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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.
Further data available at Allied Losses & Incidents database

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431 Squadron Crest
11.03.1945 431 Squadron Lancaster X KB853 SE:A Wg.Cdr. Davenport

Operation: Essen

Date: 11th March 1945 (Sunday)

Unit: 431 Squadron

Type: Lancaster X

Serial: KB853

Code: SE:A

Base: RAF Croft, North Yorkshire

Location: Target area, Essen.

Pilot: Wg.Cdr. Ralph Frederick Davenport C190 RCAF Age 32. Killed

Flt.Eng: Sgt. Arthur Clifford Pettifor C95400 RCAF Age 29. Killed

Nav: Fg.Off. Donal Kevin Joseph Hector J40804 RCAF Age 24. Killed

Air Bmr: Fg.Off. Wendelin Rink J40335 RCAF Age 21. Killed

WOp/Air Gnr: WO2. Charles William Fraser J95308 RCAF Age 24. Killed

Air Gnr: Plt.Off. Hubert “Bertie” George Bishop DFC J92591 RCAF Age 22. Killed

Air Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Clarence Reginald Lecky J9415 RCAF Age 28. Killed

REASON FOR LOSS:

Took off at 11:42 hrs from RAF Croft in North Yorkshire. Part of the largest number sent to date for the war with 1,079 aircraft taking part also the last raid on Essen.

The operation was described as very accurate with bombing paralysing the city until the Americans arrived shortly afterwards.

The city had been left in ruins, records for this operation from the city's records are brief but a figure of 897 people killed this night. During the war some 7,000 people had been killed in air raids, with most of the population evacuating to country areas.

Lancaster KB853 crashed in the target area, presumably a victim of flak. The Luftwaffe now unable to to match this type of heavy onslaught.

Note. As was usually the case, command of the squadron passed to one of the flight commanders, in this instance Sqn.Ldr. Smith RCAF. However, his tenure was brief and Wg.Cdr. McKinnon DFC arrived on 18th March and took over the helm for the remaining weeks of the war.

Further information and photographs:

Ralph Davenport with his wife Marion and daughter Joan, Christening - 19th June 1942

Burial details:

Crew were initially laid to rest in the Süd-West Friedhof. Six are now buried in the Reischwald Forest War Cemetery, while Fl/Sgt. Lecky was exhumed by an American graves inspection team and interred on 17th May at Margraten. Since then his remains have been recovered to Venray War Cemetery.

Wg,Cdr. Ralph Frederick Davenport. Reischwald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 1.B.8. Further information: Son of George Frederick and Sadie Gertrude Davenport, husband of Marion and father of Joan Davenport of Belleville, Ontario, Canada. Born June 17th 1912 in Edmunston, New Brunswick, grew up in Fredericton where he graduated from the University of New Brunswick with a degree in electrical engineering. In January 1945 having previously acted as Chief Flying instructor for the BCATP and school commandant for No 7 SFTS at Fort Macleod, Alberta and several other roles in a training capacity, took over from Wing Commander Eric Mitchell as commanding officer of 431 Squadron.

Sgt. Arthur Clifford Pettifor. Reischwald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 14.D.6. Further information: Son of Walter Thomas and Kathleen Pettifor and husband of Rosalie Pettifor of Beaver Mines, Pincher Creek, Alberta, Canada. Arthur served in 432 squadron before joining 431 Squadron.

Fg.Off. Donal Kevin Joseph Hector. Reischwald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 1.B.5. Further information: Son of Alexander Joseph and Catherine C. Hector of 25, Halford Avenue, Humbercrest, Toronto, Ontario. He had three sisters, Mrs J.S.Bradley of Sudbury, Sister Catherine Celme of Jamaica, N.Y. and Maureen Hector of Toronto. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia the family moved to Toronto when Donal was young, educated at St.Michaels College, then University of Toronto where he graduated in 1943. Also played ice hockey and lacrosse for the university team. Received his wings and commission at Portage La Prairie in January 1944, previously served with 432 Squadron.


Fg.Off. Wendelin Rink. Reischwald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 1.B.6. Further information: Son of John and Margaret Rink and the sixth of nine children of Kendal, Saskatchewan, Canada. Wendelin was the son of hard working Ukrainian immigrants who settled in the prairie town of Kendal. His mother was widowed when he was just six, grew up quickly and got a job working in the nickel mines at Sudbury, Ontario. Enjoyed ice hockey and was also an avid reader. Enlisted hoping to become a pilot, but instead trained as a bomb aimer, joining 432 Squadron prior to 431 Squadron. Some of his brothers served in the war, Joe and Anton in the Canadian Army, Daniel and Bernard in the RCAF Bernard Rink (Flt.Lt. Crowthers crew) of 576 Squadron was in the same operation and witnessed his brothers plane go down.

WO2. Charles William Fraser. Reischwald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 14.D.7. Son of Charles D. and Lillie A. Fraser of 1538, Victoria Avenue, Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

Plt.Off. Hubert “Bertie” George Bishop DFC. Reischwald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 1.B.3. Further information: Son of Mr and Mrs Edward Bishop, brother of William, Charles, Laura, Bert, Johnny and Rachel Bishop of Catalina, Newfoundland, Canada. Lived with his wife at 7, North Street, Glace Bay, Newfoundland. Posted to 431 Sqn in August of 1944, having flown as rear gunner with other crews including Wg.Cdr. Mitchell.

Plt.Off Bishop's DFC awarded whilst with 431 Sqn, gazetted 25th May 1945

Flt.Sgt. Clarence Reginald Lecky. Venray War Cemetery. Grave V.F.1. Further information: Son of Albert David and Mary Albertine Lecky of Port Arthur, Ontario, Canada, husband of Norma Elizabeth Lecky of 140 Peter Street, Port Arthur, Ontario. Clarence was the eldest of four boys and enjoyed baseball, hockey, music and ballroom dancing. Also a lover of the out doors, angling and hunting. At the time of his enlistment he worked at Kam Motors in Fort William. Married his wife Norma Elizabeth Nash a week before his departure overseas.

Researched by Aircrew Remembered volunteer, researcher and genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew. Special thanks to Joan Rayner (nee Davenport), daughter and Marion Davenport, wife for usage of information and photographs of Wing Commander Davenport and son in law James Rayner. Also to Richardiena Delwo, for information and photo of Wendelin Rink. The Bishop family for photo and information of Harold Bishop. To Kathy Parks (University of Toronto) for usage of photo of Donal Hector. Matt Lacroix at bombercrew.com, Bill Heron, Richard Kovel, Hans Ooms (Netherlands) for Grave photographs. Further sources as shown below.

RS 06.08.2020 - Addition of DFC award detail and narrative update

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', 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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