Lancaster PB372 (23/12/1944)

Lancaster PB372 was one of ten No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack the Gremberg Marshalling Yards at Cologne on 23rd December 1944 (Daylight Raid).

It was equipped with Oboe and carrying 11 x 1000lb GP.

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • Edgell Jason Rigby (Pilot)
  • Colin John Alfred Ramsey (Navigator)
  • Harry Breeze (Air Bomber)
  • Ernest Clifford Leslie Coombs (Wireless Operator)
  • F / RF Dickinson (Air Gunner)
  • Roy Frank Cooper (Air Gunner)
  • Douglas John Varney (Flight Engineer)

The route was Base, 5030N 0500E, 5036N 0620E, Target, 5110N 0400E, Southwold, Base

The squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “10 x 1000lb jettisoned Cologne area at 13.05hrs from 17000ft. Fused. Aircraft hit by flak. 1 x 1000lb mc jettisoned at position 5104N 0133E at 14.12hrs from 6000ft, safe, (bomb hung up) Oboe run was spoilt by aircraft “A” formatting closely on us until the last moment and thereby not giving room to manoeuvre. Approaching the target, we were engaged very accurately by predicted heavy flak right from the beginning of the oboe run. We were hit seven times. The aircraft landed at Manston”


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

AM Form 78

The AM Form 78 (Movement Card) shows that the aircraft was classified as Cat FB/AC; it was repaired on site and returned to the squadron on 26th February 1945

AM Form 1180

There isn’t an AM Form 1180 (Accident Card) held at the RAF Museum and, as such, it has not been possible to establish any more details

Citations

It is worth noting that EJ Rigby was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and ECL Coombs and RF Cooper were awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal for their actions during this sortie.

The citation reads:

This officer and these airmen were pilot, wireless operator and mid-upper gunner respectively in an aircraft detailed to attack the Gremburg railway yards near Cologne. Whilst over the target the aircraft was hit repeatedly by anti-aircraft fire. Several oil pipes were broken, became ignited and started a fire in the fuselage. Although their clothes had become saturated with oil, thus in-creasing their danger, Flight Sergeant Coombs and Sergeant Cooper immediately devoted their endeavours towards quelling the flames. Both received slight burns but they succeeded in getting the fire under control. The aircraft had sustained much other damage. Both the starboard engines were out of action. The aileron trim controls had been shot away and the rear and mid-upper gun turrets had been rendered unserviceable. Nevertheless, Flying Officer Rigby who, during a very harassing period had set an example which greatly encouraged his crew, flew the aircraft back to the nearest available airfield. These members of aircraft crew displayed courage and coolness worthy of great praise.

“Heroic Endeavour -The Remarkable Story of One Pathfinder Force Attack, a Victoria Cross and 206 Brave Men” by Sean Feast.

The complete story of the attack on Gremberg Marshalling Yards on 23rd December 1944 (190 pages)


Lancaster PB367 (23/12/1944)

Lancaster PB367 was one of ten No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack the Gremberg Marshalling Yards at Cologne on 23rd December 1944 (Daylight Raid)

It was equipped with Oboe and carrying 11 x 1000lb GP.

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • Ronald William Clifford Poley (Pilot)
  • REL Johnson (Navigator)
  • Herbert William Mercy Ebdon (Air Bomber)
  • M Cohen (Wireless Operator)
  • D Therault (Air Gunner)
  • R Speight (Air Gunner)
  • Richard Hibbert Spratt (Flight Engineer)

The route was Base, 5030N 0500E, 5036N 0620E, Target, 5110N 0400E, Southwold, Base

The squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “No formation bombing because aircraft was engaged by very heavy flak; 1 x 1000GP jettisoned at position 51.15N 02.00E at 13.54 from 11,000 – safe- hung up. Aircraft landed at Manston”


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

AM Form 78

The movement card shows that the aircraft was classified as Cat FB/AC; it was repaired on site and returned to the squadron on 24th February 1945

AM Form 1180

There isn’t an AM Form 1180 (Accident Card) held at the RAF Museum and, as such, it has not been possible to establish any more details

“Heroic Endeavour -The Remarkable Story of One Pathfinder Force Attack, a Victoria Cross and 206 Brave Men” by Sean Feast.

