No.50 & No.156 SQUADRON


Basil’s father was Basilius Petrides who had Greek Ancestry (his relatives originated from the Island of Symi) and was educated at Dulwich College in England, the same school that Basil attended. He was a businessman who worked in Nicosia, Cyprus before retiring to run a small holding in East Sussex, England. Basil Petrides initially joined the RAF as a Sgt and served a tour of duty with No.50 Squadron, at RAF Waddington, as a Wireless Operator – Airplane Gunner (WoAG) in Handley Page HP.52 Hampden twin-engine bombers. He flew his first mission, a mine-dropping mission known as “Gardening” in RAF slang, during the night between 18/19 May 1941, joining P/O Abbot's crew manning the AD.852. He flew his second operational sortie 13 days later, on 2/3 June, targeting Dusseldorf. The bomber reached its target and dropped the bombs from 13,000 ft with poor visibility. The flak was heavy and accurate, and shrapnel destroyed the centre panel of the pilot’s windscreen. Petrides and the rest of the crew were lucky this time and headed for their base, landing almost 7 hours after their takeoff. Basil flew 17 more missions till the end of August, flying with various bombers and occasionally with different crews. On 27 August 1941 Basil and his crew were scheduled for a bombing mission, flying the Hampden X.2991 but they crashed on take-off, however without anyone injured. It was a close call considering that the bomber was fully armed with bombs. Meanwhile, the No.50 Squadron had already moved to Swinderby on the 19th of July 1941. September was going to be quite intense for Basil. The month began with a Gardening mission during the night between 6/7 September 1941 and one day later he flew a bombing sortie against Kassel, attached to P/O Smith's crew. Despite excellent weather conditions with no clouds, good visibility, and a bright moon, the primary target was not found. On E.T.A. a large town was found on the side of a river believed to have been Hersfeld. After dropping bombs from 2,000 ft, the railway lines and sidings were machined gunned by Sgt Petrides and Sgt. Hudson inflicting further damage. The opposition was very little, and the bomber escaped back to England. Two nights later, on 12/13 September 1941, the same crew were lucky. The target was Frankfurt. The weather conditions were a little cloudy with moderate visibility over the target area. A gliding attack was made from 11,000 ft to 5,000 ft, with bombs being seen to burst, however, one bomb failed to drop. The aircraft was caught on a cone of 40 searchlights and all types of flak shot up against Hampden AE.251, but it managed to get out intact.

Petrides left from the squadron flying schedule for almost a month, probably enjoying a well deserved leave, after 21 missions. He came back to Waddington and flew again on 12/13 October 1941, in Squadron Leader's Potts crew in AE.306 for a bombing mission against a Synthetic Fuel Factory in Huls. Their aircraft dived on target but was caught in the searchlights, and the flak opened up. They released the bombs from 2,200 ft and while taking evasive action they took a hit which was heard as a sharp crack. Several minor hits were sustained but the airplane and its crew escaped unscratched. Basil Petrides flew 7 more missions before his tour ended. During his last sortie, he was flying with P/O Smith crew in P.2094. The mission was to intrude on the searchlight belt and bomb targets in Belgium. They successfully did this and they dropped their bombs near Maastricht while Sgt. Petrides and Sgt. Petterson machine gunned searchlight effectively. On their return journey, the aircraft was hit over Antwerp, and the port engine and petrol tanks were holed.  For his actions with the No.50 Squadron was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM) for his bravery/professionalism on this tour. His citation stated at the time:

"This airman has displayed outstanding ability as a WoAG throughout the many sorties in which he has participated. One night in September 1940, Sergeant Petrides machine-gunned trucks and wagons in a railway siding and set two of them on fire, On another occasion in November he used his guns with such good effect that he extinguished six searchlights. This airman has not had a wireless failure in any operation in which he has been engaged. He has shown great keenness and set a fine example".

His award was reported in The London Gazette on 10th February 1942.

Petridis 9a
Young Basil poses happily wearing his bomber jacket, most probably during his tour with the No.50 Squadron (Jeremy Prescott). 
Basil in front of his car, during his first tour of duty as Sergeant. (Battle and District Historical Society)
No.50 Squadron Handley Page Hampden B. Mk. I P2094, VN-Z was the bomber Basil Petrides flew in one of his sorties for which he was awarded the DFM. During his last sortie with his tour with the Squadron, on the night of 7/8 August 1941 flying with P/O Smiths crew he and the second gunner, Sgt. Petterson, successfully machine-gunned and destroyed searchlights after their bomb run. The bomber had the typical Dark Earth / Dark Green / Night finish with medium Sea Gray codes and Dull Red serials as well as 'B' type roundels above the wings. Interesting to note are the toned-down white of roundels and fin flashes. (copyright Richard Caruana further info from Alan W. Hall, "Handley HAMPDEN Page and HEREFORD" book)    


