Halifax HR907 was one of twenty-one aircraft No. 35 Squadron detailed to attack Hanover on the night of 27th / 28th September 1943.
It was equipped with Gee, Nav Aid Y (H2S) and Monica and was carrying 3 x 1000lb GP and 6 x 500lb MC. Its designated Path Finder role was Visual Marker
Its seven man crew comprised:
- Nicholas Joseph Matich (Pilot)
- Cyril Arthur Hewlett (Navigator)
- Ralph Wilbert Tully (Air Bomber)
- Francis Robert Dolling (Wireless Operator)
- Albert Thomas Tuck (Air Gunner)
- Albert Victor Forsyth (Air Gunner)
- Ronald McTavish Mather (Flight Engineer)
The route was 52°37N 03°30E, Egmond, 52°35N 08°00E, 52°34N 09°00E, Hanover, 52°10N 09°45E, 52°35N 08°00E, Egmond, 52°37N 03°30E
HR907 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 28th September 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 September 1943”.
Copy of telegram sent to the family of AT Tuck [Source: http://www.naa.gov.au]
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. 319 (Flight 16/12/1943) reported FR Dolling, AV Forsyth, CA Hewlett, RM Mather, AT Tuck and NJ Matich as “missing”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 447 (Flight 30/11/1944) reported AV Forsyth “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 472 (Flight 22/02/1945) reported AT Tuck “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”
Note: Presumption of Death enabled a death certificate to be issued; personal belongings could be returned, and outstanding monies paid, to the next of kin
No. 35 Squadron’s Operations Record Book shows the following information was received relating to the crew:
- 01/12/1943: Information received from Air Ministry that P/O Tully, F/O Hewlett and P/O Dolling, missing on 27th / 28th September 1943, are prisoners of war.
- 22/01/1944: Information received from Air Ministry that P/O Matich, missing on 27th / 28th September 1943, returned to the UK on 14th January 1944
Crew member(s) who survived the crash and evaded capture
NJ Matich survived the crash and evaded capture as follows:
- Evasion Route: Germany / Holland / Belgium / France / Spain / Gibraltar (Comet Passage 87 [No. 254])
- Repatriated: Whitchurch 14/01/1944
Crew member(s) who survived the crash and were captured
CA Hewlett, RW Tully, FR Dolling and RA Mather 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:
- RW Tully
- Captured Diepholz 28/09/43
- Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III, Sagan Oct-43 to Jan-45
- Imprisoned: Oflag IIIA, Luckenwalde Feb-45 to May-45
- Repatriated May-45
- RM Mather
- Captured: Hanover 27/09/43
- Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VI, Heydekrug Oct-43 to Jul-44
- Imprisoned: Stalag 357, Thorn Jul-44
- Imprisoned: Stalag 357, Fallingbostel Aug-44 to Apr-45
- Repatriated: May-45
- CA Hewlett (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III, Sagan
- FR Dolling (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III, Sagan
Post-War search for the missing crew member(s)
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 AV Forsyth and AT Tuck were located at PR (Preuβisch) Oldendorf Civilian Cemetery
Their remains were exhumed, formally identified and concentrated (reinterred) at Hanover War Cemetery on 31st October 1947 as follows:
- Forsyth, Albert Victor ‘1382045’ Joint grave 16. A. 16-17
- Tuck, Albert Thomas, ‘411060’ Joint grave 16. A. 16-17
Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)
Nightfighter Claim: Lt. Hans-Heinz Augenstein, 9./NJG1, Schröttinghausen W Lübbecke (GS 7), 6200m, 23.00
Map showing crash / original burial locations
NJ Matich’s Evasion Report
In his evasion report, Matich recalled: “We reached our target and bombed our objective and on the homeward journey at about 09.30hrs we were attacked by a fighter. The throttles were shot away, making the corresponding engines useless. A few minutes after this the third engine was damaged and I had to give the order to bale out”
The MRES report shows: The aircraft approached Schrottinghausen from the south east; it made a half circuit and then after a shallow dive crashed into the farmhouse of Herr Maschmeier (L53 496143) and both the aircraft and the farmhouse were practically burnt out. The time of the crash was approximately 2300hrs.
- AT Tuck’s service file is digitised at the Australian Archives; it contains a copy of the full MRES report relating to the loss