26/27.04.1944 No 44 Squadron Lancaster I ME730 KM-R Fl/Sgt. William E. Kewley
Date: 27/27th April 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: No. 44 Squadron
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Dunholme Lodge, Lincolnshire
Location: Boblingen, Germany
Pilot: P/O. William Edward Kewley NZ/421811 RNZAF Age 25. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Denis Booth 1583384 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
Nav: Fl/Sgt. L.J. Mitchell NZ/429357 RNZAF PoW No: 3562 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus
Air/Bmr: Sgt. K. John Reseigh 948888 RAFVR PoW No: ? Camp: Stalag Kopernikus
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Maurice James Webber 1315671 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. George Douglas Lees R/184325 RCAF Age 25. Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. John Rutzki R/181154 RCAF Age 33. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 21:33 hrs to attack Schweinfurt, where factories manufacturing ball-bearings were located - in what is described as a failure with very light damage done on the ground due to strong head winds making the markers inaccurate from the Mosquito pathfinder force.
The resulting bombing was very poor with much of it falling outside the target area. 2 people on the ground were killed but following the fierce fighting with the Luftwaffe Night fighters, the allies lost a total of 21 aircraft of the 215 taking part!
Above L-R: Melville, Douglas, Boyter and Eli. (2) Far right: Douglas Lees (courtesy Annette Lees)
125 aircrew killed and a further 28 being made PoW.
It is thought ‘probable’ that they were shot down by the Luftwaffe ace Oblt. Martin Becker (1) of 2./NJG6 at 01:36 hrs, his 29th abschüsse of the war. (shown right)
Also lost from the squadron Lancaster I LL920 KM-V Flown by F/O. Gordon William Oldham DFC 160013 RAFVR - Killed with all his crew after a collision with another Lancaster from 57 Squadron. Lancaster I ME679 DX-K - Flown by 31 year old, Sq/Ldr. Michael Innes Boyle DFC 89389 RAF - Killed with 6 of his crew, 1 survived as PoW.
(1) Oblt. Martin Becker, who survived the war and went on to become a commercial pilot, is credited with two victories that night and by wars end had accounted for a total of fifty two Allied aircraft shot down. He died on the 8th February 2006, age 90.
Crew were initially buried at the village cemetery in Boblingen - moved to Durnbach after war end.
P/O. William Edward Kewley. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 8.D.26-29. Son of Ida Kewley, and stepson of Cyrus Davie, of Eketahuna, Wellington, New Zealand. A recorded 505 hours flying, this was his 6th operation.
Sgt. Denis Booth. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 8.D.26-29. Son of Fredrick William and Evelyn Booth, husband of Olwen Mavis Booth, of Barry Dock, Glamorgan, Wales.
Sgt. Maurice James Webber. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 8.A.26. Son of Frederick and Elizabeth Ann Webber, of Eastville, Bristol, England.
(2) Sgt. George Douglas Lees. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 8.D.26-29. Son of Arthur Boyter and Eva Marion (née Pickens) Lees of Blind River, (later of Walford, Sudbury, Canada) Ontario, Canada. His older brother, 26 year old Pt. Eli Arthur Lees B/59117 was killed just 3 months later, serving with the 1st. Battalion Royal Regiment of Canada on the 18th July 1944 in France. Another brother, 22 year old, Melville Francis also served as an air gunner in the RCAF he survived.
Fl/Sgt. John Rutzki. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 8.D.26-29. Son of John and Madeleine Rutzki, of McKim, Saskatchewan, Canada. Further information can be found on the Saskatchewan Virtual War Memorial website.
Researched with Annette Lees, relative of Sgt. George Lees - March 2015.