June 4 – Ballymena RAF man lost in Wadden Sea in raid on Bremen

His brother also RAF died as POW on Burma-Siam railwayPer Ardva

Records show that 38 Wellingtons were lost in the Wadden Sea area.

Wellington X3724 KO-T from 115 Squadron, because of its reported crash location, is being mentioned by local researchers as the possible source of wreckage recently recovered.

It was piloted by 25 year old Canadian F/Sgt Jack Hutchison and was one of the aircraft dispatched from RAF Marham at 23.28 hours on the 3rd of June to bomb the Port of Bremen.

In the early hours of the 4th of June 1942 his aircraft was intercepted by a German night-fighter. The Wellington crashed south-east of Vlieland and all five crew were killed.

The pilot, Jack Hutchison, and wireless operator, Terence McGrath, are buried at Texel, but their three colleagues have no known graves. Jack Hutchison was at 25 years old the eldest in the crew. Of his four crew mates, three were aged 20 and Eric Harding only 18.

The crew were – Sgt Jack Leon Hutchison (25) pilot from Niagara, Ontario, Canada, Sgt Terence Allen McGrath (20) the front gunner from Hull, Sgt John Turner Plant (20) the navigator, from Oncham, Isle of Man, Sgt Thomas Edward Rowan (20) the wireless operator, from Ballymena, and Sgt Eric Roland Harding (18) the rear gunner, from Gravesend, Kent.

Sergeant Jack Leon (Rip) Hutchison, the pilot, was the 25 year old son of Lawrence Hutchison, who kept a general store at Virgil, Niagara, Canada, & his wife Florence Hutchison (nee Prendergast). The couple had two sons, James Headley was born in 1916, and Jack Leon in 1917. Their father Lawrence died in 1921 aged only 34.

Rip attended the local public school, and High School, was a member of the school cadets, and worked on
neighbouring farms during vacations. When he enlisted in the RCAF in December 1940, he gave his occupation as farm-hand, and carried a letter of recommendation from the last employer, his uncle H L Craise, who ran Denbrae Fruit Farm at St. Catherines. The farmer wrote in praise of his nephew, who had worked for him for two years, relating that because he did not have a son of his own, it was his understanding that Rip, and his own two daughters, would eventually run the farm.
Jack Leon Hutchison passed out in Canada as a pilot on September 1st 1941. He was then given 11 days embarkation leave before being posted to the UK on 18th September.

He arrived at the RAF reception camp, 3 PRC, based in Bournemouth on the Dorset coast, on September 28th, and was posted to 20 Operational Training Unit at Lossiemoth, Scotland, on 6th October.

After six months of aircrew training, he was posted as a pilot on Wellington bombers, and now skipper of his own crew, to 115 Squadron on March 25th.

He took off on his last flight, from RAF Marham in Norfolk, on the evening of June 3rd, to bomb the port of Bremen.
His aircraft was intercepted by a German night-fighter and crashed south-east of Vlieland. All five crew were killed.
His body was recovered from the sea dike area, between Oude- and Nieuweschild on Texel, and interred on 13th June 1942.   Den Burg/Texel, General Cemetery  – plot K, row 6, grave 124. The family’s text on the bottom of his grave stone at Texel island says: ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’. Rip’s mother Florence, visited the gravesite in the 1960s, and his brother, James (Jim) Headley Hutchison, some years later.

115 Squadron crest

Sergeant Thomas Edward Rowan, the wireless operator, was the 20 year old son of Thomas Edward Rowan (1885) & Ellen Irwin, of Patrick Place, Ballymena Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland, who were married at Ballymena in 1911.

Two families had lived together at the house in Patrick Place from before the beginning of the 20th century. Thomas Edward Rowan senior’s mother, Jane (bn 1854), was a widow with a family, when she married shoemaker William J Currie (bn 1844), who also had children, sometime before 1901.

One of Thomas E. Rowan senior’s step-brothers, Samuel Currie (bn 1894), joined the 18th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles in July 1915. He died from battle wounds in November 1917.

Thomas and Ellen were to lose two sons in World War 2. Twenty year old Thomas, who was the wireless operator on Wellington  X3724, has no known grave. He is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial and on the Cenotaph in Ballymena Memorial Park.

His older brother, 23 year old William Erwin Rowan, also joined the RAF. He was serving with the RAF at Singapore when the Japanese invaded in 1942. The fighting in Singapore lasted from 8 to 15 February 1942.

After the Japanese successfully conquered the Malay Peninsula, the Allies began to transfer personnel in December 1941 to Sumatra, and AC1 Rowan is believed to have to have been one of them. The large majority of the POWs who fell into Japanese hands in North and Central Sumatra were concentrated in the Uniekampong in Belawan harbour.

As early as May 1942 a large group of about 2,000 POWs were transported from there to Burma, and many were put to work on Burma-Siam railway. During its construction, approximately 13,000 prisoners of war, including British, Dutch and Australian servicemen, died and were buried along the railway. William Erwin Rowan died on 5th of August 1943 and is one of 1,379 casualties commemorated in the Chonk-Kai War cemetery which was built on the same spot as the notorious POW camp.

The text on his burial plaque at the River Kwai’s Chunkai War cemetery, reads – ‘Heavy the blow, quickly it fell. Tender ties broken without a farewell.’

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