Halifax W7878 (21/06/1943)

Halifax W7878 was one of nineteen No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Krefeld on the night of the 21st / 22nd June 1943.

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • Michael Wilfred Peter Clarke (Pilot)
  • Bewick Johnston Dowse (Air Bomber)
  • Francis Montague Mazin (Navigator)
  • Harry Richard Fink (Wireless Operator)
  • Alister Campbell MacLeod (Air Gunner)
  • Joseph Georges Paul Emille Richer (Air Gunner)
  • Cledwyn Matthew Harcombe (Flight Engineer)

The route was 5210N 0137E, Krefeld, Nordwijk, Happisburgh.

W7878 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 22nd 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 21st / 22nd 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.272 (Flight 02/09/1943) reported MWP Clarke,  BJ Dowse, FM Mazin, HR Fink, JGPE Richer, AC MacLeod and CM Harcombe as “missing”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 371 (Flight 13/04/1944) reported MWP Clarke and HR Fink “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 375 (Flight 20/04/1944) reported FM Mazin 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:

  • 02/09/1943: Information received from Air Ministry that Sgt Fink, missing on 21st / 22nd June 1943, was killed

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  MWP Clarke, HR Fink and CM Harcombe were located but show that they were concentrated as follows:

  • CLARKE MICHAEL WILFRED PETER Flying Officer ‘127957’ BERGEN-OP-ZOOM WAR CEMETERY 32. B. 10.
  • FINK HARRY RICHARD Sergeant ‘1331566’ BERGEN GENERAL CEMETERY Plot 2. Row C. Grave 6.
  • HARCOMBE CLEDWYN MATHEW Sergeant ‘577177’ BERGEN GENERAL CEMETERY Plot 2. Row C. Grave 7.

[Source: Find-a-Grave]

The remains of the rest of the crew were not located (or could not be formally identified) and, as such, their names are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial as follows:

  • DOWSE BEWICK JOHNSTON Sergeant ‘1078821’ RUNNYMEDE MEMORIAL Panel 148.
  • MAZIN FRANCIS MONTAGUE Sergeant ‘1600686’ RUNNYMEDE MEMORIAL Panel 158.
  • MACLEOD ALISTER CAMPBELL Sergeant ‘950711’ RUNNYMEDE MEMORIAL Panel 158.
  • RICHER JOSEPH GEORGE PAUL EMILLE Flight Sergeant ‘R/81607’ RUNNYMEDE MEMORIAL Panel 185.

[Courtesy of Clive Lewis]

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)

Nightfighter Claim: Hptm. Rudolf Sigmund, 10./NJG1, Sea 140km W Den Helder (Holland) (EF 2. Salzhering), 2,500m, 03.24

Bomber Command Loss Card

HR Fink’s body was washed ashore at Bergen on 4th July 1943

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

  • MWP Clarke’s body was washed ashore on 5th July 1943 at beach pole 17.1, near Callentsoog, Holland
  • CM Harcombe’s body was washed ashore on 8th July 1943 at beach pole 29, near Bergen