P/O George HF Inniss: 31st May 1916 to 5th February 1941

Bajan pilot P/O George HF Inniss aged 24 and crew from 106 Squadron, RAF Bomber Command were killed-in-action on 4th/5th February 1941 when their aircraft a Handley Page Hampden Mk. I, AD750, crashed nose first at La Marronnière farm, La Marsoire, Pont-Saint-Martin, Loire-Atlantique (2 km SE of Aéroport Nantes Atlantique). Their aircraft was hit by German flak before bombing their intended target, the French aircraft factory: La Société Nationale des Constructions Aéronautiques de l’Ouest (SNCAO) situated adjacent to the aerodrome at Château Bougon (now known as: Aéroport Nantes Atlantique). AD750 exploded when it crashed leaving a crater about 10m long, 6m wide and 1.50m deep.

P/O George Harold Frederick Inniss
P/O George Harold Frederick Inniss, born on 31st May 1916 was the younger son of Charles Humpleby Inniss and Caroline Maria (née: Jamieson) who lived at Barbarees Hill, St Michael. His siblings were sisters Alma and Marjorie and brother Charles. This photograph is inscribed above the RAF Wings brevet – “with love George”. This was likely the official photograph taken when George obtained his wings / was commissioned that he sent to his mother in Barbados. This photograph was cherished by his older brother Charlie Inniss.

The crew of AD750 included:

  • Pilot: F/O William Kelman Burr Thomas 72251 RAF Age 26. KIA.
  • Observer: P/O George Harold Frederick Inniss 43036 RAF Age 24. KIA.
  • Wireless Operator/Air Gunner: SGT Frederick Arnold Colson 553425 RAF Age 18. KIA. (Frederick Colson was actually 16 as he lied about his age.)
  • Wireless Operator/Air Gunner: SGT Jack Lewis Franco 652586 RAF Age 24. KIA. (Jack Franco is believed to have had dual citizenship, English through his mother and South African through his father.)

On the evening of 4th February 1941, Handley Page Hampden Mk. I AD750 of 106 Squadron RAF Bomber Command with a crew of four took off from RAF Finningley, near Doncaster, South Yorkshire at 17.30hrs. AD750 was part of a group of six aircraft whose mission was two fold:

  • gardening (operational terminology for mining laying) off Saint-Nazaire Port, Loire, France. The French transatlantic port of Saint-Nazaire on the right bank of the Loire River estuary, 61 km (38 miles) west-northwest of Nantes was a frequent target of Allied bombers that planted mines in the Bay of Saint-Nazaire / Loire estuary and bombed Saint-Nazaire Port. The port became even more important as an allied target when in 1941 the Saint-Nazaire submarine base was constructed which provided shelter for German U-boats returning from their missions harassing Allied shipping convoys in the Atlantic, such as U-514 that torpedoed the CNS Cornwallis while anchored in Carlisle Bay, Barbados on Friday 11th September 1942.
  • to bomb the French aircraft factory Société Nationale de Constructions Aéronautiques de l’Ouest (SNCAO) located adjacent to the aerodrome at Château Bougon (now known as: Aéroport Nantes Atlantique). A key landmark would have been the 900m (2,953ft) paved runway.

Five of the six aircraft returned from their gardening and bombing mission having been in the air for between 6½ to 8 hours.

The Hampden, AD750, flown by F/O Thomas on its run-in to bomb the SNCAO aircraft factory at Château Bougon aerodrome was hit by German flak and crashed 2 km short of the target at La Marronnière farm, La Marsoire, Pont-Saint-Martin, Loire-Atlantique. We estimate AD750 crashed at about 10pm UK time / 11pm French time.

Bernard Poisson, then aged 15, whose family lived at Château de la Marionnière, along with his 18 year old brother Gérard snuck out of their house which had been taken over by the Nazis when they saw AD750 was coming down nose first in flames. There were no survivors. We believe two of the crew were able to bail-out but did not survive and that the other two crew-members died when AD750 exploded on crashing.

At dawn, on 5th February 1941 the Germans were on scene to remove what remained of the bodies of the four crew members which were taken away and buried at Château Bougon. After the soldiers left, the two teenagers, Bernard and Gérard Poisson went to the AD750 crash-site and discovered to their horror, forgotten human remains, which they buried at the site and installed a small cross. In the remains of the mangled aircraft, the brothers also discover a sweater and make a promise to trace the families of the crew of AD750 after the war.

Nicolas Roturier of the Association pour la Recherche d’Epaves Aéronautiques en Pays de Loire (AREA-PL) told us that AD750 was the first Allied aircraft to crash in the region.

Bernard Poisson would later go on to to be priest and missionary in Africa. On 6th June 1989 Father Poisson was awarded honorary Wings by the RAF for his bravery and action towards the families of the airmen that were killed-in-action and would go on to wear his RAF brevet wings with pride. And, on 4th May 2001 Father Poisson was made a knight of la Légion d’honneur (Legion of Honour) which is the highest French civilian order of merit for his 20 years as a Missionary in Zambia.

What do we know about the last flight of AD750 on 4th February 1941?

We can get an idea of the last flight of AD750 on 4th February 1941 from the:

  • 106 Squadron – Daily Operations Record Book report for 4th February 1941.
  • 106 Squadron – Personal Experience Reports for the five returning crews.

106 Squadron – Daily Operations Record Book report for 4th February 1941

The Squadron Daily Operations Record Book was a hand written daily squadron diary. Below is a copy of the page and a transcript:

4.2.41
WEATHER: Fine
Operational training, formation, high level bombing at MISSION, two hatch sea sweeps at night.

Six aircraft were detailed for gardening operations in the beeches area. Four planted the vegetables successfully and two of these later attacked the aerodrome at CHATEAU BOUGNON, two 250lb wing bombs were seen to burst on hangars and another on a factory to the NE of the aerodrome. One aircraft was unsuccessful in both the gardening and bombing tasks and one (HAMPDEN AD750 crew F/O WKB Thomas, P/O GHF Inniss, SGT JL Franco, SGT FA Colson) failed to return.

