19/20.02.1944 No. 7 Squadron Lancaster III ND470 MG-S Sq/Ldr. Frank B. Curtis
Date: 19/20th February 1944 (Saturday/Sunday)
Unit: No. 7 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Oakington, Cambridgeshire
Location: Thought to be Tollwitz south west of Leipzig, Germany
Pilot: Sq/Ldr. (Skipper) Frank B. Curtis 111971 RAFVR PoW No: Not known. Camp: Stalag Luft Barth Vogelsang
Fl/Eng: Fl/Sgt. (Jordie) Raymond F. Jordan 1615865 RAFVR (Wounded) PoW No: 43347 Camp: 357 Stalag Kopernikus (1)
Nav: Fl/Lt. (Ossy) Cyril Bush DFC. 139961 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Nav 2: Fl/Sgt. (Teddy) Edward Albert Howe 591724 RAF Age 20. Killed
Air/Bmr: Sq/Ldr. Thomas Reginald Nixon DFC. DFM. 46028 RAF Age ? Killed (2)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Kenneth Frederick Scammell 657203 RAF Age 22. Killed
Air/Gnr: P/O. (Johnny) Arthur Douglas Johnson 171726 RAFVR Age 33. Killed
Air/Gnr: W/O II. (Mac) Hugh Robert McKay R/180114 RCAF Age ? Killed (3)
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from RAF Oakington, Cambridgeshire at 00:02 hrs to attack the city of Leipzig. A disastrous raid for Bomber Command losing some 78 aircraft of the massive 823 taking part.
Fl/Sgt. Edward Howe, Fl/Sgt. Raymond Jordan, Fl/Sgt. Hugh McKay, Sq/Ldr. Frank Curtis, Fl/Sgt. Reginald Hunt (4), Fl/Lt. Cyril Bush, Fl/Sgt. Arthur Johnson. (courtesy Julie Walker - see credits)
The Bomber stream were under attack all the way to the target by the German night fighters. The weather at the target area was not as had been forecast and they arrived too early and had to orbit and await the pathfinders. During this they also encountered heavy flak losing 20 aircraft from this and a further 4 were lost in collisions. 420 aircrew killed, 131 PoW.
The target was cloud covered and the pathfinders had to use the sky-marking technique. No details regarding the effect of the bombing are available.
No reports are available regarding the accuracy of the bombing as the target was cloud covered and no post-raid reconnaissance flight made. Nothing was heard from Lancaster ND470 and was lost, it is thought, over Tollwitz. No night fighter claims can be found for this aircraft.
(1) Sadly Fl/Sgt. R. F Jordan died in 2008 in New Zealand where they had moved in 1973.
(4) 24 year old, Reg Hunt, the crew’s usual W/Op was in hospital with frost bite at the time. Sadly he was placed as missing in action on the 20th May 1944. On Lancaster III JB653 MG-R on an operation to bomb the railyards at Le Mans. The pilot, 30 year old Sq/Ldr. John Melvyn Dennis 41783 RAF DSO. DFC was killed with all crew.
Right: W/O II. Hugh Robert McKay (courtesy Michel Beckers)
This was the first operation for Sgt. Kenneth F. Scammell.
(2 Sq/Ldr. Thomas Reginald Nixon DFC Gazetted 21st December 1945:
‘This Officer has completed, as Bomb Aimer, many successful operations against the enemy, in the course of which he has invariably displayed high skill, fortitude and devotion to duty.’
DFM Gazetted 7th March 1941:
‘The work of this Air Observer has been so satisfactory during the 32 operational flights in which he has taken part that he has now become a Bombing Leader in his squadron. He has always shown courage and zeal in his work and has set a fine example to his colleagues.’
(3) Hugh McKay Lake, north of Knee Lake, Manitoba, Canada, renamed after him in 1995.
Fl/Lt. Cyril Bush DFC. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 6.E.23-28. No further details - are you able to assist? DFC Gazetted 21st December 1945.
Fl/Sgt. Edward Albert Howe. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 6.E.23-28. Son of Albert Edward and Helena Ada Howe, of West Ealing, Middlesex, England.
Sq/Ldr. Thomas Reginald Nixon DFC. DFM. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 6.E.23-28. No next of kin details available - are you able to assist? Further information: Thomas Reginald Nixon enlisted in the RAF in early 1939 and commenced aircrew training at Sywell in April of the same year. Qualifying as an Air Observer / Navigator in the following August, he was posted to No. 78 Squadron at Linton-on-Ouse, a Whitley unit, but was quickly remustered with No. 77 Squadron at Driffield and on the 18th December flew his first wartime mission, a ‘Security Patrol’ in a Whitley over Borkum and Sylt. But it would not be until April 1940 that he gained his next operational experience, in two ‘War Sorties’ flown to Oslo and Stuanger.
