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Fielder, Charles Kenneth

Charles Kenneth Fielder was born circa 1920,(there is a birth registered in Liverpool, Vol. 8b, Page 93), for a Charles K. Fielder with the mother’s maiden name as Hamer.

There is also a marriage on West Derby between a Charles A. Fielder and a Sarah L. Hamer in the March Quarter of 1920 (W.Derby Vol.  8b, Page 1055) and according to the Lancashire BMD’s, it was a Civil Ceremony.

His brother John Arthur is recorded as going to Hawarden Grammar School:-

Hawarden Grammar School Admissions Register E/GS/1/10 – 2860 FIELDER, John Arthur Date of birth –    4th July 1925, 38, King Edward Street, Shotton, Father’s Occupation – Sailor, Queensferry  Cl., Date of leaving – 27th July 1939.

Charles Kenneth married  Geraldine Margaret Neville on  the 28th October, 1944 at St. Ethelwold’s Church, Shotton.    Charles was 24, a Bachelor and Sgt in the R.A.F., his father was Charles Arthur Fielder a Fitter by trade.   Geraldine Margaret, was 19 years old and her father was Charles Clarence Neville, a M.T. Driver.   Both resided at 38, King Edward Street, Shotton.

I do not know when Charles Kenneth joined the R.A.F. as I have been unable to find his Service Records, but I do know what happened to him and his crew on the night he died.   I was able to find his Operational Records for the 2nd March and the list of the crews from 640 Sqn. that flew that day on a raid to Cologne (Operations Order No. 644).   (Downloaded from the National Archives) 

Halifax Aircraft 111 (14) NP. 965 Y

“Up” at 07.40

F/L. K  ROBINSON  Pilot  & Captain

P/O  B.F.  O’NEIL (Aus.) A/Bomber

P/O F.E. WATKIN (Aus.) Navigator

P/O  H.H. WOLFSON (Aus.) W/Operator

F/S  C.K. FIELDER R/Gunner

F/S J.H.W. TURNER  MU/Gunner

F/S. D.N.J. TILEY  F/Engineer 

MISSING

This Aircraft took off at 07.40hrs.

It is believed to have crashed in France.

No definite news available. 

Time over target 10.06 hrs. 

No Cloud over England – 2-5/10 Cloud over France – 5/10 Cloud, tops 8-9,000 ft around Target but Target was clear.  All Aircraft were able to identify the Target by Visual means.

A few ground-markers but most Aircraft bombed the Edge of Smoke as ordered by Master-Bomber.

The attack was well concentrated but appeared to be drifting to the South slightly.

14 minutes before E.T.A. several crew heard the M.B. advise main force to 2 minutes late.

This was evidently to let the cloud clear away from the Target Area.

Flak was moderate but accurate.   No enemy fighter activity

All Aircraft carried cameras.

I received an email sent to the flintshirwarmemorial.com website to ask about Charles Kenneth on the 31st March 2018 from Vincent Pécriaux in Belgium, who asked me if I had any details of Charles Kenneth’s life and Service Records as he wanted to pay tribute to the crew of NP965 and as he said in his email,  ”I am currently investigating the crash of Fielder’s aircraft just behind my house. Any info about the crew and their background will certainly help me in my search. Thank you for your help.”

I replied that I had only just started my research , but my friend Wendy Williams, from Connah’s Quay , who had been so invaluable with details of the Tuck brothers from Hawarden, who sadly died in WW1 and to whom Wendy was related, was also related to Charles Kenneth Fielder and also Cyril Kettle, who lost his life in WW2, as did Charles Kenneth (Please click on the links) and I said to Vincent that I would send what I had, which was a photograph of the wedding of Charles & Geraldine in 1944.  Many thanks to Wendy and Gary, her husband for their unstinting generosity with information and photographs etc.

Since then Vincent and I have communicated and it seems that he is almost there as far getting the service records of the other crew members and the family have sent for Charles Kenneth’s records .   It seems that Vincent’s dream of erecting a memorial to the men who died that day in their aircraft behind his house may soon be realised.

An excerpt from one of Vincent’s emails:-

I have now a fairly clear idea of what happened that day, even though nobody can say that the aircraft was shot down (improbable because there is no report in the Luftwaffe’s archives) or hit by flak above Cologne. The reasons of the crash remain a mystery. 

Since I would like to pay tribute to the crew of NP 965, I am particularly interested in their military careers and also personal lives.  I hope that I can get the service records of the four British crew members (I have those of the three Australian crew members). 

I am still gathering all the data I have about the crash and I shall share with you what I have found. 

Kind regards, 

Vincent Pécriaux 

The latest, from which I publish an excerpt:-

I informed our new mayor about the research and our project of memorial. He did not know anything about the crash and was very interested. We’ll now discuss the project with the Tourist Office (they deal with historical issues regarding the village) and set up a group to make things move on. Everything should become more concrete next year as the project will normally be part of our commemorations of the end of WW2. 

As I see it, the project should be threefold: 

  1. Memorial + ceremony (to be discussed next month)
  2. Exhibition with the artifacts (to be discussed next month). I’m still gathering data
  3. Publication (web or paper). I have written most of the articles in French and translated them in English. I’ll have them reread by a native speaker to be sure everything is OK. 

That’s all so far. I’ll send an update to all the families after our first meeting with the Tourist Office. I’m looking forward to your next mail. 

Kind regards 

Vincent 

According to Vincent his nickname was “Deadshot.”

Charles Kenneth Fielder and Geraldine were married only 4 months when he was killed in France, age 25 years.

