24.12.1944 No 419 Squadron Lancaster X KB715 VR-T F/O. Cowtan
Operation: Lohausen Airfield
Date: 24th December 1944 (Sunday - daylight operation)
Unit: No. 419 Squadron (RCAF)
Type: Lancaster X
Base: RAF Middleton St. George, County Durham
Location: Target area
Pilot: F/O. Thomas H. Cowtan PoW Stalag Luft Barth Vogelsang
Fl/Eng: P/O. James V. Ranson PoW - injured and treated in hospital
Nav: Fl/Sgt. Colin W. Thompson PoW Stalag Luft Barth Vogelsang
Air/Bmr: F/O. Joseph L.L. Cartier PoW - injured and treated in hospital
W/Op/Air/Gnr: F/O. Raymond Wallace Hale J/26179 RCAF Age 21. PoW - Murdered
Air/Gnr: Sgt. George B. Little PoW Stalag Luft Bankan, near Kreulberg, Upper Silesia
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Ferdiland A. Hector PoW Stalag Luft Bankan, near Kreulberg, Upper Silesia
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 12:06 hrs on a daylight operation to bomb the airfields at Lohausen north of Düsseldorf. Bomber Command sent some 338 aircraft to bomb airfields at both Lohausen (Düsseldorf) and Mülheim (Essen). It is thought the operation was to prevent supplies being sent to troops on the Ardennes offensive.
Weather conditions were good on this day with good visibility - reports state that the bombing had been accurate.
Lancaster KB715 was thought to have been hit by anti-aircraft fire during the approach to the target with 3 of its engines out of action and the aircraft on fire. F/O. Cowtan ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft - all 7 crew managed to do this, although two had been injured.
Above L-R: RCAF brothers Ronald William, Dennis and Raymond Wallace Hale (courtesy Leslie Reed Cooper - née Hale)
F/O. Hale landed in a small tree on the farm belonging to a Herr Joahann Holden in Morgensternheide west of Neuss. First on the scene were some Polish Workers who helped him down and and took him to a nearby flak battery.
22 year old Jakob Hamacher stated during his later trial that he saw 7 parachutes come down and bicycled towards them. He said that he shot at one airman but not aiming to hit him and was obeying orders. A Lieutenant (Walter Saur) from the flak division shot the airman in the head and then took away his parachute and other things. It is also reported that a Lt. Karl Heinz Sieben also shot the airman in the chest.
After the war it was only Joahann Holden who was tried for war crimes and sentenced to just 15 years. Lt. Karl Heinz Sieben was understood to have been killed before the end of the war.
Below right, a young Ray Hale prior to service (courtesy Leslie Reed Cooper - née Hale)
The family of F/O. Hale were informed at the time that he had been classed as missing - believed killed during the operation and only learned the true horror of his death from newspapers in late 1947!
F/O. Raymond Wallace Hale. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Grave 6.D.2. Son of William Ernest and Helen Lucy Hale, of Renfrew, Ontario, Canada. Brother of Ronald William Hale J/17968 who served with 419 Squadron RCAF and Dennis Hale J/180694 who served as a Lancaster pilot with 619 Squadron RCAF - both surviving the war.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Leslie Reed Cooper (née Hale) for so much information and photographs. Also to Oliver Clutton-Brock - 'Footprints On The Sands Of Time'. Other sources as quoted below.