13/14.02.1945 No. 405 Squadron Lancaster III PB183 LQ-C Fl/Lt. Frederick
Date: 13/14th February 1945 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
Unit: No. 405 Squadron (RCAF)
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Gransden Lodge, Cambridgeshire
Location: Remlingen, Bavaria
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Merle Omer Frederick J/16132 RCAF Age 28. PoW - No further details (1)
Fl/Eng: F/O. Joseph Anthony Kaucharik C/85909 RCAF Age 26. Killed (2)
Nav: Fl/Lt. John Kingsley Knights DFC. J/16251 RCAF Age 28. Missing - believed killed
Air/Bmr: F/O. Donald Brant Olson J/43026 RCAF Age 27. Missing - believed killed
Air/Bmr: F/O. Earl Wellington Connolly J/18850 RCAF Age 31. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Lt. John Armitt J/17036 RCAF Age 31. Missing - believed killed (3)
Air/Gnr: F/O. Raymond Alfred French J/19042 RCAF Age 25. Killed
Air/Gnr: F/O. Fred Merrill Gordon J/86055 RCAF Age 25. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at at 22:14 hrs from base RAF Gransden Lodge in Cambridgeshire on an operation to Dresden, as part of "Operation Thunderclap". A massive raid on what was probably not an important target as far as German War Industries were concerned and not thought that it was of any strategic importance at this stage of the war. A controversial raid during which over 25,000, mostly German civilians were killed.
Over 4,000 tons of bombs and incendiaries were used on arguably a city that was already on its knees. The allies defended the operation as the target was a major transportation and communication centre.
The lack of Luftwaffe offering any defence was not due to lack of numbers as reported but lack of fuel and lack of suitable airfields as most had been severely damage by the allies.
No night fighter claims for PB183 and it is thought that they had been hit by anti-aircraft fire, indeed the report from the surviving pilot thought the same.
However, further evidence has arrived stating that a report by No. 3 Missing Research and Enquiry Unit submitted on the 22nd November 1946. It was confirmed that there were no anti-aircraft units based in the Wurzburg area.
Crew of Halifax BB216 - Placed as Sgt. Kaucharik had been in this previous crew: L-R- F/O. Joseph Anthony Kaucharik, Sgt. Harold Stone, Fl/Sgt. Norman Angus MacKenzie, Fl/Sgt. Louis Donald Dawdy, P/O. Edgar Bohun Mason, Sgt. Clarence Gordon Eagles and Sgt. James R. Alexander. (with thanks to Lynn (nee Mason) Tarzwell, Lincolnshire County Council Coastal Country Park, Henry Kaucharik)
F/O. T.B. Bickerton who was the officer in church of No. 3 MREU was tasked to find the graves of the crew, exhume and identify the bodies. The Unit interviewed the Burgermeister Georg Freudenberger, the former Burgermeister Herr kELLER and the local priest Herr Schauer who collaborated giving details what happened that night.
In the early morning of the 14th February 1945 there was a large explosion as two aircraft collided mid-air. The aircraft were travelling in a North Easterly direction with a stream of other aircraft when they collided. There was a loud explosion and the aircraft fell out of the sky, just outside the village of Remlingen both burning fiercely.
As the aircraft hit the ground two bombs went off making huge craters some 6 metres wide scattering the wreckage over a distance of 1 kilometre. The mid-air explosion caused part of one of the aircraft to be blown 5 kilometres Northwards were it fell near the village of Birkenfeld. The wreckage continued to burn for several hours after the crash. A Luftwaffe detachment arrived from Wurzburg to guard the wreckage until they removed that and the wreckage near Birkenfeld. The former Burgermeister stated that he saw 5 engines amongst the wreckage, no more.
The three witnesses stated that they knew that some 11 bodies were recovered within the area, all with various degrees of injuries - some were able to be identified.
(Webmaster note: we dont feel it necessary to report the condition of the bodies on our website)
The other aircraft involved had been 576 Squadron Lancaster I PD232 UL-02. Flown by F/O. Roland Robert John Young 185679 RAFVR. All 7 killed were identified.
