21/22.01.1944 No. 76 Squadron Halifax V LK922 MP-L Fl/Sgt. Henry Boyes
Date: 21/22nd January 1944 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: No. 76 Squadron
Type: Halifax V
Base: RAF Holme-On-Spalding-Moor, Yorkshire
Location: Erxleben, Helmstedt, Germany
Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Henry Boyes 1078689 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Reginald Sydney Western 1642409 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Nav: Sgt. T. Fraser 1498683 RAFVR Injured (1) PoW No: 929 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus
Air/Bmr: F/O. D.H. McVie AUS/414420 RAAF Injured (2) PoW No: 3376 Camp:Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. C.M. Bennett 1493594 RAFVR Injured (3) PoW No: ? Camp:Stalag Luft Barth Vogelsang
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Rudolph Angel Antonio Forte 1565064 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. James McCurry 1301467 RAFVR Age ? Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off from RAF Holme-On-Spalding-Moor, Yorkshire at 20.06 hrs. to make the first major attack of the war on the Magdeburg/Rothensee plant that produced synthetic oil from lignite coal. Part of a force of 648 aircraft, made up from 421 Lancaster's 224 Halifax's and 3 Mosquitoes.
Bomb load: 1 x 2000 HCM Inst, 2 x 500lb. Clusters, 32 x 30 Inc, 480 x 4 Inc, 60 x 4” K Type Inc.
Left: Sgt. Rudolph Forte (courtesy of the archives of Olga Risi - Macari, Rudolph's first cousin)
The German night fighters were ready as the bomber stream had been followed by the German controllers. They were very slow though to identify the target but anyway the night fighters were in the area with the bomber stream. During the raid a huge amount of losses were experienced by the attacking group with 35 Halifax's and 22 Lancaster's lost which were mainly due to the attacking night fighters.
This huge loss was not even rewarded with a successful attack as the strong winds brought some of the force into the target area before the pathfinders and as a result 27 bombers bombed before the pathfinders had marked the area. Most of the bombing fell outside the city.
It is reported that Halifax LK922 was shot down by a German night fighter and exploded in the air. The records of the Nachtjagd do not have any confirmed claims against this aircraft although a total of 19 Halifax's lost were not possible to be placed against a German pilot such was the fury of the combat and confusion this night.
Report from Air Bomber, F/O. Mcvie:
Rear Gunner reported night fighter attack, evasive action, both our gunners opened fire, e/a (moving away?) Rear guns (u/s?) Nav.gave pilot new course and as he turned (another) gunner reported e/a’s approach, evasive action, night fighter broke away mid upper gunner’s guns (u/s?) All uninjured. Several ineffective attacks but eventually starboard outer engine on fire - (feathered?). Starboard wing then reported on fire - bale out ordered but again attacked. Bomb aimer hit by cannon shell above … (word illegible) W/op, Nav and BA thrown (to floor?) as explosion (probably s/board wing). BA unconscious came to falling and pulled rip cord. Saw another member of crew (perhaps Flight Engineer) falling without chute. W/op sprained ankle baling out. Germans said 3 dead in a/c and one in field near village without parachute. BA (one word illegible) the survivors must have gone through perspex nose.
Report from Navigator, Sgt. T. Fraser:
Navigator lost boots during descent. Captured at 04.00hrs - “real danger came on two occasion - first quite avoided and during second gunners performed gallantly despite the hardships (illegible) displayed equal skill” Nav’s right arm out of place and left thigh bruised. 4 killed instantly.
Fraser: Most of our journey was without incident but it was the later stages that two occasions of danger approached and during the first it was Jim’s expert directions and our Captain’s skilful ability by which it was overcome completely. On the next Jim performed gallantly for some time to repeat the achievement and it is partly due to them that David, Charlie and I owe our lives.
(1) Sgt. Fraser suffered his right arm out of place (dislocated?) and bruising.
(2) F/O. McVie - Unconscious from explosion - recovered during fall from aircraft.
(3) Sgt. Bennett suffered a sprained ankle. We are not convinced that we have his service number correct - it is as far as the loss card is concerned which is the best evidence we have, but not as far as other sources are concerned.
Graves of Sgt. Forte and Sgt. McCurry Berlin War Cemetery (courtesy of Paul Forte via Mike Harrison)
Fl/Sgt. Henry Boyes. Berlin War Cemetery Collective grave 6.A. 13-16. Next of kin details not known as yet, can you assist? This was his 2nd operational sortie.
Sgt. Reginald Sydney Western. Berlin War Cemetery Collective grave 6.A. 13-16. Son of Stanley and Rose Sarah Western, of Stanmore, Middlesex.
Sgt. James McCurry. Berlin War Cemetery Collective grave 6.A. 13-16. Next of kin details not known as yet, can you assist?
Sgt. Rudolph Angel Antonio Forte. Berlin War Cemetery Collective grave 6.A. 13-16. Son of Masimino and Maria Pace Forte, of Galashiels. Selkirkshire. Correct name was Rodolfo, but known as Rudolph.
Article researched for a relative of Air Gunner Sgt. Rudolph Forte, Paul Forte. If anyone has further information on the crew or the aircraft we would like to hear from you and will pass on the information to the relatives.
With thanks to the following: Mike Harrison and Paul Forte, Roy Wilcock for information supplied via the loss card. Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol's. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', ‘Bomber Command Database’, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vol's. 1 and 2', 'Kracker Luftwaffe Archives'. Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries (Updated 2014 version).