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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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427 Squadron Crest
21/22.01.1944 No. 427 Squadron Halifax III LL139 ZL-D Sq/Ldr. Arnot DFC

Operation: Magdeburg

Date: 21/22nd January 1944 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit:No. 427 Squadron (Lion)

Type: Halifax III

Serial: LL139

Code: ZL-D

Base: RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire.

Location: Magdeburg / Köthen, Germany

Pilot: Sq/Ldr. Donald Mackenzie Arnot DFC J/13470 RCAF Age 25. Killed

Pilot (2): W/Cdr. Arthur Norman Martin C/782 RCAF Age 28. Killed

Flt/Eng: P/O. Reve Achille Nicolas Rondelet 160504 RAF Age 20. Killed

Nav: P/O. Lloyd William Wesley Jones J/18966 RCAF Age 22. Killed

Air/Bmr: P/O. William Victor Thom J/21028 RCAF Age 32. PoW No: 3473 Camp: Stalag Luft III Sagan and Belaria.

W/Op/Air/Gnr: P/O. Raymond Dawson 159010 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Air/Gnr: P/O. Leonard Samuel Gray J18925 RCAF Age 21. Killed

Air/Gnr: P/O. Roland Otis Nickerson J/18917 RCAF Age 23. Killed


The Lion’s Halifax Zebra Love-Dog with its all commissioned officer crew along with the CO from 424 Squadron W/Cdr. Arthur Martin as second pilot for operational experience, took off at 20:05 hours from Leeming. W/Cdr. Martin shows that he was one of the first to join the RCAF when formed in 1924.

The target for that night’s raid was the capital of Saxony, Magdeburg, a strategic traffic and railway junction for tracks to Leipzig, Kassel and Hamburg. The city environs also housed a Krupp heavy engineering factory use for the manufacture of tanks as well as explosive factories and a synthetic oil plant.

It was to be a very heavy raid believed to be a force comprised of a 1000 bombers. The pathfinders had measured success placing their markers but the crews were assisted by the relatively clear visibility which aided them identifying their targets within the city lying on the banks of the Elbe.

After dropping their bomb load Halifax LL139 was attacked by a night fighter and set ablaze forcing Captain Arnot to issue a command to abandon the aircraft. Tragically, before the crew could bale out, the aircraft exploded in mid air killing all on board except for P/O. Thom who was blown clear and captured near Köthen, spending the remainder of the war as a PoW.

P/O. William Victor Thom submitted this statement whilst a PoW:

"Aircraft attacked by fighter while leaving Magdeburg at a height of 19,500 ft. The aircraft was damaged and after losing height to 14,000 ft the order to bale out was given; just then an explosion occurred and I was blown clear and descended safely by parachute. The Germans stated that seven bodies of officers were found in the wreckage; it is probable that the rear gunner, P/O. Nickerson, was killed during the action with the fighter".

The Lion’s lost an extremely experienced crew in that all had completed at least 19 sorties, Arnot and Gray completing 23 and 28 respectively. Ironically Sq/Ldr. Arnot had been awarded his DFC, just a week previously.

In all 55 aircraft were lost on the operation, one of the single heaviest losses of the war, 14 of which were from RCAF squadrons.

Sq/Ldr. Arnot enlisted at the outbreak of war in 1939 and was called up in 1940. After gaining his wings at Camp Borden and undergoing officer training at Trenton, Sq/Ldr. Arnot spent two years as an instructor where he became a very experienced pilot accumulating in excess of over 1700 flying hours. Posted overseas in 1943, he succeeded in bringing home his badly damaged aircraft after his very first operation over enemy held territory.P/O Nickerson was a fisherman before he enlisted from the small town of Clarks Harbour on Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia.

Arnot Lake Northwest Territories is named after Sq/Ldr. Donald Arnot.

Burial Details:

Sq/Ldr. Donald Mackenzie Arnot. Berlin 1939–1945 War Cemetery Grave 2 K 10. Son of Colin Mackenzie Arnot and Florella May Arnot of Toronto, Canada. Grave inscription reads: “And So He Passed Over, And All The Trumpets Sounded For Him On The Other Side”.

(pictured left)

W/Cdr. Arthur Norman Martin. Berlin 1939–1945 War Cemetery Grave 2 K 9. Son of Arthur E. C. Martin and Harriet Martin, husband of Frances E. Martin. B.A., B.Com. Grave inscription reads: “No Man Hath Greater Love Than This. Dearly Loved And Deeply Missed”.

P/O. Reve Achille Nicolas Rondelet. Berlin 1939–1945 War Cemetery Grave 2 K 13. Liege, Belgium. No further details, are you able to assist with these?

P/O. Lloyd William Wesley Jones. Berlin 1939–1945 War Cemetery Grave 2 K 11. Son of William H. H. Jones and Irma M. Jones of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Grave inscription reads: “You Shall Hear His Voice And Come Forth In The New World John V. 28-29”.

P/O. Leonard Samuel Gray. Berlin 1939–1945 War Cemetery Grave 2 K 15. Son of Leonard and Ellen Frances Gray of Eastview, Ontario, Canada. Grave inscription reads: “Dearly Beloved”.

P/O. Raymond Dawson. Berlin 1939–1945 War Cemetery Grave 2 K 12. No further details, are you able to assist with these?

P/O. Roland Otis Nickerson. Berlin 1939–1945 War Cemetery Grave 2 K 14. Son of Edwin Henderson Nickerson and Dora Elmina Nickerson of The Hawk, Shelburne Co., Nova Scotia, Canada. Grave inscription reads: “Christ In You, The Hope Of Glory: Col. I. 27”.

(Pictured right)

Researched by Colin Bamford for Aircrew Remembered, further information and photographs submitted by David Champion - October 2017. Page dedicated to all relatives / friends of the crew.

CHB 16.02.2011 - revisions placed 22.10.2017

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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Last Modified: 22 October 2017, 09:04

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