Surface Sites - Memorials

Christ Church Portsdown

Sergeant Pilot Noel John Lake RAFVR

 Created 17-08-2005   Last update 17-08-2005

The Beginning

This tale, like so many other accounts on this website began by chance. I was researching  Sergeant HH Adair when Mike Dobson, a contributor, told me there was a stained glass memorial to an RAF Pilot in Christ Church who was killed during the Second World War. It turned out that the window had no connection with Adair but was for a Sergeant Pilot Lake. The windows were not included in the church's official history and no one connected with the church could remember the origins of the memorial. I thought this was quite sad especially when you consider the event was still within living memory. I decided to do something about it and here are the results.


The Pilot

Sergeant Pilot Noel John Lake, service number 1164974, was the son of Frank Ernest and Mary Emma Louise Lake. He was married to Kathleen Lily Lake who came from Shirley in Warwickshire. His regiment was the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve Unit where he was attached to 57 Squadron.


The Squadron

Number 57 Squadron was part of Bomber Command and was originally formed at Copmanthorpe, Yorkshire, on 8 June 1916. From the 20 November 1940 until 4 September 1942 the Squadron was part of 3 Group based at Feltwell Norfolk where it flew Wellington bomber aircraft on night time operations against Germany. The Commanding Officer at this time was Wing Commander J M Southwell. The squadron later became part of 5 group based at Scampton where it was re-equipped with Avro Lancasters. 


The Aircraft

The Vickers Armstrong Wellington was a twin-engine, medium bomber designed in the mid-1930s at Brooklands in Surrey by R.K.Pierson. Popularly known as the "Wimpey", it was widely used in the first two years of World War II before being replaced as a bomber by much larger four-engine designs like the Avro Lancaster.
The Wellington used a unique geodetic construction designed by the famous Barnes Wallis for airships. The fuselage was built up from a number of steel channel-beams that were formed into a large network which was covered with doped fabric. As a consequence of the design the aircraft had a reputation of being capable of sustaining severe damage which would have downed other aircraft of the time.


The Mission

At 21:10 hours on 6 September 1941 Sergeant Pilot Lake lifted Wellington 1c 8794-DX-Z off the runway of RAF Feltwell. His mission was to attack a chemical works - probably a synthetic rubber factory - 300 miles away at Hüls near Düsseldorf Germany. The known aircrew comprised of:

Sergeant Pilot NJ Lake
Sergeant Pilot BA Clark RNZAF
Observer Sergeant HM Elder
Wop./ Ag Sergeant GW Richardson
Wop./ Ag. Flight Sergeant JA Brooks
RNZAF = Royal New Zealand Air Force. Wop = Wireless Operator. Ag = Air Gunner

Two 57 Squadron Wellingtons were lost on the operation, one of them was Sergeant Pilot Lake's - he was 25 years old. The date of his death is recorded as 6 September 1941 on the stained glass window in Christ Church. The War Graves Commission 7 September 1941 which is probably when the body was identified.


The Resting Place

Sergeant Pilot Lake is buried at the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery which was created after the Second World War when burials were brought in from all over western Germany and is the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the country. There are now 7,495 identified Commonwealth servicemen of the Second World War buried or commemorated in the cemetery which is 3 miles southwest of Kleve.


 The inscription that started it all off on the stained glass window on the south wall of Christ Church. 

Double stained glass window

 These are the two stained glass windows on the south wall dedicated to the Pilot. The left one is topped by the RAF crest and shows the Pilot standing in the grounds of the Church. To the right of the pilots head are a formation of twin-engined aircraft.

The right pane contains the inscription shown in the previous photograph.

Photo: Mike Dobson


Wellington Bomber  

 A Wellington II bomber aircraft similar to that flown by Sergeant Pilot Lake. They suffered heavy losses during WWII. 11,460 were eventually built.

Riechswald Cemetery

 The Riechswald Forest War Cemetery near Kleve, Germany where Sergeant Pilot Lake is buried along with his aircrew.

Photo: CWGC

grave yard

 The pilot's father Frank Ernest Lake is buried at the rear of the Church in plot E10 so it can be assumed that it was the parents who provided the stained glass memorial.