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23/24.02.1945 No. 103 Squadron Lancaster I NF909 PM-J F/O. Hart
Date: 23/24th February 1945 (Friday/Saturday
Unit: No. 103 Squadron (motto: Noli me tangere - 'Touch me not')
Fl/Eng: Sgt. M.C. Godfrey 1852356 RAFVR Pow Camps Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria and Stalag Luft Moosburg (Isar).
Nav: Fl/Sgt. K.O. Williams 1601133 RAFVR Pow Camps Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria and Stalag Luft Moosburg (Isar).
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. K.F. Lord 1621360 RAFVR Pow Camps Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria and Stalag Luft Moosburg (Isar).
W/Op/Air/Gnr: P/O. Angus Albert McGrath AUS/429239 RAAF Age 23. Missing - believed killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. W.D. Rich 1166328 RAFVR Pow Camps Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria and Stalag Luft Moosburg (Isar).
Air/Gnr: Sgt. J. Jones 2221434 RAFVR Pow Camps Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria and Stalag Luft Moosburg (Isar).
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 16:06 hrs. A total force of 367 Lancasters and 13 Mosquitos of 1, 6 and 8 group together with a Film Unit Lancaster. This operation was to carry out the first and only area-bombing of the war on this target.
The marking and bombing from only 8,000 ft was particularly accurate causing almost total damage to the town. 1,875 tons of bombs were dropped in just 22 minutes!
It is thought that this raid was the third heaviest loss of life of the war with 17,600 killed in the bombing or the fire storm that followed. 83 per cent of the town's built up area was destroyed, probably the greatest proportion in any single raid of the war.
Above as described - Pforzheim February 1945.
Dramatic photograph showing a 103 Squadron Lancaster pausing on the flare path at Elsham Wolds, Lincolnshire, before taking off for a raid.
Another Lancaster was also lost from the squadron:
Lancaster I RA515 PM-N Flown by 21 year old, Fl/Lt. Reginald Frederick Dobson 177257 RAFVR. 7 crew killed with 1 other taken PoW. (crew consisted of 8 crew as they had a 2nd Dickie on board - a training pilot)
A total of 16 aircraft were lost. 55 aircrew killed, 34 taken PoW.
The allied bombers crossed the French coast a few km north of Le Havre - all of them flying low at less than 5,000 ft. For once the allies had taken the Luftwaffe by surprise with a mandrel jamming screen started at 19:10 hrs east of Brussels. As well as 100 Group and the USAAF mounting feint attacks across the Rhur.
The Pforzheim bombing started at 19:50 hrs. The town were taken totally by surprise. They had air raid sirens sounding several times that day and the day previously, but not many took no notice as they felt it was of little importance to the allies. The shelters offered very little protection to the civilians, the fire storm that followed simply removed the air with many suffocating.
After the war the construction started with the removal of all the rubble and debris - placed outside the town and covered in earth which is now known as the the 'Wallberg Mound' on the outskirts of town, it is now a perpetual reminder of the destruction that dreadful night in February 1945.
A still taken from the Film Unit Lancaster showing the Pforzheim raid on the 23/24th February 1945
It wasn't until the bombers were halfway through the massive bombing operation that the Luftwaffe night fighters caught up with them. 30 minutes of intense combat followed. It is thought that NF909 was either hit by incendiaries dropped from above by another Lancaster over Pforzheim or one of those claimed by the night fighters.
There are 2 night fighter pilots who's claims are thought to match up with the loss of NF909:
Hptm. Gerhard Friedrich of Stab I./NJG6 (killed later on the 17th March 1945) and Oblt. Wilhelm Engel of 3./NJG6 (wounded during this operation, but survived the war) both east of Pforzheim between 20:05 hrs and 20:18 hrs. Both of these pilots now aces with 24 and 18 claims respectably. (Information courtesy Kracker Archive on this website)
The two crew missing - believed killed, were the subject of a thorough investigation from Fl/Lt. Lott of the RAF Grave services based ar Rheinberg, Germany. None of the surviving crew were able to provide any leads as to location. It was not until as late as 09th June 1950 that they finally closed the case as having no known graves. Neither was the exact location of the crash was discovered.
Above: F/O. Clifford Seymour Hart (courtesy Caroline Seymour) - with Runnymede memorial panels.
F/O. Clifford Seymour Hart. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 283. Born on the 02nd May 1921 at Lismore,NSW, the son of Albert Seymour Hart and Jessie Hart, of 'Mayfair' Pitt Road, North Curl Curl, New South Wales, Australia. (Later of 45 Deewhy Parade, Deewhy, NSW. His brother, F/O. Albert Seymour Hart AUS/412507 also served with the RAAF as a pilot with 122 Squadron flying the P.51 Mustang (shown below).
P/O. Angus Albert McGrath. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 283. Born on the 21st April 1921 at Wagga Wagga, NSW, the son of William James McGrath and Emily May McGrath, of The 'Advon', The Rock, New South Wales, Australia. Prior to service worked as a Farmer.
Researched for Caroline Oakley (relative of the pilot) and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to sources as quoted below:
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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