Halifax LV861 (15/02/1944)

Halifax LV861 was one of nineteen No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Berlin on the night of 15th / 16th February 1944.

It was equipped with H2S, Monica and Fishpond and was carrying 3 x 1000lb MC T.Inst, 1 x 500lb MC T.Inst and various target indicators. Its designated Path Finder role was Blind Backer Up.

Its seven man crew comprised:

  • Colin Frazer Blundell (Pilot)
  • Patrick Baring Oates Ranalow (Navigator)
  • Albert Walter Bennett (Air Bomber)
  • Reginald Moreton (Wireless Operator)
  • Jeffrey Eugene Pogonowski (Air Gunner)
  • Raymond Valentine Montigue Daniels (Air Gunner)
  • Leslie Albert Hazell (Flight Engineer)

The route was 5450N 0400E, 5525N 0700E, 5510N 1000E, 5430N 1230E, Target

LV861 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “This aircraft is missing, nothing being heard from it after taking off”.

Wartime activities relating to the loss

On 16th 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 15th / 16th February 1944”.

Extract from letter sent to CF Blundell’s relatives [Australian Archives]

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. 377 (Flight 27/04/1944) reported CF Blundell and JE Pogonowski as “missing”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 484 (Flight 29/03/1945) reported CF Blundell, RVM Daniels, JE Pogonowski and LA Hazell “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 following information was received relating to the crew:

  • 02/07/1944: Information received from Air Ministry that JE Pogonowski, missing on 15th / 16th February 1944, was killed
  • 17/10/1944: Information received from Air Ministry that PBO Ranalow, missing on 15th / 16th February 1944, arrived in the UK on 6th October 1944

Crew members that survived the crash and evaded capture

PBO Ranalow, AW Bennett and R Moreton survived the crash and evaded capture as follows:

  • PBO Ranalow
    • Evasion Route: Holland / Switzerland
      Repatriation: 06/10/1944
  • AW Bennett
    • Evasion Route: Holland / Belgium / France / Switzerland / France
    • Repatriation: September 1944?
  • R Moreton
    • Evasion Route: Holland / Belgium
    • Repatriation: 07/09/1944

Post War search for the missing crew member(s)

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 CF Blundell, RVM Daniels, JE Pogonowski and LA Hazell were concentrated (reinterred) at DIEPENVEEN GENERAL CEMETERY (where they were initially buried) as follows :

  • BLUNDELL, COLIN FRAZER Pilot Officer ‘411116’ Row 2, Grave 15.
  • DANIELS, RAYMOND VALENTINE MONTIGUE Sergeant ‘962812’ Row 2, Grave 13.
  • HAZELL, LESLIE ALBERT Flight Sergeant ‘918657’ Row 2, Grave 16.
  • POGONOWSKI, JEFFREY EUGENE Flight Sergeant ‘418011’ Row 2, Grave 14.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)

Nightfighter claim: Oblt. Hans-Heinz Augenstein, 7./NJG1,  Diepenveen 4km NNW Deventer, 3000m, 22.47

Evasion Report Numbers (National Archives)

  • AIR40/286 PBO Ranalow
  • WO208/3322/2326 AW Bennett
  • WO208/3322/2271 R Moreton

Crew Memorial

LV861 Memorial

Memorial to the crew at Diepenveen [Photograph: © F Loggen]

Notes:

  1. JE Pogonowski’s and CF Blundell’s service files are digitised at the Australian Archives; they contain details regarding the loss and evasion of crew members