In the Reference to Appendices margin to the left of the hand written entry in the Operations Record book for 4th February 1941 is reference to : A1, A2, A3, A4, A5 (see below)

[“two hatch sea sweeps” – as in a cross hatch pattern.]

[“gardening operations” was the code name used for dropping mines in the approaches to harbours or in inland canals.]

[“beeches area” – refers to the Bay of Saint-Nazaire.]

[“planted the vegetables” or “planting vegetables” was operational jargon for mine laying operations.]

[“a factory to the NE of the aerodrome” was “La Société Nationale des Constructions Aéronautiques de l’Ouest” (SNCAO) which was a French aircraft company.]

[“CHATEAU BOUGNON” refers to the aerodrome at Château Bougon (now known as: Aéroport Nantes Atlantique). The French aircraft manufacturer SNCAO opened an aircraft factory adjacent to the airfield in 1936/37. In 1939 the grass runway was replaced with a paved runway of 900m (2,953ft) which would have been the landmark the crews were looking for.]

106 Squadron – Personal Experience Reports for the five returning crews 4th/5th February 1941

Six Handley Page Hampdens took off from RAF Finningley airfield near Doncaster, South Yorkshire between 5:25 pm and 5:55 pm. Only five returned. Below are the typed Personal Experience Reports and transcripts of the five returning crew that give an insight into the last mission of the crew of AD750:


Report A1 – 4th/5th February 1941
W/Cmdr. POLGASE
Sgt. Wotherspoon
Sgt. Lapsley
Sgt. Bradley.

Task Gardening – BEECH [mine laying in the approaches to the Bay of Saint-Nazaire]

Time out: 17.25 Time in: 00.20

Crossed English coast at LYME REGIS and climbed to 8,000feet. Passed over 6/10th cloud at 3,000feet and came down to make a landfall on French coast at 2,500ft. Crossed at ÉTABLES and continued to QUIBERON. From QUIBERON lost height to 250feet on course to ST. CROISIC thence continued course 1/2 mile off coast to pick up lighthouse [Grand Charpentier lighthouse].

First run unsuccessful, returned to ST. CROISIC and repeated, picked up lighthouse and deposited vegetables. Climbed to 800ft and set course for CHATEAU BOUGON but cloud was 10/10ths over 2,000feet over district much time was spent in endeavour to locate aerodrome and mission was abandoned. After a run to the westward into clear weather, course was set from ISLE de NOIRMOUTIER with a diversion to avoid ST. NAZAIRE.

The North Brittany coast was crossed at Pte. de MINARD at 22.45. Cloud 10/10ths at 1,000ft until English Coast was crossed at DAWLISH after having received the diversion signal for ST. EVAL.

[“CHATEAU BOUGON” refers to the aerdrome at Château Bougon (now known as: Aéroport Nantes Atlantique). The French aircraft manufacturer SNCAO opened an aircraft factory adjacent to the airfield in 1936/37. In 1939 the grass runway was replaced with a paved runway of 900m (2,953ft) which would have been the landmark the crews were looking for.]

[“ST. EVAL” was a RAF station for Coastal Command, southwest of Padstow in Cornwall, England. St Eval’s primary role was to provide anti-submarine and anti-shipping patrols off the south west coast.]


Report A2 – 4th/5th February 1941

Sgt. WEST
P/O Paramore
Sgt. Wright
Sgt. Butler.

Task Gardening – BEECH [mine laying in the approaches to the Bay of Saint-Nazaire]

Time out: 17.55 Time in: 00.10

We flew at 4,000ft over England picked up CHESIL BEACH and pin-pointed ourselves on the French Coast. After flying over France at 2,000ft we saw QUIBERON. From here we set course for the lighthouse LE GRAND CHARPENTIER which we identified. We planted our mine in the correct position and then set course for LAC GRAND LIEU south of NANTES. We picked up this landmark and circled the CHATEAU BOUGNON aerodrome three times. We identified the factory to the North East of the aerodrome and dropped one wing bomb, burst seen on buildings north of the factory. After dropping the bomb we saw a flare going down which was followed by intense light flak from the ground. A few second later we saw what appeared to be an aircraft burning on the ground. The return journey was uneventful and the diversion signal was received before we reached JERSEY.

[“CHATEAU BOUGNON” refers to the aerodrome at Château Bougon (now known as: Aéroport Nantes Atlantique). The French aircraft manufacturer SNCAO opened an aircraft factory adjacent to the airfield in 1936/37. In 1939 the grass runway was replaced with a paved runway of 900 m (2,953 ft) which would have been the landmark the crews were looking for.]

[The burning aircraft is assumed to be the Hampden Mk. I AD750 flown by F/O Thomas that crashed nose first into a field at La Marronnière farm at La Marsoire.]

[The “diversion signal” was to land at RAF St. Eval in Cornwall.]


Report A3 – 4th/5th February 1941

P/O WAREING
P/O Larkin
Sgt. Haselden
Sgt. Little.

Time out: 17.25 Time in: 23.50

Task Gardening – BEECH [mine laying in the approaches to the Bay of Saint-Nazaire]

Over England we flew at 2,000ft to CHESIL BEACH and then climbed to 6,000ft above the clouds and saw GUERNESEY 3 miles to the port where search lights attempted to pick us up. We pinpointed ourselves at ILE BREHAT and flying over France at 6,000ft we came out about 2 miles east of QUIBERON. We then glided down to 2,000ft and at 1,000ft we identified the lighthouse LE GRAND CHARPENTIER. We planted the mine successfully in the correct position. The return journey was uneventful. We received the diversion signal and landed at ST. EVAL.

[The “diversion signal” was to land at RAF St. Eval in Cornwall.]


Report A4 – 4th/5th February 1941

Sgt. OSBORNE
Sgt. Boyall
Sgt. Wiceman
Sgt. Davies.

