Halifax L9560 (02/09/1941)

Halifax L9560 was one of five No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Special Target “B” Berlin on the night of 2nd / 3rd September 1941.

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • DS Fraser (Pilot)
  • RLB Beare (2nd Pilot)
  • JPB Cushion (Observer)
  • D Slater (Wireless Operator / Air Gunner)
  • AH Stroud (Wireless Operator / Air Gunner)
  • E Wilkinson (Air Gunner)
  • N Willingham (Flight Engineer)

The route was Base, Flamborough, Meldorf, Neumunster, Target, Neumunster, Meldorf, Flamborough, Base

Halifax L9560 failed to return from the operation and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “The call sign on approach of the enemy coast on track for target was all that was afterwards heard of this aircraft. It is now officially reported missing” 

Wartime activities relating to the loss

On 3rd September 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 2nd / 3rd September 1941”.

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 Casualty Communique No. 85 (Flight 23/10/1941) reported DS Fraser,  JPB Cushion, D Slater, AH Stroud and N Willingham as “missing believed killed in action”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 121 (Flight 26/03/1942) reported DS Fraser,  JPB Cushion, D Slater, AH Stroud and N Willingham “previously reported as missing believed killed in action” now “presumed killed in action”

Note: Presumption of death enabled a death certificate to be issued; personal belongings could then be sent 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:

  • 05/10/1941: Telegram received from International Red Cross Society through Air Ministry states that PO Fraser and PO Cushion, Sgts Slater, Stroud and Willingham of his crew, missing on operations on 3rd September 1941 were killed and that his second pilot and rear gunner Sgts Beare and Wilkinson are prisoners of war but wounded.

The following letter was sent by No. 35 Squadron to the family of AH Stroud:

letter

Image from “The Empty Bed” Exhibit Booklet

In a further letter (dated 2nd February 1942), the families were informed that Sgt Beare had advised that “after he and Sgt Wilkinson had escaped by parachute, the aircraft was destroyed by an explosion”.

Crew who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned

RLB Beare and E Wilkinson survived the crash and were captured, interrogated and imprisoned for the remainder of the war.

Their POW Liberation Questionnaires, which were completed as part of the repatriation process at 106 Personnel Reception Centre (RAF Cosford) in 1945, show the following:

  • RLB Beare
    • Captured: Nr Berlin (Hit in head by Flak Splinter) Sep-41
    • Hospitalised: Hohemark Hospital, Frankfurt Sep-41
    • Interrogated: Dulag Luft Oberursel, Frankfurt Sep-41
    • Imprisoned: Stalag VIII-B, Lamsdorf Sep-41 to May-42
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III, Sagan May-42 to Jun-43
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VI, Heydekrug Jun-43 to Jul-44
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft IV, Keifheide Jul-44 to Feb-45
    • Imprisoned: Stalag XI-B, Fallingbostel Mar-45 to Apr-45
    • Repatriated: Apr-45
  • E Wilkinson
    • Captured: Nr Berlin (Injured) Sep-41
    • Hospitalised: Berlin Sep-41
    • Hospitalised: Hohemark Hospital, Frankfurt Sep-41
    • Interrogated: Dulag Luft Oberursel, Frankfurt Sep-41
    • Imprisoned: Stalag VIII-B, Lamsdorf Sep-41 to Aug-42
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III, Sagan Sep-42 to Jul-43
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VI, Heydekrug Jul-43 to Jul-44
    • Imprisoned: Stalag 357, Fallingbostel Jul-44 to Apr-45
    • Repatriated: May-45

Post War search for 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.

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 the missing crew members were located at the Doeberitz Standhortfriedhof

l9560-concentration

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

  • CUSHION, JOHN PETER BOSTON, Pilot Officer, ‘88456’,  Joint grave 4. B. 2-3.
  • FRASER, DOUGLAS STEWART, Pilot Officer, ‘88869,’ Joint grave 4. B. 2-3.
  • SLATER, DENIS, Sergeant, ‘755528’, Grave 4. B. 1.
  • STROUD, ARTHUR HENRY, Sergeant, ‘909968’, Grave 4. B. 4.
  • WILLINGHAM, NORMAN, Sergeant ‘922470’, Grave 4. B. 5.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)

Nightfighter Claim: Uffz. Karl Kupfer, 3./NGJ3, South of Kreuzbruch (Brandenburg, Germany) [Coned by searchlights and hit by flak of Flakgruppe Berlin-Nord]


CREW INFORMATION

DS Fraser was posted into the squadron, from No. 58 Squadron on 18th June 1941 – Read More –