24/25.03.1944 61 Squadron Lancaster III JB129 QR:G Fg.Off. Cox
Date: 24/25th March 1944 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: 61 Squadron (5 Group)
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire
Location: Rimbeck, Germany
Pilot: Fg.Off. John Grant Cox 412658 RNZAF Age 22. Killed
Flt.Eng: Sgt. George Frederick Lowe 1646186 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Nav: Flt.Sgt. Ernest George Grundy 1393695 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Air Bmr: Fg.Off. Ernest William Terence Mellander J25768 RCAF Age 22. Killed
WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Edward Peacock 1484053 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Air Gnr: Sgt. William Broderick 2208864 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Air Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Keith Finch 429079 RAAF Age 19. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire at 18:49 hrs for a bombing raid on Berlin. Another huge raid with 811 Allied bombers formed up to bomb Berlin. The weather was extremely good with very high visibility which resulted in many losses to the german Night fighters who were already closing in on the bomber stream as early as 19:45 hrs!
Un-forecasted jet stream winds scattered the bombers to the South of the intended route and many of the aircraft were flying without the protection of "Window".
The night became known as “The night of the strong winds".
The raid itself resulted in the usual damage to civilian properties with 150 people being killed on the ground in the target area (A further 30 people killed in other areas bombed by the scattered force.) No major industrial targets were hit although some damage was done to 5 military establishments - including the Waffen SS depot in Lichterfield.
A total of 72 aircraft were lost in this last major raid on Berlin of the war, including another from 61 squadron:
Lancaster I DV397 QR-W Flown by Plt.Off. Dennis Carbutt 54303 RAF - killed with 5 of his crew, the Air Bomber was taken PoW after being blown out of the aircraft. The aircraft came down 1 km north of Gehrden at 23:00 hrs after being hit by ant-aircraft fire and exploding in the air.
A total of Eight RNZAF aircrew were lost on this operation from various squadrons.
Understood that Lancaster JB129 was shot down by a night fighter. Mr. Bryan Cox (brother of the pilot) informed us that he was told by a German aviation journalist that it had been the Luftwaffe ace Oblt. Martin Drewes.
The latest information available has confirmed that the claim for JB129 was made by by Oblt. Peter Ehrhardt, his 11th and 2nd of 3 Abschüsse that night, from 8./NJG5 over Kassel at 5.600 m at 23:34 hrs. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (16 March 1944 - 11 May 1944) Part 2 - Theo Boiten))
The 1st of the night was a probable claim for 78 Sqn Halifax LV903, 20 km from Erfurt at 5.200m at 22.58 hrs. Flt.Lt. Constable, DFC and 6 of his crew perished and 2 survived as PoWs.
The 3rd of the night was also a probable claim for an unidentified Lancaster 20 km north of the Rheine at 5.800m at 00:18 hrs.
Oblt. Ehrhardt survived the war and was credited with 25 Abschüsse. It has been variously reported that he was awarded the Deutsches Kreuz in Gold on the 1st January 1945, albeit not documented. He died on the 5th May 1983 in Dusseldorf, Germany. ((Luftwaffe ACES - Biographies and Victory Claims (Mathews and Foreman) - Volume 1)
Above crew photo taken on the 08th February 1944 - after the crews final flight with 1661 Heavy Conversion Unit RAF Winthorpe, in front of a Stirling. L-R: Flt.Sgt. Keith Finch, Fg.Off. John Cox, Fg.Off. Ernest Mellander, Sgt. George Lowe, Flt.Sgt. Ernest Grundy, Sgt. Edward Peacock, Sgt. William Broderick. (courtesy Bryan Cox)
3 locals standing on the crashed Lancaster 26th March 1944 at Rimbeck. The photo was sent Bryan in 1999 following his visit to the crash site and cemetery. The lady in the middle still lives in the village. (courtesy Bryan Cox)
Fg.Off. John Grant Cox. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 11.H.14. Son of John Barker Cox and of Janet Edith Cox (née Jaynt), of Hamilton and husband of Winifred Frances Cox, of Hamilton, New Zealand. A total of 307 flying hours logged and having completed 4 operational sorties.
Sgt. George Frederick Lowe. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 11.H.16. No further information - are you able to assist?
Flt.Sgt. Ernest George Grundy. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 11.H.18. Son of Lily Violet Daisy Pinion, of Poplar, London, England. Grave inscription reads: "Not Gone From Memory, Not Gone From Love But Gone To Our Father's Home Above".
Fg.Off. Ernest William Terence Mellander. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 11.H.13. Son of Ernest George Gustaf and Margaret Mellander, of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Grave inscription reads: "Till The Day Breaks, Rest In Peace".
Sgt. Edward Peacock. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 11.H.17. Son of John George and Eliza Peacock, of Bilton Grange, Hull, England. Grave inscription reads: "Honoured Memories Of A Beloved Son & Brother "Asleep With His Comrades".
Sgt. William Broderick. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 11.H.15. Son of William and Jane Broderick, of Oldham, Lancashire, England. Grave inscription reads: "Too Dearly Loved In Life To Be Forgotten In Death".
Flt.Sgt. Keith Finch. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 11.H.19. Born on the 29th May 1924 at Auburn,New South Wales, the son of James and Edna Dora Finch, of Mullumbimby, New South Wales, Australia. Prior to service worked as a Woollen warehouse employee. Enlisted 08th June 1942. Grave inscription reads: "His Duty Nobly Done. Supreme Sacrifice Cherished Memories".
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to Bryan Cox, brother of the pilot, the research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland War Memorial Museum, Weekly News of New Zealand, Thanks to Gerhard Schmid for highlighting the updated information regarding the loss of the aircraft (Jan 2021) other updates by Aircrew Remembered (Jan 2021). Other sources as quoted below: