Halifax DT806 (10/04/1943)

Halifax DT806 was one of nineteen No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Frankfurt on the night of the 10th / 11th April 1943.

It was equipped with H2S and was carrying 1 x 1000lb HE, 4 x TI (Red) and various flares. Its designated Path Finder role was Ground Marker

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • George Frank Lambert (Pilot)
  • John Richard Jones (Navigator)
  • Vernon Reginald Matthews (Air Bomber)
  • Ronald Arnold Kempsell (Wireless Operator)
  • Reginald Albert Nason (Air Gunner)
  • Samuel James Knight (Air Gunner)
  • Anthony Claude Beddoe (Flight Engineer)

The route was 5000N 0132E, Oppenheim, Frankfurt, 5015N 0840E, 5000N 0132E.

DT806 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “This aircraft failed to return and was not heard of after leaving base”

Wartime activities relating to the loss

On 11th April 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 10th / 11th April 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. 241 (Flight 17/06/1943) reported VR Matthews and AC Beddoe as “missing, believed killed in action”; also SJ Knight and RA Nason as “missing”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 348 (Flight 24/02/1944) reported VR Matthews and AC Beddoe “previously reported missing, believed killed in action” as “now presumed killed in action”; also SJ Knight and RA Nason “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:

  • 03/06/1943: Information received from Air Ministry that Sgt Jones, missing on 10th / 11th April 1943, is a prisoner of war; also that Sgt Nason and Sgt Knight of the same crew were killed
  • 16/12/1943: Information received from Air Ministry that F/O Lambert, missing on 10th / 11th April 1943, is safe in a neutral country

Crew members who survived the crash and evaded capture

GF Lambert survived the crash and evaded capture as follows:

  • Evasion Route: France / Switzerland / France / Spain / Gibraltar
  • Repatriated: Whitchurch (24/02/1944)

Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned

JR Jones and RA Kempsell 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:

  • JR Jones
    • Captured: Heziers, France (12/04/1943)
    • Interrogated: Dulag Luft Oberursel, Frankfurt Apr-43
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft I, Barth Apr-43 to Nov-43
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VI, Heydekrug Nov-43 to Jun-44
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft IV, Gross Tychow Jun-44 to Feb-45
    • Imprisoned: Stalag IIB, Fallingbostel Mar-45 to Apr-45
    • Repatriated: May-45
  • RA Kempsell (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft I, Stalag Luft VI, Stalag Luft IV
    • Repatriated:

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 VR Matthews, SJ Knight, RA Nason and AC Beddoe were located but show that they were concentrated (reinterred) at FLEIGNEUX COMMUNAL CEMETERY as follows:

  •  BEDDOE, ANTHONY CLAUDE (TONY) Sergeant ‘904734’  Coll. grave.
  • KNIGHT, SAMUEL JAMES Sergeant ‘1311941’ Coll. grave.
  • MATTHEWS, VERNON REGINALD Flying Officer ‘122220’ Coll. grave.
  • NASON, REGINALD ALBERT Sergeant ‘1397903’ Coll. grave.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)

Nightfighter Claim: Lt. Helmut Bergmann, Stab III./NJG4, Near Fleigneux 5 km N Sedan (France) (8A), 3600m, 01.40

WR Chorley (Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War)

Outbound at 16,000ft, shot down by a nightfighter and crashed at Fleigneux

Evasion Report Numbers (National Archives)

  • WO228/3318/1785 GF Lambert