Halifax JB785 (11/06/1943)

Halifax JB785 was one of sixteen No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Munster on the night of the 11th / 12th June 1943.

It was equipped with Nav Aid Y; its designated Path Finder role was “Main Force”

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • George Racine Herbert (Pilot)
  • Ernest Cassingham (Navigator)
  • Robert Hubert Makin (Air Bomber)
  • Francis Joseph Greenwood (Wireless Operator)
  • Archibald Victor Wallace (Air Gunner)
  • Ronald Henry Boone (Air Gunner)
  • Frank Stewart (Flight Engineer)

The route was 5223N 0143E, 5123N 0500E, 5157N 0620E, Munster, turn right, 5150N 0520E 5240N 0330E

JB785 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “This aircraft did not return, nothing being heard from it after taking off”.

Wartime activities relating to the loss

On 12th June 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 11th / 12th June 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. 266 (Flight 19/08/1943) reported GR Herbert, E Cassingham, FJ Greenwood, RH Boone  and F Stewart as “missing”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 354 (Flight 09/03/1944) reported GR Herbert, E Cassingham, FJ Greenwood, RH Boone  and F Stewart “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:

  • 25/07/1943: Information received from the Air Ministry that Sgt Makin, missing on 11th / 12th June 1943 is a prisoner of war; also that Sgt Stewart was killed
  • 06/08/1943: Information received from the Air Ministry that F/O Wallace, missing on 11th / 12th June 1943, is a prisoner of war; also that P/O Herbert, Sgt Cassingham, F/S Greenwood and Sgt Boone were killed

Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned

RH Makin and AV Wallace 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:

  • RH Makin
    • Captured: Gorinchem, Holland 11/06/1943 (Injured)
    • Hospitalised: Amsterdam Jun-43
    • Interrogated: Dulag Luft Oberursel, Frankfurt Jun-43 to Jul-43
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VI, Heydekrug Jul-43 to Jul-44
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft IV, Gross Tychow Jul-44 to Feb-45
    • Imprisoned: ? Feb-45 to Apr-45
    • Imprisoned: Stalag 357, Fallingbostel Apr-45
    • Repatriated: May-45
  • AV Wallace (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured: (19/06/1943)
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III
    • 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 do not show where the remains of GR Herbert, E Cassingham, FJ Greenwood, RH Boone and F Stewart were located but show that they were concentrated (reinterred) at ROTTERDAM (CROOSWIJK) GENERAL CEMETERY as follows:

  • BOONE, RONALD HENRY Sergeant ‘1331310’ Plot LL. Row 1. Joint grave 41-42.
  • GREENWOOD, FRANCIS JOSEPH Flight Sergeant ‘1059993’ Plot LL. Row 1. Joint grave 41-42.
  • CASSINGHAM, ERNEST Flight Sergeant ‘1335447’ Plot LL. Row 1. Grave 43.
  • STEWART, FRANK Flight Sergeant ‘566943’ Plot LL. Row 2. Grave 43.
  • HERBERT, GEORGE RACINE Pilot Officer ‘142149’ Plot LL. Row 2. Grave 44.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)

Nightfighter Claim: Lt. Werner Baake, 1./NJG1, Hoornaar 5km NW Gorinchem (Holland) (Himmelbett), 5000m, 02.43

Crew Memorial 

jb785-memorial-giessen
jb785-plaque

JB785 Plaque on Giessenburg Memorial
More information regarding the memorial and the loss can be found at:
http://stichting-vliegeniersmonument-giessenlanden-wo2.nl/