Two Argentine aviation historians, Claudio Meunier and Oscar Rimondi, have writen a book, Alas de Trueno, recounting the exploits of the nearly 600 Argentine volunteers who joined the British and Allied air forces during WW-II. The book was released on 31 October, 2004. Their research has created considerable local interest leading to several articles in the Argentine press in 2004: Buenos Aires Herald: March 2, and La Nación: March 4 & 7. They also maintain a website, Firmes Volamos, dedicated to the WW-II veterans - it is well worth visiting.
Of particular interest to us is their discovery of Jimmy Watt's crash site in Holland. Until that discovery, the RAF had assumed that Jimmy went down in the North Sea.
Sarah Eno has kindly given us permission to include here the article she wrote for the BA Herald, issued on March 2, 2004.
Flt. Lt. James S. Watt, D.S.O., D.F.C. - R.A.F.
ANGLO-ARGENTINE RAF PILOT HAD BEEN REPORTED AS MISSING IN ACTION
After 60 years, family knows fate of WWII hero
By Sarah Eno
For the Herald
June 22, 2003, marked the 60th anniversary of the disappearance of a young WWII Anglo-Argentine pilot, Lt. James Stanley Watt. Lost on a night mission, he was reported to have gone down while crossing the North Sea. "Missing In Action" (MIA) was the official conclusion of the Royal Air Force (RAF). But Watt's brother, Frank, who was also a pilot in the RAF, and currently resides in Buenos Aires, never gave up the belief that his younger sibling had made it into German territory before disappearing.
He didn't. But thanks to some nifty detective work by two Argentine researchers, Frank Watt now knows his brother did make it to land. Deep in the Alphen woods outside of Tilburg, Holland, Claudio Meunier, official historian of Argentine Veterans of the RAF, and Oscar Rimondi, aeronautical investigator, found the remains of Watt's Stirling aircraft, forever dispelling the official story that this young war hero had been lost over water to enemy fire.
Lieutenant James Stanley Watt, DSO, DFC was born in Córdoba in 1920, raised in Buenos Aires, and trained in Canada before being commissioned, in 1941, as a volunteer in the RAF. He flew a Short Sterling Bomber [& more] in No. 7 Squadron based at Oakington, Cambridgeshire, and was twice decorated by King George VI for his heroic deeds, most notably when he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his successful navigation back to England, after having been hit by anti-aircraft fire over Düsseldorf.
On the night of his disappearance, June 22/23, 1943, Watt's squadron was given a particularly difficult mission. They were to bomb the chemical plants and metal works in the industrial city of Krefeld. To reach their target, they had to fly over some of the Germans' heaviest artillery stationed in the ironically named "Happy Valley." Their job was to locate and fire on the plants thereby marking them for subsequent bombing. In order to get close enough, they had to fly between, not above the German artillery, and then, having marked the targets, they had to get out as quickly as possible to avoid the subsequent bombing.
It was an ill-fated night for No. 7 squadron. While approaching the coast, three of its planes were shot down, the last of which was captained by Watt. Intercepted in the air by a young captain of the Luftwaffe named Walter Milius, Watt's aircraft was also hit from below by anti-aircraft artillery. When one of the engines caught fire Watt lost control of his aircraft.
Watt's nephew (and Frank's son), Jimmy Watt, who resides in British Columbia, Canada, says: "My Uncle Jimmy was last seen by one of his surviving crew who managed to parachute when Jimmy gave the order to bail out. [This crew member saw him] trying to head his Stirling Bomber towards land, but lost sight of him over the North Sea.
Remnants of the other two planes shot down were recovered, but Watt's was never found. The official verdict was that his plane had fallen before reaching German territory.
Meunier, 33, who resides in Bahia Blanca [Argentina], was intrigued by the incongruity of the official report. He undertook to solve the mystery more than four years ago when he first "detected a shroud of silence surrounding the young officer's disappearance." Armed only with official documents describing the event and his fervent belief that Watt had been underestimated, he set out to crack the case.
Assuming that Watt had indeed reached the coastline, Meunier and Rimondi concluded that descriptions of "the ostensible crash zone as it had been delineated in 1943 had to be discarded." They hypothesized that the actual crash zone was more likely near the town of Tilburg. Pursuing this hunch, they traveled to Holland where, together with Dutch partner Adriaan Van Riel, and equipped with metal detectors, the men took to the woods.
Buried under 60 years worth of debris, they found remains which, after careful analysis, were confirmed to be those of Watt's aircraft. The scant artifacts were sent back to Argentina and donated to the Old Georgian's Club, a group of alumni of St George's School in Quilmes, where they are in the temporary custody of Geoffrey Edbrooke.
The family is immensely satisfied, and proud. A long lost son has finally received the closest thing possible, after so many years, to a return to his rightful resting place.
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ROYAL AIR FORCE VOLUNTEER RESERVE.
GENERAL DUTIES BRANCH:
17th Oct. 1941.
1386084 James Stanley WATT (110643).
Air Ministry, 2nd October, 1942.
ROYAL AIR FORCE.
The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the following awards in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy: —
Distinguished Flying Cross.
Pilot Officer James Stanley WATT (110643), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 7 Squadron.
Air Ministry, 9th July, 1943.
ROYAL AIR FORCE.
The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the following awards: —
Distinguished Service Order.
Acting Flight Lieutenant James Stanley WATT, D.F.C. (110643), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 7 Squadron.
© Peter Benitz (Benitz Family)