Lancaster PB308 (12/09/1944)

Lancaster PB308 was one of seven No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Wanne-Eickel on the afternoon of the 12th September 1944 (Daylight Raid).

It was equipped with Nav Aid Y (H2S), Fishpond and Carpet and carried 1 x 4000lb HC, 16 x 500lb AMN.64 and 6 x 500lb MC. Its designated Path Finder role was Supporter.

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • Donald Campbell (Pilot)
  • John Radford Rosser (Navigator)
  • Ronald Toomer (Air Bomber)
  • William Jack Mintjens (Wireless Operator)
  • Francis Henry Davidson (Air Gunner)
  • Joseph William Robinson (Air Gunner)
  • Frederick Ronald Harmsworth-Smith (Flight Engineer)

PB308 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 12th 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. 308 (Flight 18/01/1945) reported D Campbell, JR Rosser, R Toomer, WJ Mintjens, FH Davidson, JW Robinson and FR Harmsworth-Smith as “missing”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 549 (Flight 15/11/1945) reported D Campbell, R Toomer, WJ Mintjens, FH Davidson, JW Robinson and FR Harmsworth-Smith “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:

  • 31/03/1945: Information received from Air Ministry that D Campbell, R Toomer, WJ Mintjens, JW Robinson, FH Davidson, FR Harmsworth-Smith and one unknown, missing on 12th September 1944, were all 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.

Original Burials

CWGC records show that the remains of all the crew members were located at Gelsenkirchen-Huellen Cemetery

Post War Concentration 

Their remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) at REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY on 9th May 1947 as follows:

  • HARMSWORTH-SMITH, FREDERICK RONALD Flight Sergeant ‘620288’  Grave 20. A. 12.
  • MINTJENS, WILLIAM JACK Flight Sergeant ‘1385854’ Grave 20. A. 13.
  • ROBINSON, JOSEPH WILLIAM Flight Sergeant ‘649403’ Coll. grave 19. E. 15-17.
  • ROSSER, JOHN RADFORD Flying Officer ‘151612’ Grave 20. B. 1.
  • TOOMER, RONALD Flying Officer ‘152236’ Coll. grave 19. E. 15-17.
  • CAMPBELL, DONALD Flying Officer ‘179543’ Grave 20. A. 14.
  • DAVIDSON, FRANCIS HENRY Sergeant ‘1895851’ Coll. grave 19. E. 15-17.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

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

Crashed 14.15 at Gelsenkirchen-Bismarck

Note: Same information included on the Bomber Command Loss Card