Later he was posted to 101 Sqn on 21/7/43 from No.30 O.T.U. as Signals Leader and flew 9 combat sorties. He was attached to the School of Air Sea Rescue, Blackpool, from 9 to 22 September 1943 and was posted to 103 Sqn on 12 November 1943. While on 103 Sqn, he flew one more operational sortie. Shortly afterward, he gained a commission, was promoted to Fl/Lt, and eventually joined No.156 (Pathfinder) Squadron as a Radio Operator flying out Avro Lancasters of RAF Warboys in Cambridgeshire. He joined the Squadron in December 1943, and he was attached to Fl/Lt MacKay crew, recently posted from No.101 Squadron. Basil flew his first mission in Lancaster III JA.702, against Berlin on 20 January 1944. The next day was Magdeburg on ND.422 this time and a few days later, during the night of 27/28 January, it was Berlin again. Flying one more time the ND.422, McKay began his run after reaching his IP. Shortly after they were attacked by a German night fighter which caused some damage. The pilot had wire tied around his back to the control column due to damage to the elevator trim. They pressed their attack, dropped the bombs from 20,000 ft height, and turned back home. Petrides and the rest of MacKay's crew dropped behind from the flying schedule a couple of weeks and returned to action on 12 February 1944 for a bombing mission against Berlin, manning the Lancaster III ND.345 which they completed. They were also successful on their next mission three days later, targeting Leipzig. Unfortunately, Basil’s luck abandons him on 20 February 1944. It was the first day of a series of attacks from both USAAF 8th Bomber Command and RAF Bomber Command on strategic targets against Germany by day and night, known as the Big Week. The Allied bombers unloaded some 19,000 tons of bombs on the German aircraft industry in a coordinated round-the-clock offensive. However, the losses were high for both attacking forces with 224 American and 157 British bombers failing to return in just a week of sustained operations. During the RAF Bomber Command attack against Stuttgart, 598 bombers attacked losing just 9 or 10 bombers, including Petrides Lancaster III ND.345 which was shot down by flak. All the crew were killed apart from the pilot Donald Mackay who was blown through the windscreen, landed safely, and was captured a few days later. He was then sent to Stalag Luft 3 and at the end of the war was repatriated to his home in Canada.  The losses for the RAF could be much higher. Still, a formation consisting of 156 aircraft, supported by night intruder Mosquitos over Nachtjagd airfields acted as a faint bomber force that confused the Germans. Basil and the rest of the six crew members who died are buried in a line, each with individual headstones, in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Rheinberg Germany. Basil was only 22, had been married for only 3 months to Anne Merriel Stallebrass from East Dean on 19th November 1943, and never met his son Alan who was born in November 1944. Basil O. Petrides passed to eternity along with thousands of Bomber Command crews who gave their life for freedom. His memory is also honored in a Stone Plaque dedicated to him in the English Church in Kyrenia, Cyprus as well as on the war memorial at Ewhust Green and the memorial at Holy Trinity Church, Sydenham. 

A beautiful wartime photo of Sergeant Basil O. Petrides wearing his Battle Dress. (Jeremy Prescott)
No.156 Squadron Lancaster Mk. III ND345, GT-C was flown by Donald Kenzie Mackay's crew, which Basil Petrides attached during his second tour of duty, after his commissioning. After they successfully attacked Stuttgart on 20 Feb 1944, during their return leg they were hit by flak (some other sources mention a night fighter attack) and all crew perished except the pilot Flt. Lt MacKay, who was dropped clear through the windscreen when the bomber exploded. He was captured and became a POW in Stalag Luft III. (Copyright Bertrand Brown aka Gaetan Marie)  


Petrides 2
Fl.Lt. Basil Petrides DFM
Age 22
Petrides 5
F/O James Moffat DFC
Age 24
Petrides 7
P/O Ronald Halperin DFC
Age 22
Petrides 4
Sgt. John Reed
Age 23


Petrides 3
Sgt Gerard Roche
Age 35
Petrides 1
Sqn Ldr. Andrew Muir DFC
Age 32
(Jeremy Prescott)
Petridis 15
The headstone of Basil O. Petrides in Rheinberg War Cemetery. (Des Philippet via www.findagrave.com)
Screenshot 2024-02-17 at 9.25.55 PM
The stone plaque in memory of Basil Petrides in Kyrenia, Cyprus. (Jeremy Prescott)
The final resting place of the ND345 crew is in Rheinberg War Cemetery. (https://www.cwgc.org/)
Petrides 6
The sole survivor of the ND345 was his pilot, Donald Kenzie Mackay RCAF (C/4002) (Jeremy Prescott)