O’Neill, B.F., Turner, J.H.W., Tiley, D.H.G. and Charles Kenneth were all buried together circa 2nd March 1945 in Neuville-En-Condroz Military Cemetery (American) K/31, Belgium and then they were reburied on the 20th January 1947 in Heverlee War Cemetery in a collective grave I believe.

The CWGC website initially gave wrong information on Charles Kenneth’s nationality:-

FIELDER, CHARLES KENNETH

Flight Sergeant, 2206034, 640 sqd

Royal Australian Air Force, Australian *

Buried: Coll. grave 10. A. 2-5., HEVERLEE WAR CEMETERY

Killed in action

Incident: on Halifax NP965-C8Y fallen to Floreffe on 2/03/1945

*I wrote to the website to correct them about Charles’s Nationality. 8/12/2018, this has now been done.

Likewise the rest of the Crew – Robinson, K, Watkin, F.E. and Wolfson H.H. were buried circa 2nd March 1945 in Neauville-En-Condroz Cemetery and then reburied on the 19th April 1947 in Heverlee in separate graves.

Please also see :- :-  http://www.belgians-remember-them.eu/crew-nam-flor.php where there is a tribute to the crew of NP965.

Charles Kenneth Fielder is also remembered on the Hawarden War Memorial.

I have just received these communications from Vincent which will add to the story of Charles Kenneth and the crew.(16/08/2019):-

Flight Sergeant Charles Fielder – 2206034 – rear gunner – Charles Kenneth Fielder was born on 5 September 1920 in Liverpool. Before he enlisted in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve he was an assistant shop keeper.

On 26 March 1943 he signed his enlistment documents at No. 3 Recruiting Centre, Padgate, to become a gunner on bombers. Three months later, on 21 June, he entered No. 1 Aircrew Reception Centre at the Lord’s Cricket Ground, Saint John’s Wood, London. The following month he carried out successively his initial training with No. 14 Initial Training Wing at Bridlington and his gunnery training with No. 1 Elementary Air Gunners School, also at Bridlington and, at the end of August, with No. 1 Air Gunners School at Pembrey. On 12 October 1943 he joined No. 21 Operational Training Unit at Moreton-in-Marsh. On 28 February 1944 he arrived at No. 41 Base Driffield to follow his Battle Course before being posted to No. 466 Squadron at RAF Leconfield on 19 June. After a last transfer he reported to No. 640 Squadron on 7 July 1944. The young gunner married Geraldine Neville at Shotton on 28 October 1944.

And:-

The last flight of NP965 – On 2 March 1945, the sky was clear over East Yorkshire. At RAF Station Leconfield, the pale winter sun stretched the shadows of dozens of Halifaxes spread across the airfield. During most of the night, the heavy four-engined bombers had been the centre of the attention of numerous technicians and armourers who had prepared them for the raid planned that morning. Now in the belly of each aeroplane hang ten 500 lb Medium Capacity bombs and six 250 lb General Purpose bombs.

In the meantime, in the briefing room, the crews had been given all necessary information they would need to accomplish the mission. Target of the day: Cologne. No less than 858 aircraft, in two waves, would pound the German city.

After collecting their parachutes and life preservers and suiting up, the crews climbed aboard several canvas-topped lorries that drove them out to their respective aircraft. One of the vehicles stopped next to NP965. The plane had yellow chequerboard tails and sported on the fuselage the big C8 that identified 640 squadron. The individual letter behind the roundel was Y. Seven men, holding their parachutes, got off the lorry. Quickly, Frank, Benny, Ken, Jim, Hal and Don followed their pilot, Kenneth, into the freezing fuselage to reach their stations. The following minutes were devoted to the various preflight checks. Then, the pilot started up, one by one, the four Hercules engines. One after another, the bombers set off and headed to the runway. NP965 joined the impressive procession. Once at the threshold, the aircraft stopped. Then, with its engines running at full power, it ran down the long asphalt ribbon and took to the skies slowly. It was a bit more than 7.40 AM.

It took some time before the squadron’s fifteen Halifaxes could get to their assembly point over the coast and reach their operational ceiling of 19,000 feet (5,800 metres). All crossed the Dutch coastline without trouble. For some weeks, the Allies had almost acquired the total control of the sky, but in their turrets, the gunners remained vigilant. There were now more and more clouds over the Continent. Near the target, though, the sky began to clear again. Despite the intensity of the flak, the German anti-aircraft artillery, Benny, the eye firmly fixed on his bomb sight, waited for the right moment before pressing the button to release the bombs. The clock in the cockpit showed now 10.09. Freed from its deadly payload, the plane lifted up several metres. Now, they had to keep their heading for thirty seconds, the time necessary to take a photograph of the aiming point and the result of their bombing. Thirty seconds flying straight and level, an eternity in the middle of a deluge of fire and steel…

Nothing is known about what happened next to NP965. No aerial victory was claimed by the Luftwaffe. Maybe was it hit by the flak and did it sustain some major mechanical failure. Still, it headed West, for England. The aircraft lost altitude progressively and it is likely that the crew looked for an airfield to land, an airfield they never reached. Towards the end of the morning, the damaged Halifax crashed at Floriffoux, in a field near an old colliery, leading to the death of all its crew.

The 2 March 1945 raid on Cologne was the last conducted by Bomber Command on the city that was taken by American troops four days later.

We will look forward to the unveiling in Belgium of the memorial to the crew of the NP965 in 2020.

 


Learn more about the other soldiers on the Connahs Quay and Shotton War Memorial

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