Halifax W1105 was one of eighteen No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Bremen (Operation Millennium Two) on the night of 25th / 26th June 1942.
Its seven-man crew consisted of:
- Herbert Gordon Badger Mays (Pilot)
- Sydney John Harding (2nd Pilot)
- Ronald Harry Birch (Observer)
- Stanley Frank Hazleton (WOP / AG)
- Arthur John Selby (Air Gunner)
- Ronald Willis Fisher (Air Gunner)
- Robert George Gumbley (Flight Engineer)
The route was: Egmond, Target, Osterholz Scharmbeck, 5415N 0500E
W1105 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “Took off from Linton for Bremen; nothing was heard of this aircraft after it left base”
Wartime activities relating to the loss
On 26th June 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 25th / 26th June 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. 150 (26/08/1942) reported HGB Mays, SF Hazleton, AJ Selby, RW Fisher and RG Gumbley as “missing”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 256 (14/07/1943) reported HGB Mays, SF Hazleton, AJ Selby, RW Fisher and RG Gumbley “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 next of kin, along with any monies due.
The squadron’s Operations Record Book shows that the following information was received relating to the crew:
- 30/08/1942: Notification received from Air Ministry that R Birch is a prisoner of war; also that HGB Mays, SF Hazleton, AJ Selby, RW Fisher and RG Gumbley are reported killed.
Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned
R Birch and SJ Harding 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:
- R Birch (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III
- SJ Harding (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Stalag VIII-B, Stalag 344
Post War search for 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 HGB Mays, SF Hazleton, RW Fisher, RG Gumbley and AJ Selby were located at Oldenburg New Cemetery.
Their remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) at SAGE WAR CEMETERY on 28th March 1947 as follows:
- MAYS, HERBERT GORDON BADGER Flying Officer ‘104520’ Coll. grave 1. C. 1-3.
- HAZLETON, STANLEY FRANK Pilot Officer ‘128445’ Grave 1. C. 4.
- SELBY, ARTHUR JOHN Sergeant ‘1177286’ Coll. grave 1. C. 1-3.
- FISHER, RONALD WILLIS Sergeant ‘1058488’ Grave 1. C. 5.
- GUMBLEY, ROBERT GEORGE Flight Sergeant ‘156458’ Coll. grave 1. C. 1-3.
WR Chorley (Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War)
Hit by flak at 14,000ft and crashed near Oldenburg (Oldenburg in Oldenburg, Germany)
Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)
Hit by 2./Res.Flak.Abt. 117, 2./Res.Flak.Abt. 265, 1./Res.Flak.Abt. 334 and 1,3 & 4/Res.Flak.Abt. 231. Crashed near Colmar II-Nordmentzhausen at 02.21 hours