Halifax JP123 was one of ten aircraft No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Stettin on the night of 5th / 6th January 1944.
It was equipped with Gee, Nav Aid Y (H2S), Monica and Fishpond and was carrying 4 x 500 HC and various Target Indicators. Its designated Path Finder role was Blind Backer Up.
Its seven-man crew comprised:
- Robert Reginald George Appleby (Pilot)
- Norman George Emery (Navigator)
- Ernest Charles Nixon (Air Bomber)
- Ivor Charles Redfearn (Wireless Operator)
- Clifford George Bromham (Air Gunner)
- Donald Seymour James (Air Gunner)
- Bernard Leo Robinson (Flight Engineer)
The route was as follows: Base, 5600N 0600E, 5600N 1300E, 5405N 1323E, Stettin, 5325N 1450E, 5500N 1505E, 5600N 1300E, 5600N 0600E, Base
JP123 failed to return from the operation and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “This aircraft is missing, nothing being heard from it after take-off”
Wartime activity relating to the loss
On 6th January 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 5th / 6th January 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 published the following information regarding the crew:
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 356 (Flight 16/03/1944) reported RRG Appleby, EC Nixon, IC Redfearn, CG Bromham, DS James and BL Robinson as “missing”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 532 (Flight 16/08/1945) reported EC Nixon, IC Redfearn, CG Bromham and BL Robinson “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 533 (Flight 23/08/1945) reported RRG Appleby and DS James “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 that the Air Ministry provided them (and presumably the families of the crew) with the following information:
- 28/02/1944: Information received from Air Ministry that NG Emery, missing on 5th / 6th January 1944, is a prisoner of war
- 01/05/1944: Information received from Air Ministry that RRG Appleby, missing on 5th / 6th January 1944, was killed
Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned
NG Emery 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:
- NG Emery (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III, Sagan
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 RRG Appleby, IC Redfearn, CG Bromham, DS James and BL Robinson were located at Torgelow Cemetery.
The original grave markers [Courtesy of Henry Pederson]
Their remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) at BERLIN 1939-1945 WAR CEMETERY on 4th October 1947 as follows:
- APPLEBY, ROBERT REGINALD GEORGE Flight Lieutenant ‘145692’ Grave 2. F. 21
- BROMHAM, CLIFFORD GEORGE Flight Sergeant ‘1413551’ Grave 2. F. 19.
- JAMES, DONALD SEYMOUR Flight Sergeant ‘1603174’ Grave 2. F. 17.
- REDFEARN, IVOR CHARLES Flight Sergeant ‘645572’ Grave 2. F. 20.
- ROBINSON, BERNARD LEO Flight Sergeant ‘1061193’ Grave 2. F. 18.
CWGC records show that the remains of EC Nixon were not located (or could not be formally identified); as such, his name is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial as follows:
- NIXON, ERNEST CHARLES Pilot Officer ‘170344’ Panel 212.
[Courtesy of Clive Lewis]
Bomber Command Loss Card
- On 3 engines, maintaining height 5505N 0320E (message received by another aircraft)
- Halifax shot down by flak NW Target at 20,000 feet
- 4 unknown with Emery (POW) …… 6th January ……….
Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)
Possible Nightfighter Claim: Oblt. Paul Zorner, 8./NJG3, NW target Stettin, 5700m, 03.51