22/23.10.1943 No. 166 Squadron Lancaster III EE196 AS-Z Fl/Lt. Charles Neville Hammond DFC
Operation: Kassel, Northern Hesse, Germany.
Date: 22/23 October 1943 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: No. 166
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Kirmington, Lincolnshire.
Location: Brakelsiek, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Charles Neville Hammond DFC 131082 RAFVR Age 23 - Killed (1)
Fl/Eng: P/O. Arthur Iden Pilbeam 158332 - PoW No.261472 Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria L3 (2)
Nav: M/Sgt. John Murray Walton R/115217 (USAAF 10601391) Age 21 - Killed (3)
Air/Bmr: F/O. Roy Elkington Ault 134675 RAFVR Age 22 - Killed (4)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: P/O. Edward Ellis Jones 158408 RAFVR Age 32 - Killed (5)
Air/Gnr (MU): Sgt. Ivan Keith Doncaster 1582238 RAFVR Age 20 - Killed (6)
Air/Gnr (R): F/O. Victor George Deacon 139373 RAFVR Age 35 - Killed (7)
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REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off from RAF Kirmington, Lincolnshire at 18:12 hrs on a mission to bomb Kassel, North Hesse, Germany.
Special Equipment on board was: Gee, Monica and Boozer - see abbreviations
The route briefed as per Bomber Command Report on Night Operations and RAF Loss Card was: East Coast 5215N 0300E - 5149N 0351E - 5030N 0610E - 5033N 0715E - Kassel - 5236N 0829E - 5313N 0452E - 5320N 0350E (North end of Texel) - East Coast.
A total force of 569 aircraft comprising 322 Lancasters and 247 Halifaxes was despatched for this raid on Kassel. All bases were fit for take-off with cloud base at 2-3000ft but en route the force encountered medium cloud to 18000' occasionally to 20-23000' with much static and moderate to heavy rain in cloud tops. Beyond 08deg. E. cloud broke rapidly to nil and over the target area there was only very small amounts of low cloud, with moderate visibility and no moon. The severe conditions en route however contributed to a high number of aircraft aborting the sortie i.e. 71 being 12.5% of the force and including 39 due to manipulative or technical defects and 20 due to icing. 444 aircraft reported bombing the primary area, 12 bombed the alternative area and 42 were lost. At least 5 losses occurred on the way out 3 due to flak and 2 to fighters. The main enemy fighter concentration however was over the target and the first 100 miles of the return route and was believed to have accounted for 30 of the losses. 5 aircraft were believed to have been brought down by flak over the target area. Heavy flak over the target was described as slight to moderate, light flak as moderate to intense with 60 to 70 searchlights also active.
Zero hour was 20:55 hrs with the blind markers leading the attack at Z-6 and the bombing continuing until 21:11 hrs. The blind markers overshot the aiming point but the visual markers concentrated their Target Indicators most accurately, admirably supported by the backers up. The main force bombed compactly within the built up area.
Seven days after the attack fires were still burning in Kassel and a smoke haze hung over the smouldering ruins of the town. The central city was a scene of utter devastation, with damage extending to the industrial districts on both sides of the river Fulda and into the suburbs. Some districts suffered as much as 96% of property destroyed. The well-known locomotive works of Henschel und Sohn suffered damage to all three of its factories and at least 48 other factories were also damaged including Salzmann & Co, clothiers to the Wehrmacht, 3 thermometer concerns and at least 5 businesses engaged in the manufacture of precision instruments and special machine tools.
Vertical photographic-reconnaissance aerial showing the centre of Kassel following the heavy raid by aircraft of Bomber Command on the night of 22/23 October 1943. This view shows devastated buildings in the vicinity of Konigsplatz and the main railway station, many of which were still burning seven days after the attack. The damage to the railway system, and to industrial and residential buildings, constituted the most devastating attack on a German city since the raids on Hamburg in July 1943. Courtesy IWM
Lancaster EE196 was 50 miles short of the target when attacked by a night fighter: Flight Engineer Arthur Pilbeam described the final moments.
