Halifax W1100 (31/07/1942)

Halifax W1100 was one of thirteen No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Dusseldorf on the night of the 31st July / 1st August 1942.

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • Cyril Charles Spencer (Pilot)
  • Ronald Casey (Observer)
  • Walter Alfred Elliot (Air Bomber)
  • Harold Clarke (WOP / AG)
  • Bertram Stanley Braybrook (Air Gunner)
  • Robert Thomas Morris (Air Gunner)
  • Caudray Albert Charles Pithers (Flight Engineer)

W1100 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “Took off from Linton to attack Dusseldorf and failed to return; nothing was heard of this aircraft after leaving base”.

Wartime activities relating to the loss

On 1st August 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 31st July / 1st August 1942.”.

Brayrook Letter.JPG

Extract from a letter sent to the family of BS Braybrook

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. 274 (Flight 09/09/1943) reported RT Morris and BS Braybrook as “killed in action”

No. 35 Squadron’s Operations Record Book shows the following information was received relating to the crew:

  • 08/09/1942: Notification was received that Sgt Spencer and his crew have been taken prisoners of war except for Sgt Morris and Braybrook who were reported dead.

Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned

CC Spencer, R Casey, WA Elliott, H Clarke and CAC Pithers 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:

  • CC Spencer (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag VIII-B, Stalag 344, Stalag Luft III
    • Repatriated:
  • R Casey (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag VIII-B, Stalag 344, Stalag Luft III
    • Repatriated:
  • WA Elliott (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag VIII-B, Stalag 344
    • Repatriated:
  • H Clarke (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag VIII-B, Stalag 344
    • Repatriated:
  • CAC Pithers (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag VIII-B, Stalag 344
    • 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 BS Braybrook and RT Morris were located. However, a wartime letter (in BS Braybrook’s file), shows that initial burial was in the Cemetery of Flushing (Isle of Walcheren) with RT Morris in Grave 74 and BS Braybrook in Grave 75

The CWGC records show that they were concentrated (reinterred) at FLUSHING (VLISSINGEN) NORTHERN CEMETERY as follows:

  • BRAYBROOK, BERTRAM STANLEY Sergeant ‘403470’  Row C. Grave 13.
  • MORRIS, ROBERT THOMAS Sergeant ‘1230755’ Row C. Grave 12.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

WR Chorley (Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War)

Hit by flak over the target and later crashed at 03.45 near Serooskerke on Schouwen, Holland

Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)

Hit by flak over Dusseldorf by 1./schw. Flak Abt. 404, 2./schw. Flak Abt. 407, 2. & 3./schw. Flak Abt. 133, 3./schw. Flak Abt. 151. Crashed near Serookerke on Schouwen at 03.45 hours.


Research Notes

  1. BS Braybrook’s personnel and casualty files are digitised (and therefore available online) at the National Australian Archives