The complete story of the attack on Gremberg Marshalling Yards on 23rd December 1944 (190 pages)

Lancaster ND916 (13/12/1944)

The movement card shows that Lancaster ND916 was allocated to AV Roe on 13th December 1944; it was returned to the squadron on 24th December 1944


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

AM Form 1180

There isn’t an AM Form 1180 (Accident Card) held at the RAF Museum and, as such, it has not been possible to establish any more details

Lancaster PB685 (23/12/1944)

Lancaster PB685 was one of ten No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack the Gremburg Marshalling Yards (Cologne) on the morning of 23rd December 1944.

It was carrying 11 x 1000lb MC.

Its eight-man crew comprised:

  • Louis Basil Lawson (Pilot)
  • James Patrick Leydon (Navigator)
  • Alan John Card (Air Bomber)
  • Peter James Leeves (Set Operator)
  • George Edward Herod (Wireless Operator)
  • Lawrence Nicholson (Air Gunner)
  • Stanley Rudolph Gale (Air Gunner)
  • Frederick Worsley Edmondson (Flight Engineer)

The route was Base, 5030N 0500E, 5036N 0620E, Target, 5110N 0400E, Southwold, Base

The squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “Three aircraft, including PB685, after being seriously damaged over the target, landed at Manston. AJ Card and GE Herod received slight injuries”


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

RAF Graveley ORB

Lancaster PB685 hit by flak over target area. F/O Card sustained abrasion over right eyebrow. Injuries considered to be slight and returned to flying duties with effect from the same date. F/O Herod sustained flak wound over right eyebrow. Injuries considered to be slight but was admitted to SSQ, Manston

AM Form 78

The movement card shows that the aircraft was classified as FB/AC; it was repaired on site and returned to the squadron on 9th February 1945

AJ Card DFC Award (London Gazette 27/02/1945)

This officer was the air bomber in an aircraft detailed to attack the Gremburg railway sidings near Cologne. When over the target, much anti-aircraft fire was directed at the bomber, which was hit. A piece of shrapnel from a close burst struck Flying Officer Card over the eye. The wound bled profusely but this resolute member of aircraft crew made no complaint. He continued to direct the bombing run. The aircraft was again hit. The microphone leads, part of Flying Officer Card’s equipment and his oxygen tube were torn away. Despite this he displayed excellent cooperation with his pilot, to whom his directions were passed by the flight engineer, and thus the target was successfully attacked. This air bomber set a fine example of determination and devotion to duty

“Heroic Endeavour -The Remarkable Story of One Pathfinder Force Attack, a Victoria Cross and 206 Brave Men” by Sean Feast.

The complete story of the attack on Gremberg Marshalling Yards on 23rd December 1944 (190 pages)


Notes: 

  1. AJ Card returned to operational flying immediately; GE Herod returned on 22nd January 1945

Lancaster PB683 (23/12/1944)

Lancaster PB683 was one of ten No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack the Gremburg Marshalling Yards (Cologne) on the morning of 23rd December 1944.

It was carrying 11 x 1000lb MC.

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • George Simpson Lawson (Pilot)
  • John Geoffrey Faulkner (Navigator)
  • Norman Brown (Air Bomber)
  • John Seymore Winter (Wireless Operator)
  • Alexander Stewart Fleming (Air Gunner)
  • Lawrence White (Air Gunner)
  • Albert Sutcliffe (Flight Engineer)

The route was Base, 5030N 0500E, 5036N 0620E, Target, 5110N 0400E, Southwold, Base

PB683 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “This aircraft is missing; it is reported to have collided with No. 35 Squadron aircraft PB678 at 51.07N 01.34E at 11.33 hours at 10,000ft”.