'We were attacked and set on fire (one wing). While damage was done to the controls the Pilot tried to give the rest a chance to get out. But he failed and the aircraft went into a spin a result of one of (the) first bombs blowing up. Shortly afterwards the aircraft blew to pieces. The rest were either killed outright or had bad concussion and none of their parachute release handles had been pulled. Identified the four bodies which had been found next morning'.
The aircraft crashed at Brakelsiek, North Rhine-Westphalia. The six dead airmen were initially buried at Schwalenberg Cemetery, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, on 25 October 1943. The five British airmen were re-interred at Hanover War Cemetery, Germany, on 18 September 1947. M/Sgt. Walton was reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery, Belgium, date unknown.
1" = 25 miles
In June 1943 Sgt. Ivan Keith Doncaster whilst at RAF Elsham Wolds, composed a letter to be given to his parents in the event of his death . It was quite a long letter much of it very personal to his family. Keith's cousin Mrs Marney Leverton has kindly provided Aircrew Remembered with the following extract from the letter.
RAF Station Elsham Wolds, Nr. Barnetby, Lincs. 15 June 1943
Dear Mother and Dad,
My feelings are a bit mixed as I write this letter, it is what is usually known as "the last letter".
Now that I am with the squadron anything may happen and I know that you would sort of treasure a last letter like this if anything did happen to me.
These ops are what we have been training for, for many months. Now is our chance to really do something to help towards a final victory and make this earth a place for decent people to live in. I hope that the seven of us can flatten a large number of German homes as well as factories during our tour of ops.
If I do have to go then I only hope I can have a good chance to do some damage over there first. If that happens I shall die in the way that any Englishman would want to - fighting for his country.
So cheerio, Mother and Dad, and God bless the pair of you. Keep smiling, you know that is what I would want you to do.
With much love from
(Left) Sgt. Ivan Keith Doncaster (Courtesy Mrs Marney Leverton)
In 1956 a stained glass window was installed in St. Giles Parish Church in memory of Keith Doncaster and all men of the RAF who gave their lives in the Second World War. The window incorporates an image of Lincoln Cathedral in deference to the county where Keith was based.
The Reverend Olaf Trelenberg, Rector of St Giles Parish Church, Sandiacre has most kindly provided Aircrew Remembered with photographs of the window. (below)
(1) Fl/Lt. Charles Neville Hammond DFC was born 27 September 1920 at Winchester, Hampshire the son of Lt-Col. Thomas Neville Hammond and Doris Hammond of Llanrug, Caernarvonshire, Wales and husband of Mary Hammond of Odiham Hampshire. Leading Aircraftsman 971266 Hammond was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 9 October 1942 and announced in the Supplement to the London Gazette of 1 December 1942. He was further promoted to Flying Officer on probation (war subs) on 9 April 1943 and announced in the Supplement to the London Gazette of 21 May 1943.
A pupil of the Liverpool Institute High School for Boys 1932-38, he is commemorated on the school war memorial. He was awarded the D.F.C. with effect from 23 October 1943 as announced in the Supplement to the London Gazette 28 March 1944.
It would seem that his D.F.C. was awarded for his heroic action in the final moments as he tried to give the crew time to get out and as a result of the statement given by Pilot Officer Arthur Pilbeam.
(2) Fl/Lt. Arthur Iden Pilbeam was born 7 March 1907 at Tonbridge, Kent the son of Arthur Iden Pilbeam, a baker, and Mary Pilbeam nee Walter. In 1911 the family lived at 66 St Mary's Road, Tonbridge. In 1932 he married Irene Lilian Abbott at Westhampnett, Sussex.
1721526 Sergeant Pilbeam was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 3 August 1943 and announced in the Supplement to the London Gazette of 9 November 1943. Whilst a prisoner of war his commission was confirmed and he was further promoted to Flying Officer (war subs) on 3 February 1944 announced in the Supplement to the London Gazette of 25 February 1944. In the Supplement to the London Gazette of 7 September 1954 it was announced that he had relinquished his commission under the terms of the Navy, Army and Air Force Reserves Act of 1954 and had been granted permission to retain the rank of Flight Lieutenant with effect from 10 February 1954.
After leaving the RAF he worked as a Fruiterers Manager. Arthur Iden Pilbeam died at Chichester Sussex in 1999 at the age of 92.
