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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.

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50 Squadron Crest
21/22.02.1945 No 50 Squadron Lancaster I LL741 VN-X F/O. Anderson

Operation: Mittelland Canal, Gravenhorst

Date: 21/22nd February 1945 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit: 50 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: LL741

Code: VN-X

Base: RAF Skellingthorpe, Lincolnshire

Location: Helenaveen, Netherlands

Pilot: F/O. Peter Gordon Anderson J/36360 RCAF Age 21. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Denys William Lewis 1836806 RAFVR Survived, injured - Evaded capture (1)

Nav: P/O. Roy Campbell J/94275 RCAF Age 21. Killed

Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Denis Alphonsus McCauley 1394837 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: P/O. Ward Rex Southcott J/94334 RCAF Age 21. Killed

Air/Gnr: P/O. Donald Alexander McFayden J/94252 RCAF Age 21. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Fred Seddon Langton 1043747 RAFVR Age 23. Killed


The crew were posted in from no. 5 Lancaster Finishing School on the 2nd November 1944 and this had been their 16th operation.

Taking off at 17:02 hrs from RAF Skellingthorpe to join some 165 Lancaster and 12 Mosquitoes of 5 group to attempt the breaking of the Mittelland Canal, Gravenhorst (an operation the previous night had to be abandoned due to poor weather conditions) The raid was a success with the reports from crews that the target had been rendered totally unserviceable. 13 Lancasters were lost on the operation with 53 crew losing their lives, 19 taken PoW and 11 evading capture.

Lancaster LL741 carried 14 x 1000 lb bomb load, delivering it at 20:37 hrs from 10.000 ft. when shortly afterwards believed to have been hit by flak. The aircraft continued on their return flight with all engines still running. It is thought then that the aircraft was hit by the cannon fire by Hptm. Heinz Rokker (2) of 2./NJG2 at 21:12 hrs. At about 21:15 hrs when approaching Deurne at 7.000 ft the aircraft caught fire on both sides of the cockpit. The pilot ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft. Sgt. Lewis made his way to the front escape hatch where he saw the air bomber also preparing to bale out. Both these two crew members left the aircraft but it seems that the parachute of Fl/Sgt. McCauley caught fire, with him falling to his death.

During the descent by Sgt. Denys Lewis he lost both his flying boots gloves and both food boxes - he also injured a muscle in his right leg on landing. Not sure of his position and unable to make little progress with his injury he decided to wrap himself in the parachute and try to sleep. In the morning he noticed two soldiers approaching and attracted their attention by waving and blowing his whistle. One of them spoke English (later learning that they were Dutch soldiers) and after establishing his identity they took the sole survivor of the crew to Helmond, from their he returned to England a few days later- rejoining operations in April 1945.

The Squadron lost another crew during this operation, RF138 VN-D Flown by 27 year old F/O. Paul Herbert Hatcher 186516 RAFVR from Shirley, Southampton, England - killed with 5 other crew, the rear gunner taken PoW.

(1) Sgt. Lewis (some publications have his name spelt incorrectly as Laws) lost his brother, F/O. James Edgar Lewis 129357 RAFVR, earlier in the war on the 25th June 1943 whilst serving with 102 Squadron. Commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial as body (with 5 other crew members) not recovered. Halifax II JB834 DY-C Flown by 21 year old Fl/Sgt. James Arthur Marsden 1218435 RAFVR from Great Horton, Yorkshire, England - lost on an operation to Wuppertal. It seems that Denys Lewis sadly passed away in 2012 at Pontypool, South Wales.

(2) This was the 59th claim by the Luftwaffe night fighter ace, Hptm. Heinz Rokker - he survived the war with a total of 65 confirmed victories. Briefly interned by the Allies at war end, released in late 1945. Qualified as a teacher and retired in 1982. (shown right)

Burial details:

F/O. Peter Gordon Anderson. Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. Grave XV.D.8. Son of John Colborne Anderson, and of Lilian Christobel Anderson, of 203 Fifth Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Shown left)

P/O. Roy Campbell. Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. Grave XV.D.13. Son of Mr and Mrs. William Campbell of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Shown below right)

Fl/Sgt. Denis Alphonsus McCauley. Overloon War Cemetery. Grave 11.B.1. Son of Francis Leo and Bridget McCauley, of Plumstead, London, England.

P/O. Ward Rex Southcott. Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. Grave XV.D.11. Born in London, Ontario, Canadian on the 15th May 1915.

P/O. Donald Alexander McFayden. Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. Grave XV.D.9. Son of Archibald and Pearl Elizabeth McFayden, of Fort Frances, Ontario, Canada.

Sgt. Fred Seddon Langton. Overloon War Cemetery. Grave 11.B.2. Son of Ernest and Hannah Langton, of Southport, Lancashire, England.

Other: F/O. James Edgar Lewis. Commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. Panel 125. Son of Mr. and Mrs. J. E. Lewis, of Griffithstown, Monmouthshire, Wales.

Researched for Alison Toon who’s daughter was the cousin of Roy Campbell. Sources as quoted below.

KTY 11.05.2016

Acknowledgements: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives and Fred Paradie - Paradie Archive (both on this site), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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