Halifax L9572 was one of five No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack the Marshalling Yards at Dusseldorf on the night of the 24th / 25th August 1941.
Its seven-man crew comprised:
- J McGregor-Cheers (Pilot)
- TP McHale (2nd Pilot)
- AAS Heggie (Observer)
- JB Anderson (WOP / Air Gunner)
- J Fuller (WOP / Air Gunner)
- VM Markham (Air Gunner)
- WN Collins (Flight Engineer)
L9572 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “Aircraft was due to return to base at 02.35 hours. As this aircraft had not returned it was called up on R/T at 03.01 and 03.12 hours. Communication was made, but faded and nothing more was heard of it nor was it plotted by the Observer Corps. It is now officially reported Missing”
Wartime activities relating to the loss
On 25th August 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 24th / 25th August 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. 87 (Flight 06/11/1941) reported J McGregor-Cheers, TP McHale, AAS Heggie, JB Anderson, J Fuller, VM Markham and WN Collins as “missing”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 127 (Flight 30/04/1942) reported J McGregor-Cheers, AAS Heggie, J Fuller and VM Markham “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 137 (Flight 25/06/1942) reported TP McHale, JB Anderson and WN Collins “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 sent to the next of kin, along with any monies due
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.
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 do not show where the remains of the crew members were located but show that they were concentrated (reinterred) at CHIEVRES COMMUNAL CEMETERY as follows:
- ANDERSON, JAMES BLAIN, Sergeant, ‘R/54021’, Joint grave 1-2.
- COLLINS, WALTER NORMAN, Sergeant, ‘617140’, Joint grave 4-5.
- FULLER, JACK, Sergeant, ‘987503’, Joint grave 1-2.
- HEGGIE, ALISTAIR ALEXANDER STOBIE, Sergeant, ‘967663’, Joint grave 4-5.[
- MARKHAM, VIVIAN MAXWELL, Pilot Officer, ‘100032’, Grave 3.
- McGREGOR-CHEERS, JACK, Pilot Officer, ‘64889’, Grave 7.
- McHALE, THOMAS PERCIVAL, Sergeant, ‘936804’, Grave 6.
Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)
Nightfighter Claim: Oblt. Heinrich Griese, 1./NJG1, Neuf Maison, 10km S Ath (Belgium), 01.16
P.4 (Cas), Casualty Branch Files (AIR 81/8547)
The following Casualty File is available at the National Archives
AIR 81/8547 Sergeant J Fuller, Sergeant J B Anderson (RCAF), Pilot Officer V M Markham, Sergeant A A S Heggie, Sergeant W M Collins, Sergeant T P McHale, Pilot Officer J McGregor-Cheers: killed; aircraft failed to return from an operational flight over Dusseldorf, Germany, Halifax L9572, 35 Squadron, 25 August 1941.