Halifax HR850 (28/06/1943)

Halifax HR850 was one of six No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Cologne on the night of the 28th / 29th June 1943.

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

  • Nelson Alexander Cobb (Pilot)
  • Leonard Whiteley (2nd Dickie)
  • David Archibald Codd (Navigator)
  • Walter Palfrey Trask (Air Bomber)
  • Charles Henry Bulloch (Wireless Operator)
  • Jack Edward Stuart Matthews (Air Gunner)
  • Mark Anthony Sachs (Air Gunner)
  • Roland Hurlston Baldwin (Flight Engineer)

The route was Base, 5122N 0320E, 5028N 0632E, Target,  5135N 0340E, Orfordness, Base

HR850 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “This aircraft is missing. No message received”

Wartime activities relating to the loss

On 29th June 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 28th / 29th June 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. 281 (Flight 16/09/1943) reported NA Cobb as “missing, believed killed in action”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 363 (Flight 30/03/1944) reported NA Cobb “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.

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

  • 11/08/1943: Information received from the Air Ministry that F/O Cobb, missing on 28th / 29th June 1943, was killed; also that the following were captured: F/O Whitely, F/S Trask, P/O Bulloch, F/O Sachs, F/S Matthews and Sgt Baldwin
  • 14/08/1943: Information received from the Air Ministry that F/O Codd, missing on 28th / 29th June 1943, is a prisoner of war

Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned

L Whiteley,  WP Trask, DA Codd, CH Bulloch, JES Matthews, MA Sachs and RH Baldwin 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:

  • L Whiteley (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III, Sagan
    • Repatriated:
  • WP Trask (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VI / Stalag 357
    • Repatriated:
  • DA Codd (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III, Sagan
    • Repatriated:
  • CH Bulloch (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III, Sagan
    • Repatriated:
  • JES Matthews (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VI / Stalag 357
    • Repatriated:
  • MA Sachs (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III, Sagan
    • Repatriated:
  • RH Baldwin (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VI / Stalag Luft III, Sagan
    • 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 NA Cobb were located at Ulpenich Village Cemetery

cobb-concentration

His remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) on 5th May 1947 at RHEINBERG WAR CEMETERY as follows:

  • COBB, NELSON ALEXANDER, Flight Lieutenant  ‘J/16276’   Grave 11. B. 11.

[Source: FindaGrave]


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive) 

Nightfighter Claim; Ofw. Fritz Shellwat, 5./NJG1, 600m S  Ulpenich 8km W Euskirchen (Germany) (6C), 6200m, 02.10 (Note: also claimed by Flak of 3./schw.Flak Abt. 477, 1.-3./schw.Flak Abt. 331 and 6./schw.Flak Abt. 245 ‘Halifax Euskirchen 01.54hrs’. Victory  Ofw. Shellwat confirmed on 20/12/1944)

Map showing original burial / loss location

Bomber Command Loss Card

Body of NA Cobb said to have been found amongst the wreckage of the aircraft

Letter to the family of NA Cobb from DA Codd (1943)

Letter [Cobb Service File].JPG

[Source: NA Cobb’s Service File]

Notes:

  1. More information can be found in the book Blue Job – Brown Job by David Codd DFC