Halifax HR908 (09/08/1943)

Halifax HR908 was one of fourteen No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Mannheim on the night of the 9th / 10th August 1943.

It was equipped with Gee and Nav Aid Y (H2S).

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • Ernest Gordon Brown (Pilot)
  • Harold Luttrell Temple (Navigator)
  • Eric Charles Dobie (Air Bomber)
  • Arthur Patrick Bowker (Wireless Operator)
  • Allen Sunley (Air Gunner)
  • William Richard Pallister (Air Gunner)
  • James Ellis Jones (Flight Engineer)

The route was Beachy Head, Le Touquet, Mannheim, 4920N 0820E, Le Touquet, Beachy Head

HR908 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “This aircraft is missing, nothing being heard from it after taking off”

Wartime activities relating to the loss

On 10th 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 9th / 10th August 1943”.

Extract from letter sent to the pilot’s next of kin

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. 299 (Flight 28/10/1943) reported HL Temple, AP Bowker, A Sunley and WR Pallister as “missing”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 397 (Flight 29/06/1944) reported HL Temple, AP Bowker, A Sunley and WR Pallister “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:

  • 22/09/1943: Information received from Air Ministry that F/S Brown, P/O Dobie and F/S Jones, missing on 9th / 10th August 1943, are prisoners of war
  • 30/10/1943: Information received from Air Ministry that F/O Temple, Sgt Bowker, Sgt Sunley and Sgt Pallister, missing on 9th / 10th August 1943, were killed
  • 19/05/1944: Information received from Air Ministry that JE Jones, missing on 9th / 10th August 1943, died whilst a prisoner of war

Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned

EG Brown, EC Dobie and JE Jones survived the crash and were captured, interrogated and imprisoned.

JE Jones

It is understood that JE Jones was caught stealing coal briquettes in D North Compound at Stalag IV-B, Muhlberg and was shot in the abdomen by the German guards; he died of his wounds on 2nd April 1944

EG Brown and EC Dobie

EG Brown’s and EC Dobie’s 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 regarding their capture:

  • EG Brown
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft I, Barth Aug-43 to Nov-43
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VI, Heydekrug Nov-43 to Jun-44
    • Imprisoned: Stalag 357, Thorn / Fallingbostel Jun-44 to May-45
    • Repatriated: May-45
  • EC Dobie (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: 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 JE Jones (who was shot whilst a prisoner of war) were located at Neuburxdorf (Ortsfriedhof)

jones-hr908-concentration

His remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) at BERLIN 1939-1945 WAR CEMETERY on 5th June 1947 as follows:

  • JONES, JAMES ELLIS, Flight Sergeant ‘610981’  Grave 6. G. 10.

CWGC records show that the remains of HL Temple, AP Bowker, A Sunley and WR Pallister were located at Wachenheim Cemetery

hr809-concentration

Their remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) at RHEINBERG WAR CEMETERY on 9th April 1948 as follows:

  • BOWKER, ARTHUR PATRICK, Sergeant ‘1194726’ Grave 18. H. 13.
  • PALLISTER, WILLIAM RICHARD, Flight Sergeant ‘627672’ Grave 18. H. 11.
  • SUNLEY, ALLEN, Sergeant ‘1302029’ Grave 18. H. 12.
  • TEMPLE, HAROLD LUTTRELL, Flying Officer ‘127971’ Grave 18. H. 14.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Bomber Command Loss Card

Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)

No nightfighter or flak claims recorded for this loss

Post War Statement by EG Brown

“Controls, instruments shot away by flak. Aircraft commenced to dive and after trying George (automatic pilot) and tail trim with no result, I ordered the crew to abandon aircraft. It was necessary to leave the aircraft as quickly as possible owing to the fact we were carrying marker flares set to explode at 10,000 feet. The aircraft was not on fire nor were any members of the crew injured. I did not see the aircraft crash as I came down through smoke from the target, but was told later that the aircraft exploded in the air”.


Notes:

  1. As original burials were at Wachenheim (Germany) it is assumed that the aircraft was lost in this location