Halifax HX325 (19/02/1944)

Halifax HX325 was one of seventeen No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Leipzig on the night of the 19th / 20th February 1944.

It was equipped with IFF, Gee, H2S, Fishpond and Monica and was carrying 3 x 1000lb MC, 1 x 500lb MC and various target indicators. Its designated Path Finder role was Primary Blind Marker

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • Douglas Julian Sale (Pilot)
  • Gordon Henry Francis Carter (Navigator)
  • Boris Oleh Bodnar (Air Bomber)
  • Harold John Rogers (Wireless Operator)
  • Kenneth Knight (Air Gunner)
  • Robert Lionel Lamb (Air Gunner)
  • George Henry Cross (Flight Engineer)

The route was 5400N 0440E, 5240N 0810E, 5237N 1152E, 5200N 1255E, Target, 5100N 1200E, 5240N 0810E, 5315N 0400E

HX325 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 20th February 1944 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 19th / 20th February 1944”.

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 provided No. 35 Squadron with the following information regarding the crew:

  • 26/03/1944: Information received from Air Ministry that DJ Sale, GHF Carter and BO Bodnar, missing on 19th / 20th February 1944, are prisoners of war; DJ Sale was wounded
  • 04/04/1944: Information received from Air Ministry that HJ Rogers, GH Cross and RL Lamb, missing on 19th / 20th February 1944, are prisoners of war; also that K Knight was killed
  • 24/10/1944: Information received from Air Ministry that DJ Sale, missing on 19th / 20th February 1944, had died on 20th March 1944, whilst a prisoner

Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned

GHF Carter, BO Bodnar, HJ Rogers, RL Lamb and GH Cross 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:

  • GHF Carter (POW No. 3526)
    • Captured: Nienburg / Weser 22/02/1944
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III, Sagan Mar-44 to Jan-45
    • Imprisoned: Marlag und Milag Nord, Westertimke (Tarmstedt) Feb-45 to Apr-45
    • Repatriated: May-45
  • GH Cross
    • Captured Celle, Nr Hanover 21/02/1944
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VI, Heydekrug Mar-44 Jul-44
    • Imprisoned: Stalag 357, Thorn Jul-44 Aug-44
    • Imprisoned: Stalag 357, Fallingbostel Aug-44 Apr-45
    • Repatriated May-45
  • BO Bodnar (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III, Sagan
    • Repatriated:
  • HJ Rogers (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III, Sagan
    • Repatriated:
  • RL Lamb (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Captured:
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III, Sagan
    • Repatriated:

DJ Sale survived the crash and was captured and hospitalised at the Air Force Hospital, Giessener Strasse, Frankfurt-am-Main. He died as a result of his injuries (fracture of the pelvis resulting from a parachute jump) on 20th March 1944.

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 DJ Sale were located at St Avold US Military Cemetery (although a letter to his family suggests that his remains were exhumed from The Town Cemetery, Frankfurt-am-Main by American Forces and reinterred at St Avold)

dj-sale-concentration

His remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) on 12th February 1948 at CHOLOY WAR CEMETERY as follows:

  • SALE, DOUGLAS JULIAN ‘J/9929’  Grave 1. G. 8.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) records show that the remains of K Knight were located at Beedenbostel New Cemetery.

hx325-concentration

His remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) at HANOVER WAR CEMETERY on 9th April 1947 as follows:

  • KNIGHT, KENNETH Flight Sergeant ‘1602007’  Grave 5. C. 7


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)

Possible Nightfighter Claim: Hptm. Ludwig Meister, 1./NJG4, Beedenbostel 13km NE Celle, 02.48

GHF Carter (POW Record)


Notes:

  1. Some sources suggest that DJ Sale committed suicide after sustaining serious injuries as a result of the crash. However, the cause of death section on his Certificate of Registration of Death, which can be completed as either “Accident, Suicide or Homicide”, shows “Accident, died of wounds as a prisoner of war”