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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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158 Squadron Crest
23/24.08.1943 No. 158 Squadron Halifax II HR980 NP-E Fl/Sgt. Burgum crew loss

Operation: Berlin

Date: 23/24th August 1943 (Monday/Tuesday)

Unit: No. 158 Squadron

Type: Halifax II

Serial: HR980

Code: NP-E

Base: RAF Lissett, Yorkshire.

Location: 5 km east of Gollin, Germany

Pilot: Fl/Sgt. William Arnold Burgum AUS/414463 RAAF Age 21. Missing

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Roland Hill 1202448 RAFVR Age 32. Missing

Nav: Sgt. Peter Leighton Buck 1391079 RAFVR Age 20. Missing

Air/Bmr: Sgt. Donald Roy Hempstock 1578243 RAFVR Age 21. Missing

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Arthur Cox 1175980 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Gordon Rudolph Harrison R/76374 RCAF Age 22. Missing

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Harley Cecil Harber AUS/421595 RAAF Age 27. Killed

A recovery team has located the crash site of the Halifax, with perhaps the remains of the crew inside. Despite requests, various governments will not fund a recovery project, although they have offered to pay for the funerals of recovered crew members - in the local area! With thanks to the Sunday Express for highlighting this in November 2014. (see below)


Took-off from RAF Lissett at 20.14 hrs. Crashed in the Forsterei Reiersdorf, 5 km east of Gollin, a small town some 11 km south east of Templin.

Left - right: Sgt. Cox, Fl/Sgt. Burgum, Fl/Sgt. Harber. Front: Sgt. Hempstock (courtesy John Williams)

Above L-R: Sgt. Hill, Fl/Sgt. Harrison, Sgt. Buck, Fl/Sgt. Burgum (courtesy John Williams)

Then (1943) and Now (2002) taken at Stanton Harcourt. Shown in 1943 photo - on right Fl/Sgt. Burgum, hand over face is Fl/Sgt. Harber and on the left is Sgt. Hempstock, others unknown. Shown in the 2002 photo is John Williams. (courtesy John Williams)

Then (1943) and Now (2002) Shown in 1943 photo - left to right: Sgt. Hempstock, Sgt. Cox and Fl/Sgt. Harber. Shown in the 2002 photo is John Williams (courtesy John Williams)

The Channel 7 News except shown below was shown in Australia on the 27th November 2014 - kindly submitted by John Williams to Aircrew Remembered.

The following account of the crash was given by Fritz Ludke, a forester from Gollin:

“At 22.00 Hrs on the night of 23/24th August, 1943, a four engined bomber aircraft approached from the south west at a height of approximately 3,000 feet. A fire was observed for a short while after attacked by night fighters (1). The plane proceeded north and then circled, loosing height it crashed at 22.15 Hrs into a swampy area and fire broke out again but soon subsided.

Two weeks later the body of the rear gunner was removed from the tail of the plane by the Wehrmact, who tried again after four weeks to salvage the plane. A second body was recovered and the remains of a third, after this the salvage operations had to be given up because the aircraft was sinking fast.”

(1) Claimed to have been shot down by Oblt. Rudolf Altendorf 2./NJG4 over Eberswalde, north of Berlin at 01.18hrs. This was his 19th kill of 23 from the war, from which he survived.

(2) John Williams had an Auntie, who was engaged at the time, to Fl/Sgt. Harley Cecil Harber - we are indebted to him for supplying these tremendous photographs.

Crash site 2002 (courtesy John Williams)

Pressure continues - Daily Express Cutting November 20th 2014.(courtesy John Williams)

Burial details:

Fl/Sgt. William Arnold Burgum. Runnymede Memorial, Panel 192. Son of George and Ethel Burgum, of Maryborough, Queensland, Australia.

Sgt. Roland Hill. Runnymede Memorial, Panel 153. Son of William and Mary Ada Hill, of Leicester, England.

Sgt. Peter Leighton Buck. Runnymede Memorial, Panel 144. Son of Arthur James and Gladys Blanche Buck, of Eastbourne, Sussex, England.

Sgt. Donald Roy Hempstock. Runnymede Memorial, Panel 153. Son of Charles and Winifred Rosa Hempstock, of Eastbourne, Sussex, England..

Sgt. Arthur Cox. Berlin War Cemetery. Plot 2. Row E. Grave 18. No further details available as yet. Are you able to assist?

Fl/Sgt. Gordon Rudolph Harrison. Runnymede Memorial, Panel 182. Born on 12th May 1921. John Williams informed us in August 2016 that his wife, who remarried, passed away on 4 June 2016 in her 94th year. No further details available as yet. Are you able to assist?

Fl/Sgt. Harley Cecil Harber. Berlin War Cemetery, Plot 2. Row E. Grave 20. Son of Cecil Stanley and Una Jean Harber, of Northbridge, New South Wales, Australia.

With thanks to the following: John Williams, The Sunday Express, London, England for publishing the details of lack of response from the authorities regarding recovery. Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses' Vol. 4, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2'. Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

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: 05 August 2016, 17:59

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