Squadron Leader Richard John Manton
by Linda Ayres
Squadron Leader Richard Manton was the son of Brigadier Lionel Manton of Dower House, Melbourne in Derbyshire. He joined the RAF in 1937, and when the war broke out, he was stationed in India. He served throughout the Burma Campaign returning to England in November 1942.
On Wednesday morning October 20th, 1943, Squadron Leader Manton and the crew of 83 Squadron, based at RAF Wyton, Cambridgeshire were in the briefing room to receive orders for that evening’s bombing raid on Leipzig, Germany. The radio operator received the codes and frequencies, and the navigator received the route to fly and the weather forecast. It was the responsibility of the navigator to plot the route on his map and the wind was the vital factor. The on-board radar equipment at that time was in its early stage, but the archaic equipment did not prevent them reaching their objective on time – a remarkable accomplishment!
Much of the time before a flight the crews remained in the mess and they were fortunate to have an accomplished piano player in Squadron Leader Manton. They would often gather round him at the piano and ask him to play. He was a sensitive man and regularly played melancholic music. Before the crew took off that evening, they asked him to play one of his much-loved pieces of music “Rustle of Spring” by Christian Sinding. That same piano on which he played remains in the mess at Wyton to this day.
At 17.25 that evening Squadron Leader Manton and his crew of six dressed and boarded their Lancaster JB154, which set out from RAF Warboys an outstation of RAF Wyton, near Huntingdon. Squadrons took off from various RAF bases in the UK and grouped together at the North Sea to fly in a straight line over Assen towards Leipzig, and the sound of the very low but loud drone of the bombers filled the air as more than 300 bombers made their way to the city of Leipzig. Their mission was to attack Leipzig in order to destroy the Messerschmitt factory, which was building the famous and deadly BF109 fighter. However, the dreadful weather conditions that night meant that a quarter of the Lancaster Bombers could not fulfil their mission as it restricted the crews’ visibility so they could not see their targets and let their payloads (bombs) go. Squadron Leader Manton and his crew, having successfully carried out their mission, set off on route back to England. Due to the bad weather, they decided to fly low, and when they reached south of Assen near Aneep, a German night fighter shot down the bomber over Assen, and Squadron Leader Richard Manton, along with his crew, lost their lives.
The people of Assen took it upon themselves to bury the British Airmen at Assen Southern General Cemetery, Netherlands, and in 1947, Queen Wilhelmina of Holland visited the graves.
In the 1970s builders, constructing a bypass around Assen, found the Lancaster JB154 propeller. One of the men took it home and kept it in his garage for 20 years, and later the propeller became a memorial piece set up by a group of civilians. The people of Assen were outraged when the memorial went missing. Consequently, on Dutch Liberation Day in 2004, a new memorial was unveiled and the centrepiece is a Lancaster bomber propeller. The local people tend to the graves and every year, local children place flowers on the graves.
Squadron Leader Manton is commemorated on his mother’s grave at Foster Hill Road Cemetery.
Grave Ref: E.51
The memorial bears the inscription:
Squadron Leader Richard Manton No 39599, 83 Squadron, Royal Air Force. Killed during air operation 20/21 October 1943. Aged 30. Son of Lionel Manton, and of Beatrice Manton (nee Ross), of Melbourne, Derbyshire. ASSEN SOUTHERN GENERAL CEMETERY, DRENTH, NETHERLANDS.
Derby Evening Telegraph Oct 28th, 1943
Cambridge News May 12th, 2004
May 21, 2021