Air Sea Rescue Operations

No. 27 Air Sea Rescue /Marine Craft Unit’s Operations Record Book shows that launches 180, 189 and 2549 were sent out to search the area of North and South Foreland at 12.00 hrs on the 23rd December 1944.

Launch 2549 returned with 4 bodies. Launch 180 intercepted the Shepperton Ferry and received 2 bodies from that vessel. Wreckage was seen at ‘130 degrees, S.Fld, 11 mls’.

2 Spitfires and 1 Walrus were also involved in the search.

It is understood that three of the recovered bodies were formally identified at Ramsgate Mortuary as those of GS Lawson, N Brown and AS Fleming. The others were from the crew of PB678.

Wartime activities relating to the loss

On 23rd December 1944 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 23rd December 1944”.

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. 497 (Flight 26/04/1945) reported GS Lawson, N Brown and AS Fleming as “killed in action”; also JG Faulkner, JS Winter, L White and A Sutcliffe as “missing”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 585 (Flight 06/06/1946) reported JS Winter, L White and A Sutcliffe “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:

  • 27/01/1945: Information received from Air Ministry that the body of G Faulkner, missing on 23rd December 1944, was picked up by French Gendarmes

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.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) records show the following burial information for GS Lawson, N Brown and AS Fleming:

  • LAWSON, GEORGE SIMPSON Flying Officer ‘149628’ MARGATE CEMETERY, KENT Sec. 50. Grave 16252.
  • BROWN, NORMAN Flight Lieutenant ‘115788’ EASTBOURNE (OCKLYNGE) CEMETERY Plot V. Grave 287.
  • FLEMING, ALEXANDER STEWART Sergeant ‘1595708’ BATHGATE (BOGHEAD) CEMETERY Compt. B. Grave 14.

JG Faulkner’s body was washed up on the French Coast (date unknown) and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) records show the following burial information:

  • FAULKNER JOHN GEOFFREY Flight Lieutenant ‘84712’ DIEPPE CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, HAUTOT-SUR-MER M. 61.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) records show that the remains of JS Winter, L White and A Sutcliffe were not located, or could not be formally identified and, as such, their names are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial as follows:

  • WINTER, JOHN SEYMORE Flight Sergeant ‘1231043’ Panel 223.
  • SUTCLIFFE, ALBERT Flight Sergeant ‘1092752’ Panel 222
  • WHITE, LAWRENCE Sergeant ‘1595759’ Panel 240.

[Courtesy of Clive Lewis]


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Lancaster PB683

The AM Form 1180 (Accident Card) shows “In flight, collided with Lancaster PB678 and both aircraft crashed. 10 parachutes seen to open. Aircraft had communication trouble which may have prevented the crew warning pilot of approach of other aircraft”

“Heroic Endeavour -The Remarkable Story of One Pathfinder Force Attack, a Victoria Cross and 206 Brave Men” by Sean Feast.

The complete story of the attack on Gremberg Marshalling Yards on 23rd December 1944 (190 pages)

Lancaster PB678 (23/12/1944)

Lancaster PB678 was one of ten No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack the Gremburg Marshalling Yards (Cologne) on the morning of 23rd December 1944.

It was carrying 11 x 1000lb MC.

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • Richard Joseph Clarke (Pilot)
  • Donald Russell Currie (Navigator)
  • Joseph William Webb (Air Bomber)
  • Robert Keith Norsworthy (Wireless Operator)
  • James McGee (Air Gunner)
  • Thomas Eugene Craddock (Air Gunner)
  • John Charles Mays (Flight Engineer)

The route was Base, 5030N 0500E, 5036N 0620E, Target, 5110N 0400E, Southwold, Base

PB678 failed to return and the squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “This aircraft is missing; it is reported to have collided with No. 35 Squadron aircraft PB683 at 51.07N 01.34E at 11.33 hours at 10,000ft”.

