Halifax W7700 was one of eight No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Nuremberg on the night of the 28th / 29th August 1942.
Its seven-man crew comprised:
- Frederick John Taylor (Pilot)
- Albert Cook (Observer)
- Garfield James Phillips (WOP / AG)
- Max Feindel Robbins (WOP / AG)
- Herbert Sidney McCartney (Air Gunner)
- Patrick William Tucker-Feltham (Air Gunner)
- Graham Francis Bush (Flight Engineer)
W7700 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “Took off from Graveley to attack Nuremberg; nothing has been heard of this aircraft since”.
Wartime activities relating to the loss
On 29th 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 28th / 29th August 1942”.
Extract from letter to the family of MF Robbins
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. 177 (Flight 26/11/1942) reported FJ Taylor, A Cook, GJ Phillips, MF Robbins, PW Tucker-Feltham, HS McCartney and GF Bush as “missing”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 275 (Flight 09/09/1943) reported FJ Taylor, GJ Phillips, MF Robbins, PW Tucker-Feltham and GF Bush “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.
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 all the crew members were located at Montcornet Military Cemetery.
The graves were exhumed and the MRES team were only able to formally identify Robbins and McCartney. As such their remains were concentrated (reinterred) at MONTCORNET MILITARY CEMETERY on 3rd February 1948 as follows:
- ROBBINS, MAX FEINDEL, Flight Sergeant ‘R/65294’ Row M. Grave 1.
- McCARTNEY, HERBERT SYDNEY, Sergeant ‘1354651’ Row M. Grave 2.
- BUSH, GRAHAM FRANCIS, Sergeant ‘990047’ Row M. Coll. grave 3-6.
- COOK, ALBERT, Flying Officer ‘J/6152’ Row M. Coll. grave 3-6.
- PHILLIPS, GARFIELD JAMES, Sergeant ‘929901’ Row M. Coll. grave 3-6.
- TAYLOR, FREDERICK JOHN, Pilot Officer ‘J/15649’ Row M. Coll. grave 3-6.
- TUCKER-FELTHAM, PATRICK WILLIAM, Flight Sergeant ‘909105’ Row M. Coll. grave 3-6.
Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)
Nightfighter Claim: Lt Friedrich Graeff, 9./NJG4, 2 km SE Soize, 35 km NE Laon, 3400 m, 02.46
Extract from MRES Report
This investigation arose from a Gendarmerie report, which stated that on August 29th 1942, a heavy 4 engined bomber marked “Halifax” crashed at SOIZE with a crew of 7, all of whom were killed and buried at MONTCORNET.
I first visited the cemetery at MONTCORNET and found seven graves registered by 71 GRU as containing 7 unknown, killed in action on August 29th, 1942.
I then, visited the village of SOIZE and interviewed many people but was unable to discover any further information. The aircraft burned fiercely, and the German’s forbade the local inhabitants to approach the wreckage. Hence they did not know the identity of any of the crew.
I then visited the brigade Headquarters at MONTCORNET and in conjunction with this case, was shown a piece of paper marked W7700, which I was assured was the number of the Halifax which crashed at SOIZE.
[Source: Robbins Service File, Canadian Archives]
Route not known
MF Robbins’ Initial Grave Marker