Halifax HR846 was one of twenty three No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Berlin on the night of the 23rd / 24th August 1943.
Its seven-man crew comprised:
- John Jarvis Williams (Pilot)
- James Casey (Navigator)
- Richard Charles Tucker (Air Bomber)
- Gordon James Hurley (Wireless Operator)
- John Elwell (Air Gunner)
- Thomas David Bishop (Air Gunner)
- John Colgan (Flight Engineer)
The route was East Coast, 5250N 0330E, Egmond, 5250N 0930E, 5205N 1347E, Berlin, 5250N 1340E, Mano Island, 5500N 0700E, East Coast
HR846 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “This aircraft is missing, nothing being heard from it after take off”
Halifax HR846 [Photograph by Ron Gayner (Courtesy of Dick Gayner)]
Wartime activities relating to the loss
On 24th August 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 23rd / 24th August 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. 382 (Flight 11/05/1944) reported TD Bishop and RC Tucker “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:
- 02/10/1943: Information received from Air Ministry that F/S Williams, Sgt Casey and F/S Hurley, missing on 23rd / 24th August 1943, are prisoners of war.
- 30/10/1943: Information received from Air Ministry that F/S Colgan and Sgt Elwell, missing on 23rd / 24th August 1943, are prisoners of war.
- 24/11/1943: Information received from Air Ministry that F/S Bishop, missing on 23rd / 24th August 1943, was killed
Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned
JJ Williams, J Casey, GJ Hurley, J Colgan and J Elwell 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:
- JJ Williams
- Evaded: 23/08/1943 to 27/08/1943
- Captured: Frankfurt (27/08/1943)
- Imprisoned: Stalag IV-B, Muhlberg Sep-43 to May-45
- Repatriated: May-45
- J Colgan
- Evaded: 23/08/1943 to 31/08/1943
- Captured: North of Nuremberg? (31/08/1943)
- Imprisoned: Stalag IVB, Muhlberg Sep-43
- Interrogated: Dulag Luft, Frankfurt Sep-43
- Imprisoned: Stalag IVB, Muhlberg Sep-43 to Apr-45
- Repatriated: May-45
- J Casey (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Stalag IVB, Muhlberg / Stalag Luft III, Sagan
- GJ Hurley (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Stalag IVB, Muhlberg
- J Elwell (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Stalag IVB, Muhlberg
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 RC Tucker and TD Bishop were located at Doeberitz Standortfriedhof.
Their remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) on 28th October 1946 at BERLIN 1939-1945 WAR CEMETERY as follows:
- BISHOP, THOMAS DAVID, Flight Sergeant ‘1252904’ Grave 1. J. 10.
- TUCKER, RICHARD CHARLES, Pilot Officer ‘155165’ Grave 1. J. 9.
Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)
First Nightfighter Claim: Oblt. Lenz Finster, 2./NJG1, W Trebnitz (Germany), 5000m, 01.12hrs (Note: coned by 1./Flakshceinw. Abt. 339, 5./Flakshceinw. Abt. 448 and 4./Flakshceinw. Abt. 180 ‘Halifax Trebnitz 5500m 01.12hrs’)
Second Nightfighter Claim: Lt Peter Spoden, 5./NJG5, over target, Berlin (Germany), 4500m, 01.13hrs (Note; also claimed by Flak of 1. & 4./schw. Flak Abt. 362 and 2./schw. Flak Abt. 662 ‘4-mot Buckow 01.13hrs’; claim Lt. Spoden not listed in OKL/RLM, 5./NJG5 confirmed Abschussubersicht)
WR Chorley (Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War)
Shot down by a nightfighter and crashed in the target area