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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
17/18.12.1944 No. 50 Squadron Lancaster I NG302 VN-R F/O. Leslie William Beer

Operation: Munchen

Date: 17/18th December 1944 (Sunday/Monday)

Unit: No. 50 Squadron Motto: "Sic fidem servamus" ("Thus we keep faith").

Badge: A sword in bend severing a mantle palewise. This unit formed at Dover and adopted a mantle being severed by a sword to show its connection with that town, the arms of which include St. Martin and the beggar with whom he divided his cloak. The mantle is also indicative of the protection given to this country by the Royal Air Force.

Authority: King George VI, March 1940.

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: NG302

Code: VN-R

Base: RAF Skellingthorpe, Lincolnshire.

Location: Goes, Zuid-Beveland, Zeeland, Holland.

Pilot: F/O. Leslie William Beer 179985 RAF Age 22 Killed (1)

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Albert John Frisby 1527303 RAFVR Age ? Killed (2)

Nav: Sgt. John Capon 1684410 RAFVR Age 22. Killed (3)

Air/Bmr: P/O. Melvin Joshua Macleod J/95540 RCAF Age 28. Killed (4)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Ian Francis Macrae AUS/428892 RAAF Age 21. Killed (5)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. William Henry Horton 2210688 RAFVR Age 35. Killed (6)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Cyril Ernest Dunlop 1891534 RAFVR Age 18. Missing (7)

REASON FOR LOSS:

Took off at 16:12hrs from RAF Skellingthorpe, Lincolnshire, for a night raid on Munich, Germany. Nothing was heard from this aircraft after take off. This is recorded as the 7th operational mission flown by F/O. Beer, P/O. Macleod and Fl/Sgt. Macrae.

Route briefed: Reading - 4925N 0035E - 4830N 0135E - 4535N 0413E - 4600N 1020E - 4753N 1117E - Target - 4740N 0705E - 4830N 0440E - Cap Gris Nez

A total of 288 aircraft (280 Lancasters and 8 Mosquitoes) took part in this raid with 8 aircraft lost totalling some 49 air crew killed, 2 others surviving as PoW.

On the long southerly approach to the target no night fighters were encountered. None of the force were attacked by the Luftwaffe over the target area although they were seen. Two aircraft are known to have been brought down by flak over the city, four others lost to flak on the return journey, with two Lancasters assumed to have been lost to night-fighters, although no claims have been filed for these.

It is now known that this aircraft was shot down by flak from the 77 A/A. brigade. Lancaster NG302 crashed in fields between Lewedorp and Arendskerke. ( Information kindly supplied by the Wings to Victory website.)

Very little is known from the German reports as to the damage and casualties on the ground but the RAF reported severe and widespread damage in the old centre of the city and railway targets.

Above left: F/O. Leslie William Beer and right 50 Squadron on another operation (courtesy IWM)

Also lost from 50 squadron on this operation:

Lancaster III LM656 VN-W Flown by F/O. Ronald E. Amey DFC. injured with 1 crew member made pow and the remaining 5 killed. F/O. Amey DFC. died on the 31st December 1944 of pneumonia.


In November 2016 Aircrew Remembered was contacted by Mike and Suzanne Bendall. Suzanne is the daughter of Flying Officer Leslie William Beer and was requesting help in finding out more about her father's family. Senior Research Editor Roy Wilcock took up her request, researched Leslie's family background and provided her with the details she was seeking. Roy also put Suzanne in touch with Leslie Beer's cousin Michael Wallace (see below). They have already spoken on the telephone and plan to meet up in the near future.

Additionally, Roy has added substantial further information regarding the crash as well as biographical details of the crew.



In his report on the loss dated 21 December 1944, Flying Officer D. W. Riley stated that:

"On 19.12.44 I proceeded to the scene of a crashed aircraft at Goes, Beveland. On arrival at the crash I found only small, widely scattered portions of the skin of the aircraft, on one of which was a data plate describing the aircraft as a Lancaster, although giving no indication of the mark or number or even the Squadron letter of the aircraft. Three Merlin engines were found buried and it was impossible for me to obtain the numbers of them. One small portion of the leading edge of a tail fin appeared to be also from a Lancaster.

I contacted the local Royal Artillery Unit near the scene of the crash and obtained from them a written report of the occurrence. The aircraft was apparently flying at about 8000 ft. and without either IFF switched on or giving the colours of the period [see Special Equipment below]

It was engaged by the AA Artillery and was hit. A few seconds after being hit the aircraft dived into the ground and immediately exploded. From the state of the remains of the aircraft and the crater, I estimate that it was carrying at least one 4000lb bomb or larger [see bomb load below].

Details of the portions of clothing and possible names of various members of the crew are given on the attached report rendered by the CO of the RA Unit near the scene. In addition, I also found a portion of a parachute withe the number 022642 and the letter[s] EEBP on it.

