Lancaster ND649 (22/03/1944)

Lancaster ND649 was one of fourteen No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Frankfurt on the night of the 22nd / 23rd March 1944.

It was equipped with IFF, Gee, Nav Aid Y (H2S) and Fishpond and was carrying 6 x 2000lb MC. Its designated Pathfinder role was Supporter

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • John Cameron Keith Webb (Pilot)
  • Edwin Gordon Fidler (Navigator)
  • Wallace Rose (Air Bomber)
  • William Frederick Martin (Wireless Operator)
  • Frederick James Marriott (Air Gunner)
  • William McKenna Smith (Air Gunner)
  • Kenneth Ephraim Harris (Flight Engineer)

The route was Base, 5405N 0400E, 5220N 0845E, Target, 4948N 0830E, 4945N 0710E, 5105N 0240E, Base

ND649 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 23rd March 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 22nd / 23rd March 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. 391 (Flight 08/06/1944) reported JCK Webb, EG Fidler, W Rose, WF Martin, FJ Marriott, WM Smith and KE Harris as “missing”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 498 (Flight 03/05/1945) reported JCK Webb, FJ Marriott, WM Smith and KE Harris “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:

  • 09/08/1944: Information received from Air Ministry that seven members of the crew of JCK Webb, missing on 22nd / 23rd March 1944, were killed

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 members were located at Eschborn Civilian Cemetery

nd649-concentration

Their remains were exhumed, formally identified and concentrated (reinterred) at Durnbach War Cemetery on 5th December 1947 as follows:

  • FIDLER, EDWIN GORDON Sergeant ‘1396105’ Grave 7. K. 13.
  • HARRIS, KENNETH EPHRAIM Sergeant ‘1584722’ Coll. grave 7. K. 14-19.
  • MARRIOTT, FREDERICK JAMES Flight Sergeant ‘1398464’ Coll. grave 7. K. 14-19.
  • MARTIN, WILLIAM FREDERICK Flight Sergeant ‘1079614’ Coll. grave 7. K. 14-19.
  • ROSE, WALLACE Flight Sergeant ‘1481165’ Coll. grave 7. K. 14-19.
  • SMITH, WILLIAM MCKENNA Sergeant ‘1368230’ Coll. grave 7. K. 14-19.
  • WEBB, JOHN CAMERON KEITH Flight Sergeant ‘1498781’ Coll. grave 7. K. 14-19.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd War Diaries)

Nightfighter Claim: Hptm. Gerhard Raht; 4./NJG3, NW Frankfurt, 21.48. (Note: Coned by 3./Flakscheinw. Abt.399; also claimed by flak of 4. & 5./schw. Flak Abt. 255, 2., 5. & 6./schw. Flak Abt. 396 and 1./schw. Flak Abt. 435 (Lancaster Eschborn 21.49hrs); victory credited by Abschuss Kommission to Hptm Raht 21/07/1944

WR Chorley (Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War)

Crashed at Eschborn, 16km north-west from the centre of Frankfurt