Halifax HR986 (29/12/1943)

Halifax HR986 was one of twenty-one No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Berlin on the night of the 29th / 30th December 1943.

It was equipped with Gee, Nav Aid Y (H2S), Monica and Fishpond and was carrying 2 x 1000lb GP, 1 x 500lb GP and various Target Indicators. Its designated Path Finder role was Secondary Blind Marker

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • Ronald Charles Williams (Pilot)
  • Joseph Hooson (Navigator)
  • Eric John Stone (Air Bomber)
  • George Russell Davidson (Wireless Operator)
  • Frederick Charles Redman (Air Gunner)
  • Wallace Edward Charles Dillow (Air Gunner)
  • William Laverick (Flight Engineer)

The route was 5320N 0400E, 5230N 0820E, 5137N 1220E, Berlin, 5302N 1327E, 5300N 1145E, 5245N 0830E, 5320N 0400E

HR986 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 30th 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 29th / 30th December 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. 359 (Flight 23/03/1944) reported RC Williams as “missing believed killed in action”; also J Hooson, EJ Stone, GR Davidson, WEC Dillow and W Laverick as “missing”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 489 (Flight 12/04/1945) reported J Hooson and EJ Stone “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 490 (Flight 19/04/1945) reported GR Davidson and W Laverick “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”

No. 35 Squadron’s Operations Record Book shows the following information was received relating to the crew:

  • 08/02/1944: Information received from Air Ministry that RC Williams, missing on 29th / 30th December 1943, was killed and that FC Redman is a prisoner of war
  • 28/03/1944: Information received from Air Ministry that WEC Dillow, missing on 29th / 30th December 1943, was killed

Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned

FC Redman survived the crash and was captured, interrogated and imprisoned for the remainder of the war.

His POW Liberation Questionnaire, which was completed as part of the repatriation process at 106 Personnel Reception Centre (RAF Cosford) in 1945, shows the following details:

  • F Redman (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured
    • Imprisoned: Stalag IVB (Mühlberg) / 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 RC Williams, J Hooson, EJ Stone, GR Davidson, WEC Dillow and W Laverick were located at Friedhof Doberitz Elsgrund

hr986-concentration-2

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

  • DAVIDSON, GEORGE RUSSELL, Flying Officer ‘142844’  Coll. grave 4. D. 11-13.
  • DILLOW, WALLACE EDWARD CHARLES, Warrant Officer Class II ‘R/108786’ Grave 4. D. 14.
  • HOOSON, JOSEPH, Pilot Officer ‘158427’  Coll. grave 4. D. 11-13.
  • LAVERICK, WILLIAM, Sergeant ‘545207’  Coll. grave 4. D. 11-13.
  • STONE, ERIC JOHN, Flying Officer ‘146277’ Grave 4. D. 3.
  • WILLIAMS, RONALD CHARLES, Flying Officer ‘146333’ Grave 4. D. 16.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)

Two possible nightfighter claims:

  • Ofw Heinrich Säwert, 4./NJG5, Berlin, 5500m 20.14
  • Ofw. Otto Pritzel, 5./JG302, Berlin, 4500m, 20.22

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

Crashed near Doberitz