Task Gardening – BEECH [mine laying in the approaches to the Bay of Saint-Nazaire]

Time out: 17.25 Time in: 01.15

The trip was thought by me to have been successful and uneventful until the machine was crashed-landed and the mine found to be still in the aircraft. The bombs were brought back as the target could not be located through the cloud.


Report A5 – 4th/5th February 1941

Sgt. GALLOWAY
P/O Oliver
Sgt. Sommers
Sgt. Stevens.

Task Gardening – BEECH [mine laying in the approaches to the Bay of Saint-Nazaire]

Time out: 17.35 Time in: 01.20

An uneventful trip. We went west of track over the channel and flew around the French Coast to BELLE ILE. Set course for and located LE GRAND CHARPENTIER lighthouse and planted vegetable in appointed place. Steered for the GRAND LIEU lake and carried out dive attack on aerodrome from 4,000ft releasing bombs at 1,000ft and striking South West corner of the hangars on East of aerodrome. Journey home was uneventful, received diversion signal for ST. EVAL.

[The “aerodrome” refers to the aerodrome at Château Bougon (now known as: Aéroport Nantes Atlantique). The French aircraft manufacturer SNCAO opened an aircraft factory adjacent to the airfield in 1936/37. In 1939 the grass runway was replaced with a paved runway of 900m (2,953ft) which would have been the landmark the crews were looking for.]

[The “diversion signal”was to land at RAF St. Eval in Cornwall.]

The aircraft that crashed at La Marronnière from 1940 – 1943

Four aircraft crashed at La Marronnière farm during World War II:

The location of where the Hampden AD750 and where the Wellington R1374 crashed is now marked by a memorial at La Marronnière farm in La Marsoire, Pont-Saint-Martin, Loire-Atlantique. The crash-site has been left uncultivated in respect for the aircrew that lost their lives.

In 2011 in Pont-Saint-Martin, the town close to where these two aircraft crashed in 1941, honoured the memory of the crew of: the Hampden AD750 from 106 Squadron that crashed on 4th February 1941 and the crew of the Wellington R1374 from 150 Squadron that crashed on 8th May 1941. As a testament to their sacrifice, a commemorative plaque was unveiled, serving as a shared memorial for both crews.

Some of of the next-of-kin of the aircrew attended the commemoration ceremony on Saturday 7th May 2011 at the crash-site at La Marronnière farm and the Remembrance Ceremony in Pont-Saint-Martin the following day on Sunday 8th May 2011. This was made possible by the work of Jonathan Ives working with the La Fédération Bretonne du Souvenir Aérien 1939 – 1945m (ABSA), Jérôme Batard (AREA-PL) and Nicolas Roturier (AREA-PL) to locate and reach-out to the next-of-kin of the aircrew from the Hampden AD750 and the Wellington R1374 using genealogy research.

Valerie Gittens (née: Inniss) – the niece of George Inniss attended a similar commemoration ceremony in June 2013.

Background on George Inniss

Charles Humpleby Inniss and Caroline Maria (née: Jamieson) lived at Barbarees Hill, St Michael, Barbados. They had two daughters and two sons:

  • Alma Wilhelmina Inniss, born: 2nd January 1911. (Alma immigrated to New York City, New York, United States in 1940.)
  • Marjorie Caroline Inniss, born: 25th February 1913.
  • Charles (known as: Charlie) David Hutson Inniss, born: 8th November 1914.
  • George Harold Frederick Inniss, born: 31st May 1916.

Charlie and George both entered Harrison College in 1926. In 1928 the boys father, Charles Humpleby Inniss died. Charlie left Harrison College in 1931 aged 17 to help support the family.

Time line for George Harold Frederick Inniss 31st May 1916 to 4th February 1941

31st May 1916 – George was born to Charles and Caroline Inniss. He was the youngest of four children.

1926 – 1935 – George was at Harrison College. He entered in 1926 and left in 1935 aged 19 having gained a Barbados Island Scholarship in Classics to Codrington College, Barbados.

17th October 1935 – July 1938 – George having gained a Barbados Island Scholarship in Classics, completed his BA (Hons) Classics degree at Codrington College, Barbados which was conferred by Durham University.

29th August 1938 – George having completed his classics degree at Codrington College then went to England to complete a teaching diploma. He arrived at Plymouth on the Royal Netherlands Steamship Co ship, the Simon Bolivar. On George’s landing card his occupation is given as: Student, and his address is given as: Connaught Hall, 16-20 Torrington Square, London which is a student hall of residence associated with the University of London. The assumption is George undertook his teaching diploma at the University of London and then took up a teaching post at a school in Cambridge. [To date we have been unable to identify the name of the school that George was to join in Cambridge.]

3rd September 1939 – The United Kingdom declared war on Germany. France too declared war on Germany later the same day. The state of war was announced to the British public in a 11am radio broadcast by the Prime Minister: Neville Chamberlain.

This morning, the British ambassador in Berlin handed the German government a final note stating that unless we heard from them by 11 o’clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us. I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently this country is at war with Germany.

Neville Chamberlain’s – 3rd September 1939

6th September 1939 – Three days after Neville Chamberlain announced that the United Kingdom had declared war on Germany, George Inniss volunteered for the RAF at 1 Depot Uxbridge. When World War II started on 3rd September 1939, we believe George either gave up his teaching post in Cambridge or never took it up and out of duty to joined the RAF as a volunteer. This ties in with the tribute written about Pilot Officer Inniss by fellow Harrisonian Seymour Beckles.

P/O George Harold Frederick Inniss
P/O George Harold Frederick Inniss tribute by fellow Harrisonian Seymour Beckles who went on to dedicate 30 years of service to the Barbados Government at the Barbados Mission to the United Nations in New York.

29th September 1939 – War having been declared on 3rd September 1939, the British Government undertook an emergency register to capture the details of every member of the civilian population – military personnel were not recorded. George HF Inniss was recorded on the night of 29th September 1939 being at: 1 Wilbraham Place, Belgravia, City of Westminster, London. His occupation is given as RAF Uxbridge.

