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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.
Further data available at Allied Losses & Incidents database

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44 Squadron Crest
26/27.04.1944 44 Squadron Lancaster I ME730 KM-R Plt.Off. William E. Kewley

Operation: Schweinfurt

Date: 26th/27th April 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit: 44 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: ME730

Code: KM-R

Base: RAF Dunholme Lodge, Lincolnshire

Location: Boblingen, Germany

Pilot: Plt.Off. William Edward Kewley 421811 RNZAF Age 25. Killed

Flt.Eng: Sgt. Denis Booth 1583384 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

Nav: Flt.Sgt. L.J. Mitchell 429357 RNZAF PoW No: 3562 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus

Air Bmr: Sgt. K. John Reseigh 948888 RAFVR PoW No: ? Camp: Stalag Kopernikus

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Maurice James Webber 1315671 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Air Gnr: Sgt. George Douglas Lees R184325 RCAF Age 25. Killed

Air Gnr: Sgt. John Rutzki R181154 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: The Lees brothers (courtesy Annette Lees)

26 year old Pt. Eli Arthur Lees B59117 was killed just 3 months later, serving with the 1st. Battalion Royal Regiment of Canada on the 18th July 1944 in France. Buried Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery Reviers Plot III, Row C, Grave 9. Inscription: “PARTED ON EARTH TO MEET IN HEAVEN”. Another brother, 22 year old, Sgt. Melville Francis also served as an air gunner in the RCAF, he survived.

Above: As described (courtesy Annette Lees and Glenys Elaine)

125 aircrew killed and a further 28 being made PoW.

Claimed by e Oblt. Martin Becker of 2./NJG6 Boesingen West of Echterdingen (BS 7): 4,800m at 01:36 hrs. The aircraft crashed at Boesingen. This was his 29th abschüsse of the war (Right)

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.

The following is an extract from report by Fg.Off. P. Ellwood No.2 MREU dated 16th May 1947:

The following information was obtained when a visit was made to Boesingen. This aircraft crashed shortly after midnight 2km South West of the village. Kewley, Rutzki, Booth and Lees were found dead amongst the wreckage and are buried in the small cemetery of Boesingen. Two being in one coffin and tow in another as from the information obtained. Their bodies being crushed badly. In the same grave are two coffins belonging to six members of another crash. The large grave is in excellent condition having planks on it and being regularly attended by the local cemetery keeper. It is marked by a large wooden cross having a metal plate bearing all the names. It is situated in the centre at the bottom of the cemetery opposite the entrance. It cannot be mistaken as the cemetery is very small. The grave is not registered. Sgt Webber was found severely wounded amongst the wreckage and was taken to hospital at Nagold. He died en-route to the hospital. Records show that he was buried in the cemetery there.A visit was paid to the cemetery where the grave was found to be No 14 in Section 24. The cross is marked “Webber (Sargeant) Engl Flg”. It is not registered. A request for Exhumation for the grave at Boesingen had been made to establish individual identification.

Also lost from the squadron Lancaster I LL920 KM-V Flown by Fg.Off. Gordon William Oldham DFC 160013 RAFVR.

Durnbach War Cemetery - The quality of these photographs shown here can not be fully appreciated when the size is reduced for the web page - scroll to bottom of page for detail. (courtesy David Franklin - David has kindly provided us with permission to release high definition copies to relatives)

Burial details:

Those who perished were initially buried in Boesingen Cemetery except for Sgt Webber who was buried Nagold Cemetery and were moved to Durnbach after war end.

Plt.Off. 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. 505 hours flying hours logged, 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. Grave inscription reads: "Memory's Tribute To Our Dear Son. Mum, Dad And His Devoted Brothers".

Sgt. George Douglas Lees. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 8.D.26-29. 16th October 1919, Blind River, Algoma, Ontario. Son of Arthur Boyter and Eva Marion (née Pickens) Lees of Blind River, (later of Walford, Sudbury, Canada) Ontario, Canada. Husband to Margaret Elaine (née Germain) Lees.

Flt.Sgt. John Rutzki. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 8.D.26-29. Born 23rd September 1911, McKim, Saskatchewan. Son of John and Madeleine Rutzki, of McKim, Saskatchewan, Canada. Grave inscription reads: "With Tender Love And Deep Regret, We Who Loved Him Will Never Forget". Further information can be found on the Saskatchewan Virtual War Memorial website.

Researched with Annette Lees, relative of Sgt. George Lees - March 2015. With thanks to Glenys Elaine for pilot photograph. Thanks to John Jones for the No.2 MREU report.

RS 15.06.2020 - Addition of No2 MREU report and updated information

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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