On June 22, 1943, Halifax II, serial No. JD259 carrying the Squadron Code ‘NP-R” was one of 19 aircraft from 158 Squadron detailed to attack Mulheim, a German industrial city in the Ruhr Valley. The pilot, F/Sgt L.E. Cavanagh, RAAF, and his crew were on their first operation with the Squadron. The aircraft departed from RAF Station Lissett at 23:09 hours. The aircraft bombed the target but was attacked and badly damaged on the return journey by a night fighter flown by Oblt. Wilhelm Telge of Stab II./NJG1, crashing at Leest, Belgium in the early hours of June 23rd. The following circumstances were subsequently reported: “…the pilot made a very brave attempt to crash-land his bomber, but just as he was about to touch down the Halifax collided with a line of high-tension cables and exploded. Wreckage was strewn across the fields bordering the railway and all those on board were killed. Six bodies were found almost immediately, but a week went by before a farmer driving his cart past a wheat field spotted the remains of the seventh crewmember”.
Six of members of the crew were buried at Schoonselhof Cemetery, Antwerp following the crash. The seventh, P/O MOUND, RAFVR, was initially buried near the site of the crash but was later reinterred in the Schoonselhof Cemetery.
1. Pilot: F/Sgt. Leonard E Cavanagh, RAAF, was born on June 19, 1923, and listed his home as Swanbourne, Western Australia. He enlisted in the RAAF in October, 1941, and was trained in Canada under the BCATP. He arrived in the UK in November, 1942, was posted to No. 24 OTU (Honeybourne) for initial operational training and then posted to No. 1658 HCU (Riccall) for conversion to the Halifax. He and his crew were posted to 158 Squadron, Lissett, on June 16, 1943. He flew one operation as ‘second pilot’ to gain some experience with a trained crew. On June 22, 1043, he and his crew were killed on their first operation to Mulheim. F/Sgt. Cavanagh was 20 years old.
2. Navigator: Sgt. T.R.Forster, RAFVR, was the son of Thomas and Margaret Forster of Chepstow, Monmouthshire. He arrived with the other members of his crew at 158 Squadron on June 16, 1943. Sgt. Forster was 21 years old at the time of his death.
3. Bomb Aimer: P/O D.V. Elliot, RAFVR, was born in the Wandsworth District of London, in 1920. He enlisted at Euston and arrived with the other members of his crew at 158 Squadron on June 16, 1943. He was 23 years old at the time of his death.
4. Wireless Operator: Sgt. W.R. Green, RAFVR, listed his home as Empingham, Rutland (Easr Midlands), and was the son of Robert and Gertrude Green and arrived with the other members of his crew at 158 Squadron on June 16, 1943. He was 22 years old at the time of his death.
5. Mid Upper Gunner: P/O R.A.C. Maund, RAFVR, was born in the Poplar District of East London. He enlisted at Euston and arrived with the other members of his crew at 158 Squadron on June 16, 1943. He was 23 years old at the time of his death
6. Rear Gunner: F/Sgt. O.W. Todd, RCAF, was born in Galt, ON, on June 11, 1911. He enlisted in the RCAF at Hamilton ON, on July 18, 1941. His initial training was done in Canada and he embarked for the UK on December 10, 1942. He arrived with the other members of his crew at 158 Squadron on June 16, 1943. He was 32 years old at the time of his death.
7. Flight Engineer: Sgt. R. J. Sage, RAF, was the son of Robert and Harriet Sage of Cardiff, Wales. He was trained at No. 4 School of Technical Training, St. Athan, and met up with his crew at 1658 Heavy Conversion Unit, and arrived with the other members of his crew at 158 Squadron on June 16, 1943.
The memorial is located at Leest, Belgium. It is unknown at this time who is responsible for the erection of this memorial.