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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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432 Squadron Crest
16/17.12.1943 No. 432 Squadron Lancaster II DS831 QO-N F/O. William C. Fisher

Operation: Berlin

Date: 16/17th December 1943 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: No. 432 Squadron

Type: Lancaster II

Serial: DS831

Code: QO-N

Base: RAF East Moor, North Yorkshire, England

Location: Between Wijtgaard and Weidum, Holland

Pilot: F/O. William Charles Fisher T/190910 USAAF Age 23. Killed

Pilot 2: Sgt. Owen D. Lewis R/55041 RCAF PoW No: 43348 Camp: Stalag Luft Bankau-Kreulberg

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Raymond Hughes 1808927 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

Nav: Fl/Sgt. James Stuart Briegel R/113427 RCAF Age ? Killed

Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Thomas Walter Pragnell 1219197 RAFVR Age 22.Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Montagu Brudell AUS/413340 RAAF Age 21. PoW No: 267440 Camp: Stalag Mühlberg-Elbe

W/Op/Air/Gnr: W/O. Raymond Kenneth Saunders AUS/406814 RAAF Age 23. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Herbert Albert Turner R/18079 RCAF Age 24. Killed


A PDF file on with comprehensive research into this loss has been compiled by a Dutch student, Mr. Marcel N. Huizenga - available for download, please contact us. The grandson of the pilot contacted us in August 2014.


REASON FOR LOSS:

Took off from RAF East Moor at 16.29 hrs. The raid consisted of 483 Lancasters and 10 Mosquitoes with a further 5 Mosquitoes being used to drop decoy flares south of Berlin.

Above left: Jack and Tom - twin brothers. Right: Fl/Sgt. Thomas Pragnell (courtesy Jenny Maguire and Jack Pragnell - see credits)

The German night-fighter controllers plotted the bomber stream with great accuracy. Fierce fighting incurred during the run in and also over the target area with many Lancaster's engaging the night fighters. 19 Lancasters were lost on this raid by this action alone. But the real tragedy of the night came when the remainder of the force returned home.

They managed to shake off the night fighters by taking a much more northerly route over Denmark using up precious fuel - many of the bases were covered in very low cloud. As a result a further 16 Lancasters were lost (Some reports state 29 Lancasters lost in this way) in crashes and collisions with approximately 156 aircrew killed and 39 injured.

Lancaster DS831 was shot down at 6,000 mtrs. by a night-fighter, Obit Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer, (1) 12/NJG1, crashing between Wijtgaard and Weidum (Friesland some 7 km south of Leeuwarden, Holland at 18.41 hrs.

Right: Luftwaffe ace, Obit Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer

After the war, at a ceremony to mark the 50th Anniversary of the crash, Jack Pragnell, twin brother to Thomas met one of the survivors of the crew who told him that a decision was made to guide the plane to an area away from the town (as they had a full bomb load) to cause the least damage to the town, a decision that would cause 6 of the crew to lose their lives. Flying Officer Fisher rests in the United States Military cemetery at Neuville-en-Condroz Cemetery in Belgium, while his five crew rest in the Leeuwarden Protestant Churchyard

Extensive research has been carried out on this loss by a Dutch student Mr. Marcel Huizenga.


Copies of this are available to relatives and other interested parties by contacting us. Use of this report is subject to agreement.

(1) This was the 40th claim by Obit Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer. He went on to obtain a total of an amazing 121 to his credit. Survived the war. He sustained injuries in a road accident on the 13th July 1950 during a wine-purchasing visit to France, and died in a Bordeaux hospital two days later.




Burial details:

F/O. William Charles Fisher. Ardennes American Cemetery and Memorial, Neuville-en-Condroz Cemetery, Liege, Belgium. Plot C. Row 7. Grave 50. From Missouri, USA. Had wanted to become an engineer but due to the war, enlisted in the RCAF as a lot of his family were living there. His wife was 8 months pregnant at the time.

Sgt. Raymond Hughes. Leeuwarden (Huizum) Protestant Churchyard Row 10. Grave 5. Son of David and Annie M Hughes of Bangor, Caernarvonshire, Wales.

Fl/Sgt. James Stuart Briegel. Leeuwarden (Huizum) Protestant Churchyard Row 10. Grave 4. Next of Kin details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?

Fl/Sgt. Thomas Walter Pragnell. Leeuwarden (Huizum) Protestant Churchyard Row 10. Grave 1. Further details: Son of George and Sarah Ann Pragnell and twin brother of Jack and brother of Elsie, Noreen, Stan and Doris Pragnell of Northampton. Before enlisting he worked at Mansfield’s Shoe Factory in Northampton. His twin brother Jack was also a Air Bomber in the RAF.

W/O. Raymond Kenneth Saunders. Leeuwarden (Huizum) Protestant Churchyard Row 10. Grave 3. Son of Herbert Earl and Lilian Helen Saunders of East Guildford, Western Australia.

Fl/Sgt. Herbert Albert Turner. Leeuwarden (Huizum) Protestant Churchyard Row 10. Grave 2. Son of Herbert and Edith Turner of London, Ontario, Canada.

Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew. Photo credits to Jenny Maguire and Jack Pragnell. Thanks to Mr. Marcel N. Huizenga for his in-depth extra research; his extensive report is available to relatives and other interested parties by contacting us. Use of this report is subject to agreement. Thanks also to Simon Fisher whose grandfather was the pilot.

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 and Fred Paradie - Paradie Archive (both on this site), 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', Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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