13/14.07.1943 No. 115 Squadron Lancaster II DS690 KO-C Sq/Ldr. Baird
Operation: Aachen, Germany.
Date: 13/14th July 1943 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
Time: 02.10 hrs
Unit: No. 115 Squadron
Type: Avro Lancaster Mk. II
Serial No. DS690
Base: RAF East Wretham, Norfolk.
Location: La Cornette, 3 km. south Fays-les-Veneaurs, Belgium.
Pilot: Sq/Ldr. Robert Alexander Graville Baird 70789 RAF Age 33. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Johannes Ernest Conraad Odendaal 777926 RAFVR Age 21. PoW No: 83699 Camp: Stalag Mühlberg-Elbe (1)
Nav: F/O. William James Moorcroft RAFVR 127974 Age 22. Killed
Air/Bmr: Sgt. Robert Alfred Walker RAFVR 1235107 Age 21. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Edwin Smith RAFVR 1330882 Age 20. Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Nicholas Auber Benjamin Robinson RAAF AUS/406795 Age 31. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Harold Matthews RAFVR 1318179 Age 19. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Lancaster DS690 took-off from its base at East Wretham at 23:59 hours to attack Aachen, Germany.
The following account extracted from the Bomber Command War Diaries:
'A strong tail wind brought the first waves of the main force into the target area before zero hour with the result that, when the first Pathfinder markers were released, an unusually large number of aircraft bombed in the first minutes of the raid.
Visibility was good and large areas of Aachen appeared to burst into flames at once. 2,927 individual buildings were destroyed, 294 people were killed and 745 injured, 28,000 people appear to have fled the town and were still absent when the new ration cards were issued nearly 7 weeks later.'
Allied aircraft lost were 15 Halifaxes, 2 Lancasters, 2 Wellingtons and 1 Stirling.
Memorial for the crew of DS690 Lancaster (courtesy Moinesnoirs)
From the time given to the loss of Sq/Ldr. Baird's Lancaster we can assume that the aircraft was returning home from the target. German night-fighter pilot's were very active during the defence of Aachen. Strong head winds of between 50-90 mph slowed the returning bombers. Lancaster DS690 was claimed by Hptm August Geiger of 7/NJG1.
Approximately 10 weeks after the loss of Lancaster DS690, Hptm August Geiger age 23, (2) with his Radio/Op Fw Dietrich Koch age 22 lost their lives when their Messerschmitt Bf 110G-4 with the Wnr.5477 was shot down by a RAF Beaufighter night fighter. The machine crashed 10 km NW of Harderwijk, Holland.
Another 115 Squadron Lancaster was also lost on this operation, DS660 flown by F/O. Rod Larson.
Right: Hptm. August Geiger on the right with Hptm. Lutje (archives)
(1) Sgt. Johannes Ernest Conraad Odendaal: son of Paul Johannes Odendaal and May Minnie Louise (nee Wilde) Odendaal. He survived the war and eventually returned to Rhodesia / Zimbabwe where he died in August 1995.
(2) This was the 37th claim by the nightfighter ace Oblt. August Geiger (a total of 49 kills).
Later shot down and killed by W/Cmr Bob Braham from 141 Beaufighter squadron after a fierce dogfight on September 29th 1943.
The graves at Les Hayons Churchyard Belgium (courtesy of Jean-Michel Dominique) Sergeant Harold Matthews (courtesy Emma Loveridge)
Those who lost their lives lie in a collective grave at the Les Hayons Cemetery, Belgium.
Sq/Ldr. Robert Alexander Graville Baird. DoB: 15th April 1910. The Hon. Son of John Lawrence Baird, P.C., G.C.M.G., D.S.O., 1st Viscount Stonehaven, and of Ethel Countess of Kintore (nee Ethel Sydney Keith Falconer), husband of Dorviegelda Malvina Baird (Nee MacGregor), of Great Waltham, Essex, England.
F/O. William James Moorcroft. Son of Robert and Elizabeth Margaret Moorcroft, of Maghull, Lancashire, England.
Above: As described at St Andrew’s churchyard, Maghull, Merseyside (courtesy Mike McQuaid)
Sgt. Robert Alfred Walker. Son of Horace Thomas Walker and Alice Isobel Walker, of Ramsey, Isle of Man.
Sgt. Edwin Smith. Son of Douglas and Margaret Carlton Smith of Sheffield, England.
Fl/Sgt. Nicholas Auber Benjamin Robinson. Son of Auber Benjamin and Elizabeth Margaret Ivy Robinson, of Esperence, Western Australia.
Sgt. Harold Matthews. Son of George and Alice M. Matthews, of South Croydon, Surrey, England.
With thanks to the following: Emma Loveridge, Jean-Michel Dominique, memorial photos courtesy Moinesnoirs, Inmemories, Belgium for grave photo, also to Phil Ball for additional information - January 2018, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - "Nightfighter War Diaries Vol's. 1 and 2", Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol's. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Martin Middlebrook "Bomber Command War Diaries". Commonwealth Graves Commission. Tom Kracker - 'Kracker Luftwaffe Archives'.