No. 487 Squadron RNZAF wiped out in daylight raid

Vertical aerial photograph taken during a daylight raid.

From an earlier raid. Vertical aerial photograph taken during a daylight raid on shipping in Dieppe, France, by 12 Lockheed Venturas of No. 487 Squadron RNZAF. One group of bombs is straddling the Quai du Hable and the entrance channel to the docks, while another group explodes on the cliff top above the Avant Port.

In 1943 daylight bombing raids on Germany and occupied Europe were mostly left to the USAAF. However the RAF mounted smaller attacks using their medium aircraft. The Mosquito was well suited to this role, given its speed. Less suitable were Ventura aircraft, which were heavily dependent on a fighter escort to give them protection. They did not last long in RAF frontline service and this raid was one of the reasons why.

The exact circumstances of how this raid was pressed home did not emerge until after the war, when Squadron Leader Trent was awarded the Victoria Cross. He saw it as a measure of recognition for the whole Squadron:

Armourers load 250-lb GP bombs into a Lockheed Ventura Mark II of No. 464 Squadron RAAF at Methwold, Norfolk, using a bomb-trolley borrowed from No. 487 Squadron RNZAF.

Armourers load 250-lb GP bombs into a Lockheed Ventura Mark II of No. 464 Squadron RAAF at Methwold, Norfolk, using a bomb-trolley borrowed from No. 487 Squadron RNZAF.

The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the under-mentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:—

Squadron Leader Leonard Henry TRENT, D.F.C. (N.Z.2481), Royal New Zealand Air Force, No. 487 (R.N.Z.A.F.) Squadron.

On the 3rd May, 1943, Squadron Leader Trent was detailed to lead a formation of Ventura aircraft in a daylight attack on the power station at Amsterdam.

This operation was intended to encourage the Dutch workmen in their resistance to enemy pressure. The target was known to be heavily defended. The importance of bombing it, regardless of enemy fighters or anti-aircraft fire, was strongly impressed on-the air crews taking part in the operation.

Before taking off, Squadron Leader Trent told the deputy leader that he was going over the target, whatever ‘happened.

2. All went well until the Venturas and their fighter escort were nearing the Dutch coast. Then one bomber was hit and had to turn back. Suddenly large numbers of enemy fighters appeared. Our escorting fighters were hotly engaged and lost touch with the bombing force. The Venturas closed up for mutual protection and commenced their run up to the target. Unfortunately, the fighters detailed to support them over the target had reached the area too early and had been recalled.

3. Soon the bombers were attacked. They were at the mercy of 15 to 20 Messerschmitts which dived on them incessantly. Within four minutes six Venturas were destroyed. Squadron Leader Trent continued on his course with the 3 remaining aircraft.

4. In a short time 2 more Venturas went down in flames. Heedless of the murderous attacks and of the heavy anti-aircraft fire which was now encountered, Squadron Leader Trent completed an accurate bombing run and even shot down a Messerschmitt at point-blank range. Dropping his bombs in the target area, he turned away.

The aircraft following him was shot down on reaching the target. Immediately afterwards his own aircraft was hit, went into a spin and broke up. Squadron Leader Trent and his navigator were thrown clear and became prisoners of war. The other two members of the crew perished.

5. On this, his 24th sortie, Squadron Leader Trent showed outstanding leadership. Such was the trust placed in this gallant officer that the other pilots followed him unwaveringly. His cool, unflinching courage and devotion to duty in the face of overwhelming odds rank with the finest examples of these virtues.

See London Gazette 1st March 1946

Left to right : Squadron Leader Leonard Henry Trent, later awarded the Victoria Cross; Wing Commander G J "Chopper" Grindell, Commanding Officer of No. 487 Squadron RNZAF; Squadron Leader T Turnbull. circa. April-May 1943

Left to right : Squadron Leader Leonard Henry Trent, later awarded the Victoria Cross; Wing Commander G J “Chopper” Grindell, Commanding Officer of No. 487 Squadron RNZAF; Squadron Leader T Turnbull. circa. April-May 1943

Personnel of No. 487 Squadron RNZAF .

