Halifax W1050 (06/05/1942)

Halifax W1050 was one of four No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Stuttgart on the night of the 6th / 7th May 1942.

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • Glenn Powell Gardiner (Pilot)
  • Kenneth Whyte Bonnar (2nd Pilot)
  • Alec Henry Fuce (Observer)
  • John Alexander George Firth (WOP / AG)
  • Norman Henry Hood (WOP / AG)
  • Joseph Thomas Stanworth (Air Gunner)
  • John Norman Hindle (Flight Engineer)

W1050 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “Aircraft failed to return; nothing was heard from time of take off”

Wartime activities relating to the loss

On 7th May 1942 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 6th / 7th May 1942”.

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. 165 (Flight 22/10/1942) reported KW Bonnar, NH Hood, JAG Firth, JT Stanworth and JN Hindle as “missing believed killed in action”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 188 (Flight 07/01/1943) reported KW Bonnar, NH Hood, JAG Firth, JT Stanworth and JN Hindle “previously reported missing, believed killed in action” as “now presumed killed in action”

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

Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned

GP Gardiner and AH Fuce 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:

  • GP Gardiner (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III (Sagan)
    • Repatriated:
  • AH Fuce (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III (Sagan), Stalag Luft VI (Heydekrug) and Stalag 357
    • Repatriated:

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 KW Bonnar, NH Hood, JAG Firth, JT Stanworth and JN Hindle were located but show that they were concentrated (reinterred) at NEUFCHATEAU COMMUNAL CEMETERY as follows:

  • BONNAR, KENNETH WHYTE, Squadron Leader ‘39059’ Grave 4.
  • HOOD, NORMAN HENRY, Sergeant ‘976069’ Grave 7.
  • FIRTH, JOHN ALEXANDER GEORGE, Sergeant ‘986458’ Grave 6.
  • STANWORTH, JOSEPH THOMAS, Sergeant ‘1021906’ Grave 8.
  • HINDLE, JOHN NORMAN, Sergeant ‘620185’ Grave 5.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)

Nightfighter Claim: Oblt. Hubert Rauh, 7./NJG4, S Libin 10km SW St Hubert (Belgium), 00.25

Note: Other sources suggest that the claim was credited to Wilhelm Herget; however, Dr Theo Boiten has confirmed that the claim was credited to  Oblt. Hubert Rauh 

Crew Memorial

W1050 Memorial

[Source: luchtvaarterfgoed.be (Photograph © Luc Wittemans)]

Crash Location

Sources suggest that the aircraft crashed into the village, a few metres from the houses, near the Peroy farm. after being shot down by a Luftwaffe fighter plane. Of the seven crew members, two survived by parachuting. They were later taken prisoner by the Germans. The other 5 were buried in the cemetery of Neufchâteau.

Model of W1050

A model of W1050, built in 2018 by John Wilson to commemorate the loss of the aircraft

Notes:

  1. It is understood that the ashes of GP Gardiner were scattered at Neufchâteau Communal Cemetery in 2012 following his death in 2011