and three more in the immediate vicinity of the wreckage. The details of Renner's evasion were rather sparse. From information gathered from Renner after his release.
After a short sleep in the open, he began to "get on the move". Almost immediately, however, he met a doctor and a priest, who had apparently been looking for him. The latter sheltered him at his home for three weeks, after which the Organization sent him to a house in Laneffe, and then on to Fairoul, where he stayed for eight months. On 30 July 1944, the Germans began to retreat from the area around Fairoul, whereupon Renner was forced to vacate his hiding-place in favour of the woods. His evasion period came to an end four days later, when the town was taken by the Americans. He was transported from Brussels to Britain on September 3rd 1944.
Although it is lightly passed over in the information I found, staying hidden from the enemy agents and informants during his nine months of evasion would have been a test of anyone's nerves. You know that anything you do out of the normal life style of those around you could give everyone away and place many people in danger of death or torture at the hands of the Gestapo or other German occupation authorities.
Halifax JD 463