In the following month he joined the strength of No. 51 Squadron at Dishforth, another Whitley unit, sorties to Rheydt and Bapaume heralding the commencement of the busy schedule ahead - in June alone he flew on another 10 missions, Bremen, Duisburg, Frankfurt, Mannheim, Osnabruck and Saltzbergen being among the chosen targets. August saw an early strike on mainland Italy taking place on the night of 13/14th August, when Turin was attacked, and on the night of 25th-26th, Nixon participated in the first ever raid on Berlin, as ordered by Churchill following an attack on London the previous evening. The German capital was to be visited twice more by Nixon and his crew in September, the raid on the night of the 23rd-24th marking the first occasion in which Bomber Command decided to concentrate its main strength of bombers on just one enemy city. The results were promising. The last sortie of the month was a strike against the Scharnhorst in Kiel, Nixon’s aircraft gaining distinct hits in the docks. Further direct hits were obtained a few nights later in an attack on an armaments factory at Chemnitz, an outing that marked the successful conclusion of Nixon’s first tour of operations and the award of his DFM.
Above original crew grave marker (courtesy Michel Beckers)
Indeed such was Nixon’s growing reputation as a first class Bomb Aimer that he was sent off on a Bombing Leader’s course, which he duly passed in November 1940, prior to joining his next operational posting, No. 35 Squadron, a Halifax unit, at Linton-on-Ouse in February 1941. His second tour commenced with a raid on the Blohm and Voss works at Hamburg on the night of 12/13th March, but no further sorties were flown until the following June, when Duisberg, Huls and Hannover were attacked in quick succession. On the latter occasion Nixon’s aircraft Halifax I L9506 TL-X was engaged by an HE113, north-east of Osnabruck, and badly mauled, the Rear-Gunner, though wounded, bravely remaining at his post. The bomb load had to be jettisoned and a crash landing was effected at Bircham Newton. Just ten nights later, while en route to Kiel, his aircraft was again engaged by an enemy night fighter, this time an M.E. 110. With the starboard engine put out of action, his pilot, Flying Officer J.W. Murray, DFC, DFM, once more had to jettison the bomb load and make haste for the U.K. Sgt. Nixon was commissioned as a Pilot Officer two days later.
July witnessed Nixon’s crew participating in raids on Brunswick, Frankfurt and Leuna, and, on the 24th, in a daylight strike on the Scharnhorst at La Pallice, a hugely hazardous undertaking, all the more so for Nixon, who was chosen as Navigator and Bomb Aimer to Squadron Leader Bradley, DSO, DFC, pilot of the leading aircraft of No. 35’s formation. It was to prove a bumpy ride:
‘Took off at Stanton Harcourt at time stated and proceeded as Leader of the formation, the Squadron joining up in ‘Vic’ en route to la Rochelle to attack the German Battleship Scharnhorst. Both visibility and weather were excellent. Encountered intense heavy flak and numerous enemy aircraft immediately upon entering the target area. Good sight obtained on target but the bomb doors failed to open due to a hit by anti-aircraft fire. Doors did, however, open in time to deliver an attack on a moving Destroyer, South of the target, but evasive action was necessary in countering both flak and enemy aircraft attacks did not permit observation of result. The Rear-Gunner had one gun out of action and another firing only spasmodically, but he succeeded in defending the aircraft and shot down one of the enemy. During the attack and in the many hits scored by the enemy fighters, Sergeant Bolton, the 1st Wireless Operator, received injuries in the chest and died instantly, and Sergeant Rowley-Blake, the 2nd Pilot, received shrapnel wounds in the left thigh, calf and shoulder. Although the aircraft suffered damage to one propellor and the controls, and from the many other hits, it returned safely to England, landing at St. Eval at the time stated.’
Nixon had now completed over 40 operational sorties and was posted to No. 10 Operational Training Unit at Abingdon for a rest period. Inevitably, perhaps, this was not to prove the case, for he found himself selected to participate in the 1000 Bomber Raids on Cologne and Essen in late May and early June 1942, both sorties being carried out in Whitleys.
In September 1943, Nixon returned to the operational scene for his third tour, joining No. 7 Squadron, a Lancaster unit, at Oakington, as an Observer. Between then and his death in action in February 1944, he completed another nine sorties, the whole to such heavily defended German targets as Berlin (thrice), Hannover, Kassel, Magdeburg, Munich, Stettin and Stuttgart. His final sortie was flown against Leipzig on the night of 19-20 February 1944. His medals and logbook were sold at Dix Noonan Webb Ltd - specialist military auctioneers in June 2002 for £2,800.
Left: Sgt. Kenneth Scammell (courtesy Michel Beckers)
Sgt. Kenneth Frederick Scammell. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 6.E.23-28. Son of Frederick and Rosina Scammell, of Southmead, Gloucestershire, England.
P/O. Arthur Douglas Johnson. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 6.E.23-28. Son of Reginald Edward and Ethel Alice Margaret Johnson, husband of Alice Mary Johnson, of Boddington, Northamptonshire, England.
W/O II. Hugh Robert McKay. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 6.E.23-28. From Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. No further details - are you able to assist?
Later: W/O. Reginald Thomas Hunt. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 214. Son of William Thomas Hunt and Kate Hunt, of Newbury, Berkshire, England.
Researched for Julie Walker, daughter of Fl/Sgt. Jordan. Grave photos courtesy Uwe Jenrich. Information on Sq/Ldr Nixon courtesy DNW Auctions UK. For further details our thanks to the sources quoted below. Also thanks to Michel Beckers for new photos added July 2016.