Halifax HR678 (14/04/1943)

Halifax HR678 was one of seventeen No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Stuttgart on the night of the 14th / 15th April 1943.

It was equipped with Nav Aid Y (H2S) and carrying 2 x 1000lb, 4 250lb (incl. TI) and 24 flares. Its designated Path Finder role was Backer Up

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • Ronald Edward Wilkes (Pilot)
  • Terence Gordon O’Shaughnessy (Navigator)
  • Ronald Wheatley (Air Bomber)
  • Frederick Hay (Wireless Operator)
  • Frank Walter Vincent (Air Gunner)
  • Michael Albert Edward Bradford (Air Gunner)
  • Thomas Laurie Brown (Flight Engineer)

The route was 5000N 0115E, 4909N 0920E, Target, 4840N 0908E, 4858N 0420E, 5000N 0115E

HR678 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “This aircraft failed to return; no messages received”

Wartime activities relating to the loss

On 15th 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 14th / 15th 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. 245 (Flight 24/06/1943) reported RE Wilkes and F Hay as “missing, believed killed in action”; also R Wheatley and  MAE Bradford as “missing”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 562 (Flight 24/01/1946) reported MAE Bradford “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”

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

  • 09/06/1943: Information received from the Air Ministry that F/S O’Shaughnessy, F/S Vincent and Sgt Brown are prisoners of war

Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned

TG O’Shaughnessy, FW Vincent and TL Brown 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:

  • TG O’Shaughnessy (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III, Stalag Luft VI, Stalag 357
    • Repatriated:
  • FW Vincent (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III, Stalag Luft VI, Stalag 357
    • Repatriated:
  • TL Brown (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft I, Stalag Luft VI, Stalag 357
    • 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 show that the remains of RE Wilkes, R Wheatley, F Hay and MAE Bradford were located at Niederlustadt Cemetery, Germersheim District, Königreich Bayern

hr678-concentration-report

Their remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) at RHEINBERG WAR CEMETERY on 14th May 1948 as follows:

  • BRADFORD, MICHAEL ALBERT EDWARD, Flight Sergeant ‘411478’  Coll. grave 8. C. 12-15.
  • WHEATLEY, RONALD, Flying Officer ‘412053’ Coll. grave 8. C. 12-15.
  • HAY, FREDERICK, Flight Sergeant ‘1002505’ Coll. grave 8. C. 12-15.
  • WILKES, RONALD EDWARD, Pilot Officer ‘141103’ Coll. grave 8. C. 12-15.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)

Nightfighter Claim: Hptm. Heinrich Wohlers, Stab IV./NJG4, Niederlustadt (Bergziege), 5000m, 00.23

Map showing locations

Map showing loss area and original burial location