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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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514 Squadron Crest
21.11.1944 No. 514 Squadron Lancaster I PD265 JI-G F/O. Geoffrey France

Operation: Homberg, Germany

Date: 21st November 1944 (Tuesday)

Unit: No. 514 Squadron

Type: Lancaster 1

Serial No: PD265

Code: JI-G

Base: RAF Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire

Location: Moers, Germany

Pilot: F/O. Geoffrey C. France 179705 RAFVR Age 21. PoW: ? Camp: 6J (1)

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Peter Andrew Gosnold 1891510 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Nav: F/O. Frederick J. Eisberg 161585 RAFVR Age 22. PoW No: 6876 Camp: Stalag Luft Barth Vogelsang (2)

Air/Bmr: F/O. Kenneth Hubert Barker J/29701 RCAF Age 22. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Ronald William Harding 1705084 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Leslie Peter Coles 1894366 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Air/Gnr: F/O. Peter Slater 172026 RAFVR Age 25. Killed

Reason For Loss:

Aircraft took off from Waterbeach at 12:28hrs. Whilst approaching the target, the Rheinpreussen synthetic oil production plant at Meerbeck outside Homberg, the aircraft was hit by flak, initially in one engine.

There was a fire and the aircraft became uncontrollable, crashing in the waterway surrounding the Guildhall at Moers.

PD265 Crew Left to right: Two air gunners, one of whom is known to be Sgt. Coles and the other thought to be a Sgt. Meredith who had left the crew in October 1944 - reasons unknown, Sgt. Gosnold, F/O. France, Sgt. Harding, F/O. Barker and F/O. Eisberg (courtesy Simon Hepworth)

The pilot, F/O. France together with the navigator, F/O. Eisberg, bailed out and were captured. The remainder of the crew were killed.

With the exception of F/O. Slater who joined the crew part way through their tour, the crew had served as a unit for their entire tour.

This operation would, had it been completed, been the crew’s 29th towards their tour of thirty. The crew had trained as G-H leaders, a bombing technique pioneered by 3 Group Bomber Command.

Left: Luck and a Lancaster - written by a 75 Squadron pilot, F/O. Harry Yates DFC. He witnessed PD265 going down, revealing further information on this and others in his highly rated publication. Published by The Crowood Press 1999. ISBN No: 978-1840370799. The crash location was provided by a German historian in Moers.

The brief details of the damage were supplied to the family of Sgt. Gosnold by F/O. Eisberg in a letter after the war. F/O. France became a vicar after the war and died in Norfolk in approximately 2004. It is not known what became of F/O. Eisberg.

514 Squadron lost two other aircraft on this raid:

Lancaster I NG121 JI-H Piloted by F/O. Tolley - all crew survived and manage to crash land the aircraft. One crew member baled out and was taken PoW.
Lancaster III LM684 JI-C Piloted by F/O. Ronald Limbert DFC Killed along with all 6 other crew members. Buried in the same cemetery as PD265 crew, some sharing the same collective grave.

(1) F/O. Geoffrey C. France had his right leg amputated by a Polish surgeon during captivity.

(2) F/O. Frederick James Eisberg: Born in West Ham on 17 September 1922. He died at Broadstairs, Thanet, Kent on 15 March, 1991.

Burial details:

Sgt. Peter Andrew Gosnold. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 29.B.1-16. Born on 5 July 1924 in Kingston-on-Hull, Yorkshire. He was the son of George and Edith Jane (née Thomson) Gosnold. Between 1902 and 1924 they had 11 children.

F/O. Kenneth Hubert Barker. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 25.G.6. From Killdeer, Saskatchewan, Canada. Son of Mr. Brooks and Berth (nee Johnson), husband of Doris Elsie Isobel (née Bailey) of Perth County, Ontario, Canada.

Sgt. Ronald William Harding. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 29.B.1-16. Son of Ernest Fred and Beatrice Harding, of Rumney, Cardiff, Wales.

Sgt. Leslie Peter Coles. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 29.C.4. Son of Albert George and Hilda Maud Coles, of Highgate, Middlesex, England.

F/O. Peter Slater. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 29.B.1-16. The son of Percy Edward, a commercial traveler and Daisy Isabelle Amelia (née Jeffries) Slater of Romford, Essex. He was born in Romford in the March 1919 Qtr. Sister Wendy was born in the June 1925 Qtr.

Researched by Simon Hepworth (Great nephew of Sgt. Peter Andrew Gosnold) for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to all the relatives of the crew. With many thanks to Dave Champion for further crew details - July 2018.

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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