Letters Home - A Tribute to Sgt. Alfred Marland  

Alfred Marland, RAFVR, while in training.

 Alfred was born in Astley near Manchester, but moved to Preston in 1936 when his father took up the position of grounds man at Hutton Grammar School. This was also the school Alfred attended before leaving aged 16 to start employment at County Hall in Preston. He was a member of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and was called up some time after June 1940. He was unmarried and had one sister, Doris.

 During the week of Alfredís 21st birthday, he took part in the first 1000 bomber raid over Cologne before being killed in action, with the rest of his crew a couple of dayís later.

 In his letters home from Balderton, he describes his worry over trying to wash his clothes but for such a young man he is very optimistic in his letters and enjoying celebrating his birthday.

In a last poignant and evocative letter he describes the mission and the bombing of Cologne, before setting out on his night operation of 1st June 1942 to Essen, which was to be his last. Before this letter reached the post office,( it is franked 0915 2nd June), he had lost his life at the age of twenty-one.

A Dutch War Aircraft salvage expert has confirmed that Alfredís Hampden was recovered in 1961 during the draining of the "Polders" at the Southern end of the IJsselmeer. It was found 50 miles south of the position claimed by the German fighter pilot, Vollkopf (a full 20 minutes flying time away) and without itís bombs on board. Although this expert was not personally involved in this recovery, he claims that it could not have been Vollkopf who shot down the plane. Indeed it was most likely that the crew were on their way back from the target. Therefore it is likely that Vollkopf made a false claim of shooting down the plane, the official records show only one Hampden lost that night and it was claimed by a flak battery.


Letter from Alfred - May 28, 1942

Dear Mother, Dad & Doris,

Thank you very much for your very nice birthday card, kind wishes and cigarettes. Despite the fact that I have reached the age of supposed reasoning I donít feel more than a day older than I did on the 26th and not very much wiser. I spent my birthday in unhappy anticipation of an operational trip which, as usual, was scrubbed at a late hour. Not too late however, to visit Newark for the purpose of celebrating with the crew.

Today the weather clerk has put out a normal programme-bags of storm clouds-a 45 mile an hour gale and frequent showers. Despite these conditions we are detailed to operate but I have no doubt that everything will be scrubbed at an inconvenient hour. Surprisingly I fancy a trip tonight-knowing the nature of it-a few more hours off the 200 would be very gratifying.

With regard to your oft asked question of the cigarettes which were sent just prior to my leave, it grieves me to inform you that the cigarettes in question never found their way into my possession-in other words they were either lost in the post or swiped. I havenít suffered unduly and the matter has become a past worry, if ever a worry at all. My only problem at the moment is my laundry-the facilities offered in camp are hopelessly inadequate and I am at a loss to know where to send my now very dirty shirt, collar and handkerchiefs. If ops are scrubbed tonight I shall bow to the inevitable and wash them myself. I am enclosing a savings book-a gift from Auntie Sally-will you please acknowledge safe receipt. I canít think of any news at the moment-tea is waiting and after that I have to go to a briefing so hoping you are all well as I am here Iíll say cheerio for now

Love to all

Alfred xxxx

P/S Are you receiving all my letters o.k?



The "200" which Alfred refers to was the 200 Operational Hours that were required to be flown before a tour of operations was deemed to be complete.



Letter from Alfred - May 31, 1942

Dear Mother, Dad and Doris,

By now you will have read and heard all about the mass attack last night on Cologne, well-in the words of the War illustrated "I was there". If there is very much left of this German city I for one will be greatly surprised. however I will tell you about this historical event some other time. I have to report for duty again now. I am in good health-a little tired after last nightís work maybe, but otherwise sound and I hope you are all likewise

Cheerio for now &

Love to all

Alfred xxx


This was the first thousand bomber raid by Bomber Command


Letter from Alfred 1st June 1942

(Postmarked Newark, 9:15 a.m., June 2, 1942, Notts.)

Monday 1st June 1942

Dear Mother, Dad & Doris,

Having recovered a little of my equilibrium after Saturday nightís party I can now proceed to tell you something about it.

