March 28. Colditz escaper. Coleraine air-ace. Roll of Honour

This day in 1942 Billy Stephens was taken prisoner during Operation Chariot, the raid on St Nazaire. He was one of the few prisoners to escape from Colditz Castle. Three RN men from Belfast died in the raid. One of them, Able Seaman Stafford McKeown was posthumously Mentioned in Despatches after Operation Chariot. He was killed aboard Motor Launch ML262 on the run in to the dock, along with half its crew. He was married only two weeks previously. He was a former member of the Church Lads’ Brigade in St Michael’s, Shankill, Belfast. Victor Beamish from Coleraine was a legendary figure in the RAF. He was lost in 1942. His three brothers George, Charles and Cecil, all served with distinction in the RAF. The Roll for 1918 continues to reflect the high cost of resisting the final German push of WW1. Today’s veteran is Lieutenant-Colonel Pakenham from Langford Lodge. He commanded the South Antrim Battalion in the Ulster Division. He worked for MI5 during the latter part of the war. In 1917 he was MI5’s liaison at the French War Ministry. In early 1918 he became head of MI5’s Washington DC office.

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