Halifax L9600 was one of five No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Cologne [Special Target “C”] on 11th / 12th December 1941.
Its seven-man crew comprised:
- GL Grigg (Pilot)
- HD Buckley (2nd Pilot)
- IR Bell (Observer)
- FW Crocker (WOP / Air Gunner)
- MV Wakeling (WOP / Air Gunner)
- LW Ketteringham (Air Gunner)
- RWG Kent (Flight Engineer)
The route was: Base, Orfordness, Furnes (Veurne), Tournai, Cologne, Tournai, Furnes (Veurne), Orfordness, Base.
L9600 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows the following: “Aircraft Missing; nothing heard since leaving base”
Wartime activities relating to the loss
On 12th December 1941, the squadron informed Bomber Command, the Air Ministry and the RAF Records Office that the aircraft and crew were missing.
A telegram and follow up letters from the Commanding Officer were sent to the next of kin of each crew member advising them that he was “missing as the result of air operations on 11th / 12th 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
As there was no communication with L9600 during the operation, it is assumed that the authorities were not aware that the aircraft had crashed into the sea and did not initiate air-sea rescue procedures.
On 15th December 1941, the body of LW Ketteringham (Air Gunner) was washed up onto the shore at Bredene, Belgium, near the ‘Home Astrid’. He was identified by police inspector Henri Verhelst and buried at the local cemetery the following day.
CWGC records show that his remains were buried at BREDENE CHURCHYARD as follows:
- KETTERINGHAM, LAURENCE WILLIAM, Sergeant, ‘1153499’, Row C. Grave 528.
Note: It is known that the families were informed of this development as correspondence between them refers to this matter.
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 Communication No. 105 [Flight 29/01/1942] reported HD Buckley, IR Bell, FW Crocker, MV Wakeling, LW Ketteringham and RWG Kent as “missing”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communication No. 132 [Flight 28/05/1942] reported LW Ketteringham “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communication No. 151 [Flight 10/09/1942] reported GL Grigg, IR Bell, FW Crocker and MV Wakeling “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 Runnymede Memorial, which was unveiled in 1953.
The remains of the crew members (other than those of LW Ketteringham) were never recovered and, as such, their names are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial as follows:
- BUCKLEY, HUBERT DONALD, Pilot Officer, 104512, Panel 31.
- BELL, IAN REDMAYNE, Flight Sergean,t 581312, Panel 35.
- CROCKER, FRANK WILSON, Sergeant, 911566, Panel 41.
- GRIGG, GERALD LEONARD, Sergeant, 1165305, Panel 44.
- KENT, ROBERT WILLIAM GEORGE, Sergeant, 559083, Panel 46.
- WAKELING, MAURICE VICTOR, Sergeant, 115220′, Panel 54.
Shot down above the Vuurtorenwijk, Ostend and the burning aircraft crashed into the sea in front of the Ostend Lighthouse
Presumption of Death
In the absence of any information on the crew members, the Air Ministry initiated the process of “death presumed for official purposes” in August 1942.
In the case of HD Buckley, this process was hampered by the fact that the family had received the following cable in February 1942 (2 months after the loss), which led them to believe that he was still alive:
Despite extensive research it has not been possible to establish where the message was sent from or why it was dated 2 months after the loss
The following link provides information on GL Grigg’s operational sorties as Captain of a No. 35 Squadron aircraft and the composition of his crew on these sorties