At six oíclock we were gathered together in the briefing room knowing that something "big" was in the air. We were greatly startled when out group captain informed us that we were to operate with over a thousand bombers against the city of Cologne-but somehow we tingled with pleasant excitement. At eleven oíclock we took off and were soon making a steady course for the North Sea, which we duly crossed without incident. On all sides we could see all types of bombers-just dull black shapes-some silhouetted against the moon, gleaming. At length we crossed the enemy coast and our real vigil commenced-the menace of enemy fighters being foremost in our minds.

Here and there searchlights probed enquiringly around the sky, sometimes accompanied by flak, but always at a reasonable distance from our trusty Hampden. Very soon Sandy announced the "lights" of Cologne were in sight and at this point our fun really started. Brilliant moonlight and a cloudless sky combined to make visibility perfect and we had no difficulty in seeing every detail of this once proud city. We flew along the Rhine-avoiding many inquisitive searchlights, picked our spot, and it was difficult to find a spot which wasnít already burning fiercely, and dropped our load of incendiaries. Without making false claims I can say that we watched our bombs rain down on Cologne and start many more fires. We turned and set course for home and for an hour Pat and I in the back, stared fascinated at this monstrous bonfire. When we reached the Dutch coast we could still see the huge red glow in the sky and we were convinced that never before has such destruction been wrought in the air. Though I feel sorry for the German civilians I must say that if we pursue our present policy, destroy each Nazi city in like manner, they will at some date be unable to bear any more.

We have claimed our forty eight hour passes but due to the present exigencies of the service, are unable to get them yet. Still time is going by and very shortly my seven days leave will be due-I hope to have almost completed my ops by then. As we have been standing by every day my social life has been unduly interrupted and in consequence I have no "news of the town" for you. However when this horrid moon goes down, we should get a night or two off, in which case it will be "Nottingham here I come" At the moment I am overburdened with money, a queer thing says Dad-and will relieve myself of some when I can get into Newark before the Post Office closes. Here,enclosed is a P.O. from Auntie Betty. Have plenty of chocolate for you, Mam which I will send if we donít get the 48 hour. I hope everyone at home is well as I am here, and will close for now until next time when I should have more exciting things to tell you about.

Cheerio & love to all

Alfred xxx

The Crew of Hampden 1 AT191,Eq-A of 408 squadron left their base at Balderton at 2258 on June 1, 1942. It is claimed that they were shot down by a night-fighter (lt Karl-Heinz Vollkopf),11,/NJG2) and crashed into the Ijsselmeer.

The Crew

P/O William Charlton RAFVR ,Pilot, aged 22 and son of Clement & Sarah Charlton

P/O Cyril Sandland, "Sandy",RAFVR, Observer

Sgt Alfred Marland RAFVR,W/Op/A/G aged 21 and son of Robert & Mary Marland of Hutton,Lancs.

F/S FrederickWomar, DFM, W/Op/A/G

F/S Womar had previously served with 144 Squadron and his award was gazetted on 17th January 1942.At the time of his death he was flying his 56th sortie. His citation reads:

From Air2/9250

 "This NCO has carried out 27 operational trips making a total of 165.35 hours of flying. His work has been steady and he has proved himself an operator of courage and determination. On many occasions, it has been due to his skill and courage as an operator that the aircraft has returned to base in very adverse weather conditions. On all trips on which he has been the wireless operator, his work and courage have continuously had the highest praise from other members of the crews".

 P/O Charlton is buried in Harderwijk General Cemetery while his crew lie at Amersfoot (Oud Leusden) General Cemetery.


Alfred's grave.


"At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember him. Mother, Dad and sister Doris"


 It was to take the Air Ministry until September 1942 to ascertain that Alfred had been killed rather than just "missing".

 Officialdom was to prove itís insensitivity by, as early as the 18th June 1942 sending Alfredís mother a letter detailing when a portion of the pay that Alfred had arranged to be paid directly to her, was to be stopped. Further letters followed to ensure that his pay book was handed back on time. Through all this heartbreaking time, no-one could tell the families where their sons had been buried. It took nearly another four years for this information to finally arrive. The family was sent a receipt for 10 shillings for having an inscription on the headstone. Alfredís father paid for this to ensure that their own personal message was inscribed on his head stone.

 The author would like to thank Anthony Mcfarlane and the family of Alfred Marland for permission for his letters home to be transcribed and also for the photos.