Halifax LV864 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 Gee, IFF, H2S, API, Monica, GPI and Fishpond and was carrying 3 x 1000lbs MC, 1 x 500lbs MC and various flares / target indicators. Its designated Path Finder role was Blind Backer Up
Its seven-man crew comprised:
- Keith George McAlpine (Pilot)
- Gerald Walter Traylor (Navigator)
- Leslie Chant (Air Bomber)
- Albert Abraham John Meyers (Wireless Operator)
- Alexander Gartshore Stirling McCulloch (Air Gunner)
- David Sinclair (Air Gunner)
- Richard John Twine (Flight Engineer)
The route was 5400N 0440E, 5240N 0810E, 5237N 1152E, 5200N 1255E, Target, 5100N 1200E, 5240N 0810E, 5315N 0400E
LV864 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”.
Extract from letter sent to the family of KG McAlpine
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. 384 (Flight 18/05/1944) reported GW Traylor, KG McAlpine and D Sinclair as “missing”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 499 (Flight 03/05/1945) reported D Sinclair “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 507 (Flight 24/05/1945) reported GW Traylor” previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 510 (Flight 31/05/1944) reported KG McAlpine “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:
- 26/03/1944: Information received from Air Ministry that D Sinclair, missing on 19th / 20th February 1944, was killed
- 04/04/1944: Information received from Air Ministry that L Chant, AAJ Myers, RJ Twine and AGS McCulloch, missing on 19th / 20th February 1944, are prisoners of war
- 12/01/1945: Information received from Air Ministry that L Chant, missing on 19th / 20th February 1944, died on 2nd December 1944 whilst a prisoner of war
Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned
AAJ Meyers, AGS McCulloch and RJ Twine 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:
- AGS McCulloch
- Captured: SE of Magdeburg 20/02/1944
- Imprisoned: Stalag Luft III, Sagan Feb-44 to Jan-45
- Imprisoned: Marlag und Milag Nord, Westertimke (Tarmstedt) Feb-45 to Apr-45
- Repatriated: May-45
- AAJ Meyers (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VI, Heydekrug / Stalag 357
- RJ Twine (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
- Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VI, Heydekrug / Stalag 357
L Chant survived the crash and was captured, interrogated and imprisoned. He died as a result of a heart attack on 2nd December 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 L Chant were located at Orbke (believed to be the cemetery at Stalag XIB at Fallingbostel)
L Chant’s remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) at BECKLINGEN WAR CEMETERY on 12th August 1946 as follows:
- CHANT, LESLIE Flight Sergeant ‘1315456’ Grave 14. A. 8.
The remains of KG McAlpine and D Sinclair were located at Buckow and the remains of GW Traylor at Vieritz
KG McAlpine’s, D Sinclair’s and GW Traylor’s remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) at BERLIN 1939-1945 WAR CEMETERY on 19th July 1947 as follows:
- McALPINE, KEITH GEORGE Pilot Officer ‘412623’ Grave 9. B. 28.
- SINCLAIR, DAVID Flight Sergeant ‘R/76842’ Grave 9. B. 27.
- TRAYLOR, GERALD WALTER Flight Sergeant ‘658044’ Grave 9. H. 28.
Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)
Shot down in flames, crashed 1km S of Buckow, near Vieritz
Possible Nightfighter Claim: Ofw. Heinrich Sawert, 4./NJG5, SSW of unknown location, 6000m
WR Chorley (Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War)
Shot down in flames by a nightfighter, the survivors baling out from heights ranging from 6000ft to 900ft.
MRES Report (Source: Australian Archives)
It is believed that the aircraft was brought down by enemy fighters and crashed 1km south of Buckow (near Vieritz-Buckow road) and it burnt for some time. The bodies of KG McAlpine and D Sinclair were recovered from the wreckage. The body of GW Traylor, who baled out of the aircraft but did not make a successful landing, was recovered the following day in woods at Bohne about 4-5km north of Vieritz.
McCulloch Letter (Source: Australian Archives)