30/31.03.1944 No. 156 Squadron Lancaster III ND476 GT-V 2nd Lt. Johnsen
Operation: Nürnberg (Nuremberg)
Date: 30/31st March 1944 (Thursday/Friday)
Unit: No. 156 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Upwood, Cambridgeshire
Location: Vischel, Germany
Pilot: 2nd Lt. Finn Johnsen RNAF Age 27. Missing - believed killed
Pilot 2: P/O Gordon Elmy 159691 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Stanley McConnell 1685386 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Nav: Fl/Sgt. Wiliam Patrick Hermon O`Neill 1385976 RAFVR Age 21. Missing - believed killed
Air/Bmr: P/O. Charles Grant Leatherdale J/19073 RCAF Age 23. Missing - believed killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Kenneth Gardiner 1199405 RAFVR Age 22. Missing - believed killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Hugh McLauglin Donnelly 2208992 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Rolf Gunnar Karsmann RNAF Age 23. Missing - believed killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
This raid on the City of Nuremberg resulted in Bomber Commands heaviest loss of the war.
Despite the fact that it was a period of bright moonlight and an earlier meteorological flight had warned that there would be no cloud cover for the bomber stream, conditions that normally would have ordered a cancellation of the mission, no such order was made. Nuremberg was an important industrial target as well as a centrepiece of the Nazi Party that had not been attacked for seven months. Air Chief Marshall Harris was not to be deterred from his plan.
Nuremberg was a distant target and even though the route chosen was to be one of a direct nature it still represented a round trip of between 1300 and 1600 miles dependant upon the base airfield. Additionally, it was one that would lead the bomber stream between the Ida and Otto radio beacons located near Cologne and Frankfurt respectively which in hindsight turned out to be a fatal mistake. German intelligence had monitored the bomber force taking off in England and plotted their course by intercepting their H2S transmissions. Suspecting that the intended target was somewhere in south eastern Germany, the Luftwaffe commanders had ordered their fighters to assemble at the Ida and Otto beacons.
Left: A detailed account of this operation has been described in Martin Middlebrooks publication: ‘The Nuremberg Raid’ ISBN-13: 978-1844158751 (Also available in softcover)
The leading Pathfinders were able to pass through the gap before the consolidated force of over 200 night fighters converging on the beacons hit the middle of the bomber stream.
Of the 795 aircraft making up the attacking force 82 of their number would be lost due to enemy action en-route and near to the target. While some of these were brought down by flak by far the majority was as a result of night fighter action. Another nine bombers were brought down by the night fighters and flak on the return leg. Fourteen more were lost, eleven in crashes on take off or on their return to base, one due to friendly fire and two to mid-air collision.
In all 543 aircrew were killed and a further 157 captured as prisoners of war.
Lancaster ND476 took off from RAF Upwood in Cambridgeshire at 22:25 hrs.
Luftwaffe ace Oblt. Günther Köberich (1) of 6./NJG2 who together with his crew of Walter Heidenreich and Kramell had taken off from Quakenbrück in their Ju 88R-2 at 23:41 hrs with instructions to patrol west of the Rhine and to proceed south. They quickly picked up Lancaster ND476 on their radar at 6,700 mtrs. Closed in and fired their cannon from just 80 metres into the port wing. Shortly after 00:47 hrs the Lancaster crashed, it is understood South West of Köln.
The operation was a total failure not only in terms of the loss of so many brave aircrew and aircraft but little damage was sustained by the City of Nuremberg.
Although the bombers flight path had been clear and moonlit, by the time the Pathfinders arrived in the vicinity of the target thick cloud cover and strong winds prevailed. The thick cloud made the target indicators all but invisible and, combined with the unexpected winds blowing the Pathfinders off course, caused much of the main force bombing to be cantered on the small town of Lauf and the surrounding villages to the north east of Nuremberg. In the confusion some crews dropped their bombs on Schweinfurt causing minor damage to the ball bearing factories but again many of the bombs fell in the outskirts. Damage in Nuremberg itself was relatively light. Several smaller fires were set in the city centre and a few buildings hit including the railway station, post office and some houses but the main objective of setting the city ablaze and bombing the M.A.N. and Siemens factories failed completely.
