Lancaster PA971 (26/08/1944)

Lancaster PA971 was one of eleven No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Kiel on the night of the 26th / 27th August 1944.

Its eight-man crew comprised:

  • Douglas Lawrence Knobloch (Pilot)
  • John Maule (Navigator)
  • Francis Herbert Thomas McNally (Air Bomber)
  • Albert Edward John Thorne (Set Operator)
  • Ronald George Pain (Wireless Operator)
  • James Arthur Bowen (Air Gunner)
  • Reginald Noah Collins (Air Gunner)
  • James William Street (Flight Engineer)

PA971 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 27th August 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 26th / 27th August 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. 458 (Flight 11/01/1945) reported DL Knobloch, J Maule, FHT McNally, AEJ Thorne, RG Pain, JA Bowen, RN Collins and JW Street as “missing”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 538 (Flight 20/09/1945) reported FHT McNally “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 565 (Flight 21/03/1946) reported J Maule “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 567 (Flight 04/04/1946) reported AEJ Thorne, JA Bowen, RN Collins and JW Street “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 585  (Flight 06/06/1946) reported RG Pain “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 591  (Flight 04/07/1946) reported DL Knobloch “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:

  • 07/02/1945: Information received from Air Ministry that FHT McNally, missing on 26th / 27th August 1944, was 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 never found, or could not be identified and, as such their names are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial as follows:

  • BOWEN, JAMES ARTHUR Sergeant ‘2220386’ Panel 225.
  • COLLINS, REGINALD NOAH Sergeant ‘2220310’ Panel 227.
  • KNOBLOCH, DOUGLAS LAWRENCE Flight Lieutenant ‘405287’ Panel 262.
  • MAULE, JOHN Flying Officer ‘153013’ Panel 208.
  • McNALLY, FRANCIS HERBERT THOMAS Flying Officer ‘152971’ Panel 207.
  • PAIN, RONALD GEORGE Sergeant ‘1466662’ Panel 235.
  • STREET, JAMES WILLIAM Sergeant ‘1891633’ Panel 238.
  • THORNE, ALBERT EDWARD JOHN Sergeant ‘1586927’ Panel 239.

[Courtesy of Clive Lewis]


Bomber Command Loss Card

The Loss Card suggests that the body of FHT McNally was washed ashore on 4th September 1945 (believe that this should read 1944); no further details provided.

In an e-mail dated 30/01/2018, the AHB provided the following information:

“I can confirm, that the International Red Cross Committee notified the Air Ministry, that they had been informed by the German Authorities that the body of Fg Off McNally had been washed ashore on the North Frisian Island of Fano and had been buried on the beach by the water’s edge.

In the post war period, the area was searched by a team from No.4 MREU but no trace of the burial place or the body could be found and it was assumed to have been washed out to sea again. As such, he is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial”.