Lost Cousins: Sergeant Thomas Findlay MCCLAY (1923-44)

A Halifax B Mk III in flight (IWM)

img_2851-copySgt Thomas Findlay MCCLAY, RAF Volunteer Reserve, 1795998, 432 (Royal Canadian Air Force) Squadron, presumed killed in action in Holland on 28 May 1944. He is commemorated at the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey, England.

Thomas MCCLAY was part of the eight-man crew of flight LK811, one of the planes tasked with bombing the military camp at Bourg-Leopold (in Belgium) on the night of 27/28 May 1944. It is not known what caused the plane to come down near Budel in Holland, but it is likely it was shot down.  Four of the crew, including McClay, were presumed killed, two were captured and taken as prisoners of war, and two escaped. LK811, a Halifax B Mk III, flew out of RAF East Moor (located near York) with a crew of British, Canadian and American-born airmen.

The crew:

  • Flight Engineer: Sgt John CLARKE, RAF Volunteer Reserve, 1300857. Presumed killed. He was born in 1921 in Keighley, Yorkshire, to parents Albert CLARKE and Cecilia BOGAN. He was the youngest of three children, and the only son. Commemorated at Runnymede.
  • Bomb Aimer: P/O Donald Elliott RUTHERFORD, RCAF, J/26725. Evaded capture. Born c.1922 in Ontario to parents the Rev Forbes John RUTHERFORD and Dora May RICHARDSON, after the war he was ordained as a minister. Married to Marion Blanche HICKEY, they had five children and he died on 21 Sep 1988.
  • Wireless Operator / Air Gunner: Sgt Walter S ROWAN, RAF, 1344656. Evaded capture for a short time, but later taken as a prisoner of war to Stalag Luft 7 in Bankau, Upper Silesia (now Poland). May be the Walter ROWAN born 1922 in Wakefield, Yorkshire, to parents Walter ROWAN and Lucy CARTWRIGHT (the elder of their two children), and who died in 1986.
  • Air Gunner: Sgt Thomas Findlay MCCLAY, born on 20 Mar 1923 in the Waterside area of Londonderry to parents Thomas Finlay MCCLAY and Mary Jane (Jennie or Jeanie) HUTCHINSON. He was the eldest of seven children, the youngest of whom was born a few months before Thomas’s death.
  • Air Gunner: P/O Herbert Henry RODGERS, RCAF, R/57959, later J/89733. Presumed killed. Born 14 Jun 1920 in Eccleshall Bierlow in Yorkshire, to parents Herbert RODGERS and Jennie Marie BROWN. The family later emigrated to Canada, and, according to his death certificate, Herbert was married at the time of his death. Commemorated at Runnymede.
  • Sgt Robert Seymour (Bob) HALL, RCAF, R/158758. Captured as a prisoner of war and taken to Stalag Luft 7 in Bankau, Silesia (now Poland). Born on 31 May 1915 in Illinois, and died Jul 1976 in McLean County, Illinois. He married Agnes ODELL in 1947, and they had several children.
The day before the fatal mission: Aircrew and groundcrew of 432 (RCAF) Squadron with a Halifax B Mk III, RAF East Moor, 26 May 1944

Other sources used include: Newspapers from BAnQ‘The Long Road’ by Oliver Clutton-Brock and Raymond Crompton, 2014; FamilySearch; FreeBMD; Library and Archives Canada WW2 Collections and the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.

(Photograph 1 from Imperial War Museums Collections (c) IWM (HU 92965); Photograph 2 from Library and Archives Canada Faces of the Second World War database (c) Royal Canadian Airforce (R.C.A.F.))


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