Halifax W7765 was one of eight No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Frankfurt on the night of the 24th / 25th August 1942.
Its seven-man crew comprised:
- Frank Edward Gardiner (Pilot)
- Roger Joseph Teillet (Observer)
- Frederick Walter Graham (Air Bomber)
- William Patrick Ryan (WOP / AG)
- Edward Lawrence Whillock (Air Gunner)
- Palmer Maynard Nerland (Air Gunner)
- Albert Makin (Flight Engineer)
W7765 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “Took off from Graveley to attack Frankfurt. Nothing was heard of this aircraft after take-off”
Wartime activities relating to the loss
On 25th 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 24th / 25th 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 published the following information regarding the crew:
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 178 (Flight 03/12/1942) reported FE Gardiner and WP Ryan as “missing, believed killed in action”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 268 (Flight 26/08/1943) reported FE Gardiner and WP Ryan “previously reported missing, believed killed in action” 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:
- 26/09/1942: Notification received that Sgt Graham, Nerland, Whillock and Makin are prisoners of war. The remainder of P/O Gardiner’s crew, lost on 24th / 25th August are reported killed
- 06/10/1942: Notification received that P/O Gardiner and Sgt Ryan were killed on operations 24th / 25th August 1942
- 03/11/1942: Information received from Air Ministry that P/O Teillet, reported missing on 24th / 25th August 1942, was captured and is now a prisoner of war
Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned
RJ Teillet, FW Graham, PM Nerland, EL Whillock and A Makin 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:
- FW Graham
- Captured: Chalons-Sur-Marne, France
- Interrogated Dulag Luft Oberursel, Frankfurt Aug-42 to Sep-42
- Imprisoned: Stalag VIII-B, Lamsdorf Oct-42 to Jan-45
- Imprisoned: Stalag VIII-A, Gorlitz Feb-45
- Imprisoned: Stalag IX-A, Ziegenhain Mar-45 to Apr-45
- Repatriated: May-45
- A Makin
- Evaded: 25/08/1942 to 03/09/1942
- Captured: Saincaist, France? 03/09/1942
- Interrogated: Dulag Luft Oberursel, Frankfurt Sep-42
- Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III, Sagan Sep-42 to Jun-43
- Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VI, Heydekrug Jun-43 to Jan-44
- Imprisoned: Stalag Luft I, Barth Jan-44 to May-45
- Repatriated: May-45
- RJ Teillet (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Captured: 06/09/1942?
- Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III
- PM Nerland (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VI, Stalag Luft IV
- EL Whillock (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III, Stalag Luft VI, Stalag 357
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 FE Gardiner and WP Ryan were located but show that they were concentrated (reinterred) at CHOLOY WAR CEMETERY as follows:
- GARDINER, FRANK EDWARD, Pilot Officer ‘126870’ Grave 2A. C. 11.
- RYAN, WILLIAM PATRICK, Flight Sergeant ‘904055’ Grave 2A. C. 12.
Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)
Nightfighter Claim: Fw. Heinrich Macke, 7./NJG4, St Hilaire-au-Temple (France), 4300m, 02.00
WR Chorley (Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War)
Believed shot down by nightfighter, whose fire wrecked the port inner engine and started a blaze in the mainplane. Abandoned and left to crash at St Hilaire-au-Temple
Map showing crash site area
Bomber Command Loss Card
- Sudden attack hit aircraft; mainplane badly burned; plane abandoned probably neighbourhood of Chateau-Sur-Maine
- Crashed at St Hilaire-au-Temple
[Courtesy of Paul Gribbons]