Lancaster ME367 (21/02/1945)

Lancaster ME367 was one of eleven No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Duisburg on the night of the 21st / 22nd February 1945.

The aircraft was equipped with HS2, Fishpond, Loran and Carpet and was carrying 1 x 4000lb HC, 5 x 1000lb MC and various target indicators. Its designated Path Finder role was Blind Secondary Marker.

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • Francis William Gordon Tropman (Pilot)
  • Robert Thomas Johns (Navigator)
  • Harry Denis Michell (Air Bomber)
  • Neil William Curtis (Wireless Operator)
  • Geoffrey John North (Air Gunner)
  • Malcolm Harry McVey (Air Gunner)
  • Raymond Marcel Hallett (Flight Engineer)

The route was 5000N 0200E, 5010N 0500E, 5050N 0540E, Target, 5128N 0649E, 5130N 055OE, 5055N 0520E, 5035N 0410E

ME367 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 22nd 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 21st / 22nd February 1945”.

An extract from the letter sent to the family of NW Curtis

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:

  • No information found

It is known that a telegram was sent to the family of FWG Tropman on 9th April 1945 advising them that he had been killed in action. A follow-up letter was sent on 5th May 1945.

tropman-letter

No. 35 Squadron’s Operations Record Book shows the following information regarding the crew:

  • 26/09/1945: Information received from Air Ministry  that RM Hallet and RT Johns have returned safely to the UK.
  • 06/10/1945: Information received from the Air Ministry that MH McVey was reported safe in the UK on 23rd May 1945.

Crew members who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned

RT Johns, HD Michell, NW Curtis, MH McVey, GJ North and RM Hallet survived the crash and were captured, interrogated and imprisoned for the remainder of the war.

Their POW Liberation Questionnaires, which were completed as part of the repatriation process show the following:

  • RT Johns
    • Captured: Krefeld 22/02/45
    • Imprisoned: Stalag VIII-D, Nuremberg Mar-45 to Apr-45
    • Imprisoned: Stalag VII-A, Moosburg Apr-45
    • Repatriated: May-45
  • HD Michell
    • Captured Krefeld 22/02/1945
    • Interrogated: Dulag Luft Obereusel, Frankfurt
    • Imprisoned: Stalag VIII-D, Nuremberg Mar-45 to Apr-45
    • Imprisoned: Stalag VII-A, Moosburg Apr-45
    • Repatriated: May-45
  • NW Curtis
    • Captured: Near Krefeld 21/02/45  (Fractured Ankle)
    • Hospitalised: Krefeld Feb-45
    • Hospitalised: Kaiservert Mar-45
    • Hospitalised: 3 km from Steenwijk Mar-45 to Apr-45
    • Repatriated: Apr-45 (Admitted to RAF Hospital Cosford)
  • MH McVey
    • Captured: Duisburg 21/02/45
    • Imprisoned: Stalag VIII-D, Nuremberg Mar-45 to Apr-45
    • Imprisoned: Stalag VII-A, Moosburg Apr-45
    • Repatriated: May-45
  • GJ North
    • Captured: Rheurdt  22/02/45
    • Imprisoned: Stalag VIII-D, Nuremberg Mar-45 to Apr-45
    • Imprisoned: Stalag VII-A, Moosburg Apr-45
    • Repatriated: May-45
  • RM Hallet
    • Captured: Duisburg  21/02/45
    • Imprisoned: Stalag VIII-D, Nuremberg Mar-45 to Apr-45
    • Imprisoned: Stalag VII-A, Moosburg Apr-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 Runnymede Memorial, which was unveiled in 1953.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) records show that the remains of FWG Tropman were located at Vorst Forest Cemetery.

tropman-concentration

His remains were exhumed, and whilst not positively identified, the MRES officer concluded that there were no doubts that it was Tropman and his remains were concentrated (reinterred) at Reichswald Forest War Cemetery on 28th July 1947 as follows:

  • TROPMAN, Francis William Gordon ‘413453’  Grave 29. B. 18.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Theo Boiten (Nachtjagd War Diaries)

Possible Nightfighter Claim: Hptm. Hermann Greiner, StabIV./NJG1, Neuss, 23.21

MRES Report

The MRES Report shows “A report from the Burgomeister of Vorst gives the information that the aircraft crashed at Schmitzheide/Vorst on 21st February 1945. I visited the scene of the crash and found that all major portions of the aircraft had been removed. I did however find six merlin exhaust flame covers and a Lancaster flap operating boom”

NW Curtis (RAAF Repatriation Questionnaire)

Attacked by unidentified fighter; aircraft on fire under fuselage. Baled out. Captured by German soldiers near Krefeld

Pilot Tropman buried by Americans after identification (this information learnt from adjutant of 35 Squadron).

GJ North (POW Documents)

An extract from GJ North’s POW documents