Lancaster PB343 was one of fifteen No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Hanover (first raid) on the night of the 5th / 6th January 1945.
It was equipped with Loran, Carpet, H2S and Fishpond and was carrying 4 x 1000lb MC and various Target Indicators. Its designated Path Finder role was Blind Illuminator
Its seven-man crew comprised:
- Kenneth Potts (Pilot)
- Murray Allison Mills (Navigator)
- Arthur Joseph Reeder (Air Bomber)
- George Alfred Pope (Wireless Operator)
- Ronald William Bentley (Air Gunner)
- Vivian Montague Bailey Halls (Air Gunner)
- Medley Benjamin Sharp (Flight Engineer)
The route was 5400N 0500E, 5305N 0700E, 5250N 0910E, Hanover, 5150N 0912E, 5220N 0705E, 5210N 0420E, Southwold
PB343 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “This aircraft is missing, nothing being heard from it after take-off”
Note: The squadron’s Operations Record Book shows the serial number as PB364
Wartime activities relating to the loss
On 6th January 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 January 1945”.
An example of the telegram that was sent
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. 509 (Flight 31/05/1945) reported K Potts, MAC Mills, AJ Reeder, GA Pope, RW Bentley, VB Halls and MB Sharp as “missing”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 575 (Flight 02/05/1946) reported GA Pope “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 579 (Flight 16/05/1946) reported MAC Mills “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 580 (Flight 16/05/1946) reported AJ Reeder “previously reported missing” as “now presumed killed in action”
- Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 586 (Flight 06/06/1946) reported K Potts, RW Bentley, VB Halls and MB Sharp “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 RW Bentley, VMB Halls, GA Pope and MB Sharp were located at Ahlhorn Temporary Burial Ground, Germany.
Their remains were exhumed, identified and concentrated (reinterred) at Sage War Cemetery on 31st July 1947 as follows:
- BENTLEY, Ronald William ‘1873484’ Grave 8. D. 6.
- HALLS, Vivian Montague Bailey ‘2222007’ Grave 8. D. 8.
- POPE, George Alfred ‘1049025’ Grave 8. D. 7.
- SHARP, Medley Benjamin ‘1803380’ Grave 8. D. 4.
The remains of MA Mills, K Potts and AJ Reeder were not located (or could not be formally identified); as such, their names are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial as follows:
- MILLS, Murray Allison ‘J/43411’ Panel 279.
- POTTS, Kenneth ‘183583’ Panel 267.
- REEDER, Arthur Joseph ‘J/43405’ Panel 279.
[Courtesy of Clive Lewis]
Bomber Command Loss Card
Place of Loss: Reide by Thedinghausen (Germany)
Cause of Loss: Believed Flak
WR Chorley (Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War)
Hit by flak and believed to have crashed between Reide and Thedinghausen