Halifax HR863 (02/08/1943)

Halifax HR863 was one of twenty one No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Hamburg on the night of the 2nd / 3rd August 1943.

It was equipped with H2S and Monica.

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • Edmund Solomon (Pilot)
  • Alfred Arthur Charles Bedward (Navigator)
  • Donald William McGlashan Archer (Air Bomber)
  • Stanislaus Cyril McKiernan (Wireless Operator)
  • Alexander Stephen (Air Gunner)
  • Ronald Cecil Davies (Air Gunner)
  • Herbert Pickup (Flight Engineer)

The route was: 54°20N 07°00E, 53°45N 08°32E, 53°00N 10°00E, Hamburg, 54°00N 10°00E, 54°30N 07°00E

HR863 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “This aircraft is missing, nothing further being heard from it after taking off”

Wartime activities relating to the loss

On 3rd 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 2nd / 3rd 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. 292 (Flight 14/10/1943) reported E Solomon, AAC Bedward, DWM Archer, SC McKiernan, RC Davies, A Stephen and H Pickup as “missing”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 398 (Flight 06/07/1944) reported E Solomon, AAC Bedward, DWM Archer, SC McKiernan, RC Davies and H Pickup “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:

  • 20/11/1943: Information received from Air Ministry that Sgt Solomon, Sgt Archer, Sgt McKiernan, Sgt Davies and Sgt Pickup, missing on 2nd / 3rd August 1943, were killed
  • 31/01/1944: Information received from Air Ministry that F/S Bedward, missing on 2nd / 3rd August 1943, was killed

Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned

A Stephen survived the crash and were captured, interrogated and imprisoned for the remainder of the war.

His POW Liberation Questionnaire, which was completed as part of the repatriation process at 106 Personnel Reception Centre (RAF Cosford) in 1945, shows the following details:

  • A Stephen (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Dulag Luft / Not Known
    • 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 E Solomon, AAC Bedward, DWM Archer, SC McKiernan, RC Davies and H Pickup were located at Stade Communal Cemetery

hr863-concentration

Their remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) on 24th September 1946 at BECKLINGEN WAR CEMETERY as follows:

  • ARCHER, DONALD WILLIAM MCGLASHAN, Sergeant ‘658103’  Grave 14. E. 14.
  • BEDWARD, ALFRED ARTHUR CHARLES, Flight Sergeant ‘1338439’ Joint grave 12. F. 9-10.
  • DAVIES, RONALD CECIL, Sergeant ‘1600566’ Joint grave 12. F. 9-10.
  • McKIERNAN, STANISLAUS CYRIL (STAN), Sergeant ‘1295318’ Grave 12. F. 13.
  • PICKUP, HERBERT, Sergeant ‘527356’ Grave 12. F. 12.
  • SOLOMON, EDMUND, Pilot Officer ‘155021’ Grave 12. F. 11.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Bomber Command Loss Card

[Source: RAF Museum]

Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)

Hit by 1./schw.Flak Abt. 601 (o) and Pers. Battr. (Grossbattr. Hahnofersand) 3. & 4./schw.Flak Abt. 601 (o) (Grossbattr. Rubke), 2./schw.Flak Abt. 601 (o), 4./schw.Flak Abt. 418 (Eisb), 3./schw.Flak Abt. 336 (v), and 5./schw.Flak Abt. 601 (o) (Grossbattr. Neugraben), crashed at Ruschwedel near Harsefeld at 02.24 hrs

Note: The crash location in the published archive entry shows “near Blockstele 12, between Daerstorf and Buxtehude (Germany) at 02.24hrs”. This has subsequently been corrected by Theo Boiten in conjunction with Dieter Pintatis

WR Chorley (RAF Bomber Command Losses)

Crashed after encountering very severe icing and electrical storms