Halifax W7907 was one of seventeen No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Berlin on the night of the 27th / 28th March 1943.
It was part of the Main Force and was carrying 3 x 1000lb GP and 2 x 250lb.
Its seven-man crew comprised:
- Harl J. Espy (Pilot)
- George Charles Dynes (Navigator)
- James Hubert Naylor (Air Bomber)
- Reginald Charles Smith (Wireless Operator)
- Charles Pattison (Air Gunner)
- George Harold Yeates (Air Gunner)
- Ronald Albert Henry Thomas (Flight Engineer)
The route was Cromer, North of Texel, Berlin, Mandø, Cromer.
W7907 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “This aircraft failed to return. No message received”.
Wartime activities relating to the loss
On 28th 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 27th / 28th March 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. 234 (Flight 20/05/1943) reported HJ Espy, GC Dynes, RC Smith, C Pattison, GH Yeates and RAH Thomas as “missing”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 362 (Flight 23/03/1944) reported HJ Espy, GC Dynes, RC Smith, C Pattison, GH Yeates and RAH Thomas “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 363 (Flight 30/03/1944) reported JH Naylor “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:
- 19/06/1943: Information received from Air Ministry that the following, missing on 27th / 28th March 1943, were killed – F/O Espy, Sgt Dynes, Sgt Pattison, P/O Naylor, Sgt Smith, Sgt Thomas
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 all the crew were located at Geestemunde Cemetery
Their remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) at BECKLINGEN WAR CEMETERY on 5th November 1946 as follows:
- DYNES, GEORGE CHARLES Sergeant ‘1501437’ Coll. grave 11. G. 1-6.
- NAYLOR, JAMES HUBERT Flying Officer ‘NZ.413111’ Coll. grave 11. G. 1-6.
- PATTISON, CHARLES Sergeant ‘632331’ Coll. grave 11. G. 1-6.
- SMITH, REGINALD CHARLES Sergeant ‘1377817’ Coll. grave 11. G. 1-6.
- THOMAS, RONALD ALBERT HENRY Sergeant ‘575820’ Coll. grave 11. G. 1-6.
- YEATES, GEORGE HAROLD Sergeant ‘1390540’ Coll. grave 11. G. 1-6.
Espy’s remains were flown back to the USA and concentrated (reinterred) at ESPYVILLE CEMETERY as follows:
- ESPY, HARL J. Flying Officer ‘118575’ Lot 86. Grave 1
Bomber Command Loss Card
Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)
Hit by 1. & 4./schw. Flak Abt. 117,2./schw. Flak Abt. 531, 1. & 2./schw. Flak Abt. 615 and 3./schw. Flak Abt. Crashed to the north of Habighorst, near Vegesack / Bremen (Germany) at 21.45hrs.