23rd March 1940 – Based on London Gazette posting on 16th April 1940 – Air Ministries – General Duties (GD) branch: George Harold Frederick INNISS (43036) granted short service commissions as Acting Pilot Officer on probation for four years on the active list.

I3th July 1940 – Based on London Gazette posting on I3th August 1940 – George Harold Frederick INNISS (43036) Acting Pilot Officer on probation graded as Pilot Officer on probation.

4th/5th February 1941 – George Inniss who was just 24 years old and crew were killed-in-action on 4th February 1941 when their aircraft a Handley Page Hampden Mk. I AD750 from 106 Squadron, RAF Bomber Command crashed nose first at La Marronnière farm, La Marsoire, Pont-Saint-Martin, Loire-Atlantique (2km SE of what is now Nantes Atlantique Airport) after being hit by German flak.

George Inniss RAF Record of Service

We requested George Inniss’ RAF Record of Service (RoS): Ref No: AIR-1683564519 which was been provided by Air Historical Branch, RAF Northolt under the UK Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) request from the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD). Unfortunately, any personal information such as next to kin and address details are heavily redacted. Under the legalisation the un-redacted version will not be available until these MoD records are finally released to the general public. According to the RAF Disclosures-Veterans team, George’s RoS details are due to be transferred to The National Archives sometime in late 2024!

On average it took between 18 months to 2 years and 200 to 320 flying hours to train a pilot for the RAF.

At the start of the war when there was an acute shortage of pilots, pilot training was concertinaed and pilots were attaining their Wings in as little as six months with as little as150 flying hours!

The pathway for RAF pilot training in 1940 was:

  • Initial Training School (ITS) – 8 weeks
    Initial training provided an induction for cadets to RAF service. Ground instruction also formed the basis for flying training. Topics included mathematics, navigation, and the principles of flying.
  • Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) – 10 weeks, about 50 flying hours
    During basic training at Elementary Training Schools pupils learnt the basics of how to fly in aircraft such as the de Havilland Tiger Moth and flew their first solo flight.
  • Service Flying Training School (SFTS) – 16 weeks, about 100 flying hours
    Advanced training at Service Flying Training Schools introduced pupils to more powerful aircraft. At both elementary and advanced level, classroom based lessons continued in various subjects. Simulation flying or link trainer instruction was also undertaken. Final tests and examinations completed advanced training. If successful the cadet received his flying brevet or Pilot’s Wings.
  • Operational Training Unit (OTU)- 4 to 6 weeks, about 40 flying hours
    Qualified pilots were sent to Operational Training Units to make them ready for front-line duties.
  • Assignment to Squadron
    Qualified pilots now assigned to a squadron for front-line duties.

George’s RAF pilot training took about 14 months from sign up in September 1939 to being assigned as a newbie pilot to 106 Squadron at RAF Finningley airfield near Doncaster in December 1940. He passed his RAF flying training with a score of 77.21% and he joined 106 Squadron with just 170 hours flying time on 15th December 1940.

P/O George Harold Frederick Inniss RAF RoS
P/O George Harold Frederick Inniss RAF Record of Service – Flying Training.
Our thanks to Ralph Snape of Aircrew Remembered who has helped us break the back of deciphering the Flying Training entry:
“At No. 6 FTS, 25.3.40 – 11.7.40. Above average to strong in all Ground study training + ?? strong on Air ?? An average pilot, appears ?? capable + is slow to learn and rather ??. Made good progress + would make a confident team ?? and pilot. A very sound and reliable officer with good average ?? ?? to wear Flying badge w.e.f. 27.5.40 (?,???)”
P/O George Harold Frederick Inniss RAF RoS
P/O George Harold Frederick Inniss RAF Record of Service – Flying Training and Flying Time.

Using George’s RAF Record of Service, detailed below is his time in the RAF:

  • 6th September 1939 – Three days after the United Kingdom declared war on Germany on 3rd September 1939, George volunteers for the RAF as an Aircrafthand / Aircraft Crew No. 901712 at 1 Depot Uxbridge. He was discharged on 2nd October 1939 and appointment to a Short Service Commission after 27 days from No. 1 Receiving Centre Uxbridge.
  • 3rd October 1939 – George appointed a RAF Cadet on a Short Service Commission No. 43036.
  • 3rd October 1939 to 20th October 1939 ITS – George is at No. 1 Service Flying Training School (aka No. 1 ITS) at Jesus College, Cambridge University. Here George would have been classed as a RAF Cadet.
  • 21st October 1939 to 22nd March 1940 EFTS – George is at Elementary Flying Training School at Hatfield.
  • 23rd March 1940 – George passes EFTS and is promoted from Cadet to Acting Pilot Officer on probation.
  • 23rd March 1940 to 23rd August 1940 SFTS – George is at No. 6 Service Flying Training School [probably situated at RAF Little Rissington].
  • I3th July 1940 – George gains his Wings and passes SFTS with a score of 77.21% and is promoted from Acting Pilot Officer on Probation to Pilot Officer on Probation.
  • 13th July 1940 to 23rd August 1940 Sch A&N – George is at School of Air Navigation. Here he undertakes the Pilots part of the Pilots and Navigation Course [probably at No. 1 School of Air Navigation at RAF St. Athens before it moved to Canada].
  • 24th August 1940 to 30th November 1940 OTU – George is at No.14 Operational Training Unit at RAF Cottesmore for conversion to Handley Page Hampden aircraft.
  • 1st December 1940 to 14th December 1940 – George undertakes pilot flying duties at Station RAF Finningley.
P/O George Harold Frederick Inniss RAF RoS
P/O George Harold Frederick Inniss RAF Record of Service – Detail for 1st December 1940. Our thanks to Ralph Snape of Aircrew Remembered who has helped decipher this record.
  • 15th December 1940 – George is assigned to 106 Squadron, RAF Bomber Command based at RAF Finningley near Doncaster, South Yorkshire who flew the Handley Page Hampden. 106 Squadron had moved from RAF Cottesmore to RAF Finningley in October 1940. The 106 Squadron Operations Record Book (ORB) record for December 1940 confirms that Plt. Off. Inniss was posted to 106 Squadron from Central Training School (CTS) Finningley with effect from: 15th December 1940.
  • 4th/5th February 1941 – George is killed-in-cction (shot down on 4th February 1941 and died of his injuries on 5th February 1941. George’s headstone in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Pont-du-Cens Communal Cemetery within Parc de la Gaudinière, Nantes states he was killed in action on 4th February 1941.) As a newbie pilot George was only with 106 squadron for 51 days, and we think this was his first operational sortie!

