21/22.01.1944 No. 83 Squadron Lancaster III JB488 OL-G F/O. Wallace K. Hutton
Date: 21/22nd January 1944 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: 83 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Serial: JB488 (Not JB365 as described in some publications - which was also lost from the squadron this night)
Base: RAF Wyton, Cambridgeshire
Location: Pretzien, Germany
Pilot: F/O. Wallace Kenneth Hutton AUS/408296 RAAF Age 23. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. J.O. Lightfoot 1634342 RAFVR Age ? PoW No: 270057 Camp: Stalag Muhlberg (4B)
Nav: Sgt. Geoffrey Malcolm Drysdale Breaden AUS/408323 RAAF Age 27. PoW No: 3345 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagen and Bellaria (L3)
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Alan Fithie McInnes AUS/410702 RAAF Age 34. PoW No: 873 Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug (L6)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: F/O. James Wesley Houston DFM. 51221 RAF Age ? PoW No: 3365 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagen and Belaria (L3)
Air/Gnr: F/O. Ronald Edward Walker AUS/408430 RAAF Age 21. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Ronald Herbert Easton 1456823 RAFVR Age 38. Killed.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from RAF Wyton in Cambridgeshire at 20:05 hrs.
A total of 648 aircraft took part in this first major raid of the war on the Magdeburg/Rothensee plant that produced synthetic oil from lignite coal. - 421 Lancasters, 224 Halifaxes and 3 Mosquitoes with a total loss of 8.8 per cent from the force. It is estimated that 12 bombers were shot down by Tame Boars (1) somewhere between the German coast and Magdeburg.
The German night fighters were ready as the bomber stream had been followed by the German controllers. They were very slow though to identify the target but anyway the night fighters were in the area with the bomber stream. During the raid a huge amount of losses was experienced by the attacking group with 35 Halifaxes and 22 Lancasters lost which were mainly due to the attacking night fighters.
This huge loss was not even rewarded with a successful attack as the strong winds brought some of the force into the target area before the pathfinders and as a result 27 bombers bombed before the pathfinders had marked the area. Most of the bombing fell outside the city.
Reports from surviving crew members state that they were attacked by a Luftwaffe night fighter and the mid upper gunner directed the pilot to to evade, the pilot placed the Lancaster into a very steep dive to port, but received many hits of cannon fire in the port wing. Both engines were put out of action. After a further two attacks the pilot ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft whilst he held the aircraft as steady as he could. They reported the the two gunners had probably been killed during the initial attacks by the fighter.
They added that the pilot, although not killed during the attacks, was probably lost during the explosion that followed. (Some reports from the family understand that the crew were subjected to attacks from locals and that the pilot was murdered - although we have checked various records we can find no evidence of this. The subsequent reports from survivors did not mention this in their reports)
It is reported that Lancaster JB488 was shot down by a German night fighter and exploded in the air. The records of the Nachtjagd do not have any confirmed claims against this aircraft, although a total of 22 Lancasters were lost it is not possible to be placed against a German pilot - such was the fury of the combat and confusion this night.
However, reports from interrogations of several persons post war reveal that the Lancaster crashed at approximately 22:30 hrs near Pretzein after exploding in the air, with the aircraft falling in three main pieces. The 3 crew that were killed were recovered from the wreckage area which covered some 200 metres (one on the roof of Herr. Constables’s house at No. 11 Dornburgerstasse, one in the garden of Herr. Hepnar and one in some woods 25 metres from the house) and buried by the Germans with military honours in a communal grave at Pretzein. The grave was marked with a simple white cross but with no names inscribed. The grave was discovered to be well tended with green shrubs placed.
The MREU (Missing Research and Enquiry Unit) investigated the graves of the dead crew on the 4th July 1947. Accompanied by the Russian occupation forces they proceeded to the cemetery to exhume and identify the 3 bodies. This was possible due to the ID discs still in place, and other personal items within the grave. The local Burgermeister recalled that the remaining crew were taken prisoner the following day and moved to Magdeburg.
The Squadron lost another aircraft during this operation: Lancaster JB365 Flown by F/O. John Charles Henry Davies 141523 RAFVR - killed with 5 other crew, 1 taken PoW.
(1) Zahme Sau (German: tame boar) was a night fighter intercept tactic introduced by the German Luftwaffe in 1943 and conceived by Viktor von Loßberg. At the indication of a forthcoming raid, the fighters were scrambled and collected together to orbit one of several radio beacons throughout Germany, ready to be directed en masse into the bomber stream by R/T running commentaries from the Jagd division. Once fed into the stream, fighters made radar contact with a succession of individual bombers and maintained contact (and combat) as far as their ammunition and fuel held out. (courtesy Wikipedia)
After initial burial at the local church in Pretzien, Germany, are interned as shown post war.
F/O. Wallace Kenneth Hutton. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Grave 8.C.36. Son of Wallace Henry and Ella Maud Hutton of Beaconsfield, Tasmania, Australia, husband of Gabriel Langley Hutton, of Newhaven, Sussex, England. Grave inscription reads: “Loving Memory Of Our Son And Loving Brother. We Can Never Forget.”
Right: Original grave marker at Berlin War Cemetery circa 1947.
F/O. Ronald Edward Walker. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Grave 8.C.37. Born on the 27th November 1922 the son of William Edward and Stella May Walker, of Launceston, Tasmania, Australia. Grave inscription reads: “His Duty Fearlessly And Nobly Done. Ever Remembered. Our Hero.”
Sgt. Ronald Herbert Easton. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Grave 8.C.35. Son of Walter Thomas Easton and Ellen Easton, of Sanderstead, Surrey, England. Grave inscription reads: “I Hope To See My Pilot Face To Face When I have Crossed The Bar. Tennyson.”
Researched for Caroline Hutton and the family of the pilot (who kindly supplied the photographs and newspaper cuttings). Dedicated to all the relatives of this crew. Sources as quoted below. We are indebted to the RAAF archives for additional information.