Lancaster PB377 (14/04/1945)

Lancaster PB377 was one of fifteen No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack Potsdam on the night of the 14th / 15th April 1945.Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • VB Bowen-Morris (Pilot)
  • RHH Dyer (Navigator)
  • EG Silcock (Air Bomber)
  • CS Gibbon (Wireless Operator)
  • E Meredith (Air Gunner)
  • JW Tovey (Air Gunner)
  • WG Reynolds (Flight Engineer)

PB377 was initially reported missing but later information stated that the aircraft had caught fire over the target area. The squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “the crew, excluding the pilot, baled out near the target area. The pilot continued to fly the aircraft for some time and eventually baled out over Holland.

Wartime activities relating to the loss

On 15th April 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 14th / 15th April 1945”.

telegram 2

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. 552 (Flight 29/11/1945) reported WG Reynolds as “missing”

Crew who survived the crash and evaded capture

  • JW Tovey
      • Evasion Route: Hid for a few days with prisoners of war at Schiamiertz before being liberated by US troops
      • Repatriated: April / May 1945
  • VB Bowen-Morris
    • Having regained control of the aircraft, he eventually baled out over Holland and landed in allied controlled territory
    • Repatriated: – (The squadron’s Record Book shows that he was operational again by 7th May 1945)

Crew who survived the crash and were captured / imprisoned

RHH Dyer, EG Silcock, CS Gibbon and E Meredith baled out of the aircraft and were captured, interrogated and imprisoned.

Their POW Liberation Questionnaires, which were completed as part of the repatriation process at 106 Personnel Reception Centre, RAF Cosford, in 1945, show the following details:

  • CS Gibbon
    • Captured: Near Riesa 15/04/45
    • Imprisoned: Stalag IV-B, Mulhberg Apr-45 to May-45
    • Repatriated: May-45
  • Others
    • Not yet obtained from TNA

Post War search for 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 WG Reynolds were not located (or could not be formally identified) and, as such, his name is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial as follows:

  • REYNOLDS, William Graham Sergeant ‘1649222’ Panel 276.

[Source: Clive Lewis]

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

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

In the vicinity of the target an engine caught fire and, as ordered, the crew commenced baling out. With six departed and preparing to make his own escape, F/O Bowen-Morris regained control and was able to reach Dutch air space before being obliged to take to his parachute

AM Form 1180

Port outer ………….., unable to feather, caught fire. Crew baled out. Fire went out and then after two hours starboard inner overheated and pilot baled out