Below is a summary of our analysis of the 106 Squadron Operations Record Book (ORB) records held by the UK National Archive at Kew using RAF form 541 for December 1940, January 1941 and February 1942. RAF form 541 lists by day the aircraft and crews that took part in daily operations. This highlights how inexperienced newbie pilot P/O Inniss was. It also looks as if George tragically lost his life on his first operational sortie. Shot down by German flak.

The other thing to notice is that having joined 106 Squadron, it appears as if George was still undergoing some flying training. Ralph Snape of Aircrew Remembered filled in some background for us:

At the outbreak of the World War II 106 Squadron were flying Hampdens with No. 5 Group RAF and until early 1941 had a training role. They then reverted to front-line status and began regular night bombing operations.

106 Squadron operated the Hampden between 9th September 1940 and 10/11th March 1941 in the training role.

Ralph Snape – Aircrew Remembered
P/O George Harold Frederick Inniss RAF Flying Time with 106 Squadron
Summary of P/O George Inniss flying time with RAF 106 Squadron taken from 106 Squadron ORB records RAF form 541: December 1940 to February 1941.

On George’s last flight he is listed as Observer (navigator/bomber). In the early days newbie pilots were often put as Observers to build up their experience.

On the evening of 4th February 1941, six Handley Page Hampden Mk. I aircraft from 106 Squadron, RAF Bomber Command took off from RAF Finningley, near Doncaster, South Yorkshire at 17.30hrs to lay mines in the Bay of Saint-Nazaire and to bomb a French aircraft factory located adjacent to the aerodrome at Château Bougon.

AD750’s mission was to bomb the French aircraft manufacturer: La Société Nationale des Constructions Aéronautiques de l’Ouest (SNCAO) factory situated adjacent to the aerodrome at Château Bougon (now known as: Aéroport Nantes Atlantique). That night fog covered the whole area. Near to Château Bougon was a German flak corps anti-aircraft artillery battery.

Prior to releasing its bombs AD750 was hit by German flak. The aircraft exploded when it crashed nose first in a field at La Marronnière farm, La Marsoire, Pont-Saint-Martin, Loire-Atlantique about 2 km from the target.

The standing RAF rules for airmen were aircrew should only bail-out when there was no other option. This meant sometimes it was too late. On the night of 4th February 1941 there was fog and little visibility. Given the visibility that night and what we learnt in the 106 Squadron Personal Experience Reports for the mission, our guess is that AD750 was probably at an altitude of 2,000ft or lower. Prior to bailing-out it was necessary for the crew to put on their parachutes. While flying the crew did not wear their parachutes in order to remain mobile within the cramped quarters of the Handley Page Hampden Mk. I airframe. The crew putting on their parachutes would have eaten up precious time and altitude.

We believe two of the crew were able to bail-out but did not survive and two of the crew were unable to bail-out and died when AD750 crashed /exploded.

Often when aircrew bailed-out they would not have enough altitude for the parachutes to open properly. We believe this was what happened with the AD750 crash.

With AD750 one crew member’s charred body was found at the crash-site attached to remnants of his parachute, suggesting he bailed-out too late. This is believed to have been SGT Jack Lewis Franco who we think was the ventral (under belly) gunner who would have escaped via the jettisoned rear exit door in the belly of the Hampden.

The other crew member that bailed out, was found away from the crash-site. He survived but was severely hurt and found the next morning on 5th February 1941 dying from his injuries. It is understood he was shot by the Germans. This crew-member is believed to have been the navigator P/O George Harold Frederick Inniss who would have been the first to bail-out given he was found away from the crash-site. He would have escaped via the front exit door in the belly of the Hampden.

The two crew that were unable to bail-out are believed to have been the pilot F/O William Kelman Burr Thomas and the dorsal (upper) gunner SGT Frederick Arnold Colson. F/O William Kelman Burr Thomas and SGT Frederick Arnold Colson are buried in a joint grave at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Pont-du-Cens Communal Cemetery.

The below is taken from: Pilot’s Notes Hampden Mk. I Aeroplane, Two Pegasus XVIII Engines:

EMERGENCY EQUIPMENT AND EXITS
Emergency Exits

50. The following exits may be used for abandoning the aeroplane.

  1. Pilot.: Through the lower hatch or, if this is impossible, through the aperture produced by sliding back the cockpit hood.
  2. Navigator (bomb-aimer).: Through the lower hatch forward of the pilot’s seat. The handle on the port door should be turned in an anti-clockwise direction and the door should swing upwards when it will be automatically held in the open position. The starboard door can then be swung upwards and will also be automatically held open.
  3. Upper rear gunner.: Through the port lower door or, if this is impossible, through the aperture produced by tilting back the hood over the upper rear cockpit. The hood is released by pulling on the handle at the middle of the bottom edge.
  4. Lower rear gunner.: Through the aperture produced by jettisoning the entrance door on the port side of the lower gun position. The door is jettisoned by pulling the cord running along its top edge.

Parachute storage

51. The pilot’s seat takes a seat-type parachute, stowage for the other parachutes being disposed as follows:-

  1. For the occupant of the nose cockpit.- On the port side of the fuselage below the pilots floor.
  2. For the sextant-observer’s position.- On the starboard side of the fuselage beneath the wireless mast.
  3. For the upper rear gunner.- On the rear face of the fuselage bulkhead door.
  4. For the lower rear gunner.- Above the window on the port side of the lower gun position.
Pilot’s Notes Hampden Mk. I Aeroplane, Two Pegasus XVIII Engines – RAF Museum Hendon

The Gendarmerie (Police) report dated 10th February 1941 provides some additional information on the crash of AD750.

