Lancaster ND702 (11/09/1944)

Lancaster ND702 was one of six No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Gelsenkirchen on 11th September 1944 (Daylight Raid).

It was equipped with Nav Aid Y (H2S), Fishpond and Carpet and was carrying 1 x 4000lb HC and 16 x 500lb MC. Its designated Path Finder role was Supporter.

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • George Bradburn (Pilot)
  • Deryck Michael Denys Lambert (Navigator)
  • James White (Air Bomber)
  • Arthur Thomas Britchford (Wireless Operator)
  • Frederick John Feakins (Air Gunner)
  • Randolph Rhodes (Air Gunner)
  • Dennis Charles Prior (Flight Engineer)

ND702 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 12th September 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 11th September 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. 460 (Flight 18/01/1945) reported G Bradburn, AT Britchford and FJ Feakins as “missing”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 545 (Flight 25/10/1945) reported AT Britchford and FJ Feakins “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:

  • 05/12/1944: Information received from Air Ministry that AT Britchford and FJ Feakins, missing on 11th September 1944, were killed; also that DMD Lambert and R Rhodes were captured
  • 12/12/1944: Information received from Air Ministry that DC Prior and one unknown, missing on 11th September 1944, were killed

Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned

DMD Lambert and R Rhodes 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:

  • DMD Lambert
    • Captured: NW of Gelsenkirchen (11/09/1944)
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VII, Bankau Sep-44 to Jan-45
    • Imprisoned: Stalag III-A, Luckenwalde Feb-45 to Apr-45
    • Repatriated May-45
  • R Rhodes
    • Captured: Ruhr (11/09/1944)
    • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VII, Bankau Sep-44 to Jan-45
    • Imprisoned: Stalag III-A, Luckenwalde Feb-45 to May-45
    • Repatriated May-45

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 G Bradburn, J White, FJ Feakins and DC Prior were located at Gladbeck Cemetery

Their remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) at REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY on 24th September 1947 as follows:

  • WHITE, JAMES Flight Sergeant ‘1562042’ Joint grave 30. D. 8.
  • FEAKINS, FREDERICK JOHN Sergeant ‘1473318’ 30. D. 10.
  • PRIOR, DENNIS CHARLES Sergeant ‘1819099’ 30. D. 7.
  • BRADBURN, GEORGE Flying Officer ‘175008’ 30. D. 9.

[Source: Find-a-Grave and Begraafplaatsen]

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) records show that the remains of AT Britchford were located at Gelsenkirchen-Huellen Cemetery.

ND702 Concentration2[Britchford].jpg

His remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) at REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY on 20th April 1948 as follows:

  • BRITCHFORD, ARTHUR THOMAS Flight Sergeant ‘1098212’ 11. C. 1.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

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

Crashed 18.25 at Gladbeck

Note: This information also appears on the Bomber Command Loss Card

Crew Information

G Bradburn was posted into the squadron, from No. 41 Base on 19th July 1944 – read more –