Halifax W7877 (01/03/1943)

Halifax W7877 was one of thirteen No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Berlin on the night of the 1st / 2nd March 1943.

It was equipped with H2S and was carrying 2 x 1000lb, 4 x 250lb, 90 x 4lb and 8 flares

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • PC Elliott (Pilot)
  • RV Ledger (Navigator)
  • GCH Chandler (Air Bomber)
  • GS Sloman (Wireless Operator)
  • D Kelly (Air Gunner)
  • TN Sankey (Air Gunner)
  • SLC Watt (Flight Engineer)

The route was Cromer, Mando, 5432N 1115E, Berlin, Wunsdorf, Texel, Happisburgh.

W7877 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “At 00.15hrs message received at Pulham “starboard outer unserviceable”. No position given but bearing 093° from Pulham”

Wartime activities relating to the loss

On 2nd March 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 1st / 2nd March 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. 230 (Flight 13/05/1943) reported D Kelly, GS Sloman and SLC Watts as “missing believed killed in action”; also PC Elliott, RV Ledger and TN Sankey as “missing”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 320 (Flight 16/12/1943) reported D Kelly and SLC Watts “previously reported missing believed killed in action” as “now presumed killed in action”; also  PC Elliott and RV Ledger “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 321 (Flight 16/12/1943) reported GS Sloman “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:

  • 02/04/1943: Information received that F/S Chandler is a prisoner of war and that F/S Sloman, Sgt Kelly and Sgt. Watt were killed.

Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned

GCH Chandler 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:

  • GCH Chandler (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III, Stalag Luft VI, Stalag 357
    • 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 PC Elliott, GS Sloman, D Kelly, TN Sankey and SLC Watt were located but show that they were concentrated (reinterred) at MARKELO GENERAL CEMETERY as follows:

  • ELLIOTT, PETER CAMPBELL Squadron Leader ‘42401’  Plot 4. Row A. Grave 5.
  • KELLY, DENIS Sergeant ‘1384311’ Plot 4. Row A. Grave 1.
  • SANKEY, THOMAS NEVILLE Flight Sergeant ‘612042’ Plot 4. Row A. Grave 3.
  • SLOMAN, GEORGE SARSFIELD Flight Sergeant ‘403036’ Plot 4. Row A. Grave 4.
  • WATT, STANLEY LANGFORD CONWAY Flight Sergeant ‘216038’ Plot 4. Row A. Grave 2.

 

The MRES team were unable to locate the remains of RV Ledger (or he could not be formally identified); as such, his name is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial as follows:

  • LEDGER, ROY VICTOR Sergeant ‘1330439’ Panel 156.

[Courtesy of Clive Lewis]


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)

Nightfighter Claim: Lt. August Gelger, 7./NJG1, 1km W Markelo, E Deventer (Holland) (4C), 4400m, 00.37

Bomber Command Loss Card

  • Shot down 02/03/1943, Place of burial not reported; Worth, Sloman and Kelly + 2 unknowns
  • Unknowns identified; names given by Chandler

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

Aircraft crashed about 1.5km E.S.E. of Markelo, in the corner of the Stokkumerweg and Tichelweg, near the farm of the Kooymans family at Tichelweg 5

The aircraft completely disintegrated on impact, with one of the engines being found 500 metres away from the crash site

External Web Sites

  • memorialmarkelo.nl/planes-and-crews/halifax-crew/the-crash