Gendarmerie (Police) report of 10th February 1941

To the people of the Prefecture of Lower Loire

Following the communication of the Captain of the Gendarmerie, I have honour to address you below with information which reached me concerning the British plane which was shot down on the night of 4th to 5thFebruary 1941.

The wheat field where the plane fell is in the municipality of Pont-Saint-Martin and belongs to the farmer Mr. Perrault residing in the village of La Marionnière in this commune.

At the place where the plane crashed into the ground there is a hole about 10m long, 6m wide and 1.50m deep. Of the plane, only a few pieces of scrap metal remain as well as aluminium scraps and a cylinder.

Among the debris is a graduated gauge on one side from 1 to 18 and on the other side the inscriptions …?….. “heating in gallons ….?…. …. …. – 186/F – 53-5225-BI “. At the top end are the following words Dip-Red.
[see links at end for Hampden Bomber cockpit panel]

The remains of the aircraft were taken away by the occupying troops with the help of a tractor and a tracked vehicle.

The four victims of the accident were laid in coffins by Germans soldiers and were been buried at Château Bougon, which belongs to a Remaud lady.

Attached is a fragment of an on-board map which was discovered at the scene.

The Central Commissioner
Lemoine

Source: Jérôme Batard / Nicolas Roturier – Association pour la Recherche d’Epaves Aéronautiques en Pays de Loire (AREA-PL).

The Association pour la Recherche d’Epaves Aéronautiques en Pays de Loire (AREA-PL) have shared with us photographs of the AD750 crash-site at La Marronnière farm on 5th February 1941 which were taken by German soldiers. Jérôme Batard of the AREA-PL told us these crash-site photographs were sourced by French researchers and were found on eBay Germany. Each photograph had the date and location on the reverse side. These photographs had been in a photograph album for decades.

We have omitted three photographs from the set:

  • The very charred partial remains of Pilot: F/O William Kelman Burr Thomas or maybe Wireless Operator/Air Gunner: SGT. Frederick Arnold Colson at the crash-site, who we believe were unable to bail-out. (F/O William Kelman Burr Thomas and SGT. Frederick Arnold Colson are buried in a joint grave at Pont-du-Cens Communal Cemetery).
  • The charred remains of Wireless Operator/Air Gunner: SGT Jack Lewis Franco who bailed-out too low with remnants of his burnt parachute at the crash-site. (SGT Jack Lewis Franco is buried in a separate grave at Pont-du-Cens Communal Cemetery).
  • The body of Navigator P/O George Harold Frederick Inniss was found away from the crash-site. He bailed-out too low and was attached to his parachute. He has a bullet wound in his chest. (P/O George Harold Frederick Inniss is buried in a separate grave at Pont-du-Cens Communal Cemetery).

The omitted images detailed above are part of this story, part of history and in the public domain. The full set of crash-site photographs can be viewed on a separate page which will require user interaction. This additional process has been put in place to allow you to choose if you want to view, or, do not want to view, the full set of crash-site images (which include the three distressing images). Click here to see the photographs of the AD750 crash-site taken by German soldiers. To view this page you will need to type in a password which is: GeorgeHFInniss (no full-stop at end).

  • 16th April 1941 – Had George not been Killed in Action, Promotion for RAF General Duties Branch officers on short service commission’s was generally on an annual basis so his notional promotion to Flying Officer would have been 16th April 1941 i.e. on his date of seniority.

Bernard Poisson and Gérard Poisson testimony to relatives of the deceased delivered at a ceremony on 7th May 2011 at La Marronnière farm

The Poisson brothers, Bernard and Gérard, recounted to the deceased’s relatives of the aircrews their first-hand experiences from 1941 and the harrowing job of collecting and burying the shredded human remains of the airmen that had been left after the removal of the bodies by the Germans from AD750. This haunting memory stayed with them throughout their lives.

The Poisson brothers have now both died. Bernard Poisson died aged 91 on: 17th May 2017 and his elder brother Gérard Poisson died aged 94 on: 21st November 2017.

Alastair and Yvonne Armstrong who were at the ceremony at La Marronnière farm in 2011 remember that:

  • Bernard and Gérard lived at La Marionniere a large house along with some Germans who had commandeered it!
  • They heard and/or saw a plane flying low and in trouble. It was night and dark.
  • After dark there was an automatic curfew and you could be shot for going out – they went out anyway and looked and found the still smouldering aircraft.
  • Having ascertained that no one was alive at the site, they heard the Germans approaching and then hightailed it back to the house before they were discovered.
  • Alastair also told us that the libération de la France at the end of World War II is taken very seriously and that the Veterans’ minister from the central government attended in person, which is no small thing!

Nicolas Roturier has sent BajanThings a draft of Bernard Poisson and Gérard Poisson testimony notes which we have translated:

Page I
Gérard Poisson

Here are a few lines to provide a better understanding of the facts about the crash of the Royal Air Force Hampden (AD750) plane, on 4th February 1941.

The pilot “William Kelman Burr Thomas” RAF 72251, (106 Squadron, RAF Bomber Command) and his family, specifically remain in my memory.

[The Thomas family visited the Poisson family twice after the war to pay respects to their son.]

So here are these memories:

4th February 1941, a Royal Air Force plane is shot down by German flak at Pont-Saint-Martin on the Marrionnière Farm which was operated under tenancy by Mr. Perraud.

I was 18 years old, my name is ‘Gérard Poisson’. My brother is 15, his name is ‘Bernard Poisson’.

Our family home is “La Marionniere” at Pont-Saint-Martin near the aerodrome of Château Bougon.

Around 1:00am on 5th February 1941 the first crash happened. The plane is shot down by German flak.

