Halifax HR793 (29/05/1943)

Halifax HR793 was one of twenty-one No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Wuppertal on the night of the 29th / 30th May 1943.

It was equipped with Nav Aid Y (H2S) and was carrying 1 x 2000lb and various incendiaries.

Its seven-man crew (plus a 2nd Dickie) comprised:

  • Peter Johnston (Pilot)
  • Ernest Alfred Roede (2nd Dickie)
  • Reginald Gordon Houston (Navigator)
  • Roy Wood (Air Bomber)
  • Benjamin Thomas Royall (Wireless Operator)
  • Andrew Walt Cowan (Air Gunner)
  • Michael Thomas Byrne (Air Gunner)
  • Frederick James Jarvis (Flight Engineer)

The route was 5134N 0330E, 5059N 0626E, Wuppertal, 5120N 0721E, 5033N 0723E, 5038N 0600E, 5122N 0320E

HR793 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “This aircraft is missing; No message was received”

Wartime activities relating to the loss

On 30th 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 29th / 30th 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. 263 (Flight 12/08/1943) recorded FJ Jarvis and P Johnston as “missing”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 371 (Flight 13/04/1944) recorded P Johnston “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 373 (Flight 20/04/1944) recorded FJ Jarvis “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:

  • 15/07/1943: Information received from Air Ministry that F/S Royall, missing on 29th / 20th May 1943, is a prisoner of war, but seriously wounded
  • 30/07/1943: Information received from Air Ministry that P/O Wood, F/O Houston, Sgt Cowan and Sgt Byrne, missing on 29th / 20th May 1943. are prisoners of war
  • 02/09/1943: Information received from Air Ministry that F/S Roede, missing on 29th / 20th May 1943, is a prisoner of war

Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned

EA Roede, RG Houston,  R Wood, BT Royall, MT Byrne and AW Cowan 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:

  • EA Roede
    • Evaded: May-43 to Jul-43
    • Captured: Brussels (01/07/1943)
    • Interrogated: Dulag Luft Oberursel, Frankfurt Jul-43
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VI, Heydekrug Jul-43 to Jun-44
    • Imprisoned: Stalag 357, Thorn Jun-44 to Aug-44
    • Imprisoned: Stalag 357, Fallingbostel Aug-44 to Apr-45
    • Repatriated: May-45
  • RG Houston
    • Captured: Near Sittard 30/05/1943
    • Interrogated: Dulag Luft Oberursel, Frankfurt Jun-43
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III Jun-43 to Jan-45
    • Imprisoned: Marlag und Milag Nord, Westertimke (Tarmstedt) Feb-45 to Apr-45
    • Repatriated: May-45
  • R Wood
    • Captured: Near Sittard 30/05/1943 (Fractured Ankle)
    • Hospitalised: Amsterdam Jun-43
    • Interrogated: Dulag Luft Oberursel, Frankfurt Jun-43
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III Jun-43 to Jan-44
    • Imprisoned: Belaria (Stalag Luft III overflow camp) Jan-44 to Jan-45
    • Imprisoned: Stalag III-A, Luckenwalde Jan-45 to May-45
    • Repatriated: May-45
  • BT Royall
    • Captured: Sittard, Holland 30/05/1943 (Injured)
    • Hospitalised: Civilian Hospital, Sittard May-43 to Jun-43
    • Hospitalised: Maastricht Jun-43 to Jul-43
    • Interrogated: Dulag Luft Oberursel, Frankfurt Jul-43
    • Imprisoned: Stalag VII-A, Moosburg Aug-43
    • Imprisoned: Stalag IV-B, Muhlberg Aug-43 to Apr-45
    • Repatriated: May-45
  • MT Byrne
    • Captured: 04/06/1943 Wuppertal
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VI, Hydekrug Jun-43 to Jul-44
    • Imprisoned: Stalag 357, Thorn Jul-44 to Aug-44
    • Imprisoned: Stalag 357, Fallingbostel Aug-44 to May-45
    • Repatriated: May-45
  • AW Cowan
    • Captured: Sittard, Holland May-43
    • Interrogated: Dulag Luft Oberursel, Frankfurt Jun-43
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VI, Hydekrug Jun-43 to Jul-44
    • Imprisoned: Stalag 357, Thorn Jul-44 to Aug-44
    • Imprisoned: Stalag 357, Fallingbostel Aug-44 to Apr-45
    • Repatriated: May-45

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 P Johnston and  FJ Jarvis were not located (or could not be formally identified) and as such their names are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial as follows:

  • JARVIS, FREDERICK JAMES, Sergeant ‘567590’ Panel 154.
  • JOHNSTON, PETER, Squadron Leader ‘68139’ Panel 118.

[Courtesy of Clive Lewis]


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Bomber Command Loss Card

  • Unknown, with Wood, Houston, Byrne and Cowan (POW)
  • Shot down 30/05/1943; burials not reported
  • Attacked by nightfighter near Masstricht; it was on fire, but pilot held it under control while the crew baled out. Germans stated that pilot was killed [unreadable section]. Bomb Aimer’s foot injured (hospitalised in Amsterdam). Wireless Operator had compound fracture of the leg (hospitalised in Maastricht)
  • Pilot was alive when Bomb Aimer left, having difficulty keeping aircraft steady. Bomb Aimer saw aircraft crash to earth as he descended by parachute. Navigator left 2nd, Flight Engineer then in aircraft (should have gone [unreadable section]). Aircraft above 6000ft when crew started to bale out. Should have been [unreadable section] unless aircraft went out of control after the Navigator left. It exploded on hitting the ground and according to the Germans, only one body (Johnston’s) was identified

Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)

Nightfighter Claim: Oblt. Wilhelm Beier, 3/NJG1, Limbricht NNE Maastricht (Holland) (5C), 5000m, 00.27

World War II Allied Aircraft Crashes in Holland and the North Sea

  • Shot down by nightfighter at Limbricht (Holland). 
  • Some body parts were found at the crash site, which could not be formally identified; they were buried as such at Venlo and then reinterred in a grave marked “Unknown Airmen” at Jonkerbos War Cemetery after the war
  • Some aircraft parts recovered by the Royal Netherlands Air Force in 1979

Eyewitness Statement (Courtesy of Peter Royall)

An eyewitness account (from a diary in the Sittard-Geleen city archives) recalled that: “the aircraft was on fire and at first it seemed as if it was going to crash into the village of Limbricht. It finally crashed though just outside the village near the road to the city of Sittard. That morning (Sunday) a lot of people went to the crash site to have a look but they couldn’t get near the plane as the Germans sealed off the area. Talk was at that time that the crew had bailed out of the aircraft and landed near Einighausen village (just southeast of Limbricht)”.