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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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44 Squadron Crest
26/27.04.1944 No 44 Squadron Lancaster I ME730 KM-R Fl/Sgt. William E. Kewley

Operation: Schweinfurt

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

Unit: No. 44 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: ME730

Code: KM-R

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.

Burial details:

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.

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: 04 March 2015, 20:54