Date: 23/11/1940
Squadron Code: TR-V
Serial Number: Blenheim IV R2783
Flight/Mission Details:

Base: Thorney Island
Take off time: 1535 hrs.
Op: Lorient.

Shot down by a German Me109 into the Channel. P/O. Beelaerts van Blokland, from the Netherlands and his crew are commemorated on the Runnymede memorial.


Update May 2015: I have recently been contacted by Robert Cattle, nephew of Sgt. John Woodcock. He submitted the following in memory of Sgt. Woodcock and his crew. Thank you Robert.

"Sgt. John Carey Woodcock, Observer, RAF.
(RAF Reg. No. 580991).

John was the son of Spencer and Gracie Woodcock. John was born 26th. December 1919. His older sister and brother were Mary and Raymond, his younger brother was William.

He must have joined the Royal Air Force in 1939 after the outbreak of the war with Germany in that year. John started to fly in Bristol Blenheim bombers in 1940. Until earlier in that year he had been in Sunderland Flying Boats at a number of different bases including Shetland Isles. But he saw an opportunity to fly in "land craft" and he took it.

During May 1940, the Blenheim squadrons had been taking a heavy pounding from the German fighters. It had a crew of three: Pilot, Observer (navigator), and Air Gunner. The gunner was perched atop the fuselage and he was able to spin has cabin around to meet the enemy to protect the aeroplane. Underneath there was no such protection. John's was a Blenheim lV, numbered R2783, TR-V.

It was on 23 November, 1940 when, with other Blenheims, John set off from the Thorney Island base. He had to navigate across the Channel to bomb Lorient on the coast of France. His pilot was Pilot Officer JCE Beelaerts Van Blokland from the Netherlands (RAF Reg No. 78859), and Warrant Officer LS Carvil (RAF Reg. No. 549762) was air gunner. They took off at 1535hours. It is reported that they ran into fighters escorting a convoy (ships). Another Blenheim had been able to fly into cloud and had escaped unharmed. John's pilot was obviously unable to do so and was thought to have been shot down by a Messerschmitt Me109 - into the English Channel. They never returned.

The families of those who had been lost had hoped for a long time that the crew may have been captured. There were entries in newspaper announcements to the effect that "we await news and we are thinking of you". Mrs Joan Van Blokland wrote to John's mother, Gracie Woodcock, from Andover to express mutual sorrow at their disappearance and the hope of their capture. She had never been apart from her husband for such a long time. Both the Air Ministry and fellow airmen had continued to hope; and they all asked for any information to be passed on. But as time wore on, it became clear that there was to be no return.

John and his fellow crew members' names are recorded In Memoriam at the Runnymede memorial to those lost airmen of no known grave.

John was but a month from his 21st birthday...

The twin-engined Bristol Blenheim was developed in the 1930s in response to a challenge to build ‘the fastest commercial aeroplane in Europe. The chief designer at Bristol had already designed a 240mph aircraft. It was this that would become the Bristol Blenheim bomber. It was developed eventually to reach the ‘mark lV’ version by the outbreak of war.  On the outbreak of war on 3 September, 1939, a squadron of 15 of them set out to perform the RAF’s first bombing raid of what would become World War ll.

Robert Cattle.


Newspaper clippings of the raid sent in by Robert Cattle - From the Daily Mail Nov. 1940


Crew Details:

All lost:

Source: C/C Losses - McNeill

During WWII, the RAF used three-letter codes to identify their aircraft from a distance. Two large letters were painted before the roundel, which signified the squadron to which the aircraft belonged, and another letter was painted after the roundel which indicated the individual aircraft. Aditionally, there was the individual serial number for each aircraft, which was painted in a much smaller size, usually somewhere at the rear of the aircraft: (more)

Codes used by RAF 59 Squadron:

PJ Sep 1938 - Sep 1939
TR Sep 1939 - Oct 1942
1 Aug 1943 - Jul 1944
WE Jul 1944 - Oct 1945
BY Oct 1945 - Jun 1946, Dec 1947 - Oct 1950