Thursday, May 08, 2014

Wing-Commander Arthur Luxmoore 1909 - 1940

Wing-Commander Arthur Luxmoore

Arthur Noble Luxmoore ([1])
was born at Newton Abbott in Devon on the 24th of February 1909 the twin son of Major Lancelot Alfred Luxmoore, Royal Artillery and Charlotte Evelyn Constance Luxmoore of "The Roundel", Rye in Sussex. 

He was educated at Lancing College where he was in Heads House from September 1922 to July 1928. He was a member of the Cricket XI in 1927 and 1928 being Secretary in the latter year. He was a member of the Boxing team in 1925 and 1926 and the Athletics Team in 1927 and 1928. He gained his School Certificate in 1927 and was a Cadet Officer in the Officer Training Corps achieving Certificate A.

He went on to Hertford College, Oxford in 1928.

He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer in the Royal Air Force on a short service commission on the 15th of August 1929 and was posted to the Royal Air Force Depot at Uxbridge. He was promoted to Flying Officer on the 14th of April 1931. 

On the 16th of June 1933 he was posted to No. 3 Armament Camp at Sutton Bridge and on the 30th of October 1933 he was posted to the Air Armaments School at Eastchurch. On the 15th of December 1933 he was posted to the Anti Aircraft Co-Operation Flight at Biggin Hill. 

On the 17th of December 1934 he was posted to 43 Squadron at Tangmere and on the 23rd of April 1935 he was posted to 25 Squadron at Hawkinge.

He was married to Annette Rosemary (nee Pugh) at the Church of St James theLess at Litchfield in 1935. They had a son, Fairfax, born on the 18th of July 1940. After his death she remarried Patrick Vincent Lawford in 1944.

Shortly after he was married he was posted to Egypt. He was promoted to Probationary Flight Lieutenant on the 15th of March 1935, a rank which was confirmed on the 1st of June 1936 when he was granted a permanent commission. On the 24th of February 1937 he was posted to the Electrical and Wireless School at RAF Cranwell. He was promoted to Squadron Leader on the 1st of August 1938 and was Commanding Officer of 144 Squadron at the time of his death.

W/C A.N. Luxmoore’s last air-raid mission May 11-12, 1940.

On the 11th of May 1940 37 aircraft from Bomber Command, being 19 Hampden and 18 Whitley bombers, were dispatched for an operation on Mönchengladbach to bomb road and rail links in the area in an attempt to impede the advance of the German forces which, on May 10,1940 had attacked and invaded the Low Countries. This was the first bombing raid on a German town of the war.

Arthur Luxmoore and his crew took off from RAF Hemswell at about 10.30pm on the 11th of May 1940 in Hampden MkB1, P1326 PL-? for the operation. 

Its crew consisted of
            Wing Commander Arthur Noble Luxmoore, Pilot
            Pilot Officer Robert Edward Allitt, 2nd Pilot/Bomb Aimer
            Sergeant Herbert Wathey
            Corporal Ronald Jolly

May 12, at about 00.30 ([2])  they were at 6,000 feet and approaching the target area when they were hit by flak (German anti-air guns) several times which caused severe damage to the starboard engine and to the rudder controls.

There is no doubt that Wing Commander Luxmoore was determined not to let his crew fall into enemy hands and had made up his mind to bring them back to France. ([3])
He managed to steer the stricken bomber in a south-westerly direction, slowly losing height.
An hour after being hit he ordered his crew to bail out and all three landed safely on friendly territory in Belgium, somewhere in the neighborhood of Hulsonniaux, commune of Houyet, Namur province.

Pilot Officer Allitt and  Sergeant Herbert Wathey at once got clear. At this moment Corporal Jolly was getting a fix from Le Bourget (France) and did not receive the order, as he was not at the intercommunication system. When he got through to the captain again he heard his voice saying: “have you jumped?” Quickly destroying the aircraft papers and leaving the transmitter key switched on, Corporal Jolly bailed out at a low altitude. (3)

In the meantime, the 22nd Divison of the French 9th Army had taken position as per May 11 on the left bank of the river Meuse from Hastière (Belgium) to Vireux-Molhain (south of Givet, France) with HQ located at Vaucelles (Belgium). ([4])