Personnel of No. 487 Squadron RNZAF grouped in front of a Lockheed Ventura Mark II at Methwold, Norfolk. Standing eighth from the left is the Commanding Officer, Wing Commander G J “Chopper” Grindell On his right is the ‘A’ Flight commander, Squadron Leader T Turnbull, and on his left the ‘B’ Flight commander, Squadron Leader L H Trent, who, on 3 May 1943 led the Squadron in a disastrous daylight attack on the power station at Amsterdam. Ten of the eleven aircraft participating were shot down, including Trent’s, who was captured. In 1946 he was awarded the Victoria Cross when the story of his outstanding leadership and determination during the raid became known.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve Snelling March 13, 2019 at 12:34 am

Fascinated to read this thread. I am a writer based in Norfolk and some years ago interviewed a number of aircrew from 487 (NZ) Squadron, including two who flew on the May 3, 1943 mission and others who were glad that they did not. I am currently drawing together more material for a book focused on the operation and would be more than happy to share anything I have with relatives of the men who flew out of Methwold on that fateful mission. My email address is

David Palmer August 13, 2018 at 2:44 am

I wrote a book called ‘Through to the End’, which tells the story of 487. My publisher failed and after three years of mucking around I’m currently getting it self published.

The book includes a list of all operational aircrew, how many sorties they flew, when, and who with.

With regard to David Potts:
‘Another Mosquito was badly hit and dived away. It crashed seven miles southwest of Bremervörde at Brillit. Flight Lieutenant Potts and Sergeant Valentine were killed.’ He flew seven operations with Sgt Valentine from 13 January to 22 February 1945.

I didn’t know the squadron sang ‘Now is the Hour’ every night! I appreciated the information about Alan Turnbull because it feels like hearing what happened to an old acquaintance, I’ve been living with 487 for so long.

Aad Neeven August 12, 2018 at 9:49 pm

I am reading through the comments above. I would be glad if all of the people above would contact me here in Holland as we are almost ready with a book about the history of 487 squadron. Looking forward to the reply. Aad Neeven

Rosemary Lamb May 7, 2018 at 10:26 pm

Aad Neeven, a retired KLM pilot wrote an account he researched of May 3rd because he was appalled to realise that little information if any, was given to relatives of dead airmen. He interviewed the German pilot who shot down the plane my uncle flew in and years later Aad, John (his grandfather was a warden and saw the plane descend) and other Dutch people put up a plaque of remembrance to the crew on the house where that plane landed. Even today there is very little acknowledgement of that raid in the Wigram Airforce Museum.

Q May 3, 2018 at 8:30 pm

In response to Glen Towlers comment.

Aircrew losses 1943

RAF 11,493. RCAF 2920 . RAAF 1082. RNZAF 452.

Might I respectfully suggest you get your facts and information about the war from a source other than Airfix or the Daily Mail.

S.G.LYDEN July 17, 2017 at 9:50 am

A. ” Do their dirty work ” ? What a crass comment. The forces of the British Empire made a fantastic contribution to the winning of WW2. They were not utilised for “dirty work ” , but were engaged in combat as and when deemed suitable, as were British units. The Canadians were employed in the Dieppe raid mainly because they were new to combat and anxious to get to grips with the enemy. As such they did a damned fine job. The raid itself was always regarded as a trial run for the D Day invasion and never thought likely to be a runaway success. The actions of the Canadians in this raid trialled equipment, techniques, tactics and methods that later saved many Allied lives during the Invasion and also brought about its success.

B. The bombing raid in question was just another attack on an enemy held target and doubtless just another of dozens mounted on the same day. It was not uniquely “important”. Mosquitoes with their long range, high speed and weapons payload are more suitable for deeper penetrations into Europe. As such the Lockheed Ventura light bombers used for this raid on Holland were perfectly suitable. If there exists any misfortune regarding this raid at all, it would be the separation of the fighter escort from the bombers they were intended to accompany. However, this happened all of the time and is due to the fortunes of war. Why any halfwit should try and score points against the British because of this raid is beyond me.

