"To Keep in Memory"

Sgt. D. Froggatt

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224 Sqn Badge
224 Sqn Badge

 

SERGEANT DOUGLAS EDWARD FROGGATT

No. 1213956, Wireless Operator / Air Gunner, 224 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

Presumed Killed in Action, 7 June 1944

23 years

Son of Mr and Mrs Froggatt, of Main Street, Scholes, Leeds

No known grave, therefore, commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial, Egham, Surrey. Panel 229

A Liberator Aircraft of the type operated by 224 Sqn
A Liberator Aircraft of the type operated by 224 Sqn

 

 

Douglas Edward Froggatt was born in Leeds in the first quarter of 1921. He was the second son of John Wilmot Froggatt, who was originally from Laisterdyke, in Bradford, and his wife, Annie May Monkhouse. John and Annie had married at St James’s church in Manston in 1916. At the time, John was working as an engineer, but in February 1917, he was called up for the Army, and served until the end of the great War with 2/6th Bn, the Durham Light Infantry, reaching the rank of sergeant. His brother, James, served as a Sapper with the Royal Engineers.

John and Annie’s first son, John William Raymond Froggatt was born at the end of 1918.

The Froggatt family arrived in Scholes in 1930, living on Main Street, above the shop premises next door to the Barleycorn Pub. Mr Froggatt was in business as a coal merchant and general grocer. His sons both worked for their father, and so did Mrs Froggatt’s brother, Edward Monkhouse.

Mr Froggatt was also the Props Master for the Scholes Village Players amateur dramatics group.

Douglas Froggatt was a Sergeant Wireless Operator/Air Gunner with 224 Squadron of Coastal Command, based at RAF St Eval in Cornwall at the time of his death. He had trained at No. 4 (Coastal) Operational Training Unit at RAF Alness, on the Firth of Cromarty in Scotland, and was posted from there to 224 Sqn on 16th September 1943.

On his arrival at 224 Sqn, Sgt Douglas Froggatt was allocated to a crew led by Flight Lieutenant Sweeny, flying Consolidated Liberator aircraft. The crew began flying together on 3rd October 1943, starting with an air test, and then they progressed to bombing training, Armaments testing at RAF Talbenny, in Pembrokeshire, and fighter affiliation training before their first operation flight on 2nd November 1943. The operation was to be an anti-submarine sortie, but it had to be cut short as the weather at RAF St Eval had turned bad. Three days later, the crew was hunting submarines in the western English Channel. After twelve hours with no contact with the enemy, the aircraft returned to base.

Flight Lieutenant Sweeny was posted away from the squadron to Coastal Command Headquarters on 12th November 1943, and was replaced by Flying Officer Ethan Allen, an American, born in France in 1919 of a French mother and American father, in the Royal Canadian Air Force. His home was the village of Nassau in New York State, south east of Albany. He was married to Martha Ester Allen of Tujunga, a suburb to the north of Los Angeles in California.

Flying Officer Allen made his presence felt immediately, and on only his third operational sortie with his new crew, a U-Boat was sighted which they attacked with the Liberator’s machine guns and depth charges. The depth charges straddled the submarine, and the tracer rounds from the aircraft’s machine guns were observed to strike the conning tower, silencing the machine gun fire that the submarine was putting up. For his skilful flying and determined efforts to attack the U-Boat, Flying Officer Allen was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Later that week, the crew attempted to attack another U-Boat that had been spotted, and despite making two passes of the German boat, the depth charges would not release, so the attack had to be aborted after markers were dropped in the position.

The rest of the patrols made by the crew in January 1944, and the first in February were uneventful, and unproductive as far as opportunities to engage the enemy were concerned. On 8th February 1944, the aircraft came under fire from an unseen vessel, forcing the pilot to take evasive action, and in so doing, he accidentally released a depth charge. There was no damage to the Liberator and none of the crew was injured.

Sergeant Douglas Froggatt was killed on 7th June 1944. The Liberator took off from RAF St Eval at 21:39 to patrol the western English Channel, looking for U-Boats. It was armed with twelve 250lb depth charges. No radio contact or signals from the aircraft were received. The aircraft failed to return.

Coastal Command of the Royal Air Force operated in a very different way to the other commands, such as Fighter, Bomber and Transport Commands, in that their operational flights were usually undertaken by single aircraft, flying alone, over the sea, far enough from land to be unobserved. The flights undertaken by 224 Sqn were, except for the departures and returns, carried out in darkness, and lasted anything up to 14 hours. The aircraft kept in touch with their home stations by radio, unless there was a danger that enemy ships and submarines would intercept their radio traffic, in which case, they would remain silent, until it was safe to transmit messages. Because of this, Coastal Command aircraft were truly alone in the dark, in a very hostile environment. Many of the operations logs tell of missions being flown at under 1000 feet above the sea. Flying at such low levels gave very little room for error, and it is said that judging height over water, especially calm water on a moonless night is difficult in the extreme. The pilots and crews depended on each other’s vigilance and expertise to keep themselves safe. The missions were both physically and mentally exhausting, and this was managed, to some extent, by limiting the operational flying each crew did. Usually a crew would do no more than two operational sorties in a week, with their training flights being much more frequent. Training acted as a sort of decompression for the crews. It gave them a chance to fly in a relatively safe environment, where they could concentrate more on keeping their skills at their peak of effectiveness than on keeping out of the water while searching the skies for enemy aircraft intent on shooting them down, and scanning the water for enemy vessels which might try to do the same.

 

Name_Runnymede.jpg
Douglas Froggatt's name on the Runnymede Memorial

 

 

Unlike a bombing raid, where the entire squadron would fly in close formation, and casualties could be seen and reported, those flights of Coastal Command either made it home, or they died. Very few crews that ditched in the sea were captured. When an aircraft failed to return from operations, generally, nothing was known of where or how it met its fate, and the crews were posted as ‘Missing from Operations’, but in reality there was little hope of them ever being seen again.

Sergeant Douglas Froggatt was posted missing, and a notice to that effect appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Post on 9th June 1944. His death was finally presumed by the Royal Air Force, and that notice appeared almost a year later, in April 1945. His grave is the sea, somewhere in the western English Channel, off the French coast.

Sergeant Douglas Edward Froggatt is now commemorated at the Runnymede Memorial, with his crew-mates and more than 20000 other men and women of the aerial forces who operated out of the air bases in the United Kingdom and north-western Europe during the Second World War, and have no known grave. Among their number is one Victoria Cross recipient, and five George Cross recipients, including Section Officer Noor Inayat-Khan of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, who was employed as a Special Operations Executive agent who organised resistance fighters in France, but was ultimately betrayed and captured. She gave no information to the Gestapo, which interrogated her, and initially, but briefly, treated her according to the protections due to Prisoners of War. Due to her consistent refusal to give information and her repeated escape attempts, she was ultimately transported to the Dachau Concentration Camp, where she was shot. Of the men from 224 Squadron who were killed during the war, 165 of the 239 are remembered at Runnymede.

 

The Runnymede Memorial, near Egham in Surrey.
The Runnymede Memorial, near Egham in Surrey.

Remembering the Fallen of Two Villages on the Eastern Fringes of Leeds.

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