Halifax L9582 was one of six No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack a railway station at Hamburg on the night of the 30th November / 1st December 1941.
Its seven-man crew comprised:
- John Craig Hamilton (Pilot)
- Clifford Grove Lythgoe (2nd Pilot)
- Jeffrey Arnold Longford (Observer)
- Albert Edward Connor (WOP / AG)
- James Patrick Henderson (WOP / AG)
- John Collins (Air Gunner)
- Walter Roy Stapleford (Flight Engineer)
L9582 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “Aircraft Missing. No news received since leaving base“
Wartime activities relating to the loss
On 1st December 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 30th November / 1st December 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 which is recorded in the squadron’s Operations Record Book:
- 04/12/1941: A telegram from the International Red Cross Society, quoting Berlin information states that F/S Hamilton, P/O Lythgoe, Sgt Longford, Sgt Henderson, Sgt Connor and Sgt Stapleford, slightly injured are all prisoners of war. No mention was made of Sgt Collins.
Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned
JC Hamilton, CG Lythgoe, JA Longford, AE Connor, JP Henderson and WR Stapleford 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 details:
- AE Connor
- Captured: Hamburg 30/11/1941
- Interrogated Dulag Luft Oberursel, Frankfurt Dec-41
- Imprisoned: Stalag VII-A, Moosburg Dec-41 to Aug-42
- Imprisoned: Stalag 383, Hohenfels Aug-42 to Jul-44
- Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VII, Bankau Jul-44 to Feb-45 (Evacuated)
- Imprisoned: Stalag III-A, Luckenwalde Feb-45 to May-45 (Liberated)
- Repatriated: May-45
- JC Hamilton (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Stalag VII-A, Stalag 383, Stalag Luft VII
- CG Lythgoe (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Stalag Luft I, Stalag Luft III
- JA Longford (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Stalag VII-A, Stalag Luft VI, Stalag Luft IV
- JP Henderson (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Stalag VII-A, Stalag Luft I, Stalag Luft VI, Stalag Luft IV
- WR Stapleford (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Stalag VII-A, Stalag 383, Stalag Luft VII
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 show that the remains of J Collins were located at Uetersen New Cemetery.
His remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) at HAMBURG CEMETERY on 12th November 1946 as follows:
- COLLINS, JOHN, Flight Sergeant, ‘905359’, Grave 5A. J. 9.
Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)
Nightfighter Claim: Lt Ludwig Meister, 5./NJG1, Lentfohrden 5 km S Bad Bramstedt (Hummael A) 4000m (Schleswig-Holstein, Germany), 22.21
Note: coned by searchlight batteries of 1. Marine Flak Rgt. and claimed by Marine Flak of 1. Marine Flak Rgt (Halifax near Lentfohrden); also claimed by 1./schw. Res Flak Abt. 267 (Halifax near Lentfohrden) 22.15hrs, (in co-operation with Nachtjagd). Flak claims confirmed by OKL on 29/04/1943, confirmation date claim Lt. Meister unknown
P4 Casualty File
The following casualty file is available at the National Archives:
AIR 81/10608 Sergeant J Collins; killed; Flight Sergeant J C Hamilton, Pilot Officer C G Lythgoe, Sergeant J A Longford, Sergeant A E Connor, Sergeant J P Henderson, Sergeant R Stapleford: prisoners of war; aircraft shot down and crashed at Lentfohrden, Germany, Halifax L9582, 35 Squadron, 30 November 1941.
Local Reporting: On Sunday 30/11/41 Mayor Boge reported a plane crash to the District Administrator in Bad Segeberg. The plane a British Halifax of No. 35 Squadron, was probably hit by flak, and it crashed about 400 metres from the station and burned. The crew were able to escape by parachute and were soon captured. The rear gunner was discovered dead in the aircraft the next morning.
Tim Longford, son of JA Longford (Observer)
Tim Longford, son of JA Longford (Observer) advised: After take off the plane was lacking in air speed but the pilot Hamilton made the decision to go on. They arrived at the target Hamburg 30 minutes late after all other bombers had left. The sky was alive with fighters and T for Tommy was badly shot up. Stapleford was hit in the face and Collins killed. Three of the four engines were on fire and the fuselage was badly damaged. Pilot ordered bale out as plane fell to 16000 feet. My father J A Longford was observer so he jumped first, followed by the rest of the crew and they were captured by trainee youth soldiers.
JC Hamilton Crew circa August 1941 [Courtesy of Tim Langford]
The following link provides information on JC Hamilton’s operational sorties as Captain of a No. 35 Squadron aircraft and the composition of his crew on these sorties