Halifax L9507 (25/07/1941)

Halifax L9507 was one of two No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Berlin on the night of the 25th / 26th July 1941.

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • Ernest Ronald Peter Shackle Cooper (Pilot)
  • John Milne Rigg Cruickshank (2nd Pilot)
  • Robert Victor Collinge (Observer)
  • Albert James Heller (WOP / AG)
  • Douglas James Mennie (WOP / AG)
  • Reginald Arthur Bates (Air Gunner)
  • Ernest Short (Flight Engineer)

L9507 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “This aircraft was not heard of again and is now officially reported missing”

Wartime activities relating to the loss

On 26th July 1941 the squadron informed Bomber Command, the Air Ministry and the RAF Records Office that the aircraft and crew were missing.

A telegram, along with a follow up letter from the Commanding Officer, was sent to the next of kin of each crew member advising them that he was “missing as the result of air operations on 25th / 26th July 1941.

AIR 81/7893 (0123)

A copy of the follow up letter sent out by the Air Ministry Casualty Branch

The crew’s kit and personal belongings were removed from their lockers and catalogued; kit was returned to stores and personal belongings sent to the RAF Central Depository at RAF Colnbrook.

The Air Ministry Casualty Branch, which was responsible for investigating, monitoring and reporting on the status of missing aircraft and airmen, subsequently published the following information regarding the crew:

  • Air Ministry Communique No. 79 (Flight 18/09/1941) reported RV Collinge and DJ Mennie as “missing, believed killed in action”. Also RA Bates, ERPS Cooper, JMR Cruickshank, AJ Heller and E Short as “missing”
  • Air Ministry Communique No. 123 (Flight 09/04/1942) reported RV Collinge and DJ Mennie “previously reported missing, believed killed in action” as “now presumed killed in action”
  • Air Ministry Communique No. 126 (Flight 23/04/1942) reported RA Bates, ERPS Cooper, JMR Cruickshank, AJ Heller and E Short “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”

Note: Presumption of death enabled a death certificate to be issued; personal belongings could then be returned to the next of kin, along with any monies due

No. 35 Squadron’s Operations Record Book shows the following information was received relating to the crew:

  • 16/08/1941: Information received, passed on from International Red Cross Society, that F/S Collinge and Sgt Mennie of PO Cooper’s crew, missing on operations 25th/26th July 1941, were killed

Post War search for the missing crew members

After the war, an investigation officer from the Royal Air Force Missing Research and Enquiry Service (MRES) was tasked with locating the remains of the missing crew member(s).

Original German documents, burial records and eye witness accounts were utilised to establish the location of the crash site, the cause of the loss and the initial fate of the crew; information was recorded in a MRES Investigation Report.

German Record for RV Collinge

As part of the process, any remains that were located were exhumed, identified (wherever possible) and concentrated (reinterred) at one of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) Cemeteries in the country that they fell, in accordance with Government policy at the time.

Graves were marked with a simple wooden cross, which was replaced by the familiar CWGC headstone during the 1950’s.

Missing airmen who could not be found, or formally identified, had their names commemorated on the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede, which was unveiled in 1953.

CWGC records show that the remains of all members of the crew were located at Doberitz Standortfriedhof

l9507-concentration-report

Their  remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) at BERLIN 1939-1945 WAR CEMETERY on 29th October 1946 as follows:

IDENTIFIED

  • HELLER, ALBERT JAMES Flight Sergeant ‘552112’ Grave 8. Z. 1.
  • COLLINGE, ROBERT VICTOR Flight Sergeant ‘581204’ Grave 8. Z. 2.
  • SHORT, ERNEST Sergeant ‘567019’ Grave 8. Z. 3.

COMMUNAL GRAVE

  • MENNIE, DOUGLAS JAMES Sergeant ‘940550’ Coll. grave 8. Z. 4-7.
  • BATES, REGINALD ARTHUR Flight Sergeant ‘751214’ Coll. grave 8. Z. 4-7.
  • COOPER, ERNEST RONALD PETER SHACKLE Pilot Officer ‘87050’ Coll. grave 8. Z. 4-7.
  • CRUICKSHANK, JOHN MILNE RIGG Sergeant ‘1051632’ Coll. grave 8. Z. 4-7.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)

Hit by unidentified Berlin-based Flak and crashed near Brieselang, 7 km. NE Wustermark, time unknown.

P.4 (Cas), Casualty Branch Files

The following casualty file is available at the National Archives:

AIR 81/7893 Pilot Officer ERPS Cooper, Sergeant JHR Cruickshank, Sergeant Collinge, Flight Sergeant AJ Heller, Sergeant DJ Mennie, Flight Sergeant RA Bates, Sergeant E Short: killed; aircraft shot down and crashed near Wustermark, Germany, Halifax L9507, 35 Squadron, 26 July 1941

It provides the following information:

“The Halifax aircraft took off from its base at 10.45 on 25th August 1941 to attack a target in Berlin and failed to return. A telegram from the International Red Cross Committee in Geneva quoting information from Berlin states that six men were killed in a Halifax machine on July 26th, the names of two members of the crew (Mennie and Collinge) being given. As the crew consisted of seven, one man remains unaccounted for”