Unit: 78 Squadron
Service Number: 147956
Date of Death: 16 July 1943 – Killed in action
Age: 23 years
Cemetery / Memorial: Nogent-Le-Rotrou Communal Cemetery
Grave / Panel Ref.: Plot 33 Grave 1.
Oswald was born on 17th July 1920, the son of John Oswald (Motor Mechanic) [see Footnote below] and Harriet Ann (née Gadd) Marshall, of Ruskington, Lincolnshire. He had an older brother, John Miller, born 17th June 1917, and a younger brother, Derek, born 10th October 1923.
When War was declared in 1939 Oswald was employed as a ‘Clerk Local Government‘ and the family were living on the corner of High Street and Church Street where father John had a Motor Mechanic business. John was also volunteering as a ‘Special Constable‘.
His parents remained in the village and are buried together in Graves 57 and 58, Ruskington Cemetery, New Plot, Section E. Harriett was 80 when she died on 20th July 1968 and John Oswald 90 on his death on 18th April 1979. [Oswald’s brother John was buried in Grave 59 alongside them after his death in June 1981, aged 64.]
Without his Service Papers it is not known when Oswald volunteered for the Royal Air Force. He qualified for Bomber Command and was posted to 78 Squadron, RAF Breighton. He was commissioned Warrant Officer on 7th June 1943 (London Gazette, 10th August 1943, page 3591 – published after his death.)
RAF Breighton is located six miles north-east of Selby between Breighton village and the B1228 from Howden to York, work on this bomber station started late in 1940 and took just over a year to complete.
On the night of 15th/16th July 1943 Oswald was flying in a Halifax, Type II (right), Serial number DT768 and code EY-W, out of RAF Breighton for a mission to Montbéliard in France. At 22.20 on the 15th Oswald’s plane crashed near the village of Nogent le Rostrou, France. He is buried in the local village Cemetery.
The Official record of the loss read:
” Took off at 2220 from Breighton in Halifax II DT768 EY-W for Montbellard. Crashed, due to engine trouble, at Nogent-le-Rotrou (Eure-et-Loir) France, where the two airmen who died lied in the Communal Cemetery [4 P.O.W’s and 1 evader] “
Buried alongside Oswald is Flying Officer 125422 Norman Stewart Matthew REID, Bomb Aimer, also of 78 Squadron, who died in the same plane. Other members of the crew survived, 4 were taken prisoner and the other escaped.
The Official Record of the raid when Oswald was killed reads: “165 Halifaxes, 5 of which were Lost (3.0%). Clear weather conditions and the target was only lightly defended but PFF marked 700 yards beyond the factory and as a result 80% of the bombs fell on the town and only 20% on the target. The raid had no impact on production at the factory.”
His Headstone reads:
“A BEFITTING RESTING PLACE FOR ONE WHO GAVE HIS ALL TO THE CAUSE OF FREEDOM“
N.B. Five other men lie in this village Cemetery with Oswald, 2 more from the R.A.F. and 3 airmen of the Royal Canadian Air Force. They all belonged to the 50th (R.A.F.) Squadron, so presumably died together in the same plane on 25 July 1944. They now lie together in Plot 33. Collective Grave 4-7.
Footnote: Oswald’s father served in WW1 as Pte. 226620 John Oswald Marshall. He enlisted in the Royal Naval Air Service on 13th March 1917, transferring to the RAF on 1st April 1918. John served as an “Air Mechanic” and was transferred to the RAF “G” Reserve on 13th March 1919. He served in France from 20th July 1917 to 5th February 1919.
- I am grateful to ‘The War Graves Photographic Project’ for the photos of Oswald’s Grave and Cemetery.
- Bomber Command Losses Vol 4, page 233.
- The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/6389A
- Oswald is also commemorated on the International Bomber Command Memorial, Lincoln