Above: Air Crew Graduation May 1943. Back row L-R: 1.Louis Noel Lyndon Kerr R/135114. Late of No 76 Squadron KIA 22/23 September 1943. Lancaster V EB253. Operation Hanover. 2. Name ? R/119129. Lived at 192 Woodmount Ave, Toronto, Ontario. Are you able to identify this young man? 3. ? G. MacKinnon R/12248. Are you able to identify this young man? 4. Edward James Houston R/125556. Of No 426 Squadron POW No 1062 Camp Stalage Luft VI, Stalag Luft IV 27/28 January 1944. 5. Leonard Bruce Russell R/147158. Late of No 431 Squadron KIA 22/23 October 1943. Halifax LK639 SE-E. Operation Kessel. 6. Charles Grant Leatherdale J/19076. Late of No 156 Squadron KIA 30/31 March 1944. Lancaster ND476 GT-V. Operation Nurnberg. 7. Kenneth Douglas Wellwood R/107055. Late of No 106 (RAF) Squadron KIA 4 September 1943. Lancaster ED385 ZN-?. Operation Berlin. 8. Murray Clayton Craik R/110957. Late of No 467 (RAAF) Squadron KIA 23 September 1943. Lancaster EE135 PO-Y. Operation Mannheim. 9. Michael Costello R/123094. Late of No 75 (RAF) Squadron KIA 15 August 1943. Stirling EE891 AA-Q. Operation Gardening. 10. Lloyd Martin Stormer R/112684. Late of No 90 Squadron KIA 24 August 1943. Stirling EH937 WP-S. Operation Berlin
Front row L-R: 1. Martin Bailey R/119568. Late of No 75 (RAF) Squadron KIA 28 August 1943. Stirling EE955 AA-D. Operation Nurnberg. 2. Irvine Sydney Rothstein R/123638. Late of No 75 (RNZAF) Squadron KIA 6 August 1943. Stirling BK614 JN-H. Operation Gardening. 3. Herbert Kenneth Scott R/121944. Of No 207 Squadron POW No 27650 Camp IV-B 31 August 1943. 4. Donald Herbert Kelly R/113903. Late of No 24 OTU (Operationa Training Unit) killed while training 2 June 1943. Whitley Z6639. Operation Training. 5. "Gerry" E. Wilson R/150588 from Edmonton, Alberta. Are you able to identify this young man? 6. Nelson Albert Noble R/119448. Late of No 9 (RAF) Squadron KIA 22 September 1943. Lancaster R5700 WS-N. Operation Hanover. 8. Gordon Ivan Williams J/119950. Late of No 97 (RAF) Squadron KIA 31 January 1944. Lancaster JB659 OF-J. Operation Berlin. 9, "Hal" Tole J/94224. Late of No 433 Squadron KIA 18 April 1944. Kalifax LV971 BM-N. Operation Noisy-le-Sec.
Above: June 1943. RAF Linton-on-Ouse. L-R: Gerry Wilson, Louie Kerr, Patty McCarthy, Grant Leatherdale, Len Russell, Ed Houston, ? This photograph was taken on the 2nd June 1943 after attending F/Sgt. Donald Herbert Kelly's funeral. Right: 1943 December RAF Linton-on-Ouse Ed Houston with Jim Burrows (courtesy Bill Houston. See credits)
(1) Oblt. Koberich killed on the 8th August 1944 at Quakenbruck airfield during a raid by American B-17's of the 38D, 8th USAAF.
The Squadron were to lose 4 crews during this operation, the others:
Lancaster III ND492 GT-L Flown by P/O. Leslie Lindley 161549 RAFVR taken PoW - the remaining 6 crew all killed.
Lancaster III ND406 GT-S Flown by 27 year old, W/O. John Armstrong Murphy AUS/413020 RAAF from NSW, Australia - killed with 5 crew, 1 taken PoW.
Lancaster III ND466 GT-Z Flown by 23 year old, Sq/Ldr. Philip Robert Goodwin 100622 RAFVR from Plymouth in Devon, England - taken PoW with 3 other crew, 4 were killed.
2nd. Lt. Finn Johnsen. No further details where commemorated. A Norwegian from Bergen.
Sgt. Stanley McConnell. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Grave 9.E.6. From Southport, Lancashire, England. No further details - are you able to assist?
P/O Gordon Elmy. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Grave 9.E.7. Son of Charles Eden Elmy and Louisa Elmy of Whitstable, Kent, England. Grave inscription reads: “In Unfading Memory Of A Loving Son And Brother”.
Fl/Sgt. Wiliam Patrick Hermon O`Neill. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 221. Son of Sq/Ldr. William Hickley Lovell O'Neill, and of Elsie O'Neill, of Alresford, Hampshire, England.
P/O. Charles Grant Leatherdale. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 251. Son of Milton James Leatherdale and Margaret Ann Leatherdale, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Sgt. Kenneth Gardiner. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 229. Son of Charles and Laura Jane Gardiner, of Horfield, Bristol, England and husband of Audrey Gardiner.
Sgt. Hugh McLauglin Donnelly. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Grave 9.E.5. Son of Michael and Margaret Donnelly, of Bellshill, Lanarkshire, Scotland. Grave inscription reads: “Eternal Rest Grant Unto Him, O Lord. May He Rest In Peace”
Sgt. Rolf Gunnar Karsmann. No further details where commemorated. A Norwegian from Oslo.
Researched for Becky Bishop - relative of P/O. Charles Grant Leatherdale and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Colin Bamford for raid description, With special thanks to William (Bill) Houston son of WO2 Edward James Houston for all the information and pictures of his father and crew.other sources as shown.