Tony Vine July 9, 2017 at 8:06 am

My late Father Warrant Officer Ron Vine A412767 RAAF,was a member of 487 Squadron at the time of the raid. He (and I) are lucky that his aircraft was not tasked to be on the raid. He told me, not long before his death, that it was a very lonely night in the Sergeant’s Mess that night. He had flown his “Sprog” mission as Andy Coutt’s WO/AG the previous February and a number of men killed had been on his OTU at Pennfield Ridge New Brunswick the previous year. The squadron used to stand and sing the Maori Farewell (Now is the hour) each night when the mess shut. Apparently that night to a man they were in tears.

Laurence Turnbull September 4, 2016 at 1:29 am

Hi, I am reaching out to Stephen Webb who commented above, as my father, Alan Turnbull, was the wireless operator of the plane that got shot up, returned and crash landed. I would be really interested to know about what Neill said in the book – it is probably the case that he did save my Dad’s life and possibly that of Starkie. Dad died just over a month ago – 95, and fully cogent to the end. Glad he came back from that raid.

Terry Hills August 16, 2016 at 4:50 pm

Has anyone seen or got any information on 129379 Flt Lt David Potts RAFV KIA Germany 22/2/1945 attached to 487 RNZAF . Cannot even find what raid he was on in or about that time. Buried Becklingen War Cemetery . There must exist some sort of nominal roll for the KIA of the Sqd??

Stephen Webb July 15, 2016 at 1:30 am

Hi, I have in my possesion gunner L H Neill’s flight log book, it has his account of the may 3rd mission, it also has photos of the crew, and aerial photos of their missions. Quite a stirring read of this mission, along with his humour in the rest of the book. The thing is I want to sell it, any ideas about the best place I could do this? Steve

Pommie748 July 6, 2016 at 1:57 pm

Thanks Geoff Penn for recommending: ‘True to the End’. Just to clarify one point: two Venturas made it back to base after this raid; Baker’s unserviceable a/c and Duffill’s shot-up a/c.

DFCs and DFMs were Gazetted for this latter crew, their medal citations make for powerful reading:

Ki te mutunga

David D

As a postscript, Air Gunner Sgt Alan William Turnbull DFM died on Monday 27th June 2016. RIP

Bruce Andrew Thompson January 1, 2016 at 8:55 am

One of the aircrew on this operation was Pilot Officer Andrew Coutts. He and my parents were friends when the lived in Whakatane before the war.
When I was born, after the war, they named me after Andy Coutts.

peter mason September 7, 2015 at 9:00 am

I had the privilege of interview Owen Foster who was also on the raid. his aircraft was one of the aircraft that made it thru to the target. I think all the aircraft got shot down. some of the crews actually spent the rest of there time in a pow camp. in fact the pow camp was where they had the great escape. Owen was a real hard case and he had a great sense of humour. I think 487 sqn reformed with mosquitos. the were involved in operation Jericho.

Robert Baker July 29, 2015 at 2:45 am

My father – A. George Baker – was the pilot of the aircraft that had to turn back because of the loose escape hatch. The hatch actually totally broke loose on the landing approach and lodged in the rudder. He was “dressed down” for not having continued on the raid. I am glad he didn’t!

jon lee April 25, 2015 at 10:56 am

My dad was scheduled pilot too, but bad case of angina(?) saw him not fly that fateful day, and he survived the war. He did the Philips raid.

Geoff Penn April 11, 2015 at 7:20 am

I agree, the the “real” story is written in True to the End. The fighters were sent too early then left the Ventura squadron when they arrived at Amsterdam.Two bombers made it to the target, not one as Trent said. My father’s plane, A Apple, was the second. It was badly beaten up and crash landed in the North Sea.
The plane that returned to base wasn’t shot at. The escape hatch blew off not long after takeoff.
The Ventura’s were modified versions of the Lockheed Lode star and we’re totally unsuitable for the job.

Paul April 7, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Try Pacific Wings January 2002 instead.

Sam Penn June 2, 2013 at 10:34 pm

I recommend you read the article ‘True To The End’ in the January 2001edition of Pacific Wings Magazine(available online) This gives a more accurate account of what happened during the raid and the complete hash bomber command made of coordinating the raid.

glen towler May 5, 2013 at 9:46 pm

This is a good example of the British using other countries to do there less that savory work like the usless raid on Dieppe mostly Canadian forces where used . I do also wonder why didn’t they just mosquitos for this raid if its was important . Looks to me like a complete waste of brave airmans lives and trained aircrews

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