I do not consider that the aircraft is worth salvaging with the possible exception of the three engines, which will require to be unearthed to be removed. I collected the remains of at least four bodies and brought them back with me to B.70 but I consider that the entire crew was killed in the crash and it is unlikely that any of them succeeded in baling out.

I could find no trace of bombs or secret equipment amongst the few remaining pieces of wreckage, and consider that they were totally destroyed in the explosion."

214366 Captain J.A.G. Nicholl CO of 320/98 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery reported that:

"Its petrol tanks and/or bomb load exploded, scattering pieces of the aircraft over a radius of about 400 yds. Immediately previous to the crash, the plane jettisoned large numbers of flares and incendiary bombs [see bomb load below] and went into a steep dive."

Bomb Load details.

The Loss Card records that the bomb load on board at take-off was:

1 x 4000lb MC, 9 x 150 x 4lb Incendiaries and 1 x 150 x 4lb 'X' type

Special Equipment on board.

According to the Loss Card the only Special Equipment on board was Loran (LORAN, short for long range navigation,[a] was a hyperbolic radio navigation system developed in the United States during World War II. It was similar to the UK's Gee system but operated at lower frequencies in order to provide improved range up to 1,500 miles (2,400 km) with accuracy of tens of miles)

There is no indication that the aircraft was equipped with IFF (see abbreviations)

In his report Captain Nicholl also added that:

"There were only a matter of seconds between the aircraft going into its dive and its actual crash. Previously judging from sound its flight was normal and there would be no reason to bale out. Five parachutes, one fully open and the remainder only partially open, were found within the radius of spread of the pieces. Torn and charred fragments of clothing enabled searchers to distinguish at least 4 bodies."

It was considered that all members of the crew had lost their lives in the crash and Captain Nicholl's report itemises various personal items found at the crash site. It was ultimately decided however that the human remains found were those of F/O. Beer, Sgt. Frisby, Sgt. Capon, F/Sgt. Macrae and Sgt.Horton.

The remains of the crew were buried in a communal grave at Schoonselhof Cemetery, Antwerp, Belgium.

Pilot Officer Macleod and Sergeant Dunlop having no known grave are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.





Schoonselhof Cemetery with insert left: F/O. Leslie Beer and insert right: P/O. Melvin Macleod. Insert below: Fl/Sgt. Fl/Sgt. Ian Francis Macrae


BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS

(1) F/O. Leslie William Beer was born in 1922 at Guildford, Surrey the son of Reginald A Beer and Doris Hilda Beer nee Randall. He had only one known sibling, Elizabeth M. Beer born 1924 but who sadly died shortly after birth. He married Freda Margaret Lane at Leamington Spa, Warwickshire in 1944 and the following year their daughter Suzanne was born.

1321656 RAFVR Flight Sergeant Leslie William Beer was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 26 July 1944 and promulgated in the London Gazette of 15 September 1944.

He is commemorated on the Guildford War Memorial.

(2) Sgt. Albert John Frisby - nothing further known, if you have any information please contact our helpdesk

(3) Sgt. John Capon was born in 1922, his birth being registered at Birkenhead, Cheshire and the son of Edward Walker Capon and Jessie Elizabeth Capon nee Owen of Wallasey. He had two known older brothers Harold A. Capon born 1916 and George Capon born 1919.

John Capon is commemorated on the Wallasey World War Two War Roll of Honour at Wallasey Town Hall.

(4) P/O. Melvin Joshua Macleod was born 9 January 1916 at Dominion No. 6, Cape Breton, (the name of this community was changed to Donkin in 1940) Nova Scotia, Canada the son of Lauchlin Macleod (a General Store Owner) and Elizabeth Kirby Macleod nee Gilholm. He had six brothers and three sisters and the family lived at 39 Dominion Street, Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. He was educated at Dominion No 6 Public School (1921-23) Glace Bay Central School (1923-1930) and Glace Bay High School (1930-1934). After leaving school he first worked as a Store Clerk for his father for 6 years followed by a year working as a Book-keeper for Glace Bay Foreman Co., and from 1941 until enlisting in 1942 as a Postal Clerk at Glace Bay Post Office.

When he enlisted on 11 August 1942 at No. 16 Recruiting Centre RCAF at Halifax, Nova Scotia he was 5' 6½" tall weighing 125lbs with a medium complexion, blue eyes and medium brown hair. His hobby was music and he played football, hockey baseball and softball.

