Halifax HR876 was one of fifteen No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Berlin on the night of the 2nd / 3rd December 1943.
It was equipped with Fishpond, IFF, Gee and Nav Aid Y (H2S) and was carrying 10 x 500lbs MC and various target indicators. Its designated Path Finder role was Backer Up
Its seven-man crew comprised:
- Harley Vernon Stinson (Pilot)
- Desmond Albert Richardson (Navigator)
- Michael John Day (Air Bomber)
- Gerald Walter Allso (Wireless Operator)
- Francis Cole McCubbin (Air Gunner)
- Roy Horace Wells (Air Gunner)
- George Merrill (Flight Engineer)
The route was Haisborough, 5250N 0330E, 5235N 0440E, 5238N 1004E, 5236N 1220E, Berlin, 5230N 1350E, 5255N 1350E, 5238N 1004E, 5235N 0440E, 5250N 0330E, Haisborough
HR876 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “This aircraft is missing, nothing being heard from it after take off”
Wartime activities relating to the loss
On 3rd December 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 December 1943”.
Extract from the letter sent to the family of HV Stinson [Source: Canadian Archives]
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. 347 (Flight 24/02/1944) reported , MJ Day, DA Richardson, GW Allso, G Merrill and RH Wells as “missing”; also HV Stinson and FC McCubbin as “missing believed killed in action”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 438 (Flight 02/11/1944) reported , MJ Day, DA Richardson, GW Allso, G Merrill and RH Wells “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 444 (Flight 23/11/1944) reported HV Stinson and FC McCubbin “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.
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 all the crew members were located at Dusseldorf North Cemetery (Nordfriedhof)
Their remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) at REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY on 16th October 1946 as follows:
- ALLSO, GERALD WALTER, Flight Sergeant ‘1151764’ Grave 7. A. 4.
- DAY, MICHAEL JOHN, Sergeant ‘1319108’ Grave 7. A. 5.
- MERRILL, GEORGE, Sergeant ‘1005888’ Grave 7. A. 3.
- McCUBBIN, FRANCIS COLE, Warrant Officer Class II ‘R/100257’ Grave 7. A. 7.
- RICHARDSON, DESMOND ALBERT, Pilot Officer ‘169470’ Grave 7. A. 8.
- STINSON, HARLEY VERNON, Pilot Officer ‘J/19157’ Grave 7. A. 6.
- WELLS, ROY HORACE, Sergeant ‘1318974’ Grave 7. A. 9.
Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)
Flak Claim: Hit by 2. & 5./schw. Flak Abt. 389 and 5. & 5./schw. Flak Abt. 137, impacted at Gut Benninghoven, Mettmann at 22.04
German research, which is documented in the book “Abgestürzt”, shows that the aircraft crashed near a disabled centre (Benninghof) to the south-east of Mettmann, Germany.
WR Chorley (Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War)
Crashed near Dusseldorf
Original Burial Records
The following is an extract from the original burial records
[Courtesy of Matthias Hundt]
The following link provides information on HV Stinson’s operational sorties as Captain of a No. 35 Squadron aircraft and the composition of his crew on these sorties
In December 2017, the Ontario Geographic Names Board (at the request of Marcel Lesaar) agreed to name a lake in memory of FC McCubbin
[Courtesy of Marcel Lesaar]