30/31.01.1944 115 Squadron Lancaster II LL648 KO-B Fl/Lt. Harold H. Hicks
Date: 30/31st January 1944 (Sunday/Monday)
Unit: No: 115 Squadron
Type: Lancaster II
Base: RAF Witchford, Cambridgeshire.
Location: Konigsheide, Berlin, Germany
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Harold George Hicks NZ/411405 RNZAF Age 28. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Arthur Ernest Elms 1521641 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Nav: F/O. Bernard Arthur William Beer DFC. 126822 RAFVR Age 29. Killed
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Alan Walter Todd NZ/421338 RNZAF Age 22. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: P/O. Charles Frederick Farquharson NZ/404170 RNZAF Age 25. Killed
Air/Gnr (mid upper): P/O. Michael George Gladwell 141116 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
Air/Gnr (rear): P/O. James Archibald McLoughlin AUS/415269 RAAF Age 22. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 17:28 hrs joining a further 533 aircraft to bomb the German capital. The bomber stream were not intercepted until they were well into the run to the target when they faced fierce opposition from the night fighters. Many were shot down over the target, but also they suffered attacks after leaving the target area.
Bombing on the cloud covered City was described as another concentrated attack with over 1000 civilians being killed and a few industrial premises including Goebbels Propaganda Ministry.
The loss rate from Bomber Command amounted to some 35 aircraft lost. 189 aircrew killed with a further 56 made PoW.
No details are available as to how LL648 was lost but the Luftwaffe night fighters had claimed 34 Lancasters shot down between 20:10 hrs and 20:38 hrs.
The navigator F/O. Beer was born in Plymouth in 1915 and attended Hoe Grammar School, leaving to attend Technical College where he trained as a dispenser. A keen amateur photographer he volunteered for the airforce and as war approached, trained in South Africa before joining 115 Squadron. (In 1943 while on an operation to Mannheim with Squadron Leader Starky, RNZAF as captain, the aircraft took a direct hit.)
F/O. Bernard Arthur William Beer DFC.
This operation was to earn F/O. Beer and 3 other crew members, DSO, DFC. and DFM’s.
The citation from the London Gazette dated 28th September 1943 (page 4305) reads: Joint citation with Acting Squadron Leader James Bayntum Starky, RNZAF, DFC. Awarded the DSO. Sgt. K.W.J.Tugwell (1437223) awarded the DFM. Sgt. Hubert J. Willis (1434099) awarded the DFM. (Sadly Sgt. Willis was also to die later on 9th October 1943 on an operation to Hanover)
“One night in September 1943, F/O. Beer and Sgt's Tugwell and Willis were air bomber, mid upper gunner and rear gunner respectively of an aircraft captained by Squadron Leader Starky and detailed to attack Mannheim. When nearing the target area the aircraft was attacked by a fighter. The bomber was badly hit and sustained much damage. It became filled with smoke and dived earthwards out of control. By a tremendous effort, Squadron Leader Starky succeeded in regaining control as the fighter came in to resume the attack. Sgt's Tugwell and Willis coolly withheld their fire until the attacker came into close range then, with devastating bursts of fire, shot it down in flames. The situation was critical as the bomber had been badly crippled while the second pilot and flight engineer had been badly wounded. Nevertheless on a course plotted by F/O. Beer, who, throughout the remainder of the homeward flight, rendered great assistance. Squadron Leader Starky battled his way over enemy territory, often under fire from ground defences. Displaying superb airmanship and an unconquerable spirit he finally reached an airfield near the coast and effected a safe landing. In most harassing circumstances these members of aircraft crew discharged their duties in an exemplary manner, setting an example worthy of the highest praise.”
Bernard then joined a new crew before his last mission. His family discovered that the crews bodies had been found in a remote village before being taken to the Berlin 1939-1945 war cemetery. His wife Kathleen and his brother, Hedley went to Buckingham Palace to collect his medal from King George VI.
Crew initially buried at the Döberitz Airfield but after war end reinterred in Berlin. The grave of P/O. Gladwell could not be identified and is therefore commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
Fl/Lt. Harold George Hicks. Berlin War Cemetery Grave 5.J.18. Son of George Augustus and Irene Harriet (nee Jones) Hicks of Wanganui, Wellington, New Zealand.
Sgt. Arthur Ernest Elms. Berlin War Cemetery Grave 7.E.2. Son of Arthur and Elizabeth Stone Elms of Liverpool, England.
F/O. Bernard Arthur William Beer D.F.C. Berlin War Cemetery Grave 7.F.21. Son of Lieutenant Commander Hedley Beer and Mrs Beer and husband of Kathleen E Beer of Worthing, Sussex, England. He also had a sister, Hilda and brother, Hedley.
Fl/Sgt. Alan Walter Todd. Berlin War Cemetery Grave 7.D.26. Wanganui, Wellington, New Zealand.
P/O. Charles Frederick Farquharson. Berlin War Cemetery. Grave 5.J.16. Son of Lowther and Eliza Annie Farquharson of Invercargill, New Zealand.
P/O. Michael George Gladwell. Runnymede Memorial Panel 206. Son of Ernest George and Laura Gladwell and husband of Patricia Mary of Lympstone, Devon, England.
P/O. James Archibald McLoughlin. Berlin War Cemetery. Grave 7.F.22. Son of James Archibald and Violet Minnie McLoughlin of Mount Lawley, Western Australia.
Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew. Special thanks to Malcolm Wilson and also to the following: Louis Gilding and the family of F/O. Beer, Auckland Cenotaph Roll of Honour, further sources as quoted below.