Lancaster ND846 was one of fourteen No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack the marshalling yards at Villeneuve St. Georges on the night of the 4th / 5th July 1944.
It was equipped with IFF, Gee, Nav Aid Y (H2S), Fishpond and Carpet. Its designated Path Finder role was Backer Up
Its eight-man crew comprised:
- Alec Panton Cranswick (Pilot)
- Reginald Herbert Kille (Navigator)
- Philip Richmond Burt (Air Bomber)
- Albert Clement Michael Taylor (Set Operator)
- Wilfred Roland Horner (Wireless Operator)
- Alfred Harold Wood (Air Gunner)
- Eric McHugh Davies (Air Gunner)
- Charles Erickson (Flight Engineer)
The route was Reading, 5030N 0020W, 4950N 0035E, 4830N 0107E, Target, 4846N 0230E, 4830N 0230E, 4832N 0108E, 4850N 0059E, 4900N 0130W, 4940N 0230W
Lancaster ND846 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 5th July 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 4th / 5th July 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. 439 (Flight 02/11/1944) reported AP Cranswick, RH Kille, PR Burt, ACM Taylor, WR Horner, EM Davies, AH Wood and
C Erickson as “missing”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 558 (Flight 10/01/1946) reported ACM Taylor, EM Davies and AH Wood “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 560 (Flight 17/01/1946) reported C Erickson “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:
- 24/09/1944: Information received from Air Ministry that WR Horner, missing on 4th / 5th July 1944, is a prisoner of war; also that AP Cranswick, RH Kille and PR Burt were killed
Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned
WR Horner survived the crash and was captured, hospitalised and imprisoned for the remainder of the war.
His POW Liberation Questionnaire, which was completed as part of the repatriation process at 106 Personnel Reception Centre (RAF Cosford) in 1945, shows the following details:
- WR Horner
- Captured: 05/07/1944 (Wounded [Burns])
- Hospitalised: St Denis, Paris Jul-44 to Aug-44
- Hospitalised: Hohemark Hospital, Frankfurt Aug-44
- Hospitalised: Reserve-Lazaret IX-C(a), Obermassfeld Aug-44 to Sep-44
- Hospitalised: Reserve-Lazaret IX-C(b), Meiningen Sep-44 to Oct-44
- Imprisoned: Stalag Luft VII, Bankau Oct-44 to Jan-45
- Imprisoned: Stalag IIIA, Luckenwalde Jan-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 has a note which states that AP Cranswick was “Originally buried in what is described as the Parish Cemetery at Reau” (Reau is south-east of the crash site).
Its records also show that RH Kille, EM Davies, ACM Taylor and C Erickson were originally buried at Clichy Northern Cemetery.
There are no details relating to the original burials of PR Burt or HA Wood.
The remains of all the crew members (including Cranswick, Burt and Wood) were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) on 14th April 1947 at CLICHY NORTHERN CEMETERY as follows:
- BURT, PHILIP RICHMOND Flight Lieutenant ‘120036’ Plot 16. Row 13. Grave 11.
- CRANSWICK, ALEC PANTON Squadron Leader ‘42696’ Plot 16. Row 13. Grave 16.
- DAVIES, ERIC McHUGH Flight Sergeant ‘935690’ Plot 16. Row 13. Coll. grave 5-7.
- ERICKSON, CHARLES Sergeant ‘992684’ Plot 16. Row 13. Coll. grave 5-7.
- KILLE, REGINALD HERBERT Flying Officer ‘147636’ Plot 16. Row 13. Grave 12.
- TAYLOR, ALBERT CLEMENT MICHAEL Flight Lieutenant ‘159424’ Plot 16. Row 13. Coll. grave 5-7.
- WOOD, ALFRED HAROLD Flight Sergeant ‘1603433’ Plot 16. Row 13. Grave 10.
Bomber Command Loss Card
Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd Combat Archive)
Nightfighter Claim: Uffz. Kurt Stockbauer, 4./NJG4, (S) Paris (AE-BE), 3600m, 01.26
Aircraft crashed at Villecresnes, Créteil, Val-de-Marne Deparment, Île-de-France Region, France about 12.5 miles from the centre of Paris.
Article by Roger Ward © BBC Peoples War Stories (WR Horner’s Story)
We took off at 23.20 hours and crossed the English Coast at Beachy Head and flew around Paris. We had to descend to 7000 feet to clear clouds. (At briefing it was estimated to be 12000 feet). As soon as the aiming point was sighted the pilot was directed on to it by F/L Taylor and markers and bombs were dropped; almost immediately there were explosions below us and the aircraft began burning and the pilot gave the order to bale out. I attached my parachute to clips on my chest and as the rear of the plane was on fire I waited my turn to use the front escape hatch.
My next memory was being dragged along the ground by my parachute (unbeknown to me, the plane had broken its back exactly where i was standing and i was the sole survivor). There was lots of shouting in German! They released me from my harness and took me into a building. I was questioned by an officer, giving him my rank, name and service number. I next remember being taken to a medical centre and being treated by a doctor and two nurses. My legs and hands were burnt and I had inhaled a lot of smoke.
The next morning I was picked up by a lorry (the driver stopped to show me the wreckage of our plane) and taken to the American hospital at St. Denis, where I received good treatment.
The first week in August I was moved to a hospital at Hohenmark, which was attached to the interrogation centre at Oberusal, near Frankfurt. On August 15th I was transferred to Obermassfeld, where I had a skin graft to my right hand. This hospital was staffed by British personnel with a German doctor in overall control.
My next move was to a convalescent centre at Meiningen, which was in an old theatre. I left there on October 20th for the prison camp, Luft 7, at Bankau, near Kreuzberg in Lower Silesia.
In the new year (1945) we could hear the approach of the Russian Army. On the 19th January we left camp and began the long walk westwards. It was snowing and very cold and frosty. We slept at state farms and once in a disused brick factory. There was very little food and it was difficult to keep going in the severe weather. We eventually arrived in Luckenwalde (Stalag 3A) south of Potsdam.
On 22nd April Russian troops arrived and took control of the camp. American lorries came to collect us but were refused access. We were eventually allowed to leave about the 22/23rd May and go to Halle from where the Americans flew us to Brussels. After baths and fresh uniforms, we felt more civilised and were flown home to England in Lancasters. We were taken to RAF Cosford for medical examinations. I arrived home on 29th May- MY BIRTHDAY!
The following link provides information on AP Cranswick’s operational sorties as Captain of a No. 35 Squadron aircraft and the composition of his crew on these sorties