Medals to the R.F.C. and R.A.F. from the Collection Formed by the Late Squadron Leader David Haller

Image 1

Click Image to Zoom

Date of Auction: 25th March 2014

Sold for £1,200

Estimate: £400 - £500

Four: Sergeant B. Seagoe, Royal Air Force, a Wireless Operator of No. 44 Squadron who was killed in action during the famous low-level daylight raid on the MAN Diesel Works at Augsburg on 17 April 1942 - a raid resulting in the award of the V.C. to Squadron Leader John Nettleton
1939-45 Star; Air Crew Europe Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, very fine and better (4) £400-500

Footnote

Bryden Grange Seagoe, a native of Macclesfield, was born in June 1920, and enlisted in the Royal Air Force in January 1940. Qualifying as a Wireless Operator, he was posted to 44 Squadron, a Hampden unit operating out of RAF Waddington, in August 1941.

He subsequently participated in 17 operational sorties, his targets including Brest, Calais, Dusseldorf, Bremen (twice), Cologne (thrice), Essen, Hamburg, Kiel (twice) and Le Havre, the majority of them, with one exception in Hampdens. The Dusseldorf outing ended with a crash-landing back in the U.K. at Honeybourne, owing to fuel shortage.

Tragically, however, Seagoe’s 18th sortie was to prove his last - the low-level daylight strike on the MAN Diesel Works at Augsburg.

The Augsburg Daylight Raid 17 April 1942

No better account of this extremely gallant enterprise may be quoted than that written by Chaz Bowyer in For Valour, The Air VCs:

‘At 3.12 p.m. John Nettleton lifted Lancaster R5508 ‘B’ off the Waddington runway, followed by five other Lancasters from 44 Squadron. Once all were airborne and beginning to close up in tight formation, the last Lancaster to leave circled and returned to base, being simply a reserve machine to slot into any gap at the start of the sortie. The remaining six aircraft settled into two Vics of three as they drummed low across Lincolnshire heading southwards. In front Nettleton had Warrant Officer G. T. Rhodes in Lancaster L7536 ‘H’ to his left, and Flying Officer J. Garwell, D.F.M. in R5510 ‘A’ to starboard. The second Vic close behind was led by Flight Lieutenant N. Sandford in R5506 ‘P’, with Warrant Officer J. E. Beckett in L7565 ‘V’ to port [Seagoe’s aircraft] and Warrant Officer H. V. Crum in L7548 ‘T’ to starboard.

The six bombers were soon linked up with six more Lancasters from 97 Squadron, based at Woodhall Spa, and led in similar two-Vics formations by Squadron Leader J. S. Sherwood, D.F.C. in Lancaster L7573 ‘OF-K’.The rendezvous came over Selsey Bill and all twelve dropped to a mere 50 feet as they thundered across the English Channel. Ahead of them a force of 30 Boston bombers and 800 fighters were variously busy bombing and strafing targets away from the bombers’ planned route, in the hope of drawing off any Luftwaffe fighters and thereby provide the Lancasters with a safe run across Europe. As the bombers hugged the waves to the French coast line, Nettleton’s front two sections began to draw ahead of Sherwood’s formation, flying slightly north of the intended flight path. Sherwood made no attempt to catch up; the briefing had allowed for separate attacks if circumstances decreed such, and Sherwood was highly conscious of the need to preserve fuel on such an extended sortie. Still keeping as low as possible to keep under any radar defences, the twelve aircraft roared across the French coast and headed deep into Germany.

For much of the initial journey across enemy-occupied territory the bombers met no serious opposition from ground defences and none from the Luftwaffe, but as Nettleton’s six aircraft - now well ahead of the 97 Squadron formation - skirted the boundary of Beaumont le Roger airfield they ran out of luck. As the bombers appeared a gaggle of Messerschmitt Bf. 109s and Focke-Wulf Fw. 190s of II Gruppe / Jagdgeschwader 2 ‘Richthofen’ were in various stages of landing after an engagement in the Cherbourg area with some of the diversionary R.A.F. raids. For a moment the Lancasters thought they hadn’t been spotted, but then several German fighters were seen to snap up their undercarriages and turn quickly in their direction.

Unescorted, at tree-top height, and in broad daylight, the ensuing onslaught could have only one conclusion for the Lancasters. The rear Vic of Nettleton’s formation was the first to be attacked, and the first Lancaster to go was Beckett’s [Seagoe’s aircraft]; hit by a hail of cannon shells from Hauptmann Heine Greisert and diving into a clump of trees like a roaring furnace of flames. Next to go was Sandford who was attacked by Feldwebel Bosseckert and had all four engines set on fire before exploding in a giant fireball. Then Crum was jumped by Unteroffizier Pohl in his Bf. 109 ‘Black 7’ and had his port wing erupt in flames. Jettisoning his bomb load immediately Crum promptly put the crippled Lancaster down on the ground, as per the pre-agreed briefing instructions. Unbeknown to Crum his crash was recorded in the Jagdgeschwader’s ‘Game Book’ as its 1000th claimed victory in the war.

The fighters now started attacks on Nettleton’s front Vic of three Lancasters. By then they had been joined by Major Oesau, a 100-victory ‘ace’ officially forbidden to fly more operations, but who had jumped into a fighter and taken off on first sight of the Lancasters, followed by his wing man Oberfeldwebel Edelmann. Oesau selected Rhodes for his victim and closed to within 10 metres firing all guns and cannon in a withering hail of fire. The Lancaster’s port engines both erupted in flames which spread instantly to the starboard motors. The bomber reared abruptly - ‘as if in agony’ - stalled harshly, plunged straight down; passing between Nettleton and Garwell in a vertical dive and missing both by mere inches. By now most of the fighters were forced to withdraw due to lack of fuel, and the two surviving Lancasters, though damaged, continued their journey. Finally reaching the objective both flew straight across the target factory in close formation, released their bombs, and began the run-out. At that moment Garwell’s aircraft was hit badly by the alerted ground defences and, pluming smoke and flames, dropped towards the ground as Garwell put the Lancaster down quickly, finally slithering to a halt and saving the lives of all but three of his crew.

Nettleton, now alone, pulled away from the scene and set course for the return journey. By then the evening darkness was closing in, providing a form of protection for the lone bomber as it retraced its path across Germany and France ... ’

No. 97 Squadron’s six Lancasters were met by a similar curtain of flak, Squadron Leader Sherwood’s aircraft being the first to go down, followed by another piloted by Warrant Officer Mycock, D.F.C., who continued on his bombing-run even though his Lancaster was a ‘ball of fire’ - it exploded in the air. Total losses therefore amounted to seven out of the original 12-strong Lancaster force, and 49 aircrew from an original strength of 85 men, although 12 of them were eventually confirmed as P.O.Ws. Seagoe and his crew are buried Beaumont-le-Roger Communal Cemetery, France.

Sold with the recipient’s original R.A.F. Observer’s and Air Gunner’s Flying Log Book, covering the period January 1941 up until his death in action in the Augsburg raid on 17 April 1942, with related R.A.F. Records forwarding slip; a somewhat scorched portion of silk parachute with signed ink inscription, a souvenir of his crash-landing at Honeybourne on returning from Dusseldorf on 27 November 1941; a wartime portrait photograph, and a large file of research.