Lancaster ND759 (27/04/1944)

Lancaster ND759 was one of fourteen No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack engine and gearbox factories in Friedrichshafen on 27th / 28th April 1944.

Its seven man crew comprised:

  • Robert Graham Peter (Pilot)
  • Geoffrey Grant Foulkes (Navigator)
  • Noel Charles William Davis (Air Bomber)
  • Murray Thomas Bartle (Wireless Operator)
  • David Poole Balmer (Air Gunner)
  • Irvine Graham (Air Gunner)
  • Alfred Stewart Brereton (Flight Engineer)

ND759 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 28th April 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 27th / 28th April 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. 406 (Flight 27/07/1944) reported GG Foulkes as “missing”

The squadron’s Operations Record Book shows that the following information was received regarding the crew:

  • 05/05/1944 – Information received from Air Ministry that RG Peter, NCW Davis, MT Bartle, I Graham and DP Balmer, missing on 27th / 28th April 1944, were interned in Switzerland. Balmer and Graham were admitted to hospital suffering from burns

Letter sent to family of MT Bartle (09/05/1944)

  • 13/06/1944 – Information received from Air Ministry that A Brereton, missing on 27th / 28th April 1944, was captured
  • 18/10/1944: Information received from Air Ministry that NCW Davis, missing on 27th / 28th April 1944, arrived in the UK on 8th October 1944
  • 13/01/1945: Information received from Air Ministry that MT Bartle, I Graham and DP Balmer, missing on 27th / 28th April 1944, have arrived safely back in the UK
  • 23/04/1945:  Information received from Air Ministry that a body, believed to be that of GG Foulkes, who baled out of an aircraft captained by RG Peter, which ditched in Lake Constance, has been recovered by the Swiss Authorities from the lake

Crew member(s) who survived the crash and were captured and interned in Switzerland

RG Peter, NCW Davis, MT Bartle, DP Balmer and I Graham  ditched in Lake Constance and were captured and interned in Switzerland as follows:

  • RG Peter (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Held in Switzerland: Adelboden?
    • Repatriated: Whitchurch 25/05/1944 (As part of an exchange)
  • NCW Davis (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Held in Switzerland: Adelboden May-44 to Oct-44 (Escaped)
    • Evasion Route: Switzerland / France?
    • Repatriated: Northolt 08/10/1944
  • MT Bartle
    • Held in Switzerland: Adelboden May-44 to Oct-44 (Escaped / Recaptured)
    • Imprisoned: Wauwil Concentration Camp / Arosa Oct-44 to Dec-44 (Escaped)
    • Evasion Route: Switzerland / France
    • Repatriated: Bovingdon, December 1944
  • DP Balmer (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Held in Switzerland: Hospital
    • Repatriated: Lyneham 31/12/1944
  • I Graham (POW Liberation Questionnaire yet to be obtained, so information is unconfirmed)
    • Held in Switzerland: Hospital
    • Repatriated: December 1944?

Crew member(s) who survived the crash and were captured, interrogated and imprisoned 

AS Brereton baled out and was captured, interrogated and imprisoned as follows:

  • Interrogated: Dulag Luft, Frankfurt Apr-44
  • Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VI, Heydekrug May-44 to Jul-44
  • Imprisoned: Stalag 357, Thorn Jul-44 to Aug-44
  • Imprisoned: Stalag 357, Fallingbostel Aug-44 to Mar-45
  • Repatriated: May-45

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 do not show any information about the recovery of GG Foulkes’ body from Lake Constance, but show that his remains were concentrated (reinterred) at Vevey (St. Martin’s) Cemetery as follows:

  • FOULKES, Geoffrey Grant ‘420381’ Grave 122

[Courtesy of Geoff Swallow]

Note: CWGC has advised that its records do not contain an original burial date but the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows that his body was recovered prior to April 1945

Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)

Nightfighter Claim: Oblt Wilhelm Johnen, 6./NJG5, Over Bodensee near Steckborn, 5,600m, 02.30 (Note: Johnen claim never officially confirmed; also claimed by flak of 2./schw. Flak Abt. 241, 2 and 4./schw. Flak Abt, 455, Heimat Flak Battr. 230/VII, Heimat Flak Battr. 215/VII, 5./schw. Flak Abt. 705 (unknown type of a/c Steckborn 02.30hrs) Flak claim marked VNE

MT Bartle Repatriation Questionnaire

Attacked by fighter 50 miles from target on the way in. One engine feathered and bombed from 16,000ft. Attacked again 20 minutes after leaving target and aircraft caught fire and dropped to 3,000ft. Navigator and Flight Engineer baled out during spin. Air Bomber’s chute opened in aircraft and the chutes of both air gunners were burnt. Turned back and ditched in Lake Constance, paddled to Swiss side of lake and laid up for four hours, then taken into custody by Swiss Authorities.

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

Hit either by flak or cannon fire from a nightfighter and ditched at 02.30 in the Bodensee.

Aircraft Recovery

ND759 was ditched on Lake Constance, Switzerland and it sank. It was recovered from the lake by Martin Shaffner during 1953/1954. It was put on display in Steckborn before being scrapped in 1955.

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The recovery of the aircraft [Courtesy of Warbird.ch]


Notes:

  1. Digitised record for MT Bartle available in Australian Archives; no digitised records for GG Foulkes, NCW Davis or RG Peter available (as at July 2017)