Halifax W7658 (19/05/1942)

Halifax W7658 was one of nine No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Mannheim on the night of the 19th / 20th May 1942.

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • Ronald Walter Valters (Pilot)
  • Sidney Richard Stickney (2nd Pilot)
  • Richard Guy Baker (Observer)
  • George Daft (WOP / AG)
  • Donald George Southwell (Air Gunner)
  • Gordon Kennedy (Air Gunner)
  • William Richard Hunt (Flight Engineer)

W7658 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “Took off from Linton to Mannheim but nothing further was heard; Classified as Missing”

Wartime activities relating to the loss

On 20th 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 19th / 20th 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. 167 (Flight 29/10/1942) reported RW Valters, SR Stickney, G Kennedy and WR Hunt as “missing”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 202 (Flight 18/02/1943) reported G Kennedy “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 214 (Flight 01/04/1943) reported RW Valters, SR Stickney and WR Hunt “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.

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

  • 03/01/1943: Information received from the Air Ministry that the following aircrew personnel, missing on 19th / 20th May 1942 were killed: F/O RW Valters, Sgt Stickney and Sgt Kennedy

Crew members who survived the crash and evaded capture

G Daft and DG Southwell survived the crash and evaded capture.

  • G Daft
    • Evasion Route: Germany / France / Gibraltar (on Sea Wolf)
    • Repatriated: Poole 19/10/1942
  • DG Southwell
    • Evasion Route: Germany / France / Gibraltar (on Sea Wolf)
    • Repatriated: Poole 19/10/1942

Note: DG Southwell’s evasion is covered in a book entitled “Airmen on the run” by Laurence Meynell

Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned

RG Baker survived the crash and was captured and imprisoned for the remainder of the war. His POW Liberation Questionnaire, which was completed as part of the repatriation process at 106 Personnel Reception Centre (RAF Cosford) in 1945, shows the following details:

  • RG Baker
    • Captured: Nancy May-42
    • Interrogated Dulag Luft Oberursel, Frankfurt May-42
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III, Sagan Jun-42 to Sep-42
    • Imprisoned: Oflag XXI-B, Schubin (Poland) Oct-42 to Apr-43
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III, Sagan Apr-43 to Jan-45
    • Imprisoned: Marlag und Milag Nord, Westertimke (Tarmstedt) Feb-45 to Apr-45
    • Repatriated: May-45

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 RW Valters, SR Stickney, G Kennedy and WR Hunt were located but show that they were concentrated (reinterred) at AIGLEMONT COMMUNAL CEMETERY as follows:

  • VALTERS, RONALD WALTER, Flying Officer ‘102574’  Coll. grave 2-4.
  • STICKNEY, SIDNEY RICHARD, Sergeant ‘655741’ Coll. grave 2-4.
  • KENNEDY, GORDON, Flight Sergeant ‘R/69561’ Coll. grave 2-4.
  • HUNT, WILLIAM RICHARD, Sergeant ‘520376’ Grave 1.
w7658-crew

[Source: francecrashes39-45.net]


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)

Nightfighter Claim: Lt. Friedrich Graeff,  9./NJG4, Nr. Aiglemont (France), 00.55

Bomber Command Loss Card

After crossing coast, some flak, 00.45hrs attacked by nightfighter unseen. Hit starboard inner engine. Captain asked 2nd pilot to feather this but he feathered the starboard outer. Could not be restarted and aircraft on dive at 25°. Crashed at 00.50hrs at Aiglemont.

Evasion Report Numbers (National Archives)

  • WO208/3311/922 G Daft
  • W0208/3311/921 DG Southwell

Crew Information

The following link provides information on RW Valters operational sorties as Captain of a No. 35 Squadron aircraft and the composition of his crew on these sorties

RW Valters