Lancaster ME334 was one of fourteen No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Bonn on the night of the 4th / 5th February 1945.
It was equipped with H2S, GPI, Fishpond, Loran and Carpet and was carrying 1 x 4000lb HC, 5 x 1000lb ANM65, 5 x 500lb MC and 1 target indicator (No. 1 R/G). Its designated Path Finder role was Blind Secondary Marker
Its seven-man crew comprised:
- AE Johnson (Pilot)
- GB Thomas (Navigator)
- H Coulton (Air Bomber)
- RM Jenkins (Wireless Operator)
- R Neale (Air Gunner)
- DF Hadland (Air Gunner)
- CA Butler (Flight Engineer)
The route was Base, Reading, 5000N 0200E, 5000N 0400E, 5014N 0540E, Target, 5047N 0715E, 5035N 0725E, 5010N 0640E, 5020E, 0530E, 5000N 0400E, 5100N 0240E, Southwold
ME334 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 February 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 4th / 5th February 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. 514 (Flight 14/06/1945) reported AE Johnson, GB Thomas, H Coulton, RM Jenkins, R Neale, DF Hadland and CA Butler as “missing”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 586 (Flight 06/06/1946) reported AE Johnson, GB Thomas, H Coulton, RM Jenkins, R Neale, DF Hadland and CA Butler “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:
- 26/09/1945: Information received from Air Ministry that AE Johnson, RM Jenkins and R Neale, missing on 4th February 1945, were killed. Four unknown, presumably the remaining members of the crew, were buried with them in Beuel Cemetery
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 located at Beuel Cemetery
Their remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) at RHEINBERG WAR CEMETERY on 1st May 1947 as follows:
- NEALE, RAYMOND Flight Sergeant ‘1100968’ Grave 11. B. 1.
- BUTLER, CECIL ARTHUR Sergeant ‘1868746’ Grave 11. B. 2.
- HADLAND, DOUGLAS FARRANT Flight Sergeant ‘1616720’ Grave 11. B. 3.
- COULTON, HARRY Flying Officer ‘152725’ Grave 11. B. 4.
- JOHNSON, ALLAN EDWARD Flight Lieutenant ‘61984’ Grave 11. B. 5.
- JENKINS, ROY MAURICE Flight Sergeant ‘1394968’ Grave 11. B. 6.
- THOMAS, GERALD BASIL Flight Sergeant ‘1549455’ Grave 11. B. 7.
The original graves and grave markers at Rheinberg 1947
The MRES report concerning the crew of Lancaster ME334 says that Lancaster ME334, which was reported missing on 4 February 1945, crashed at Beuel, map reference K51/F5738.
In August 1946, a MRES investigating officer from 19 Section, No 4 Missing Research and Enquiry Unit, Germany visited Beuel. He spoke to police there and the Burgomeister who told him that an aircraft had crashed on the outskirts of the town after the attack on Bonn on 4 February 1945. The main part of the aircraft crashed on a plot of waste land in Elsa Brandstroem Strasse. Another witness who lived opposite the crash site said the aircraft came down at 20.20 hours. The wreckage of the aircraft covered an area of about 200 yards square. The witness said that the aircraft was hit to the south of the city and caught fire. The Wehrmacht recovered the bodies of the crew and the aircraft wreckage and the crew were taken by the Leichenbergungskommando of the German Air Force at Hangelar to the New Cemetery, Beuel for burial.”
A letter of hope [Courtesy of Peter Lawson]