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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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218 Squadron Crest
31.12.1944 No. 218 Squadron Lancaster I NG330 HA-M F/O. Robert H. Kench

Operation: Vohwinkel

Date: 31st December 1944 (Sunday)

Unit: No. 218 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: NG330

Code: HA-M

Base: RAF Chedburgh, Suffolk, England.

Location: Leichlingen, Germany.

Pilot: F/O. Robert Harold Kench AUS/437135 RAAF Age 20. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Victor Thomas Phillips 2211498 RAFVR Age 38. Killed

Nav: Fl/Sgt. Celt Williams 1316112 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Air/Bmr: Sgt. John Barton 1622233 RAFVR Age ? Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Fred Bennett AUS/434492 RAAF Age 27. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Dennis Walter Maycock 1899304 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Roy Morley 1866330 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

REASON FOR LOSS:

Taking off at 11:15hrs to Chedburgh on the crews’ first operation in a new aircraft. It is believed that the crew got lost and were off-loading their bombs when a stray bomb hit them, causing them to crash by the town of Leichlingen.

Left: F/O. Robert Harold Kench (courtesy Christine Baxter) Right: Sgt. Victor Thomas Phillips (courtesy Andrew Scialpi-Sullivan)

The only survivor, Sergeant Barton was passed on to the Wermacht, but firstly to Polizeimeister. Karl Bertram who was ordered to take him to the mayor’s office in Leichlingen. Instead, on the way, Karl Bertram shot him twice in the back and at his post war trial said that the prisoner was trying to escape. When asked why he did not shoot the prisoner in the legs, Bertram replied that it was difficult in the dark to be so accurate when a person was running away.

Bertram was acquitted of the war crime charge.

At 38, Sgt Phillips was well above the average age of Bomber Command airmen. In contrast, Sgt Morley was half his age.

This was one of two Lancaster lost on this op to Vohwinkel.

The other, Lancaster I NF926 HA-X. Flown by F/O. Roy W. Woodrow, also killed with all 8 crew.

Reichswald Forest War Cemetery (courtesy Geoff Swallow)

Left: Village sign in Chedburgh, Suffolk, England.

Burial details:

F/O. Robert Harold Kench. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 1.E.2. Further information: Son of Harold Owen and Madaliene Hilda Kench of Auburn, Southern Australia. Worked with his father and brothers (David John and Arthur Kench) on their farm in Auburn, Southern Australia. One of his hobbies was Aussie rules football.

Sgt. Victor Thomas Phillips. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 1.E.3. Further information: Son of John Victor and Elizabeth Ann Phillips, brother of Lucia Ruth and Eric Phillips and husband of Constance of Northenden, Lancashire, England. He had three children, Anthony, Lawrence and Ann Phillips.

Fl/Sgt. Celt Williams. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Grave 11.D.18. Son of Griff and Betty Williams of Porthenry, Carmarthenshire, Wales.

Sgt. John Barton. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 1.E.2. Next of kin details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?

Fl/Sgt. Fred Bennett. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 1.E.13. Son of John Henry and Madelene Kate Bennett of Branxholme, Tasmania, Australia.

Sgt. Dennis Walter Maycock. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 1.E.5. Next of kin details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?

Sgt. Roy Morley. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 1.E.4. Son of William Ernest and Bertha Agnes Morley of Dagenham, Essex, England.

Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew. Special thanks to Andrew Scialpi-Sullivan, grandson, for the uniformed photo of Sergeant Victor Phillips. Thanks also to Oliver Clutton-Brock for the information on Sergeant Barton from - ‘Footprints on the Sands of Time’. Also to Christine Baxter (née Kench) niece of the pilot.

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, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), 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', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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