Hartlepool teenager who died in plane crash at centre of international appeal

The shipyard offices opposite some of the ships in Swainson Dock from the mothball fleet. At the top of the picture is West Hartlepool railway station and beyond is Church Street.
The shipyard offices opposite some of the ships in Swainson Dock from the mothball fleet. At the top of the picture is West Hartlepool railway station and beyond is Church Street.

The people of a French community have launched an appeal to track down relatives of a Hartlepool teenager who died there in a plane crash.

Geoffrey Warren was killed during a wartime raid on August 25, 1944, when his Halifax bomber was hit by flak and smashed into the village of Eperlecques.

The grave of Hartlepool teenager Geoffrey Warren.

The grave of Hartlepool teenager Geoffrey Warren.

None of the air crew survived, and they were buried at a cemetery in St Omer. Now, 72 years later, villagers are to mark their deaths with a special plaque.

“We are planning to unveil the memorial on August 28, and would like Geoffrey’s family represented,” said Joss Leclercq, who organises historical displays.

“I’ve been trying to get in touch with relatives of all the crew, but have so far been unable to trace Geoffrey’s family – hence the appeal.”

Geoffrey, son of Customs and Excise civil servant Charles Alfred and his wife Bessie, was born in around 1925 and lived at 46 Stockton Road, West Hartlepool.

His parents were not originally from the town – Charles hailing from London and Bessie from Ipswich – but the family made Hartlepool their home in the 1930s.

Indeed, the Government’s 1939 register reveals Geoffrey had two siblings living at home at that time – Bessie (born 1913) and junior clerk Charles (1919).

Geoffrey was still at school when was broke out but, by 1944, he was a sergeant in 640 RAF Squadron, serving as a wireless operator and air gunner.

The squadron – part of Bomber Command – had been formed in January that year at RAF Leconfield, East Riding, and equipped with Halifax Mk III bombers.

A bombing raid to Berlin on January 20 formed 640’s first mission and, over the next few months, other raids were carried out across France and Germany.

But, as Geoffrey prepared to attack a rocket-launcher site at Watten, Pas de Calais, on August 25 he had no way of knowing it would be his last mission.

“A total of 1,400 aircraft from RAF Bomber Command were dispatched to attack objectives in Germany and France,” reported one national newspaper afterwards.

Halifaxes and Lancasters attacked several launch sites, as well as long-range rocket sites at Watten. A total of 27 of our bombers are now missing.”

Sadly, Geoffrey was one of “the missing”, together with his six crewmates. A further five men died when another Halifax crashed nearby on the same raid.

“He still rests at St Omer Souvenir Cemetery,” said Joss. “We intend to unveil plaques for both the crew of Geoffrey’s plane and the other lost Halifax.”

Records suggest that Geoffrey’s parents left Hartlepool for a new life down south after his death. It is not known, however, what happened to his siblings.

l Anyone with information on Geoffrey can contact Joss via email at jossleclercq@orange.fr or by writing to: Joss Leclercq, 51 route de Fromelles, 59249, Aubers, France.