03/04.09.1943 No. 7 Squadron Lancaster III JA854 MG-X Fl/Lt. Richard O. French
Date: 03/04th September 1943 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: 7 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Oakington, Cambridgeshire
Location: Adlershof, Berlin, Germany
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Richard Otway French DFC. NZ/415756 RNZAF Age 32. Missing - believed killed (1)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Maurice John Selby 1691986 RAFVR Age 20. Missing - believed killed
Nav: Fg.Off. Frank Edward Lewis DFC J/10317 RCAF Age 20. Missing - believed killed (2)
Air/Bmr: Sgt. Alexander Ramsay Fraser 1554308 RAFVR Age 22. Missing - believed killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Charles Frederick Thighe 1101869 RAFVR PoW No: 22846 Camp: Stalag Muhlberg (Elbe 4B)
Air/Gnr: W/O. I. Basil Edward Lindsay R/84482 RCAF Age 24. Missing - believed killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Ralph Lawson 1145407 RAFVR Age 20. Missing - believed killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from RAF Oakington, Cambridgeshire at 20:09 hrs. to bomb the heart of Germany, Berlin.
A total of 316 Lancasters and 4 Mosquitoes took part with the Mosquitoes used to drop spoof flares well away from the bombers route to attract Luftwaffe night fighters.
Above: Fl/Lt. Richard Otway French (4th from the left in helmet) with his 75 Squadron Stirling BK777 AA-U crew - thought to be around June 1943. Does anyone recognise the others? (courtesy Pete French)
The raid proved costly with 22 Lancasters lost, with the bombs falling mostly short of the target area.
The bombers that did reach the target fell mainly in the residential areas of Charlottenburg and Moabit. Several factories however were hit and suffered serious loss of production. On the ground 422 people were listed as killed, 225 civilians, 24 servicemen, 18 men and 2 women from the air-raid services, 123 foreign workers made up from 92 women and 31 men. A further 170 civilians were classed as "missing". Records show that another soldier and 7 "criminal" assistants were also killed when the delayed action bombs they were working on exploded.
133 Aircrew were killed and many others injured, made PoW or interred in Sweden.
We have been unable to date established a night fighter claim for JA854. May have been brought down by the anti aircraft batteries, crashed at Adlershof south east of Berlin 00:27 hrs. One reason that perhaps the graves of the missing have not been found is that of the restrictions placed by the Russians post war for access by the Missing Research and Recovery Units.
Also lost on this operation from 7 Squadron:
Lancaster III JA713 MG-V, Flown by 22 year old F/O. Anthony Crockford 114241 RAFVR from London, England - killed with 5 other crew members, one taken PoW.
Lancaster III JA929 MG-N, Flown by 31 year old, W/O. Thomas Harold Hatchard NZ/403525 RNZAF from - killed with 6 other crew members.
(1) "P/O. Richard French has carried out attacks on Duisberg, Cologne and Berlin with skill and determination. He has pressed home his attacks with vigour and has obtained valuable photographs of his aiming point. He has set a fine example of courage and devotion to duty".
(2) Fg.Off. Frank Edward Lewis DFC was shot down the previous year on 21st December 1942 whilst with the Squadron. On Lancaster R9262 MG-A when over France attacked by an Me110. He and 2 others managed to evade capture and return to England. The pilot, 34 year old Fg.Off. Hector Duro 88416 RAFVR from Nottinghamshire, England was killed with 2 other crew members, 1 was made PoW. Fg.Off. Lewis' DFC awarded with effect from 25th May 1943 - London Gazette. “In air operations this member of aircraft crew displayed exemplary conduct and gallantry worthy of the highest praise.”
Fl/Lt. Richard Otway French DFC. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 197. Born on 11th November 1910 at Feilding, Manawatu-Wanganui, New Zealand. Son of Richard Otway French, and of Edith Mary French, of Cunninghams, Wellington, New Zealand. Flying time logged - 678 hours - his 37th Operation. Prior to service worked as a farmer.
Sgt. Maurice John Selby. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 164. Son of Ernest Henry and Jane Selby, of North Baddesley, Hampshire, England. Also commemorated on the North Bawdsey War Memorial.
Fg.Off. Frank Edward Lewis DFC. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 174. Born on the 6th January 1922, the son of Frank Acton and Emma Martha Lewis of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Brother to two sisters and was known as ‘Teddy’. Married Beatrice Elizabeth in Manitoba in 1942 and had one son named Alan.
Sgt. Alexander Ramsay Fraser. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 150. Son of Alexander and Annie K. L. Fraser, of Johnstone, Renfrewshire, Scotland.
W/O. I. Basil Edward Lindsay. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 179. Son of Basil Arlington Lindsay and Daisy Ethel Lindsay, of Humberstone, Ontario, Canada. Formerly with 75 Squadron.
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Ralph Lawson. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 156. Son of Ralph and Jane Ann Lawson, husband of Joan Lawson, of Ferryhill, Co. Durham, England. Also commemorated at the Ferryhill memorial.
Page placed with the valued assistance of Pete French, together with photographs. Thanks to Caroline Cook for providing the NoK details for Fg.Off. Lewis. With thanks to Tony Fleming for photo correction. Sources as quoted below.