01/02.03.1944 156 Squadron Lancaster III ND446 GT-P Flt.Sgt. Baker
Date: 01/02nd March 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: 156 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Warboys, Cambridgeshire
Location: Hausen-en-Killertal, Germany
Pilot: Flt.Sgt. Robert Minton Baker 413939 RAAF Age 23. Killed
Flt.Eng: Sgt. Donald Edward Barton 1814488 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
Nav: Flt.Sgt. Phillip George Gotto 410655 RAAF Age 22. Killed
Air/Bmr: Fg.Off. Francis George Gains 138128 RAFVR Age 30. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. William James Hill 1084513 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Ernest Kenyon 642691 RAF Age 22. Killed
Air/Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Ronald Rhoades Kelley 426613 RAAF Age 21. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from RAF Warboys in Cambridgeshire at 23:57 hrs - 557 aircraft taking part in thick cloud. Returning crews reported that they had great difficulty to judge how successful the raid had been.
Reports state that a great deal of new damage was caused in the western and northern parts of the city. 125 people killed on the ground with a further510 injured. Some important industrial premises were seriously damaged including the Bosch works and the Daimler-Benz factory. The remains of the main railway station also suffered further damage.
Lancaster ND446 was intercepted and shot down by Hptm. Heinz Reschke of Stab I.NJG6 at 03:30 hours over Killertal. This was his fourth claim of the war. He claimed one further night kill before he was killed on the 25th April 1945 when he collided with a Bf110 on landing at Illesheim airfield.
During the post war period investigations that a possible war crime had been committed by the Mayor of the village Anton Schmidt. He had been arrested on the 08th January 1946. The French forced Schmidt to witness the reburial with full military honours into the French Military cemetery at Tübingen in handcuffs giving the local inhabitants an impression of him. The occupying French forces asked the British to make a full investigation of the case.
On the 18th February 1946 Gp.Capt. Anthony G. Somerhough 24075 MBE and his War Crimes legal team took statements from various people in the village and it was clear that the crew had been killed prior to the aircraft crashing for sure not during the impact or thereafter. The bodies of two of the crew were found inside the cockpit area some 2 kilometres from the main part of the aircraft, with the remainder underneath the main section.
The only crime perhaps that could be considered was the delay in the burial of the crew in Hausen. The crew laid at the crash scene for all to view the ’Terror Bombers’ as the Hitler youth were stating at the time. It was not until the Monday after the crash that the crew were buried in a common grave within the village of Hausen.
Various reasons were given for the delay, not least the deep snow that had laid at the time and the condition of the ground.
Schmidt was cleared and handed back to the French occupying forces in April 1946. There is no information available that details his fate after that.
Initially buried locally at Hausen, reinterred in the French Military Cemetery, Tübingen and finally at the Durnbach War Cemetery.
Flt.Sgt. Robert Minton Baker. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 4.H. 17-19. Son of Henry Talmash Baker and Mabel Baker, of Ripponlea, Victoria, Australia.
Sgt. Donald Edward Barton. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 4.H. 17-19. Son of Horace Henry and Nellie Winifred Barton, of Bordesley Green, Birmingham, England.
Flt.Sgt. Phillip George Gotto. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 4.H. 17-19. Stepson of Sidney and Charlotte Millicent Gotto, of 115 Beach Road, Sandringham, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
Fg.Off. Francis George Gains. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 4.H. 17-19. Son of Francis Walter and Violet Ada Gains, husband of Elizabeth K. Gains, of Brighton, Sussex, England.
Sgt. William James Hill. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 4.H. 17-19. Only son of William Hill and Anne Hill of High Street, Lurgan, Co Armagh, Northern Ireland.
Sgt. Ernest Kenyon. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 4.H. 17-19. Son of Robert John and Margaret Kenyon, husband of Edna Hilda Kenyon, of Abbey Wood, London, England.
Flt.Sgt. Ronald Rhoades Kelley. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 4.D. 35. Son of Jack Arthur and Bertha Frances Kelley, of Northgate, Queensland, Australia.
Researched for relatives of the crew. Thanks to Patrick Shanks, the nephew of Sgt. Hill, for his uncle's Next of Kin details. Sources as quoted below.