(1) Fl/Lt. Merle Omer Frederick Born in Findlaker in 1917. Enlisted in 1940 and trained at Yorktown. Sole survivor of this crew, suffering a broken arm and a broken leg during evacuation from the Lancaster and taken PoW. Liberated by USAAF troops on the 04th April 1945, then hospitalised in England before transferring to Canada on the 12th July 1945. Passed away on the 04th November 1999 and buried at Bethune Cemetery, Saskatchewan, Canada.
(2) F/O. Joseph Anthony Kaucharik had survived 'at least' one earlier incident. On the 1st September 1942 one of three crew to survive after baling out of Halifax II BB216 LQ-D after a fire severely damage the aircraft. Four other crew where to lose their life during the incident. Further research continues with the other incident.
(3) The family of Fl/Lt. John Armitt lost his brother earlier in the war on the 30th April 1942. Cpl. Robert Armitt M/63062 serving with the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps attached to the 1st Army Tank Brigade Royal Canadian Armoured Corps. He was involved in a motorcycle accident on the 24th April 1942 and admitted to Worthing Hospital, Surrey. Died of his injuries on the 30th April 1942. Buried at Brookwood Cemetery. Grave 37.1.5.
The four crew members whose bodies were recovered were initially buried in the cemetery at Remlingen. Reinterred on the 10th October 1947 in the CWGC Cemetery at Durnbach.
F/O. Joseph Anthony Kaucharik. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 1.J.5. Son of Anthony and Mary Kaucharik and husband of Joanna Kaucharik, of Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Grave inscription reads: "May Your Soul Rest In Peace. Remembered By Wife Joanna, Mother And Dad".
Fl/Lt. John Kingsley Knights DFC. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 278. Born Strathmore, Alberta on the 9th April 1916. The son of John and Bertha, née Jacobson, Knights of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Married Pansy Alice Lloyd of Calgary at the Parish of St. Pauls, Regina, Saskatchewan on the 16th August 1941. Enlisted in the RCAF at Calgary on the 6th November 1940, commissioned Pilot Officer on the 30th October 1942. DFC Awarded in May 1943 whilst with 408 Squadron RCAF.
"Since joining this squadron Pilot Officer Knights has taken part in attacks against some of the most heavily defended targets in enemy territory. These operations include sorties to Cologne, Dusseldorf, Lorient, Essen, Bremen, Hamburg and Turin, amongst others. Invariably this officer has shown a fine fighting spirit and courage of the highest order. At all times his efficient navigational skill and judgment have been an inspiration to the other members of his crew. Throughout his tour, this officer under a calm, quiet manner has shown a fine fighting spirit, skill and initiative. He has led his pilot into these targets so as to bring back several very good pictures, showing a fine record of achievement. He has always been an efficient navigator and through this has been an inspiration to other members of his crew".
F/O. Donald Brant Olson. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 279. Born on the 14th January 1918 at Welburn, the son of Melvin and Charlotte Olson and husband of Kathleen Olson, of Hatzic, British Columbia, Canada.
F/O. Earl Wellington Connolly. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 1.J.1. Born on the 18th July 1913 in Nova Scotia, the son of Jay and Louise Connolly and husband of Iris Louisa Connolly, father to Earl Jnr. of Winson Green, Birmingham, England. Grave inscription reads: "Sleep, My Beloved, For Ever In Peace. I Have Your Memories Here So Complete".
Fl/Lt. John Armitt. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 278. Born on the 18th September 1920 at Lethbridge, the son of John and Isabella Armitt, of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.
F/O. Raymond Alfred French. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 1.J.2. Son of Walter A. French and Margaret Ellen French, of Kingsville, Ontario, Canada. Grave inscription reads: "53 Bombing Missions. Some Day, Beyond The Stars, We Will Meet Again. Dad".
F/O. Fred Merrill Gordon. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 1.J.4. Son of Fred Merrill Gordon and Betsy Ellen Gordon, of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Grave inscription reads: "He Lives With Jesus. To Live In The Hearts Of Those You Loved Is Not To Die".
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Henry Kaucharik and page dedicated to relatives of the crew. With thanks to Steve Atkinson for grave photo of the pilot. Check out Find A Grave, we support and contribute to them. Also to Dave Champion for supply loss details, recovery of the bodies as well as other information.