Halifax HR795 was one of seven No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Essen on the night of the 27th / 28th May 1943.
Its seven-man crew comprised:
- Richard Joseph Ayres (Pilot)
- Arthur Haydn Porter (Navigator)
- Frank Charles Cleaver (Air Bomber)
- Leslie James Miles (Wireless Operator)
- Edward Cavill (Air Gunner)
- Leonard Marshall (Air Gunner)
- Ronald Hageman (Flight Engineer)
The route was Egmond, 5200N 0705E, Essen, 5210N 0725E, 5323N 0517E
HR795 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “This aircraft failed to return. No message received.
Wartime activities relating to the loss
On 28th 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 27th / 28th 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. 264 (Flight 12/08/1943) reported RJ Ayres, FC Cleaver, LJ Miles, E Cavill, L Marshall and R Hageman as “missing, believed killed in action”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 337 (Flight 27/01/1944) reported RJ Ayres, FC Cleaver, LJ Miles, E Cavill, L Marshall and R Hageman “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.
Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned
AH Porter survived the crash and was captured, interrogated and imprisoned for the remainder of the war.
Details available are as follows:
- AH Porter
- Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VI, Stalag 357
- Killed: 19th May 1945 (Gresse Incident)
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.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) records show that the remains of RJ Ayres, FC Cleaver, LJ Miles, E Cavill, L Marshall and R Hageman were located at Nienborg Local Cemetery.
Their remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) on 19th March 1947 at REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY as follows:
- AYRES, RICHARD JOSEPH, Flight Sergeant, ‘1333632’, Grave 23. D. 4.
- CAVILL, EDWARD, Sergeant, ‘654206’, Grave 23. D. 8.
- CLEAVER, FRANK CHARLES, Sergeant, ‘1338423’, Grave 23. D. 5.
- HAGEMAN, RONALD, Flight Sergeant, ‘569504’, Grave 23. D. 9.
- MARSHALL, LEONARD, Sergeant, ‘983679,’ Grave 23. D. 7.
- MILES, LESLIE JAMES, Sergeant, ‘1129300’, Grave 23. D. 6.
CWGC records show that the remains of AH Porter (who was a POW killed in the Gresse Incident) were never found (or could not be formally identified) and, as such, his name is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial as follows:
- PORTER, ARTHUR HAYDN, Warrant Officer ‘1318075’ Panel 269.
[Courtesy of Clive Lewis]
Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)
Nightfighter Claim: Lt. Hans-Heinz Augenstein, 7./NJG1, 5km NE Nienborg (Germany) [4c], 5500m 01.05hrs
MRES Report on Gresse Incident [Source: RAFCommands]
“As a result of the Russian drive towards the West of Germany in the spring of 1945, large columns of British P.O.W.s were on the move in the area between the Russian and Allied Armies. One of these columns reached the little village of Gresse M54/T 0142 on the 19th April, 1945 and was seen by Allied aircraft. They were moving in a Westerly direction and the pilot(s) must have taken them for German reinforcements moving towards the front lines and they were attacked”.
Note: Whilst some of the remains of those killed were identified and buried at Gresse, no records exist relating to the burial of AH Porter