STRATTON DORSET
   
             
STRATTON WAR MEMORIAL
             
           
    SERGT. GUNNER G. W. H. NORTHOVER R.A.F.    
             
             
   
   
     
 

George William Henry Northover was born in Stratton in 1922. His parents were George Herbert Northover and Gladys Sarah Louise Northover (nee New).

In April 1943 Sergeant (Air Gunner) 1601428 George Northover was serving with 101 Squadron of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. At this time the Squadron was based at RAF Holme-on-Spalding-Moor in Yorkshire.

From October 1942 to August 1945, 101 Squadron flew Avro Lancaster I and III bombers.

 
     
 
Lancaster Bomber - www.lancastermuseum.ca

 
     
 

The gun turret of a Lancaster bomber was a cold and lonely place. The mid-upper gunner spent his time suspended in a canvas sling seat, his lower body in the fuselage of the aeroplane and his head and shoulders in a plexiglass dome. The rear gunner was isolated at the extreme rear end of the plane squeezed into the cramped metal and perspex cupola. Many rear gunners removed a section of the plexiglass to improve their view. Their primary role was not to shoot down enemy aircraft but to perform the role of lookout.  With temperatures at 20,000 feet reaching -40 degrees, frostbite was a common occurrence. The only sounds the gunner would hear, apart from the constant deafening roar of the engines, would be the hiss of the oxygen and the occasional distorted voices of the other crewmembers in his earphones. From take-off to landing, for as long as ten hours, he would be constantly rotating the turret, scanning for attacking enemy aircraft. The rear gunner knew that the Luftwaffe fighter pilots preferred to attack from behind and below the bomber.

On the 14th/15th April 1943, 462 aircraft (146 Wellingtons, 135 Halifaxes, 98 Lancasters & 83 Stirlings) bombed Stuttgart, Germany. The Operations Record Book of 101 Squadron records that "'A' Flight had the honour to supply the only aircraft from the Squadron to attack STUTTGART". George Northover was aboard this bomber, serial number W4951, bearing the markings SR-O. It was carrying one 4,000lb bomb, three general purpose, time delay (025 secs) 1,000lb bombs, and two general purpose, time delay (12 hours) 1,000lb bombs.

The International Bomber Command Centre notes that the Pathfinder Force claimed accurate marking and bombing was concentrated to the north east of Stuttgard. The bombed suburbs included many industrial installations and useful damage was caused. An air raid shelter packed with French and Russian Prisoners of War was also hit which increased the death toll of the operation to 619.

23 aircraft  (8 Wellingtons, 4 Halifaxes, 3 Lancasters & 8 Stirlings) were lost.

George Northover was killed in action, aged 20 years, on 15th April 1943 when his aircraft was shot down in the vicinity of Maubeuge, twelve miles south of Mons, France.

During the Second World War 20,000 air gunners were killed.

George Northover is buried in Row A. Grave 18. of the Maubeuge-Centre Cemetery, France. His headstone bears the inscription "He lives with us, In memory still, Not just today, But always will".

 
     
 
Maubeugu-Centre Cemetery – Commonwealth War Graves Commission

 
     
 

Maubeuge is a town in the department of the Nord. Maubeuge-Centre Cemetery stands inside the Communal Cemetery of Maubeuge. In the British plot there are nearly two hundred 1914-18 and over fifty 1939-45 war casualties commemorated.

George’s parents are buried in Stratton Churchyard. Parish Registers show that George Herbert Northover was buried on 6th September 1943 aged 58 years and Gladys Sarah Louisa Northover was buried on 13th June 1944 aged 53 years.

 
           
 
 
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