Halifax DT801 was one of twenty No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Duisburg on the night of the 12th / 13th May 1943.
It was equipped with Nav Aid Y and was carrying 5 x 1000lb GP and various Target Indicators. Its designated Path Finder role was Backer Up
Its seven-man crew comprised:
- Douglas Julian Sale (Pilot)
- Geoffrey Edward Heard (Navigator)
- Rupert Claude Sawyer (Air Bomber)
- Samuel Angus Moores (Wireless Operator)
- David John Richards (Air Gunner)
- Ross Oliver Elford (Air Gunner)
- Clarence Washington Rowley (Flight Engineer)
The route was Egmond, 5200N 0643E, Duisburg, Noordwijk
DT801 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “This aircraft failed to return, nothing being heard from it after taking off”
Wartime activities relating to the loss
On 13th May 1943 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 12th / 13th May 1943”.
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. 256 (Flight 22/07/1943) reported RC Sawyer and DJ Richards as “missing”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 321 (Flight 16/12/1943) reported RC Sawyer and DJ Richards “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:
- 17/08/1943: Information received from Air Ministry that F/L Sale, missing on 12th / 13th May 1943, arrived in the UK on 11th August 1943
Crew members who survived the crash and evaded capture
DJ Sale survived the crash and evaded capture as follows:
- Landed: Near Oldenzaal
- Evasion Route: Holland / Belgium / France / Andorra / Spain / Gibraltar
- Repatriated: Liverpool 11/08/1943
Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned
GE Heard, SA Moores, RO Elford and CW Rowley survived the crash and were captured, interrogated and imprisoned.
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:
- CW Rowley (POW No. 42788)(*)
- Captured: Crouna (Gronau) Westphalia 13/05/1943 (Injured)
- Hospitalised: Crouna (Gronau) May-43 to Jun-43
- Interrogated: Dulag Luft Oberursel, Frankfurt Jun-43
- Hospitalised: Obermaβfeld Jun-43 to Aug-43
- Imprisoned: Stalag IX-C, Bad Sulza Aug-43 to Sep-43 (Evacuated)
- Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VI, Heydekrug Oct-43 to Jul-44 (Evacuated)
- Imprisoned: Stalag Luft IV, Gross Tychow Jul-44 to Feb-45 (Evacuated)
- “Black March to Stalag 357”: Feb-45 to Apr-45 (Liberated)
- Repatriated: May-45
- GE Heard (POW No. 1407) (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III
- SA Moores (POW No. 1261) (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Stalag Luft I, Stalag Luft VI, Stalag Luft IV
- RO Elford (POW No. 1239) (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Stalag Luft I, Stalag Luft VI, Stalag Luft IV
(*) Research suggests that “Crouna” (as shown on the POW Liberation Questionnaire) should read “Gronau”. In addition, Rowley’s POW Questionnaire shows imprisonment at “Stalag Luft III, Heydekrug” from October 1943; it is unclear which is correct as Stalag III was not at Heydekrug; the sequence recorded above ties in with evacuation dates of Stalag Luft VI (which was at Heydekrug); further research is required
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 RC Sawyer and DJ Richards were located but show that they were concentrated (reinterred) at HAAKSBERGEN GENERAL CEMETERY as follows:
- RICHARDS, DAVID JOHN, Sergeant ‘1418379’ Plot 4. Row 2. Grave 9.
- SAWYER, RUPERT CLAUDE, Flight Lieutenant ‘125574’ Plot 4. Row 2. Grave 8.
Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)
Nightfighter Claim: Oblt. August Geiger, 7./NJG1, Buurse near Haaksbergen (4C), 5200m, 02.20
Evasion Report Numbers (National Archives)
- WO228/3314/1352 DJ Sale
Extract from CJ Rowley’s POW Log
World War II Allied Aircraft Crashes in Holland and the North Sea
- Aircraft crashed in a pasture at the Bramerveldweg about 2km E.N.E. of Buurse, behind the house of farmer AJ Ten Harkel.
- Fuselage and engine parts were recovered in 1976.
Haaksbergen Memorial Plaque