Halifax W1226 (18/08/1942)

Halifax W1226 was one of ten No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Flensburg on the night of the 18th / 19th August 1942.

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • JW Smith (Pilot)
  • CS Crutchley (Observer)
  • RG Humphreys (Air Bomber)
  • GA Brassey (Wireless Operator)
  • RF Wall (Air Gunner)
  • AJO Leo (Air Gunner)
  • WB Cooper (Flight Engineer)

The route (for PFF aircraft) was Base, Cromer, north of 5400N 0500E, Amrum, Target, turn right, north of 5400N 0500E, Cromer, Base

W1226 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “Took off from Graveley to attack Flensburg; nothing further was heard of this aircraft”

Wartime activities relating to the loss

On 19th 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 18th / 19th August 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 provided No. 35 Squadron with the following information:

  • 19/09/1942: Notification received that Sgt Smith and his crew, lost on 18th / 19th August are all prisoners of war.

Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned

JW Smith, CS Crutchley, RG Humphreys, GA Brassey, RF Wall and WB Cooper 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:

  • GA Brassey
    • Captured: Denmark 20/08/1942
    • Interrogated: Dulag Luft Oberursel, Frankfurt Aug-42
    • Imprisoned: Stalag VIIIB, Lamsdorf Aug-42 to Feb-45
    • Imprisoned: Stalag XIII-C, Hammelburg Feb-45 to Mar-45
    • Imprisoned: Stalag 383, Hohenfels Mar-45 to Apr-45
    • Repatriated: May-45
  • JW Smith (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag VIII-B, Stalag 344
    • Repatriated:
  • CS Crutchley (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag VIII-B, Stalag 344
    • Repatriated:
  • RG Humphreys
    • Captured: Denmark 18/08/1942
    • Imprisoned: Stalag VIII-B, Stalag 344 Aug-42 to Jan-44
    • Imprisoned: Stalag VII-A (sic VIII-A), Gorlitz Jan-44 to May-45
    • Repatriated: May 1945
  • RF Wall (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag VIII-B, Stalag 344
    • Repatriated:
  • WB Cooper (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag VIII-B, Stalag 344
    • Repatriated:

AJO Leo also survived the crash and was captured, interrogated and imprisoned (Stalag VIII-B, Stalag 344). On 20th August 1944, the I.G. Farben factories at Monowitz were bombed by B-17’s of the 15th USAAF and a number of working party prisoners, including AJO Leo, were killed.

Note: It is unclear whether RG Humphreys moved to Gorlitz in January 1944 or in January 1945 (when the camp was evacuated), but the Questionnaire clearly shows 1944. He also states that he swapped identities with VF Bevan (NZ Army) on an unknown date, so it may be that he went to Gorlitz as Bevan, rather than Humphreys. At this stage, it has not been possible to find any additional supporting information which would clarify this matter

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 AJO Leo were located at Auschwitz.

ajo-leo-concentration

His remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) at KRAKOW RAKOWICKI CEMETERY on 15th July 1948 as follows:

  • LEO, ARTHUR JOHN OWEN, Warrant Officer, ‘778694’,  Grave 1. C. 12.
ajo-leo-flenstead-eu-com

 [Source: flensted.eu.com]


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)

Nightfighter Claim: Fw. Herbert Altner, 5./NJG3, 1km ESE Sønderborg (Denmark), 4000-4800m, 00.08

Bomber Command Loss Card

Under fire from flak when attacked by fighter which it shot down. Second fighter followed and aircraft badly shot up.  Eventually down in sea. One wing set alight by second fighter and controls went

RG Humphrey’s POW Liberation Questionnaire

Attacked by fighters while circling to bomb Flensburg. First attack (according to the pilot) disabled the rudders. Second attack set the starboard wing on fire. Pilot ordered bale out. Was picked up by Danish youths who took me to a house where they informed the police and I was taken to Sonderborg and interrogated. I was then handed over to the German Air Force

Note: It is unclear whether Ralph moved to Gorlitz in January 1944 (as stated in his POW Liberation Questionnaire) or in January 1945 (when the camp was evacuated). He also states that he swapped identities with 32930 VF Bevan (NZEF) on an unknown date, so it may be that he went to Gorlitz as Bevan, rather than Humphreys. At this stage, it has not been possible to find any additional supporting information which would clarify this matter


Notes:

  1. More details at flensted.eu.com