Making his way to the nearest village, P/O Allitt was at once challenged by a French soldier who held him up with his bayonet under the impression that he was a German parachutist and put him under arrest in the guard room. He explained that he was an English flying officer, but they were taking no chances until a French officer arrived and escorted him to his HQ at Vaucelles (Belgium).
Sergeant Wathey landed in a big tree down which he climbed with difficulty in the dark. Making his way laboriously, with many a stumble, through the undergrowth of the wood, he suddenly felt himself slipping and rolling downwards. When at last he came to a stop he found he was on the edge of water, so he wisely remained where he was until daylight. In the dawn he saw he was on the bank of a river (the Meuse), so he set off again to the west, falling in with two Belgian peasants whom he accompanied along the road. From time to time German aircraft flew over the road and machine-gunned them, but each time they managed to escape. After tramping for eight miles Sergeant Wathey was challenged by some French soldiers who promptly arrested him, having no doubt that he also was a German parachutist. Marching him to headquarters, they handed over their prisoner.
Corporal Jolly had the strangest experience of all. He landed on a steep slope, which happened to be the roof of a house, down which he slid. The lines of his parachute were entangled somewhere above and as he tried to make his way forward he felt something give and break at every step he took. Floundering along in the dark, he could not understand where he was or what was happening and at length he came to the conclusion that he was walking on ice. Not until he fell a few feet did he realize that he had walked the whole length of the roof of a greenhouse! He banged on the door of the house. There was no answer. Then he walked into the village where some people, as soon as they saw him, shouted “Boche!" and bolted for their lives. At last he induced the village constable to take him in charge, and eventually all three of the crew met as prisoners at headquarters about fifteen miles away. Here they were properly identified and released, to be entertained most lavishly with wine, when it was food they needed. They will not soon forget the French General kissing them on both cheeks as he bade them adieu before they drove off in a British staff car to the nearest Royal Air Force aerodrome, at Reims (France), where they were looked after until an aircraft arrived from their base to pick them up next day. ([5])

W/C Luxmoore remained at the controls of his aircraft so that a crash in the village of Finnevaux, 11 kilometers south, south of Dinant in Belgium, could be avoided.

When his aircraft hit the ground in a meadow close to the road from Houyet (Belgium) to Givet (France), only 360 yards from the houses in Finnevaux, it exploded and took fire causing the death of the Wing Commander. His badly burned body was buried in the communal cemetery of Finnevaux,

Finally it should be mentioned that the family was per September 11, 1940 still unaware of the Wing Commander’s death and hoping that he might also have bailed out and made prisoner. ([6

It is only shortly after the liberation of Belgium, early September 1944, that the family was informed of the W/C’ s burial place and decided to leave his grave as it was (in Finnevaux), where it would be looked after by the War Graves Commission, and not to move it to a “War Cemetery” ([7])

His grave in Finnevaux is maintained by a grateful commune, under the supervision of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the commune has honored his name on the War Memorial in the center of Finnevaux.

Sadly enough the heroic attitude of W/C Arthur Noble was never officially recognized by UK authorities and no medal was awarded, while both Jolly and Wathey were awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal and Allitt was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross; all these men were subsequently killed in action on the 13th of June 1940, the 12th of February 1942 and the 23rd of February 1944 respectively. ([8])

([1]) Source : Lancing College War Memorial
([2]) Source : letter from P/O Allitt to Mrs. A.Luxmoore
"Dear Mrs Luxmoore, 
Your address, through Wing Commander Jordan, has just reached me or I should have written sooner. I think he has already told you that I was with your husband last week. Although I can tell you little more than you already know, I thought you might like to hear from me as I was in his aircraft. We took off at about 10.30pm on Saturday and, when over Germany about two hours later the aircraft was hit and badly crippled. Fortunately none of us were hurt. Thanks to the magnificent piloting of the Wing Commander we managed to reach friendly territory in Belgium, where he ordered us to abandon the aircraft by parachute. He of course was the last to leave. Throughout he was apparently unperturbed, and I feel that there is every chance that we may yet hear from him. Only flying people can appreciate to the full his superb handling of the almost completely disabled aircraft. The rest of us owe our lives to him, and could not express in words our admiration and gratitude. This was our eighth raid together and I shall miss his leadership and comradeship terribly. I do hope you will accept my sincere sympathy in your great anxiety. If there is anything I can do to help please let me know.”
()[3] Source : Extract of the book “So Few” by David Masters (published 1999)
([4]) Source :’infanterie_(France)#Bataille_de_France
([5]) Source : Extract of the book “So Few” by David Masters (published 1999)
([6]) Source : following letter by the W/C’s father, Lancelot Luxmoore, dated September 11, 1940
Prisoners of War,
Foreign Office,
Dear Sirs,
I understand that there is now a regular procedure for making enquiries at the American Embassy in Berlin regarding prisoners of war in Germany and enemy occupied countries.
I should be much obliged if you would make an enquiry of this sort concerning acting Wing. Comm. ARTHUR NOBLE LUXMOORE B.A.F. No, 86112, who was reported missing on May 12th. The facts so far as I have been able to ascertain them are that he was returning from bombing operations somewhere in enemy territory in a Hampden Bomber No. P.1326; one engine of the bomber was out of action and after losing height three of the crew landed unhurt by parachute and were near enough to friendly country to get back, one walking about eight miles before meeting French troops with the numerals 62 or 9 who took him to the H.Q. of the 9th French army.
This took place at approximately 1.20 a.m. in the neighborhood of a village called HOUYET, east of DINANT, ARDENNES. Wing. Comm. A.N. Luxmoore remained in the plane and it is believed that he would have made a similar landing himself.
The enemy were advancing at the time and I wish to ascertain whether he was taken prisoner and is still alive and whether the American Embassy can obtain any information about him from the enemy.
In the case of any information becoming available would you please communicate with me at the above address.
I have tabulated the facts on a separate sheet for your convenience.
Yours faithfully,

([7]) Source : letter from the W/C’s father, L.Luxmoore, to Mrs. A.Luxmoore, the W/C’s wife
([8]) Source : Lancing College War Memorial