April 25, 2018. The story of WWII pilot Elmer Bagnall MUTTART, from Cape Traverse, is unusual in that information keeps coming in, almost 77 years after his death on October 12, 1941. Over several blog entries, you’ve learned about the events of the plane crash just past the village of Wons, The Netherlands, and read an account offered by Sgt John William DUFFIELD, who was the gunner on the flight. We’ve also told you about a visit made to Muttart’s grave in Harlingen by his navigator, Sgt Reg ALEXANDER, and his daughter Pam Alexander.
On October 12, 1941, with his regular navigator Reg Alexander and six other crew members, Muttart began his 21st mission into enemy territory, a bombing raid on Bremen, Germany. The crew members of Halifax L9561 were:
- Pilot – F/S Elmer Bagnall MUTTART (age 23)
- Co-Pilot – P/O Norman Frank TRAYLER (age 21)
- Flight Engineer – Sgt David COTSELL (age 21)
- Flight Engineer – Sgt Leslie Albert ROBERTS (age 25) (previously recorded as bomb aimer)
- Navigator – Sgt Reginald William Purchase ALEXANDER (age 22)
- Wireless Operator – Sgt William Herbert HUNT (age 22)
- Gunner – Sgt George Henry PATTERSON (age 28)
- Gunner – Sgt John William DUFFIELD (age 20)
The plane was shot down and crashed just past the village of Wons, but not before all of the crew members, except for Muttart, had parachuted out. The crew members, all British, spent the rest of the war in various prisoner of war camps. The only casualty of that night was Elmer Muttart.
Over the past year, preparations have been underway for a planned Memorial Panel in Wons to honour the entire crew. Outreach efforts to locate family members of the crew have met with some success, as the family of Reg Alexander and John William Duffield have been in contact. Now, most recently, Robert Trayler, who lives in France, has been in contact regarding his father, Pilot Officer Norman Frank TRAYLER, who was the co-pilot on the flight. Trayler had gotten married on September 20, 1941, just a few weeks before the ill-fated flight that would separate him from his bride for the rest of the war.
After the plane crash in Wons, Trayler spent 4 years at Stalag Luft 3 prisoner of war camp in present day Poland, where he was a member of the prison camp orchestra and was able to write his intermediate accountancy exams, with papers sent over from London. His son Robert recalled that “Dad was elected barrack room cook and centralized all the Red Cross parcels to make something edible every day.”
After his return to England, Trayler moved to Bognor, where he began an accountancy practice, and took up cricket. He passed away on June 19, 2009 at the age of 88. Son Robert explained that “Although I am obviously very proud of what he did during the war, as a family, we always added a dash of humour. As I said at his funeral, he was at least partly responsible for the destruction of three aircraft: A Tiger Moth which couldn’t be persuaded to come out of a spin, a Whitley which while taxiing went up the back of the one in front, chewing off the (happily unoccupied) tail turret, and finally the Halifax.”
Trayler’s obituary noted that his back had been badly injured in a Royal Air Force training accident in a Tiger Moth, and he had taken up cricket to alleviate the pain and keep moving.
We thank Robert Trayler for his recollections about his father, and hope to hear from more family of the crew of the Halifax L9561 flight.
In the next blog entry, we’ll share an excerpt from a 2016 book describing the events of the Halifax L9561 flight.
Photos and stories are still needed for many of the names on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on this blog.
Donations are still being collected towards the ‘Muttart Memorial Fund’ for a memorial panel in Wons, The Netherlands. If you would like to donate, cheques may be written out to TAHS and mailed to Tryon & Area Historical Society (TAHS), PO Box 38, Crapaud PE C0A 1J0. In the subject line, identify your cheque as being for the “Muttart Memorial Fund”. A charitable donation receipt will be sent to all donors.
If you wish to donate and you live in Europe: Bank transfers may be made to Stichting Missing Airmen Memorial Foundation, Bank Account # (IBAN) NL35ABNA0569579856, and state in the subject line “Attn D.S. Drijver for Halifax L9561”.
© Daria Valkenburg