[from the German flugzeugabwehrkanone meaning “aircraft-defence cannon”, the original purpose of the weapon. Its called DCA in French. In English, “flak” became a generic term for ground anti-aircraft artillery fire.]

Very quickly, at first light, the Germans remove the bodies of three airmen found near the remains of the plane and a 4th airman, the pilot “Thomas” had fallen a bit further away. According to neighbours he was heard screaming during the night.

[We think this was in fact George Inniss the Navigator of AD750 as he would probably have been the first out of the forward escape hatch. The pilot was normally one of the last out. The pilot F/O William Kelman Burr Thomas and upper rear gunner SGT Frederick Arnold Colson are buried in a joint grave at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Pont-du-Cens Communal Cemetery suggesting it was hard to differentiate the remains.]

The plane dug a deep crater in the ground, soaked by rain.

[The Gendarmerie (Police) report dated 10th February 1941 states the crash-site left a hole about 10m long, 6m wide and 1.50m deep.]

Thinking the Germans had left the crash site, Gérard and Bernard go to the site but leave quickly when they realize the Germans are still prowling around.

Page II
The next day 5th February 1941, Gérard and Bernard return to the site and gather the human remains left behind, an arm, a skull and others parts. They put the remains in a box and bury them in the hedge, then cover it with soil and branches.

They make a cross and add a small airplane propeller, which they stick into the ground over the box with the human remains.

These remains have not been disturbed. It is best to let them rest in peace.

In 1946 Mr. and Mrs. Thomas come to pay tribute to their son at the site of the cross where the remains from the crash are buried.

While searching through the plane I had found a navy-blue sweater in bad condition and I’d kept it at home. When Mrs. Thomas visited I showed it to her and she recognized it as one she had knitted for her son.

I believe this sweater was her most treasured memory…

Page III
Some Dates: Gérard

At the end of 1940, with my older brother and some friends, we went by bike to “Thébaul” because the word is out; the Germans are scooping up young men and sending them to Germany.

My hope is to get to England, but the boat I was to board “La Tanch” was blown up by a mine.

I return to La Marionnière at Pont-Saint-Martin, to my family, including Bernard and it is there that in February 1941, begins the story of the first English plane shot down.

In May 1941 the second English plane is shot down, and this time the Germans are even faster getting to the site of the disaster. We went two to three days after.

When the German plane is shot down, I was no longer at La Marionnière, but at La Touche agricultural school in Ploërme up to June 1942 (we were a little too curious about the trials of the amphibious tank that the Germans were carrying out on “Lac aux Ducs”).

Page IV
Equipped with a diploma in agriculture, I disguise myself as Head of Operations in a large operation in “Brandivy”.

We engaged in the Resistance (documents, parachute locations ” Black Panther will jump….” for the Resistance fighters.)

In 1945 I joined the army and my training was at St. Brieuc (town location subsequently destroyed).

After that I am parachuted into Alsace-Lorraine under the orders of General de Goislard de Monsabert – French II Corps.

[The French states 1st RAF which we think is a error.]

The German army was in disarray within the enclave of the banks of the Rhine (several jumps by parachute on the German lines).

Then my regiment went back down to “Penthièvre” to free the fort and the Fortress at Quiberon. I am mostly at Headquarters, administrative, stewardship…. We passed a regiment of the “Free French Aircorps” (Valin de la Vaissière CFVV).

Late 1945 and 1946, I am in the Black Forest for the German Occupation.

After my discharge, I join the business “Hutchinson SA”, in August 1945.

Page V
It is during a leave granted from Germany, that I meet Mr. and Mrs. Thomas, who were staying with my parents at La Maronnière (1946 photo of the Thomas-Poisson families).

In November 1946, when I was working at Nantes, I once again saw Mr. and Mrs. Thomas and their daughter who were staying at La Maronnière.

I had a camera, the original photos are in one of my albums.

  • photo of the cross on top of the human remains (still there after four years)
  • photo of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas in front of the cross.
  • photo of Bernard at the Gaudinière Cemetary in Nantes.
  • photo of the Poisson-Thomas families at la Marionnière including me for the first visit of the Thomas parents and for the second visit with their daughter in 1946.

Page VI
I received a letter from Mrs Thomas in 1950, of which I attach a photocopy.

In England Mrs. Thomas was a scientist working during the war for the English Army, as was her husband Mr. Thomas who was a chemist.

Their daughter Miss Thomas, was an officer in the army and had to stay in in the Cabinet War Rooms/Churchill War rooms, a secret underground complex with no communication with the exterior.

Subsequently, according to the letter from her mother to Gérard in 1950, she left home to study at University of Coimbra in Portugal, from where traces of the Thomas family can be found?

contextual translation Shirley Ann Mahon / Nicolas Roturier
Bernard Poisson and Gérard Poisson – 8th May 2011

Jérôme Batard says that a phrase that remained with him after Bernard and Gérard Poisson left the ceremony on 8th May 2011 was a comment they made to him: “no pouvons mourir en paix le travail de la mémoire  est fait” – “we can now die in peace knowing that the work of commemorating is done“.

The Poisson brothers, Bernard and Gérard, had just fulfilled the promise they made to themselves back in 1941: to honour the four airmen that died when AD750 crashed at La Marronnière farm.

George Inniss photographs

Included below are two very touching tributes to George Inniss published in the newspaper in 1941 by:

  • fellow Harrisonian, Seymour Beckles, who went on to dedicate 30 years of service to the Barbados Government at the Barbados Mission to the United Nations in New York
  • Walter Watson, who composed a poem.

For the below gallery we have digitally colourised the original 1940s black & white images.

The AD750 aircrew graves at Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Pont-du-Cens Communal Cemetery within Parc de la Gaudinière, Nantes

The Gendarmerie Report states that the bodies of the aircrew of AD750 were buried by the Germans near Château Bougon. After the war, the Commonwealth War Grave Commission exhumed the remains at Château Bougon together with those from La Marronnière farm that had been collected and buried by Bernard Poisson and Gérard Poisson and re-buried them at the nearby Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Pont-du-Cens Communal Cemetery within Parc de la Gaudinière, Nantes:

Rest in Peace:

Your bravery and sacrifice with 106 Squadron Bomber Command is remembered.


