Halifax W7825 was one of twenty-one No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Dusseldorf on the night of the 25th / 26th May 1943.
It was equipped with Nav Aid Y (H2S) and was probably carrying 5 x 1000lb and 1 x 1000lb (LD). Its designated Path Finder role was Backer Up.
Its seven-man crew comprised:
- Robert Thomas Hall (Pilot)
- Rundle Houston Oats (Navigator)
- Edward Garner (Air Bomber)
- Michael O’Donovan Fuller (Wireless Operator)
- Jack Hogg (Air Gunner)
- Llyn David Bryant (Air Gunner)
- Thomas Charles Eugene Simmons (Flight Engineer)
The route was Southwold, 5145N 0350E, 5055N 0630E, Dusseldorf, 5117N 0630E, Noordwijk, Southwold
The squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “This aircraft did not return and nothing was heard from it after take off”
Wartime activities relating to the loss
On 26th May 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 May 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. 264 (12/08/1943) reported E Garner , RH Oats, MO Fuller, LD Bryant, J Hogg and TCE Simmons as “missing”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 357 (16/03/1944) reported E Garner , RH Oats, MO Fuller, LD Bryant, J Hogg and TCE Simmons “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:
- 17/08/1943: Information received from Air Ministry that F/S Hall, missing on 25th / 26th May 1943, was captured
- 29/08/1943: Information received from the Air Ministry that Sgt Garner, Sgt Oats, F/S Fuller, Sgt Bryant and Sgt Simmons, missing on 25th / 26th May 1943, were killed
Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned
RT Hall 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:
- Captured: Zons 26/05/1943 (Injured*)
- Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VI, Heydekrug Jun-43 to Jul-44 (Evacuated)
- Imprisoned: Stalag 357, Thorn Jul-44 to Aug-44 (Re-located)
- Imprisoned: Stalag 357, Fallingbostel Aug-44 to Apr-45 (Evacuated)
- Repatriated: Apr-45
(*) Injuries included damaged arm, sprained ankle and slight loss of memory
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 E Garner, RH Oats, MO Fuller, LD Bryant, J Hogg and TCE Simmons were located at Dusseldorf North Cemetery (Nordfriedhof)
Their remains were exhumed, formally identified and concentrated (reinterred) on 4th October 1946 at REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY as follows:
- BRYANT, LLYN DAVID Sergeant ‘1312458’ Grave 5. F. 14.
- FULLER, MICHAEL O’DONOVAN Flight Sergeant ‘745940’ Grave 5. D. 17.
- GARNER, EDWARD Sergeant ‘937568’ Grave 5. D. 14.
- HOGG, JACK Sergeant ‘1390159’ Grave 5. D. 18.
- OATS, RUNDLE HOUSTON Sergeant ‘1430645’ Grave 5. D. 16.]
- SIMMONS, THOMAS CHARLES EUGENE Sergeant ‘980521’ Grave 5. E. 1.
Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)
Hit by 2./schw. Flak Abt. 133, 2./schw. Flak Abt. 151, 1 & 2./schw. Flak Abt. 404, 1.-5./schw. Flak Abt. 407 and 2./gem. Flak Abt. 475; crashed at Himmelgeist (Dussseldorf, Germany) at 01.40 hrs
Bomber Command Loss Card
The Bomber Command Loss Card suggests that 5 bodies were initially recovered and buried. The body of LD Bryant was recovered later and buried on 15th June 1943
Original German Burial Record
The following is an extract from the original burial records at Nordfriedhof.
The records support the information in the Bomber Command Loss Card that LD Bryant was buried at a later date, although the records show 8th June rather than 15th June.
[Courtesy of Matthias Hundt]