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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.


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103 Squadron Crest
30/31.03.1944 No. 103 Squadron Lancaster III JB736 PM-N F/O. Johnston

Operation: Nürnberg (Nuremberg) Germany

Date: 30/31st March 1944 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: No. 103 Squadron ('Noli Me Tangere' - Touch Me Not)

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: JB736

Code: PM-N

Base: RAF Elsham Wolds, Lincolnshire

Location: Bilkheim, Germany

Pilot: F/O. James Guy Johnston 135076 RAFVR Age 28. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. William James Gwynne 1566687 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Nav: F/O. Joseph Jean Andre Ducharme J/23906 RCAF Age 25. Killed

Air/Bmr: F/O. John Christopher Patrick Doyle DFC. 137611 RAFVR Age 29. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Gordon Thomson 1097466 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Frank Fealy 1590719 RAFVR PoW No: 3442 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus (357) (1)

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Brian Phillip Boyle AUS/424729 RAAF Age 19. Killed


A CD has been composed by john Charles McAllister (relative of one of the crew lost on Lancaster JB736 PM-N. The album is dedicated to all the crew of the aircraft - with dedicated tracks made for each crew member. These are available direct from the composer/singer. He is supported on the album by Nancy Hughes-Auto Harp, Pete Barrenger - Bass and Synthesiser, engineer and producer. Recorded at the Earlybird Studios Harwich and the Flying Pig, Hetherset, Norwich. Please contact us and your order will be forwarded. It must be stressed that Aircrew Remembered will not take any monies for any sales and no profits are being made from this CD priced at just £10.00.


REASON FOR LOSS:

Taking off at 21:16 hrs from RAF Elsham Wolds in Lincolnshire.

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.

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.

Crew: Rear L-R: Sgt. Gordon Thomson, Sgt. William J. Gwynne, Fl/Sgt. Brian P. Boyle, Sgt. Frank Fealy. Front: F/O. John C.P. Doyle, F/O. James G. Johnston, F/O. Joseph J.A. Ducharme.

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.

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.

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.

Some reports state that they were shot down by flak - the latest edition of the Nightfighter War Diaries describe it as possibly being shot down by Oblt. Walter Prues (2) of 7./NJG1 North of Limburg at 00:31 hrs. (See Kracker Luftwaffe Archive on this site)

Also lost from the Squadron:

Lancaster III ME721 PM-M Flown by 20 year old P/O. Robert Richard Jack Tate 172570 RAFVR from Loughton in Essex. Killed with all other six crew members and buried at Hanover War Cemetery.

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)

(1) Sgt. F. Fealy had an amazing escape through a hole where the H2S scanner had burnt away a section of the fuselage.

(2) This had been the first claim by Oblt. Walter Prues who went on to become an ace with 6 claims to his credit. He was classed as missing on the 04th August 1944 flying a Bf 110G-4 WNr 140317 G9+SR when he was shot down by B-17s. His remains were finally recovered in 2002 and buried at Copenhagen Western Cemetery. (See Kracker Luftwaffe Archive on this site)

Burial details:

With thanks to Becky Luxton who took the photographs of the crews graves for relatives in April 2017.

F/O. James Guy Johnston. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 10.E.1-5. Born on the 27th September 1915 the son of William and Mary Guy Johnston, of Eglinton, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Sgt. William James Gwynne. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 10.E.1-5. Son of William James Gwynne and Annie Gwynne, of Omagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.

F/O. Joseph Jean Andre Ducharme. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 10.E.1-5. Born on the 26th January 1919 in Quebec, Canada the son of Elias Ducharme and of Evelyn Ducharme (née Deegan), of Montreal, Province of Quebec, Canada.

F/O. John Christopher Patrick Doyle. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 10.E.1-5. Son of Patrick Doyle, and of Polly Doyle (née Byrne). Born in Dublin, The Irish Free State.

Sgt. Gordon Thomson. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 10.E.1-5. Son of Sarah Thomson, nephew of E.I. Hargreaves, of Kendal, Westmorland, England.

Fl/Sgt. Brian Phillip Boyle. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Grave 10.E.6. Born on the 29th April 1924 at Burwood, New South Wales the son of Edward Phillip and Eileen Margaret Boyle, of North Curl Curl, New South Wales, Australia.

Researched for Catherine Branks (relative of Sgt. William James Gwynne) and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to the International Bomber Command Centre for assisting Catherine and pointing her enquiry to us. (The family lost all his medals and records during a house fire) John McAllistair (relative of F/O. Doyle) Mike Barber and Brenda (relatives of Sgt. Fealy, Deb Hanafin (relative of F/O. Ducharme) Finally, many thanks to Becky Luxton who took the photographs of the crews graves for relatives in April 2017. Also to various sources as shown below.

KTY 27.03.2017 - crew grave photographs placed - April 2017.

Acknowledgements: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives and Fred Paradie - Paradie Archive (both on this site), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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Last Modified: 15 April 2017, 23:01

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