Air Sea Rescue Operation

No. 27 Air Sea Rescue /Marine Craft Unit’s Operations Record Book shows that launches 180, 189 and 2549 were sent out to search the area of North and South Foreland at 12.00 hrs on the 23rd December 1944.

Launch 2549 returned with 4 bodies. Launch 180 intercepted the Shepperton Ferry and received 2 bodies from that vessel. Wreckage was seen at ‘130 degrees, S.Fld, 11 mls’.

2 Spitfires and 1 Walrus were also involved in the search.

It is understood that three of the recovered bodies were formally identified at Ramsgate Mortuary as those of DR Currie, JC Mays and JW Webb. The others were from the crew of PB683.

Wartime activities relating to the loss

On 23rd December 1944 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 23rd December 1944”.

Extract from letter sent to the family of J McGee

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 Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) records show the following burial information for DR Currie, JW Webb and JC Mays:

  • CURRIE, DONALD RUSSELL Pilot Officer ‘J/93665’ BROOKWOOD MILITARY CEMETERY 56. B. 7.
  • WEBB, JOSEPH WILLIAM Pilot Officer ‘422774’ BROOKWOOD MILITARY CEMETERY 4. O. 17.
  • MAYS, JOHN CHARLES Sergeant ‘1867597’ HARROW WEALD CEMETERY Sec. C. Grave 43.

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. 499 (Flight 03/05/1945) reported JC Mays, J Webb and DR Currie as “killed in action”; also RJ Clarke, TE Craddock, RK Norsworthy and J McGee as “missing”
  • Air Ministry Casualty Communique No. 592 (Flight 11/07/1946) reported TE Craddock “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.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) records show that the remains of RJ Clarke, RK Norsworthy, TE Craddock and J McGee were not located, or could not be formally identified and, as such, their names are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial as follows:

  • CLARKE, RICHARD JOSEPH Pilot Officer ‘56445’  Panel 210.
  • NORSWORTHY, ROBERT KEITH Pilot Officer ‘417875’  Panel 258.
  • CRADDOCK, THOMAS EUGENE Pilot Officer ‘411869’  Panel 258.
  • McGEE, JAMES Pilot Officer ‘J/95373’  Panel 251.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

AM Form 1180

In flight, collided with Lancaster PB683 and both aircraft crashed. 10 parachutes seen to open. Aircraft had developed aileron and elevator trouble on previous flights

“Heroic Endeavour -The Remarkable Story of One Pathfinder Force Attack, a Victoria Cross and 206 Brave Men” by Sean Feast.

The complete story of the attack on Gremberg Marshalling Yards on 23rd December 1944 (190 pages)

Notes in J McGee’s Service Record

  • Aircraft was engaged in an operational flight involving formation flying. Whilst over the Channel, in a position when close formation should not have been attempted, the higher of the two aircraft was observed to dive and collide with the lower. Aircraft fell apparently fairly under control as 10(?) parachutes were seen.
  • It is not clear why the higher aircraft made the dive, it is suggested that the slipstream of a leading aircraft affected it.
  • Lancaster PB683 was known to have intercomm. trouble before take off. If this got worse, it is possible that, if it was the lower aircraft, other members of the crew were unable to warn the pilot.
  • Neither pilot was particularly experienced in formation flying
  • Lancaster PB678 had developed aileron and elevator troubles on several previous flights.
  • Although formation practice is carried out as often as is possible in an operational Squadron, greater emphasis will be laid on this aspect of training.

Lancaster PB366 (24/12/1944)

Lancaster PB366 was one of ten No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack the Nippes Marshalling Yard (Cologne) on the afternoon of 24th December 1944.

