28/29.01.1944 No. 576 Squadron Lancaster III ND386 UL-P2 Fl/Sgt. Hart
Date: 28/29th January 1944 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: 576 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Elsham Wolds, Lincolnshire
Location: South East Berlin
Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Eric George Hart 1382283 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. William Ferguson Ledingham 1821552 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
Nav: Fl/Sgt. William Douglas Grant R/129018 RCAF Age 23. PoW No: 884 Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug VI / Stalag Kopernikus 357 (1)
Air/Bmr: WO2. Joseph Alphonse Leon Martel R/159991 RCAF Age ? Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Alan Thompson 1500590 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Walter Ronald Owen 1602371 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Ronald Victor Fairley 591778 RAF Age 21. Killed
The daughter of Fl/Sgt. William Douglas Grant (who has researched this loss extensively), would very much like to hear from other relatives whose father either served with him or was also a PoW with him at Stalag Luft Heydekrug and Stalag Kopernikus - contact us in the first instance.
REASON FOR LOSS:
10 aircraft were detailed from the Squadron to attack Berlin each to carry 1 x 4000 lb. HC, 8x90x40, 2x6x4, 1x8x30, 2x150x4 Incendiaries and to bomb from 20,000 ft and above.
677 aircraft - 432 Lancasters, 241 Halifaxes, 4 Mosquitos. Part of the German fighter force was drawn up by the early diversions and the bomber approach route over Northern Denmark proved too distant for some of the other German fighters. The German controller was, however, able to concentrate his fighters over the target and many aircraft were shot down there. 46 aircraft - 26 Halifaxes, 20 Lancasters - lost, 6.8 per cent of the force.
The cloud over Berlin was broken and some ground-marking was possible but the Bomber Command claim that this was the most concentrated attack of this period is not quite fully confirmed by German records. The western and southern districts were hit but so too were 77 places outside the city.
No records of night fighter claim for Lancaster ND386, possibly hit by anti-aircraft fire. From the reports studied from the only survivor, it maybe that the aircraft came down near the Grossen Müggelsse some 12 miles South East Berlin.
There follows and extract from a letter sent to Mr Martel from the RCAF Casualty Officer dated 20 July 1945:
"WO2 Grant stated that the aircraft crashed in Berlin. He believes that your son was killed by enemy anti-aircraft fire five minutes before they reached Berlin. The enemy fire had set the plane on fire, but it was extinguished and they went on to the target. When they reached it they dropped their bombs but the were again hit by enemy fire on the port wing of the aircraft. The pilot gave the order to bale out and WO2 Grant left by the front escape hatch. The aircraft went into a spiral and he doubts if any other members could have got out after him. He left the aircraft at approximately 3,000ft and landed in Berlin where he was taken prisoner."
Above Sgt. Gordon Tilsbury in centre with Fl/Sgt. William Kingsley front right (courtesy Gordon Tisbury). Fl/Sgt. Kingsley was very good friends with Fl/Sgt. Grant while PoW. After the war he became the best man at the wedding of William Grant - wedding photo's shown below (courtesy Vanessa Oltmann)
(1) Born on the 12th September 1920 in Norfolk, England. Prior to service lived at 104, Sixth Avenue, North Bay, Ontario, Canada. Employed as a machinist. Son of Andrew Martin and Jessie Grant (née Beauchamp) Enlisted on the 27th August 1941 as an engine mechanic, remastered as aircrew in June 1942, graduated as a Sgt. Navigator in December 1942, posted to England in January 1943, 0n his second operation, a total of 630 flying hours logged with approx 12 hours operational, held as a PoW for 15 months, arrived back in England on the 08th May 1945 - Transferred to the reserve on the 13th October 1945 as a Pilot Officer J/96456. Awarded the 1939-45 Star, War Medal 1939-45, CVSM and Clasp, Navigators Badge. Passed away on the 08th November 1965 at Prince George, British Columbia, Canada, aged just 45.
Fl/Sgt. Eric George Hart. Berlin 1939-45 War Cemetery. Grave 5.C.10. Son of John George and Rosemary Hart, of North Harrow, Middlesex, England. Grave inscription reads: "His Was A Noble Character. To Know Him Was To Love Him".
Sgt. William Ferguson Ledingham. Berlin 1939-45 War Cemetery. Grave 5.C.11. Son of Charles and Christina Ledingham, of Glasgow, Scotland. Grave inscription reads: "Years Shall Not Darken Nor Shadows Dim The Loving Memories We Have Of Him".
(Left: Photograph Courtesy of John Jones) WO2. Joseph Alphonse Leon Martel. Berlin 1939-45 War Cemetery. Grave 5.C.13. Son of Mr. L.M. Martel of 203a Heriot Street, Drummondville, Quebec, Canada.
Sgt. Alan Thompson. Berlin 1939-45 War Cemetery. Grave 5.C.14. Son of James and Mary Thompson, of Blyth, Northumberland, England. Grave inscription reads: "Dear Son Of James And Mary Thompson Of Blyth, Northumberland. "Tender Memories".
Sgt. Walter Ronald Owen. Berlin 1939-45 War Cemetery. Grave 5.C.12. Son of Alfred and Florence Owen, of Wantage, Berkshire, England. Grave inscription reads: "Until The Shadows Flee And We Meet Again".
Sgt. Ronald Victor Fairley. Berlin 1939-45 War Cemetery. Grave 5.C.9. Son of Maude Fairley, and stepson of Harold Charles Matthews, of Hull, England and husband of Isabel Vera Fairley. Grave inscription reads: "Cherished Memories Of Our Dear Son Ronald Will Always Live In Our Hearts".
Above: William Douglas Grant - and his grave at the Canadian Legion Members Prince George, British Columbia Cemetery.
Researched by Vanessa Oltmann the daughter of the only surviving crew member Fl/Sgt. Grant and dedicated to the relatives of this crew. Also to Matt Wood who runs the 576 Squadron Facebook page, without whose great assistance Vanessa would have been unable to find out so much detail. We strongly recommend you visit this page here. Thanks to Jon Jones for the letter extract and photograph of WO2 Martel.