02.11.1944 No. 622 Squadron Lancaster I LL803 GI-S Fl/Lt. Ronald F. Cass
Operation: Homberg Synthetic Oil Plant
Date: 02nd November 1944 (Thursday)
Unit: No. 622 Squadron
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk
Location: 10 km North West of Krefeld, Germany
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Ronald Foster Cass 109074 RAFVR Age 33. Killed (1)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Harry Vernon Keeling 1685186 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Nav: Fl/Sgt. William Bruce Roy Smith AUS/421419 RAAF Age 22. PoW No: 1167 Camp: Stalag Luft Bankau (Bakow, Poland), near Kreuzburg (Klucsbork, Poland) (2)
Air/Bmr: F/O. Brian Ingham 152572 PoW details not available - probably same as other crew members at some stage.
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. George F. Acworth 1811321 RAFVR PoW No: 1128 Camp: L7 (3)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Dennis William Hale 1606173 RAFVR Age 18. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Alan Burgess 1819813 RAFVR Age ? Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from at 11:27 hrs from RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk to bomb the Synthetic Oil Plant in Homberg.
About 184 Lancasters from No.3 group were tasked against the oil plant. Weather in target area: 5/10th cloud, at the end of the attack black clouds and smoke could be seen coming up from the oil plant. This attack was meant as a G-H formation attack together with a large number of “extra” aircraft with no G-H. These bombed on Wanganua flares dropped by G-H aircraft.
It was a daylight precision bombing mission. 938 tons of HE of which 20.3 exploded in target area. Heavy damage to the generators, plants and other pipelines.
The allies lost 5 Lancasters with 14 crew being killed, 11 made Pow, 1 evading capture and one other injured during a crash landing in Allied held territory.
The aircraft was hit several times by predicted flak during the run up to the target. Three engines were on fire and they started to lose height. The pilot, Fl/Lt. Ronald Cass gave the order to bale out which all the crew acknowledged except the rear gunner, Sgt. Alan Burgess who is thought to have been either killed or injured during the attack. F/O. Brian Ingham jumped first when at about 12,000 ft, followed by Fl/Sgt. William Smith at about 10,000 ft with Sgt. George Acworth jumping when at about 8,000 ft. At this stage the aircraft was out of control and rapidly losing height. The escaping crew did not see any of the others leave the aircraft before it crashed about 10 km North West of Krefeld.
(1) The family of Fl/Lt. Ronald Cass also lost another son. 28 year old, 2nd. Lt. Howard Cass of the Green Howards and is remembered on the Alamein Memorial. Panel 59. Married to Annie Cass.
Drawings sent home to his son, from Fl/Lt. Ronald Foster Cass
(2) Fl/Sgt. William Smith did complete (as would have the other PoW’s) a report following their release from the PoW camps after liberation from the Russian Army on the 21st April 1945.
He reported that: “Conditions as a PoW good under the Luftwaffe control - good library, regular band and concerts, football for prisoners. Red Cross parcels were spasmodic. Bathing and washing facilities were adequate. However, the PoW’s from this crew did submit a further statement where they felt a War Crime had been committed.
It was regarding the transportation of prisoners in that when they were moved from Bankau to Luckenwalde they were kept for 4 days in cattle trucks - with as many as 65 people in 1 truck. No food was given and very little water. He named Major Peshall and staff of Luft VII as responsible for this. On arrival they’re not given beds, just wood shavings to sleep on - conditions were described as overcrowded wit the camp becoming very ‘Lousy’, dysentery and other complaints were common. No complaints regarding the other general camp staff.
Firstly at Dulag Wetzlar for 7 days, spent final 80 PoW days at Stalag Luckenwalde (3A) Born on the 30th August 1922 at 23 Tindale Street, Artarmon, New South Wales, Australia - husband of Cherubine Maria Smith of 7 Waterloo Street, Hove, Sussex, later of 2 Crescent Place Bright, Sussex, England.
(3) Sadly the family of Sgt. George Acworth lost his brother, 21 year old, F/O. Dennis Herbert Acworth DFC 141163 RAFVR on the 28th May 1944. Flying with F/O. Phillip Spencer Foxcroft DFC 128047 RAFVR when their Mosquito DZ468 AZ-D of 627 Squadron disappeared without trace during an operation to mark a Coastal Battery - both the crew commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. George Acworth of Plaistow, London, England, passed away in 1990.
Fl/Lt. Ronald Foster Cass. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Collective grave 2.D.8. Son of John Robert and Lily Cass, husband of Ruby Cass, of Beverley, Yorkshire, England.
Left: Ronald Foster Cass, taken during training.
Sgt. Harry Vernon Keeling. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Collective grave 2.D.8. Son of George Vernon Keeling and Mary Ellen Keeling, of Crewe, Cheshire, England.
Sgt. Dennis William Hale. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Collective grave 2.D.8. Son of William and Elsie Hale, of Downend, Bristol, England.
Sgt. Alan Burgess. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Collective grave 2.D.8. No further details - are you able to assist.
Researched for Diane Cass - relative of the pilot and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to sources as shown. Photographs supplied by the family of Ronald Cass - November 2016.