Halifax LW343 (03/12/1943)

Halifax LW343 was one of nineteen No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Leipzig on the night of the 3rd / 4th December 1943.

It was equipped with Fishpond, Monica, IFF, Gee and Nav Aid Y (H2S) and was carrying 10 x 500lb MC. Its designated Path Finder role was Supporter

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • DJH Cheal (Pilot)
  • EA Alliston (Navigator)
  • JC Bonet (Air Bomber)
  • HM Smith (Wireless Operator)
  • FJ Dimond (Air Gunner)
  • JAW McKenzie (Air Gunner)
  • K Holt (Flight Engineer)

The route was as follows: Happisburgh, 5250N 0330E, 5235N 0435E, 5240N 0610E, 5237N 1220E, Target, 5236N 1350E, 5305N 1345E, 5240N 0610E, 5235N 0435E, 5250N 0330E, Happisburgh (Note: co-ordinates not particularly clear on Loss Card)

LW343 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 4th 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 3rd / 4th December 1943”.

An example of the telegram that was sent

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. 347 (Flight 24/02/1944) reported EA Alliston, K Holt and FJ Dimond as “missing believed killed in action”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 441 (Flight 09/11/1944) reported EA Alliston, K Holt and FJ Dimond “previously reported missing believed killed in action” as “now presumed killed in action”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 465 (Flight 01/02/1945) reported JAW McKenzie “previously reported missing believed killed in action” 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:

  • 14/01/1944: Information received from the Air Ministry that F/O Cheal, P/O Bonet and Sgt Smith, missing on 3rd / 4th December 1943, are prisoners of war; also that P/O Alliston, Sgt McKenzie and Sgt Dimond were killed

Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned

DJH Cheal, JC Bonet and HM Smith 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:

  • DJH Cheal
    • Captured: Near Amsterdam 04/12/43
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft I, Barth Dec-43 to May-45 (Liberated)
    • Repatriated: May-45
  • JC Bonet
    • Captured: Helder (Holland)  04/12/43
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft I, Barth Dec-43 to May-45 (Liberated)
    • Repatriated: May-45
  • HM Smith (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured
    • Imprisoned: Stalag IV-B, Mulhberg
    • 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 Runnymede Memorial, which was unveiled in 1953.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) records show that the remains of EA Alliston, FJ Dimond, K Holt and JAW McKenzie were located at Den Helder (Huisduinen) Cemetery

lw343-concentration

Their remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) at BERGEN-OP-ZOOM WAR CEMETERY on 29th May 1947 as follows:

  • ALLISTON, ERIC AUSTIN Flying Officer ‘144047’ Coll. grave 10. A. 20-22.
  • DIMOND, FRANCIS JOHN Sergeant ‘1850638’ Grave 31. A. 1.
  • HOLT, KENNETH Sergeant ‘1279234’ Coll. grave 10. A. 20-22.
  • McKENZIE, JOHN ANDREW WHITMORE Warrant Officer Class II ‘R/116753’  Coll. grave 10. A. 20-22.

 


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)

Nightfighter Claim: Lt. Heinz Rolland, 12./NJG1, Kleine Sluis (Salzhering) 01.09

World War II Allied Aircraft Crashes in Holland and the North Sea

Aircraft crashed on the land of Mr Kos, Kerkweg, just south-east of Kleine Sluis, Holland. Some small parts of the aircraft were recovered by the Dutch Aircraft Recovery Group in January 2000

Bomber Command Loss Card

Sgt Smith stated “When abandoning the aircraft, EA Alliston pulled his ripcord as he was going through the escape hatch. In so doing the canopy fouled in the escape exit and was fatally damaged. Acknowledged the order to abandon aircraft which was given by the captain. He was still in the aircraft when I baled out, the aircraft being in great difficulty. After order to bale out was given, FJ Dimond spoke over the intercom stating that he was unable to abandon the aircraft. Gave no reason ……………………………

All three POW advised that the German authorities had stated that four bodies were found in the wreckage

Crew Information

The following link provides information on DJH Cheal’s operational sorties as Captain of a No. 35 Squadron aircraft and the composition of his crew on these sorties