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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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78 Squadron Crest
04.05.05.1943 78 Squadron Halifax II JB915 Sqn Ldr. Chapple, RAF Linton-on-Ouse

Operation: Dortmund

Date: 4th/5th May 1943 (Tuesday/Wednesday)

Unit: 78 Squadron

Type: Halifax II

Serial: JB915

Code: EY:M

Base: RAF Linton-on-Ouse, Yorkshire

Location: Ebe south of Gronau, Germany

Pilot: Sqn Ldr. James Hugh Dundas Chapple 37650 RAFVR PoW No: 1260 * (1)

Flt Eng: Sgt. Robert Hilary 1272409 RAFVR PoW No: 1135 ** (2)

Nav: Plt Off. Bruce Archibald Godfrey Campbell J13808 RCAF PoW No: 1259 *

Bom Aimer: Plt Off. Harry John King 109939 RAFVR PoW No: 1269 * (3)

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Edward Kenworthy Blackweall 1027348 RAFVR PoW No: 1118 **

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Sgt. Brian Legg 1287735 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Air Gnr (Rear): Fg Off. Edgar William Barnes 122904 RAFVR PoW No: 1252 *

* Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).

** Stalag 357 (Stalag 11b), Fallingbostel, Lower Saxony, Germany.

Above: 78 Squadron group photograph (unknown date)

REASON FOR LOSS:

Taking off at 22:05 hrs. from RAF Linton-on-Ouse in Yorkshire to attack Dortmund - 596 aircraft taking part in the largest non 1000 bomber raid of the war to date. The marking from the Pathfinders had been described as accurate but a decoy fire site also attracted many of the bombers.

Severe damage was caused in central and northern parts of the city - 1,218 buildings were destroyed with a further 2141 seriously damaged. Industrial targets such as the Hosch works, the Dortmund steel factories as well as many other facilities in the dock area were hit. Reported that 693 people were killed on the ground which sadly included some 200 PoW’s. 1,075 others suffered injuries in what has been described as a new record of casualties in the allied bombing offensive.

The 200 searchlights units aided the claim of at least 7 of the bombers over Dortmund by anti-aircraft units.

JB915 was shot down at 00:34 hrs after it had released its bomb run and on their way home. The credit for this was placed to Hptm. Wolfgang Thimmig and his Radio Operator Ofw. Steckemetz of Stab III./NJG1. They had taken off from the airfield at Twente in the Netherlands at 00:07 hrs to intercept the bombers in his Bf110.G-4 G9+BR. He visited the crash site the following day and took the details of the Halifax to place in his report, this his 14th claim.

Wolfgang Thimmig was a German Luftwaffe night fighter ace during World War II. At the end of the war he had achieved no less than 24 aerial victories, reached the rank of Oberstleutnant and was Geschwaderkommodore for NJG 2, having previously been the Kommodore for NJG 4. In 1956, Thimmig joined the newly formed Bundesluftwaffe and was the Military Attache of the Federal German Republic in Sweden between 1959 and 1963. In addition to this he was the Nigerian Air Force's Chief of the Air Staff from 1965 to 1966. He was the second Commander of the Nigerian Air Force, and assigned to the continuation of creating an Air Force for Nigeria by a 1963 agreement between Nigeria and Germany. Thimmig and the German Air Force Assistance Group withdrew from Nigeria in January 1966 when their task of creating an Air Force was completed. Born on the 4th October 1912 in Dresden, Germany. Died on the 06th November 1976 in Stockholm, Sweden (Information courtesy Kracker Archive on this site)

(1) Sqn Ldr. James Hugh Dundas Chapple whilst a PoW at Stalag Luft 3 was a member of the X escape committee for the well covered 'Great Escape' although not part of the escapers. Remained in the RAF post war, Wg Cdr. on the 28th October 1947 then Grp Capt. on 1st January 1953.

(2) Sgt. Hilary's PoW movements extracted from his PoW log:

May 1943 - October/November 1943: Stalag Luft I Barth-Vogelsang, today situated in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Germany;
October/November 1943 to July 1944: Stalag Luft 6, Heydekrug, Memelland (now Šilutė in Lithuania);
17th July 1944 to unknown date: Stalag 357, Thorn (Toruń) in German-occupied Poland. Note: In September 1944 Stalag 357 was moved to the site of the former Stalag 11d in Fallingbostal.

(3) Plt Off. Harry John King when during service in the Middle East with 104 Squadron as a navigator was shot down on his 13th operational sortie. He evaded capture along with his crew and finally rescued by ground forces. Returned to England and as it was a different theatre of operations they permitted him to fly on operations again. (Normally when an aircrew member has evaded previously he is not permitted to fly again on operations in the same theatre due to security risks involving his evasion) Then, on this his 13th operation also shot down and taken PoW. He also was a member of the 'X' escape committee assisting with 'Great Escape', although not one of the escapees. He left the service in 1945 to become a teacher but rejoined the RAF four years late in 1949. Sadly on the 22nd May 1952 as Adjutant of 25 Squadron flying as a navigator he was killed along with 3 others when the 203 Squadron Lancaster MR3 RE200 caught fire in the air. During an attempted emergency landing at RAF West Malling - they crashed some 800 metres short of the runway. Flt Lt. Harry John King was married with two daughters. Despite his prestigious RAF career he had never received any significant awards.

Burial details:

Sgt. Brian Legg. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 23.F.9. Son of Thomas Edwin and Gladys Kathleen Legg, of Eastcote, Middlesex, England. Grave inscription reads: "Till We Meet Again, My Dear. Mother".

Researched for Malcolm J. Farling relative of Sgt. Robert Hilary and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to sources as shown. Thanks to Michael Robert Hillary for the correction to crew positions (Sep 2021). Other updates by Aircrew Remembered (Sep 2021). Thanks to Michael Robert Hillary, the son of Sgt. Hillary, for his PoW log information (Oct 2021).

RS 01.10.2021 - Addition of PoW movements for Sgt Hillary

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, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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