Lancaster ME333 was one of sixteen No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Chemnitz on the night of the 5th / 6th March 1945.
It was equipped with H2S 3a, GPI, Fishpond and Loran
Its seven-man crew comprised:
- Fred Watson (Pilot)
- Kenneth Samuel Smith (Navigator)
- Stanley Owen Scott (Air Bomber)
- Leslie George Holland (Wireless Operator)
- Phillip James Pentelow (Air Gunner)
- Victor Arthur Roe (Air Gunner)
- George Cross (Flight Engineer)
The route was: Reading, 5000N 0200E, 5000N 0500E, 5030N 0720E, 5045N 0930E, 5138N 1132E, 5130N 1240E, Target, 5040N 1300E, 5105N 1200E, 5050N 1020E, 5000N 0200E Reading
ME333 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 6th March 1945 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 5th / 6th March 1945”.
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. 534 (Flight 30/08/1945) reported F Watson, KS Smith, SO Scott, LG Holland, PJ Pentelow and VA Roe as “missing”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 588 (Flight 20/06/1946) reported PJ Pentelow “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 593 (Flight 18/07/1946) reported G Cross, F Watson, KS Smith, SO Scott, LG Holland and VA Roe “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.
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 the crew were not located and, as such, their names are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial as follows:
- CROSS, George Flight Sergeant ‘1534727’ Panel 270.
- HOLLAND, Leslie George Pilot Officer ‘195246’ Panel 268.
- PENTELOW, Phillip James Flying Officer ‘403024’ Panel 285.
- ROE, Victor Arthur Warrant Officer ‘1813968’ Panel 269.
- SCOTT, Stanley Owen Flying Officer ‘162469’ Panel 267.
- SMITH, Kenneth Samuel Flight Lieutenant ‘165669’ Panel 266.
- WATSON, Fred Squadron Leader ‘110889’ Panel 265.
[Courtesy of Clive Lewis]
Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd War Diaries)
Possible nightfighter claim: Fw. Schuster, 1./NJG5, Chemnitz, 21.51