(3) M/Sgt. John Murray Walton was born 19 January 1922 at Ontario, Canada the son of Melville R. Walton and Mable (Vanderburg) Walton. Entered service in Canada with RCAF. With 12th Replacement Depot USAAF. Awarded the Air Medal and Purple Heart.
(4) F/O. Roy Elkington Ault was born 23 December 1920 at Stamford, Lincolnshire the son of Reuben John Ault and Olive Eugenie Ault nee Wade, of Sidcup, Kent. Leading Aircraftsman 1330716 Ault was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 20 November 1942 and announced in the Supplement to the London Gazette of 2 February 1943. He was promoted to Flying Officer on 20 May 1943 as announced in the Supplement to the London Gazette of 16 July 1943.
(5) P/O. Edward Ellis Jones was born 16 November 1910 at Ammanford, Carmarthenshire, Wales, the son of Evan and Mary Ellen Jones nee Roberts and husband of Margaret Jones of Wembley, Middlesex. Sergeant 1222561 Jones was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on 4 August 1943 as announced in the Supplement to the London Gazette of 16 November 1943.
(6) Sgt. Ivan Keith Doncaster was born 17 October 1923 at Sandiacre, Derbyshire the son of Raymond Doncaster and Evelyn Mary Doncaster nee Fell and grandson of Sir Robert Doncaster, Chairman of the South Derbyshire Conservative Party and founder of the Sandiacre Screw Company. Keith Doncaster lived at the family home "Shenstone" 108 Longmoor Road, Sandiacre and was a pupil at Wellington Street Infants School, Long Eaton. In September 1933 aged 9 years he was admitted to the Nottingham High Preparatory School where he won the Drawing Prize. He later moving to the senior school and during his time there was a Lance-Corporal in the Officer Training Corps and took his Cert A in 1939. He left Nottingham High School in 1940 after form 5B where he was 8th out of 27 students. His tutor recorded that his conduct was very good and academically he did his best having passed his School Certificate. He considered that had he not left to undertake war work on a farm he would have also passed his Higher School Certificate the following year. Keith was a member of the Long Eaton A.T.C and later transferred to the Stapleford and Sandiacre A.T.C. before volunteering for air crew in 1941. He is commemorated on the Nottingham High School War Memorial, the Sandiacre St Giles Parish Church War Memorial and Book of Remembrance, and on the War Memorial in The Memorial Institute in Sandiacre.
(7) F/O. Victor George Deacon was born 1908 at Brixton, Surrey the son of George Victor Deacon and Edith Elizabeth Deacon nee Maddock, husband of Lilian Elizabeth Deacon nee Ruskin of Long Eaton, Derbyshire and father of James V. Deacon. Leading Aircraftsman 1181626 Deacon was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 20 February 1943 as announced in the Supplement to the London Gazette of 20 April 1943
Fl/Lt. Charles Neville Hammond DFC - Buried at Hanover War Cemetery, Lower Saxony, Germany - Grave No. 16.E.5
In the high untrespassed
Sanctity of space
Put out my hand
And touched the face of God
M/Sgt. John Murray Walton - Buried at Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupré (Neuville-en-Condroz) Liège, Belgium - Grave No. D.10.54.
F/O Roy Elkington Ault - Buried at Hanover War Cemetery, Lower Saxony, Germany - Grave No. 16.E.3
So that England might live
P/O. Edward Ellis Jones - Buried at Hanover War Cemetery, Lower Saxony, Germany - Grave No. 16.E.2
He gave his life
That others might live.
God bless him
Sgt. Ivan Keith Doncaster - Buried at Hanover War Cemetery, Lower Saxony, Germany - Grave No. 16.E.1
To live in hearts
We leave behind
Is not to die
F/O. Victor George Deacon - Buried at Hanover War Cemetery, Lower Saxony, Germany - Grave No. 16.E.4
I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith.
Aircrew Remembered wishes to thank Mrs Marney Leverton, Reverend Olaf Trelenberg, Mrs Sheila Hickingbotham (Chairman of Sandiacre History Group) and Nottingham High School Archives for their kind contributions re Ivan Keith Doncaster.
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - November 2015
With thanks to the sources quoted below.