Halifax HR926 (22/10/1943)

Halifax HR926 was one of twenty two No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Kassel on the night of the 22nd / 23rd October 1943.

It was equipped with Gee and Nav. Aid Y (H2S) and was carrying 15 x 500lb MC. Its designated Path Finder role was Supporter.

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • Stanley Arthur Durrant (Pilot)
  • Arthur Robert Jordan (Navigator)
  • Christopher Fiveash Packham (Air Bomber)
  • Wilfred George Hart (Wireless Operator)
  • Aubrey Ronald Brace (Air Gunner)
  • Robert Stanley Kift (Air Gunner)
  • Walter George Kingham (Flight Engineer)

The route was Base, 5215N 0300E, 5140N 0351E, 5030N 0610E, 5033N 0715E, Kassel, 5236N 0829E, 5313N 0452E, 5320N 0350E, Base

HR926 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 23rd October 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 22nd / 23rd October 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. 330 (Flight 13/01/1944) reported AR Brace as “missing believed killed in action” also RS Kift as “missing”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 415 (Flight 17/08/1944) reported AR Brace “previously reported missing believed killed in action” as “now presumed killed in action”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 427 (Flight 28/09/1944) reported RS Kift “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:

  • 02/12/1943: Information received from Air Ministry that P/O Jordan, P/O Durrant, Sgt Hart, Sgt Kingham, missing on operations on 22nd / 23rd October 1943, are prisoners of war; also that F/S Brace was killed
  • 05/02/1944: Information received from Air Ministry that F/S Kift, missing on operations on 22nd / 23rd October 1943, was killed

Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned

SA Durrant, CP Packham, AR Jordan, WG Hart and WG Kingham 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:

  • WG Hart
    • Captured: Nr Kassell 23/10/1943
    • Imprisoned: Stalag IV-B, Muhlberg Nov-43 to Apr-45
    • Repatriated: May-45
  • WG Kingham
    • Captured: Nr Kassell 23/10/1943
    • Imprisoned: Stalag IV-B, Muhlberg Nov-43 to Apr-45
    • Repatriated: May-45
  • SA Durrant (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured: Hospitalised (Chest Wound)
    • Imprisoned: Stalag IX-C, Stalag Luft III
    • Repatriated:
  • CP Packham (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag IV-B
    • Repatriated:
  • AR Jordan (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag IV-B
    • 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 AR Brace and RS Kift were located at Welda Civilian Cemetery.

hr926-concentration

Their remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) at HANOVER WAR CEMETERY on 21st June 1947 as follows:

  • BRACE, AUBREY RONALD Flight Sergeant ‘964963’  Grave 11. F. 1.
  • KIFT, ROBERT STANLEY Flight Sergeant ‘410674’ Grave 11. F. 2.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Bomber Command Loss Card

Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)

Nightfighter Claim: Oblt. Erhard Peters, 9./NJG3, Welda near Warburg, 4.500m, 21.25.

Note: coned by 2. & 4./Flakscheinw. Abt. 367, also claimed shot down by Flak of 3., 5. & 6./schw. Flak Abt. 393 and 5./schw. Flak Abt. 635 (‘Halifax Welda 2200 m 21.15 hrs’), and by Ofw. Löfgen 21.16 hrs, credited to Oblt. Peters on 21.7.1944

MRES report

The MRES report contains the following information: In company with the ex Burgermeister of Welda, Herr Fecker, I visited the scene of the crash in a meadow of the Henschell estate (Map Reference B 957183). Only a few small pieces of wreckage remained and part of an undercarriage. F/L Levant,  who had accompanied me to the scene of the crash identified the wreckage as that of a Halifax. Herr Fecker was able to tell me that the names of the two airmen who were killed were Kift and Brace and also that on instructions later received by the Luftwaffe he had registered the names as Pringle and Brace. According to his story, the aircraft had attacked Kassel and was then attacked by a nightfighter flown by the fighter ace Prinz Salmwittchenstein. (Sayn-Wittgenstein). Before it crashed in flames, five of the crew had landed by parachute near Welda, one of these men (the pilot he thought) having been seriously wounded during the fighter attack


Notes:

  1. RS Kift’s service file is digitised in the Australian Archives; it contains the full MRES report regarding the loss