Halifax HR928 (23/08/1943)

Halifax HR928 was one of twenty three No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Berlin on the night of the 23rd / 24th August 1943.

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • Harry Webster (Pilot)
  • Michael Charles Xavier Mack (Navigator)
  • William Philip MacDonald McIntosh (Air Bomber)
  • Robert William Nixon (Wireless Operator)
  • Osborne Lloyd Bliss (Air Gunner)
  • Walter David Craig (Air Gunner)
  • Dennis Burke (Flight Engineer)

BV Robinson (Station Commander, RAF Graveley) was also on board

The route was East Coast, 52°50N 03°30E, Egmond, 52°50N 09°30E, 52°05N 13°47E, Berlin, 52°50N 13°40E, Mano Island, 55°00N 07°00E, East Coast

HR928 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 24th 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 23rd / 24th 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. 302 (Flight 04/11/1943) reported H Webster, BV Robinson, MCX Mack, WPM McIntosh, RW Nixon, OL Bliss, WD Craig and D Burke as “missing”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 401 (Flight 13/07/1944) reported OL Bliss and WD Craig “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 411 (Flight 10/08/1944) reported MCX Mack “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 413 (Flight 14/08/1944) reported H Webster and BV Robinson,  “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 422 (Flight 14/09/1944) reported D Burke “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:

  • 22/02/1944: Information received from Air Ministry that WD Craig and OL Bliss, missing on 23rd / 24th August 1943, were killed
  • 01/03/1944: Information received from Air Ministry that MCX Mack, missing on 23rd / 24th August 1943, was killed

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 Wensickendorf Cemetery

hr928-concentration

Their remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) at BERLIN 1939-1945 WAR CEMETERY on 11th April 1947 as follows:

  • BLISS, OSBORNE LLOYD Warrant Officer Class II ‘R/88244’, Coll. grave 5. L. 12-15
  • BURKE, DENNIS Flight Sergeant ‘632396’, Grave 5. L. 8.
  • CRAIG, WALTER DAVID Pilot Officer ‘J/18448’, Grave 5. L. 9.
  • MACK, MICHAEL CHARLES XAVIER Squadron Leader ‘91224’, Grave 5. L. 10.
  • McINTOSH, WILLIAM PHILIP MACDONALD Pilot Officer ‘J/18231’, Coll. grave 5. L. 12-15.
  • NIXON, ROBERT WILLIAM Pilot Officer ‘J/17729’, Coll. grave 5. L. 12-15.
  • ROBINSON, BASIL VERNON Group Captain, Grave 5. L. 11.
  • WEBSTER, HARRY Flight Lieutenant ‘137191’, Coll. grave 5. L. 12-15.

[Source: Find-a-Grave]

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)

  • Nightfighter Claim: Uffz. Rudi Fischer, 1./JG300, Berlin 5,000m 00.53
  • Coned by 1.-3./flaksheinw. Abt. 370 and 1./flaksheinw. Abt. 339,
  • Also claimed by 1./flaksheinw. Abt. 528 (“Halifax Wensickendorf 00.54hrs); .

Claim by Uffz Fischer not listed in OKL/RLM, 1./JG300 Confirmed Abschussunersicht)

WR Chorley (Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War)

Shot down by a nightfighter and crashed at Wensickendorf.

MRES Report (Source: WPM McIntosh Service File)

This aircraft crashed in the near vicinity of Wensickendorf (N53 Z8176) as a result of enemy action during the night of 23/24th August, 1943. The plane exploded on impact and burned fiercely. In spite of the condition of the wreckage the aircraft was identified as a British bomber by a Luftwaffe detachment who removed every part of the wreck.

As a result of the tremendous impact and fierce fire only one complete body was retrieved from the remains of the aircraft. Local knowledge had it that all the crew of seven must have perished and that none escaped by parachute.

In the WENSICKENDORF District Cemetery were three graves, marked with a decent brown varnished wooden cross to the memory of “Three British Airmen Interred Here” – written in English

Crew Information

H Webster (and possibly the main members of his crew) was posted into the squadron from 22 OTU on 16th July 1942 – read more – .