Halifax JB787 (25/07/1943)

Halifax JB787 was one of twelve (reduced from twenty one) No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Essen on the night of the 25th / 26th July 1943.

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • Douglas Milmine (Pilot)
  • Norman Alfred John Pearce (Navigator)
  • Reginald Ernest Bates (Air Bomber)
  • Thomas Price (Wireless Operator)
  • George Murray Galbraith (Air Gunner)
  • Stuart Henry Piper (Air Gunner)
  • Donald Eddie Killick (Flight Engineer)

The route was 53°00N 03°32E, Egmond, 51°53N 06°28E, Essen, Noordwijk, 52°40N 03°05E

JB787 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “This aircraft is missing, nothing being heard of it from time of take off”

Wartime activities relating to the loss

On 26th July 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 25th / 26th July 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. 284 (Flight 23/09/1943) reported NAJ Pearce, T Price, GM Galbraith and DE Killick as “missing”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 369 (Flight 13/04/1944) reported NAJ Pearce, T Price, GM Galbraith and DE Killick “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:

  • 04/09/1943: Information received from Air Ministry that Sgt Bates and Sgt Piper, missing on 25th / 26th July 1943, are prisoners of war
  • 20/09/1943: Information received from Air Ministry that F/O Milmine, missing on 25th / 26th July 1943, is a prisoner of war
  • 27/10/1943: Information received from Air Ministry that Sgt Pearce, Sgt Price, Sgt Galbraith and Sgt Killick, missing on 25th / 26th July 1943, were killed

Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned

D Milmine. RE Bates and SH Piper 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:

  • D Milmine
    • Captured: Didams? (01/08/1943)
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III, Sagan Aug-43 to Jan-45
    • Repatriated: May-45
  • RE Bates (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag IV-B, Muhlberg
    • Repatriated:
  • SH Piper (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag IV-B, Muhlberg
    • 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 NAJ Pearce, T Price, GM Galbraith and DE Killick were located at Dusseldorf North Cemetery (Nordfriedhof) (Graves 201 – 204)

jb787-concentration

Their remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) at REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY on 10th October 1946 as follows:

  • KILLICK, DONALD EDDIE Sergeant ‘928731’ Grave 6. C. 6.
  • GALBRAITH, GEORGE MURRAY Sergeant ‘1574286’  Grave 6. C. 7.
  • PRICE, THOMAS Sergeant ‘1210898’ Grave 6. C. 8.
  • PEARCE, NORMAN ALFRED JOHN Sergeant ‘1237466’ Grave 6. C. 9.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Theo Boiten (Nachjagd Combat Archive)

Hit in the tail unit just after bombing by 3. & 5./schw. Flak Abt. 445 and 1.,3. & 4./schw. Flak Abt. 471; crashed west of Kirchhellen (Germany) at 00.45hrs. Note; there were 22 other flak battery claims for this aircraft 

Bomber Command Loss Card

The Bomber Command Loss Card suggests that the aircraft was hit by AA fire, with the crew baling out north of Essen.

Original Burial Records

The following is an extract from the original burial records:

JB787 Burial Record.JPG

[Courtesy of Matthias Hundt]