After training at No.1 Bombing and Gunnery School at RCAF Jarvis, Ontario and No. 9 Air Observer School at RCAF St. John, Newfoundland he was awarded his Air Bomber Badge and promoted to Sergeant on 1 October 1943. He embarked for the UK on 22 October and on arrival was posted to No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre at RAF Bournemouth and on 1 February 1944 to No. 4 (Observer) Advanced Flying Unit at RAF West Freugh at Wigtownshire, Scotland. The following month on 7 March he was posted to No. 14 Operational Training Unit at RAF Cottesmore, Rutland and on 18 August to 1661 Conversion Unit at RAF Winthorpe, Nottinghamshire. After two weeks at No 5 Lancaster Finishing School at RAF Syerston in Nottinghamshire he joined No 50 Squadron on 19 October 1944 at RAF Skellingtorpe.

He was promoted to Flight Sergeant on 1 July 1944 and commissioned as a Pilot Officer with effect from 16 December 1944.

(5) Fl/Sgt. Ian Francis (Frank) Macrae was born on 22 November 1923 at Dorrigo, New South Wales, Australia the son of Gordon Macrae a Dairy Farmer and Alice Mabel Macrae. The family lived at Kelvin Park, Dorrigo. He was educated at Dorrigo Public School (1937-38) and Eastwood Marist Brothers College (1938-39). After leaving school he worked in Dairy Farming. He played various sports including football, cricket, hockey, tennis, swimming and golf.

When he enlisted at Sydney on 19 October 1942 he was described as 5'6½" tall weighing 136 lbs with a fresh complexion, brown eyes and dark hair. After training at No. 3 Wireless and Gunnery School at RAAF Maryborough, Queensland and No. 1 Bombing and Gunnery School at RAAF Evans Head, New South Wales he was awarded his Air Gunners Badge on 19 August 1943 and promoted to Sergeant. He was posted to Bradfield Park on 20 August 1943 and three weeks later on 10 September embarked at Brisbane for the UK where on arrival on 19 October was posted to No. 11 Personnel Reception and Despatch Centre at RAF Brighton.

On 1 February 1944 he was posted first to Air Navigation and Bombing School. Promoted to Flight Sergeant on 19 February he was, ten days later, posted to No. 8 (Observer) Advanced Flying Unit at RAF Mona, Anglesey, Wales on a Wireless Operators Course which he passed. Posted to No. 14 Operational Training Unit at RAF Cottesmore, Rutland on 4 April 1944 and four months later to No. 1661 Conversion Unit at RAF Winthorpe near Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire on 18 August for conversion training to Lancasters. His training concluded with two weeks at No. 5 Lancaster Finishing School at RAF Syerston, Nottinghamshire and was then posted to No. 50 Squadron at RAF Skellingtorpe on 19 October 1944.

He is commemorated on the Dorrigo War Memorial and the Australian War Memorial Panel No. 126 at Canberra.




(6) Sgt. William Henry Horton was born at Barking in 1909 the twin brother of Charles Edward Horton. They were the sons of Engraver and Copperplate Manufacturing Stationer Charles Edward Horton and Charlotte Ann Horton nee Ball a County Council School Teacher. The family lived at 4 Faircross Avenue, Barking.

William Henry Horton was married to Kathleen Horton and lived at Prestwich, Lancashire.

(7) Sgt. Cyril Ernest Dunlop - nothing further known, if you have any information please contact our helpdesk


BURIAL AND MEMORIAL DETAILS

F/O. Leslie William Beer was buried at Schoonselhof Cemetery Coll. Grave V.A. 76. (1)

No epitaph

Sgt. Albert John Frisby was buried at Schoonselhof Cemetery Coll. Grave V.A. 76. (2)

No epitaph

No further information available as yet.

Sgt. John Capon was buried at Schoonselhof Cemetery Coll. Grave V.A. 76. (3)

No epitaph

Son of Edward Walker Capon and Jessie Elizabeth Capon, of Wallasey, Cheshire, England.

P/O. Melvin Joshua Macleod - having no known grave he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. Panel 251.

Fl/Sgt. Ian Francis Macrae was buried at Schoonselhof Cemetery Coll. Grave V.A. 76.

Epitaph reads:

Let him rest

Upon Thy breast,

Thy sorrows, Lord, to share

Sgt. William Henry Horton was buried at Schoonselhof Cemetery Coll. Grave V.A. 76.

Epitaph reads:

At the going down

Of the sun

And in the morning

We will remember them

Sgt. Cyril Ernest Dunlop - having no known grave he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. Panel 228.

Researched for Michael Wallace cousin of the pilot F/O. Leslie Beer, also to Lynton Kettle and family, relative of Fl/Sgt. Macrae and dedicated to all the relatives of this crew. With thanks to Graham Wallace for pointing out a small error on the page and for further information supplied by Les Allison and Harry Hayward - "They Shall Grow Not Old", Glace Bay High School year book, 1947 - published in memory of former students who served in WW2 - in addition to sources as quoted.

KTY 18.10.2015 Serial number corrected - thanks to Jack Brook

RW 29.11.2016 Additional information regarding the crash and biographical details added

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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