22/23.05.1944 75 Squadron Lancaster I ME690 AA:Z Plt.Off. Edgar L. Burke
Operation: Dortmund, Germany.
Date: 22/23.05.1944 (Monday/Tuesday)
Unit: 75 Squadron (RNZAF)
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Mepal, Cambridgeshire.
Location: Thought to be East of Neerpelt, Belgium.
Pilot: Plt.Off. Edgar Lawrence Burke 417016 RNZAF Age 26. Killed
Flt.Eng: Sgt. Walter Pickering 1434290 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Nav: Fg.Off. John Wallace Downing 136351 RAFVR Age 33. Killed
Air Bmr: WO. Frank Albert Page 409481 RAAF Age 29. Killed
WOp/Air Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Alan Stevens Bromley 1247614 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Air Gnr: Sgt. James Henry Cooper 1308375 RAFVR Age 33. Killed
Air Gnr: Sgt. Donald Cameron Kitchener Grant 527237 Age 29. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 22:49 hrs from RAF Mepal, Cambridgeshire to bomb the city of Dortmund, the first large operation for a year on this target. 361 Lancasters and 14 Mosquitoes taking part in one of three major bombing operations on this night. 225 Lancasters also attacked Brunswick with a further 133 aircraft attacking the railway yards at Le Mans.
The results of the bombing on Dortmund were mainly on residential areas. 852 houses, 6 industrial buildings were destroyed, 788 houses seriously damaged. 335 Germans, 26 prisoners of war were killed with another 1,697 people injured.
Some of the crew L-R: Sgt. Newnham, Sgt. Pickering, Sgt. Cooper, Plt.Off. Burke, Fg.Off. Downing, WO. Page and Fl/Sgt. Bromley taken at RAF Mepal in December 1943 (courtesy Duane Hart)
Sgt. Alfred Newnham was killed with another crew on Stirling II LJ462 AA:O on a "Gardening" operation 13/14th March 1944.
75 Squadron lost another aircraft and crew this night, 27 year old Plt.Off. Cecil Armstrong was killed along with all other 6 crew embers on Lancaster III ND768 AA:F.
This Lancaster was claimed by Oblt. Hans-Wolfgang Schnaufer from Stab IV./NJG1 near Neerpelt, Belgium at 6000m at 01:23 hrs (Nachtjagd Combat Archives 1944 Part 3 - Theo Boiten)Oblt. Hans-Wolfgang Schnaufer already an ace at this time with an incredible 68 abschüsse, survived the war but was killed in a car accident in France in 1945. (Total of 121 night abschüsse)
Corfe Castle Visit July-August 1943. Back row from left: Sgt. Jim Mackay, Plt.Off. John Cecil Turner 421115 (RNZAF), Flt.Sgt Jim Pryse, Sgt. Jim Ladd, Flt.Sgt. John Stuart Selby Fleming 421038 (RNZAF), Fg.Off. Graham Braddock 421012 (RNZAF), Sgt. Francis Alexander Jack Scott 421105 (RNZAF). Front row of three: Plt.Off. Edgar Laurence Burke, Sgt. Robert Ross Pollock 417102 (RNZAF), Sgt. D.B. Thomas. (courtesy Jan Field-Hodgson)
The photograph shown from the collection of Sgt. Francis Scott, shot down and killed on the 28th May 1944 whilst with 75 Squadron. Sent into us in April 2017 by Jan Field-Hodgson his relative.
Duane Hart would like to make contact with other relatives of the crew - please contact us and we will forward your message.
On the 23rd May 1986 the people of Overpelt dedicated a stained glass window to this crew and all aircrew from 75 Squadron. On the program was the following poem:
When our Airman fell in battle,
From out of the clouds above,
Their graves were tended and cared for,
With compassion and brotherly love.
Though they never knew the bomber crew,
Whose flaming plane plunged from the sky,
To the good people of Overpelt and their neighbours,
They were kinsman regarded most high.
Immortalised is their sacrifice,
Remembered always, our comrades will be,
For the stained glass window in the house of god,
Is there for eternity.
In cathedrals of great nations,
Lay men of great renown,
But no greater honour was ever bestowed,
Then that of Overpelt Town.
Plt.Off. Edgar Lawrence Burke. Heverlee War Cemetery. Grave 6. C. 2. Son of Charles Augustine and Tillie May Burke, of Manaia, Taranaki, New Zealand.
Further information: Born in Manaia, New Zealand on March 10th 1918. Prior to call up worked as a dairy farmer at his fathers farm. Commenced training on December 20th 1941 joining EFTS on 4th April 1942, first solo on 22nd April 1942. 1 SFTS 13th June 1942, awarded pilots badge 2nd September 1942, promoted to Sgt shortly afterwards on 28th November 1942. Embarked to United Kingdom on 17th January 1943. Various other postings before conversion training on Stirlings with 1651 HCU, Finally joining 75 (NZ) Squadron, 13 operations on the Stirling, 7 with Lancasters. Commissioned on 23 rd January 1944. Total of 608 hours flying.
Right: Plt.Off. Edgar Lawrence Burke (courtesy Duane Hart)
Sgt. Walter Pickering. Heverlee War Cemetery. Grave 6.C.1. Isle of Wright, England. Born in 1922. From Keithley, Yorkshire and brother to Keith Pickering. Not further information.
Fg.Off. John Wallace Downing. Heverlee War Cemetery. Grave 6.C.6. Son of Wallace Downing, and of Beatrice Downing, of Elmfield, Ryde, Isle of Wight, England, husband of Esdale Downing. Journalist, as was her husband prior to service.
WO. Frank Albert Page. Heverlee War Cemetery. Coll. grave 6. C. 3-5. Born on the 24th April 1915 in Malvern, Victoria, the son of Arthur Edwin and Cecela Mary Page and husband of Margaret Page, of 204 East Waverley Road, East Malvern, Victoria, Australia. Prior to service worked as an accountant for K.L. Engines and Tractors Ltd.
Flt.Sgt. Alan Stevens Bromley. Heverlee War Cemetery. Coll. grave 6 C.3-5. Born on the 26th November 1920 in Willesden, Middlesex. Son of William Frederick and Helena Christina (née Stevens) Bromley of Leigh Gardens, London, England. His father predeceased him in February 1936.
Sgt. James Henry Cooper. Heverlee War Cemetery. Coll. grave 6.C.3-5. Son of James and Florence May Cooper, of Stoke-on-Trent, husband of Florence Alice Cooper, of Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, England.
Sgt. Donald Cameron Kitchener Grant. Heverlee War Cemetery. Grave 6.C.7. Son of Gregor James Grant and Catherine Grant, of Bearsden, Dunbartonshire, Scotland.
Researched for relatives of the crew by Duane Hart, with additional information by ourselves. With thanks for some details to Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses' Vol. 4 and 5, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vol's. 1 and 2', The Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries'. Tom Kracker - 'Kracker Luftwaffe Archives'. Also to Jan Field-Hodgson for photo submitted of various 75 Squadron pilots. Thanks to Alan Pickering, the nephew of Sgt. Pickering, for the additional NoK details (May 2019). Thanks to John Jones for the German night-fighter claim and for NoK for Flt.Sgt. Bromley (Oct 2020)