Bomber Command losses during World War II

The successes of Bomber Command [during World War II] were purchased at terrible cost. Of every 100 airmen who joined Bomber Command, 45 were killed, 6 were seriously wounded, 8 became Prisoners of War, and only 41 escaped unscathed (at least physically).

Of the 125,000 who served in Bomber Command 58,000 were killed. Of those who were flying at the beginning of the war, only ten percent survived. It is a loss rate comparable only to the worst slaughter of the First World War trenches. Only the Nazi U-Boat force suffered a higher casualty rate.

Source: RAF Bomber Command’s Losses – Martin Middlebrook (FRHistS) military historian based on the overall 1939 – 1945 casualty figures.

Sources of information

  • David Inniss / Valerie Gittens (née: Inniss) – nephew / niece of George Inniss.
    [David and Valerie are William Burton and Peter Burton’s cousins. David and Valerie’s mother Ada Evelyn (née: Burton) known as Betty, was the sister of William and Peter’s fathers (Joe Burton and Jim Burton). The framed photograph of George Inniss was always on the sideboard at David and Valerie’s parents home. Growing up all the cousins knew the dashing RAF pilot on the sideboard was Uncle George, who was Uncle Charlie’s brother, who had been killed-in-action during World War II in 1941.]
  • Jonathan Ives – helped the ABSA and provided the genealogy research on the families of the crews of the Hampden AD750 and the Wellington R1374 that crashed at La Marronnière farm in 1941.
  • Jérôme Batard – a local Pont-Saint-Martin dairy farmer and the President of AREA-PL who has extensively researched the four aircraft that crashed La Marronnière farm from 1940 – 1943.
  • Nicolas Roturier – is a the Secretary of AREA-PL who has extensively researched the four aircraft that crashed La Marronnière farm from 1940 – 1943.
  • Jean Pineau – was the catalyst for researching the 10 aircrew that were killed when their aircraft crashed at La Marronnière farm in 1941. He wanted to return a bracelet and fob watch to the next-of-kin of the aircrew that was found in a jewel box at his late mother’s home that had been discovered by his father Jean-Baptise Pineau. He worked closely with Jérôme Batard, Jonathan Ives and the ABSA to achieve this. Unfortunately Jean did not live to see the wish of his father, Jean-Baptise Pineau, being fulfilled which happened in 2011.
  • Daniel Dahio – is the President and founder of the ABSA who worked with Jonathan Ives and Jérôme Batard on investigating the AD750 crash at La Marronnière farm from 2009 onwards.
  • ABSA – La Fédération Bretonne du Souvenir Aérien 1939 – 1945 (Breton Federation of Air Souvenirs 1939-1945).
    Crash of AD750 at La Marronniere farm 4th February 1941.
    Commemoration at Pont-Saint-Martin: 7th May & 8th May 2011.
  • AREA-PL – Association pour la Recherche d’Epaves Aéronautiques en Pays de Loire (Association for the Research of Aeronautical Wrecks in Pays de Loire).
  • Shirley Ann Mahon – has helped with contextual translations from French to English.
AD750 P/O George Harold Frederick Inniss
Yvonne, Alastair and their dog Sandy.

Special thanks must go to the brothers Bernard Poisson and Gérard Poisson (both now deceased) and to la commune de Pont-Saint-Martin and to its Mayor in 2011 Yves François who honoured the ten young allied airmen from the Hampden Mk. I AD750 and Wellington Mk. Ic R1374 who died for the freedom of France.

We would particularly like to thank Jérôme Batard and Nicolas Roturier of AREA-PL and Jonathan Ives who helped us collate the information that has made this posting on George HF Inniss possible.

We would also like to thank Ralph Snape of Air Crew Remembered who has answered lots of questions we have had, provided background information on RAF training in the early 1940s, provided information about 106 Squadron and helped us decipher George’s the handwritten Record of Service.

Thank you all for your help in getting this story on P/O Inniss published.

George HF Inniss official commission photograph

  • The photograph of George as it is today which has aged brown with time.
  • The photograph of George digitally enhanced as a black & white image.
  • The photograph of George digitally enhanced as a colourised image.


Fellow Bajan W/C Aubrey Richard de Lisle Inniss DFC (Service number: 42005, 21st November 1916 to 30th January 2003 who flew with 236 and 248 Squadron) was not related to P/O George Harold Frederick Inniss (Service number: 43036, 31st May 1916 to 5th February 1941 who flew with 106 Squadron).

2 thoughts on “P/O George HF Inniss: 31st May 1916 to 5th February 1941”

  1. I have found this history so interesting as I am the sister-in-law of Wireless Operator Air Gunner Sgt Leonard F Harris of Wellington R1374 and did a lot of research to find relatives of the crew of this bomber.

    Six of the Harris family were at the Commemoration in in 2011, including two of Leonard’s brothers and two nephews. It was a very moving occasion.

    I do have some photographs taken by my husband which I doubt you have.

    There is a plaque on the roadside equidistance between the two crash sites which was unveiled in 2017 by a relative of William Kelman Burr Thomas [pilot of Hampden AD750] and David Harris.

  2. Dr. Edward Harris, MBE JP PHD FSA

    Thank you for the excellent article on P/O George Inniss, who, like many, died so young in the Second World War.

    For some years, the National Museum of Bermuda has taken out a full page advertisement in the local newspaper to commemorate those we lost in that conflict. A copy of that from 2016 is attached. Portraits for some in WW1 have yet to be found, but the images are complete for WW2. It is posted of course for Remembrance Day, yet marked in Bermuda with a Parade by the Royal Bermuda Regiment.

    Your audience on BajanThings may find this of interest:

    National Museum of Bermuda War Veterans of Bermuda
    National Museum of Bermuda War Veterans of Bermuda

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top