It was carrying 8 x 1000lb MC, 4 x 500lb GP and 4 x 500lb ANM.64. Its designated Path Finder role was Supporter

Its seven-man crew comprised:

  • Arthur Thomas Kenyon (Pilot)
  • Albert Thomas (Navigator)
  • Alec Henry Cousins (Air Bomber)
  • Cecil Leonard Blundell (Wireless Operator)
  • Cyril Arthur Winter (Air Gunner)
  • Roy Frederick Arthur Yallop (Air Gunner)
  • Leonard Williams (Flight Engineer)

The squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “This aircraft crashed after taking off. All members of the crew were killed”

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s records show the following burial details:

  • BLUNDELL, Cecil Leonard, Flight Sergeant ‘1602657’ Southampton (Hollybrook) Cemetery Sec. M. 12. Grave 41.
  • COUSINS, Alec Henry, Flight Sergeant ‘1321669’ Maidenhead Cemetery Sec. C.C. Row W. Grave 30.
  • KENYON, Arthur Thomas, Flying Officer ‘185554’ Prestwich (St. Mary) Churchyard Clough Sec. 3. Row 6. Grave 83.
  • THOMAS, Albert, Sergeant ‘1652801’ Ystalyfera (St. David) Church Burial Ground, Llangiwg
  • WILLIAMS, Leonard, Sergeant ‘1095530’ Staveley Cemetery Sec. K.K. Grave 30.
  • WINTER, Cyril Arthur, Sergeant ‘1614511’ Harlington (Cherry Lane) Cemetery Sec. C.3. Grave C.17.
  • YALLOP, Roy Frederick Arthur, Sergeant ‘1356347’ Ipswich Old Cemetery Sec. C. Div. 31. Grave 63.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

RAF Graveley ORB

Lancaster PB366 crashed on take off at Low Farm, Paxton about 1/2 mile south of the aerodrome. All members of the crew were killed as a result of multiple injuries and burns.

AM Form 1180

Pilot lost control on take off while in fog conditions due to faulty instrument flying; aircraft caught fire on impact with trees

Extract from some notes made by DR Garner [Courtesy of Paul Herod]

It was Christmas Eve of 1944 as I recall and on this particular day I was NCO in charge of the Crash Guard (a group of airmen & NCO sent to guard any type of crash, friend or foe, in the immediate area).

I had been doing my usual spell of bomb loading on Lancasters until 16.00 hours. However just after 16.00 hours, we were called out to stand guard on one of our planes that had crashed just after take off. With six airmen I went to the scene of the crash which was in the village of Paxton on the Offord- St.Neots road (I have since learned that this was LOW FARM, Gt.Paxton.)

The plane, with seven crew and full bomb load, struck a house top beyond the end of the runway, which caused the Lancaster to crash into a row of tall trees (only one remains now). This smashed the wings off, the bombs were catapulted from the bomb bay and most rolled into a ditch running parallel to the roadway with one exception which rolled towards the farmhouse, hitting the wall of the bathroom, which was on the corner, at ground level.

The farmer’s wife (Mrs Edwards) was in the bathroom at the time but when I arrived, maybe seven or eight minutes after the crash, she was in her dressing gown, by the phone. It was impossible to do anything as the plane was on fire.

We were billeted at the farmhouse until such time as the crashed plane, crew and bombs were removed.

Eyewitness Accounts [Courtesy of Paul Herod]

An eyewitness (Mr John Hard) recalled that the aircraft clipped the trees at “three corner field” and lost its rear turret, before hitting the roof of Mr and Mrs King’s house. It then cartwheeled across the field, before hitting the elm trees, forcing the bombs to jettison towards the road and Low Farm.

Despite the efforts of the local community, the inferno meant that the crew members could not be saved

Crew Information

The following link provides information on AT Kenyon’s operational sorties as Captain of a No. 35 Squadron aircraft and the composition of his crew on these sorties


Notes:

  1. The Air Historical Branch has confirmed that FIDO was in operation when the aircraft took off.