MissionTarget / Notes
15018/19 - 05 - 19416:50Hampden AD.852GardeningForget - Me - Not Area
25002/03 - 06 - 19416:50Hampden AD.852BombingDusseldorf, Germany
35011/12 - 06 - 19414:40Hampden AD.852BombingDuisburg, Germany
45012/13 - 06 - 19415:30Hampden AD.854BombingCologne, Germany
55016/17 - 06 - 19416:00Hampden AD.977BombingCologne, Germany
65024/25 - 06 - 19417:35Hampden AD.836BombingKiel, Germany
75002/03 - 07 - 19416:35Hampden AD.977BombingDuisburg, Germany
85006/07 - 07 - 19416:30Hampden AE.157BombingMünchen, Germany
95010/11 - 07 - 19410:50Hampden AE.157Bombing (RTB)Cologne, Germany
105017/18 - 07 - 19417:50Hampden AD.852BombingCologne, Germany
115020/21 - 07 - 19415:42Hampden AD.854BombingCologne, Germany
125023/24 - 07 - 19418:00Hampden AD.854BombingFrankfurt, Germany
135025/26 - 07 - 19417:45Hampden AD.854BombingHanover, Germany
145008/09 - 08 - 19418:05Hampden AE.115BombingKiel, Germany
155012/13 - 08 - 19416:20Hampden AE.115BombingMagdeburg, Germany
165017/18 - 08 - 19416:45Hampden AE.231BombingBremen, Germany
175025/26 - 08 - 19416:40Hampden AE.231BombingManheim, Germany
185027/28 - 08 - 1941-Hampden X.2991Bombing (Crashed on Take Off)-
195029/30 - 08 - 19417:15Hampden AE.115BombingFrankfurt, Germany
205006/07 - 09 - 19417:45Hampden AE.251GardeningOnions Area
215008/09 - 09 - 19413:50Hampden AE.251BombingKassel, Germany
225012/13 - 09 -19416:45Hampden AE.251BombingFrankfurt, Germany
235012/13 - 10 -19416:10Hampden AE.306BombingHuls, Germany
245020/21 - 10 -19414:15Hampden AE.231BombingBremen, Germany
255023/24 - 10 -19417:42Hampden AE.427BombingKiel, Germany
265026/27 - 10 -19416:15Hampden AE.427GardeningForget - Me - Not Area
275029/30 - 10 -19414:09Hampden AE.386BombingSchipol, Holland
285031-10/1-11 - 19419:30Hampden P.1802GardeningForget - Me - Not Area
295004/05 - 11 -19416:00Hampden AE.427BombingEmden, Germany
305007/08 - 11 -19417:00Hampden P.2094BombingAntwerp, Belgium
3115620 - 01 - 19446:53Lancaster III JA.703BombingBerlin, Germany
3215621/22 - 01 - 19446:17Lancaster III ND.422BombingMagdeburg, Germany
3315627/28 - 01 - 19447:40Lancaster III ND.422BombingBerlin, Germany
3415615 - 02 - 19446:49Lancaster III ND.345BombingBerlin, Germany
3515619/20 - 02 - 19446:55Lancaster III ND.345BombingLeipzig, Germany
3615620/21 - 02 -1944-Lancaster III ND.345Bombing (KIA)Stuttgart, Germany



The author would like to thank Jeremy Prescott, nephew of Basil O. Petrides, Theo Boiten, Andrew Phedonos, and Nick Hector for their help as well as Georgina Doherty from the Battle and District Historical Society. Also, we would like to thank Richard Caruana for permitting us to use the Hampden profile he created some years before for another publication, however, it was one of those bombers in which Petrides gained his DFM award. We couldn't be more grateful.


1.     Dimitris Vassilopoulos correspondence with Jeremy Prescot, Oliver O. Petrides nephew

2.     No.50 Squadron Operation Record Books

3.     No.156 Squadron Operation Record Books

4.     Nachtjagd Combat Archive 1944 – Part One – 1 January – 15 March. Theo Boiten. Red Kite Publications. ISBN97819065922608

5.     Handley Page HAMPDEN and HEREFORD. Alan W. Hall. Warpaint Series No.57. Warpaint Books LTD. 2000

6.    Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War 1944. William R Chorley   

7.     https://battlehistorysociety.com/

8.     https://www.rafcommands.com

9.     https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/

10.   https://www.cwgc.org/

11.   http://lewishamwarmemorials.wikidot.com/person:petrides-basil-oliver

12.   https://www.findagrave.com/

13.   http://www.rafupwood.co.uk