Sergeant John Leopold Hamilton, No.1259434, 16 O.T.U

Bay of Biscay


HAMILTON, John Leopold


10/16 O.T.U


Missing since: 17-05-1943

Forwarded: 06-04-2021

Answer Received: 07-03-2022



Cause: Plane shot down in Golf of Biscay after attacking a U-boat.


Sergeant John Leopold Hamilton, Army No.1259434 16 O.T.U Whitley Bomber Z9438

John Leopold Hamilton is missing since 17-05-1943, according to the records the plane he was in a Whitley bomber Z9438 of 10 Operational Training Unit was shot down that day in the Biscay Bay by U boat U-648 after trying to sink it with six depth charges in which they fail to do so.

After this, they were shot down themselves by the U-boat killing the crew.


17 May 1943 

Aircraft attack, aircraft shot down:
British Whitley Z9438 (10 OTU RAF/J, pilot Sgt J.H. Casstles)

1424hrs, Bay of Biscay, inbound: The Whitley was shot down after dropping four depth charges, none of which caused any damage. The crew of Six were all killed.



Sergeant Hamilton is listed on the CWGC site as being 16.O.T.U however on all other source they are mentioned as being 10 O.T.U.

Due to Covid 19 it is not possible to obtain copies of the Operation Record Books of May 1943, from 10 O.T.U (AIR29/638) or that of 16 O.T.U (AIR29/656) so I am not able to check in which one the missing crew is mentioned.


The whole crew who took off from RAF St Eval is missing since:


Sergeant John Hamilton Casstles No.1039199 (Pilot)


Sergeant Gerald Douglas Evans No.1393533 (Wireless Operator)


Sergeant John Leopold Hamilton No.1259434 (Air Gunner)


Sergeant Robert Eric Lowden Johnson No.1130408 (Navigator)


Sergeant David Seigal No.1399211 (Observer)


Sergeant Raymond Khali Tewfik No.1337454 (Air Gunner)



On 16 November 1943, an unknown soldier washed up on the Dutch coast at the Afsluitdijk beach pole 17.7 whom was buried two days later on 18 November 1943 in grave 23 row 3.

He was identified by the Germans (Harlingen 1289 (148) as a Maschinengewehrschutze (Airgunner)

Document Harlingen 1292 (73) mentioned that his nationality was U.S.A, however after the war this was altered to Royal Air Force.



In one of the documents (Harlingen 1290 (25) a rank was added (Sergeant).

This unknown Air gunner Sergeant had a JAMAICA shoulder title which suggest he came from Jamaica, which was of course very special in those days as not many people seen such thing, why this is not mentioned in the municipal records I do not known, maybe the Germans did not wanted this.

After checking the CWGC site and several other sources on the internet for the missing Jamaica aircrew members (Royal Air Force/ Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve) during World War II, it seems that of the 54 men who were killed in action the following five are still missing:

Sergeant Allan Dussard Walker, Died 2-3-1942, Alamein Memorial Column 262

Flying Officer Ronald Brown Martin, Died 11-5-1943, Malta Memorial Panel 6 Column 2

Sergeant John Leopold Hamilton, Died 17-5-1943, Runnymede Memorial Panel 152

Flight Lieutenant Hugh Anthony Ballantine Baker, Died 30-7-1944, Runnymede Memorial Panel 201

Aircraftman 2nd Class Percival Elie Gordon, Died 28-2-1945, Ottawa Memorial Panel 4 Column 2

None of other four missing where killed in the European Theatre in 1943, the only one missing in 1943, Flying Officer R.B. Martin was killed during a raid on Catania, Italy according the 1435 Squadron Operation Record Book in the Augusta/Syracuse area.


Which leave the only option open for Sergeant John Leopold Hamilton, who might be the unknown Sergeant who now rest at Harlingen Cemetery grave E 4.16.


Although I could not find a more detailed map, but the one attached shows that the Biscay current  turns in a current that goes through the English channel and then to the North Sea, so that is possible that after six months his body could wash up on the Afsluitdijk.

With the attached information and documents, I would like to ask you if you want to check the records of the unknown buried at Harlingen General Cemetery Grave E.4.16 with that of Sergeant John Leopold Hamilton.


Yours Sincerely


Philip Reinders

Harlingen War Cemetery, Harlingen, Grave E.4.16
Harlingen War Cemetery, Harlingen, Grave E.4.16


Case forwarded in April 2021.

Used sources:


Harlingen Archives

Operation Record Books

National Archives,Kew

ZuyderZee Airwar web site


 Book: Tussen de eerste en laatste saluutschoten.



Case out come: March 2022.

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