24/25.07.1944 166 Squadron Lancaster III ND628 AS-Y Plt.Off. Heath
Date: 24/25th July 1944 (Monday/Tuesday)
Unit: 166 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Kirmington, Lincolnshire
Location: Rheinsheim, Germany
Pilot: Plt.Off. Gordon ('Jim') Leonard Heath 423114 RAAF Age 20. Killed
Flt.Eng: Sgt. Leonard Alfred Newell 1237683 RAFV Age 21. Killed
Nav: Fg.Off. Bryan Patrick Fraser 434396 RAAF Age 21. Killed
Ai /Bmr: Flt.Sgt. Donald Eric Simmons 1395857 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
WOp/Air Gnr: Flt.Sgt. William Murphy 419669 RAAF Age 24. Killed
Air Gnr (Mid upper): Sgt. Roland Williams 859670 RAFVR Age 32. Killed
Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Norman Desmond Staff 1592107 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 21.10 hrs. from RAF Kirmington, Lincolnshire to attack the German industrial area of Stuttgart. Part of a 461 Lancaster and 153 Halifax force.
During this operation some 23 bombers were lost.
166 Squadron also lost another crew this night - Lancaster ND634 AS-U, flown by Fg.Off. William G. Shearer, killed with all 6 other crew members when shot down by a night fighter, believed to be the Luftwaffe ace, Obstt. Helmut Lent. No claim can be identified to Lancaster ND628, although the nephew of Flt.Sgt. Murphy, Colin Gerrard, feels that it is possible that it was shot down by Fw. Heinz Misch (2) of 9./NJG2 at 02.24 hrs. However he reported that the aircraft he shot shot at that time was North East of Metz. But, we dont have definitive proof of either possibility so we report both.
Right: Flt.Sgt. William Murphy in flight suit (courtesy Colin Gerrard July 2014) - click to enlarge.
The aircraft crashed (1) at 00.45 hrs some 2 km. north west of Rheinsheim on the banks of the Rhine. Witnesses state that the aircraft was on fire prior to crashing then exploding on impact. Bodies of 5/6 of the crew were buried locally at the time in the municipal cemetery in Rheinsheim. The body of Fl/Sgt. William Murphy was washed ashore, later being buried at the parish cemetery in Mannheim on the 8th August 1944. The remainder of the crew were initially buried at Rheinsheim. After hostilities on the 6th May 1947 the bodies were exhumed and buried at Durnbach War Cemetery.
This raid was the first in a series of 3 such attacks on this city and this, for the first time used masses of long window (The length - 1.8 metres long and 7 cm wide) effectively jamming the German night fighter A/1 radar. Stuttgart was extremely badly damaged during this raid.
Above left: Flt.Sgt. Murphy and right Stuttgart, 26th July 1944
(1) Map reference R.487718 As reported by Fg.Off. D.S. Bassett of the MRES team on the 11th May 1947,
(2) This was the 7th victory for Fw. Heinz Misch. He survived the war with a tally of 11.
Memorial at Kirmington (see credits)
We are very pleased to have brought closure to the fiancee of Jim Heath, Joan Kingston (nee Springett) She never knew what happened and neither did she know where he was buried. Shown above aged 89 and very active, her daughter Sharon tells me. The photograph on the extreme right is Joan with her younger sister at Market Place, Sydney, Australia the day War in the West came to an end. Joan is holding the local newspaper with 'Peace' over the whole front page.
Joan and her husband Ken who recently celebrated their 65th Wedding anniversary. They are living in Nelson Bay, Australia
We were very kindly provided with a fantastic photo of the grave by our colleague Geoff Swallow in Australia. Geoff specialises in collecting photographs of Australian Aircrew donating them free to relatives who are unable to make the long trek to the various graves. We decided not to place the photo of the grave on this page of remembrance as we feel it very special to Joan. Geoff also provided us with a couple of stunning photographs of Durnbach War Cemetery taken by a Mr. Paul Willing.
Above: Crew graves at Durnbach War Cemetery 2015 (courtesy David Franklin) David has kindly provided us with permission to supply any relative with high resolution copies of the graves if requested.
Plt.Off. Gordon 'Jim' Leonard Heath (Shown left). Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 2.D.24. Son of Harry and Velena Elizabeth Heath, of 54 Belmont Street, Burwood, New South Wales, Australia.
Sgt. Leonard Alfred Newell. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 2.D. 27-28. Son of William Alfred and Elsie Winifred Newell, of Thorpe Bay, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, England.
Fg.Off. Bryan Patrick Fraser. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 2.D. 27-28. Son of Robert William Leo Julius Cannon Fraser and Ellen Fraser, of Sherwood, Queensland, Australia.
Flt.Sgt. Donald Eric Simmons. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 2.D.26. Son of Benjamin Charles Thompson Simmons and Ada Simmons, of Bermondsey, London, England.
Flt.Sgt. William Murphy (Shown right). Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 2.D.23. Son of Stephan Arie Murphy and Grace Agnes Murphy, of Mordialloc, Victoria, Australia.
Sgt. Roland Williams. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 2.D.25. Born 2nd May 1912 in Pontypridd, Wales. Son of Thomas Williams and Marion Mabel Williams, who resided in Bristol where they were married. He had a Brother Henry, and a Sister Edna (Patricia).
Sgt. Norman Desmond Staff. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 2.D. 27-28. Son of Ernest James Staff and Thirza Eliza Staff, of Gipsy Hill, London, England.
Researched for Colin Gerrard, nephew of Flt.Sgt. Murphy and dedicated to all the relatives of this crew. Acknowledgments: With thanks to the following: Geoff Swallow, Paul Willing and the chaps at WW2 Forum, Bill Chorley - "Bomber Command Losses", Theo Boiten - "German Nightfighter War Diaries", Australian National Archives, Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt "Bomber Command War Diaries", the CWGC. The great chaps at Airfield Information Exchange. Thanks to Paul Foster for the NoK details for his Grand Uncle, Sgt. Roland Williams.