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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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166 Squadron Crest
27/28.09.1943 No. 166 Squadron Lancaster I ED372 AS- W/O. Sidney Kenneth Knott

Operation: Hannover, Lower Saxony, Germany

Date: 27/28 September 1943 (Monday/Tuesday)

Unit: No. 166 Squadron - Motto "Tenacity"

Badge: A bulldog affrontée. The bulldog was chosen because of its reputation for courage and tenacity.

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: ED372

Code: AS-

Base: RAF Kirmington, Lincolnshire

Location: Groß Gießen, Hildesheim, Lower Saxony, Germany.

Pilot: W/O. Sidney Kenneth Knott 1430853 RAFVR Age 22 PoW No. 640 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus - 357 (1)

Fl/Eng: Sgt. John Harrison Brewer 1604493 RAFVR Age 19 - Killed (2)

Nav: Sgt. Matthew Guerin 1394415 (3)

Air/Bmr: Sgt. Reginald Wild 1458993 RAFVR Age 19 - Killed (4)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. S. Bunyan 1084753 PoW No. 641 Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug - L6 (5)

Air/Gnr (MU): Sgt. Lionel Wembley Henry Butler 1573300 RAFVR Age 19 - Killed (6)

Air/Gnr (R): Sgt. R.J. Franklin 1272865 PoW No. 639 Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug - L6 Initially evaded until captured near the Dutch border 2 October 1943 (7)

Nav: Fl/Lt James Douglas Hill D.F.C. 106673 RAFVR (Film Unit) PoW No. 3132 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria - L3 (8)

Air/Gnr: Fenrik (Second Lieutenant) Finn Bergan 1727 RNAF (Norway) (Film Unit) PoW No. 3128 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria - L3 (9)


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REASON FOR LOSS:

Took off at 19:21 hrs to bomb Hannover. On board the aircraft and in addition to the seven crew members, were two members of the RAF Film Unit, Fl/Lt James Hill who was also a navigator and Norwegian Air Force 'Fenrik' or Second Lieutenant, Finn Bergan who was also an air gunner.

Special equipment on board was Gee and Boozer -see abbreviations

The route briefed as per Bomber Command Report on Night Operations and RAF Loss Card was:

East Coast - 5237N 0330E - Egmond - 5235N 0800E - 5234N 0900E - Hannover - 5210N 0045E - 5235N 0800E - Egmond -5237N 0330E - East Coast

Whilst 27 aircraft of No. 8 Group made a feint attack on Brunswick and 9 Oboe Mosquitoes undertook a range test on Emden a force of 678 aircraft were despatched on a mission to bomb Hannover. Comprising 312 Lancasters, 231 Halifaxes, 111 Stirlings and 24 Wellingtons the force was accompanied by 5 B-17 Flying Fortresses of the United States Bomber Command.

Weather over the bases was fine at take off with little cloud but over the North Sea there was convection and layer cloud tops occasionally to 19000ft. Inland over the continent the cloud broke to small amounts and over the target area it was cloudless with good visibility but with no moon.

Zero hour was 22:00 hrs and the Blind Markers were to commence the attack at 21:56. The main force was to bomb in 6 waves beginning at Z + 2 until Z + 23

The timing of the Blind Markers was good but the majority of them dropped their yellow TIs and flares 1 to 6 miles north of the aiming point leaving the target area insufficiently illuminated for the visual markers to identify the aiming point.

Night photographic evidence revealed that having examined 501 bombing photographs it was estimated that only 90 aircraft had bombed within 3 miles of the aiming point.

The above Plot of Night Photographs clearly shows that the majority of aircraft bombed well north of the target

There were few reports of ground defences outside the target area apart from those aircraft well off course. Reports indicated an increase in defences at Hannover. Flak was mainly barrage and many searchlights were in operation with intense fire directed at any aircraft that was coned.

572 aircraft reported attacking the primary area and 7 the alternative area whilst 61 aborted the mission mainly due to technical and manipulative reasons though 10 aborted due to weather. 1 of the B-17s was missing but the other 4 reported bombing the primary area.

Of the missing 39 aircraft, 6 fell on the outward flight (5 to night fighter and 1 cause unknown) and 4 on the return flight (2 to flak 1 to night fighters and 1 cause unknown). Over the target area there were so many observations of aircraft falling in a short space of time that it was difficult to assign the losses specifically to flak or night fighters but it was generally believed that the majority of the 27 lost were due to night fighters. The missing Flying Fortress was believed to have been brought down by a night fighter.

Later day reconnaissance showed that most of the attack fell 1 to 5 miles north and north east of the aiming point mainly outside the built up area among villages and recently developed industrial areas.

Several factories were severely damaged including the new branch factory of Hannoverische Maschinenbau A.G. (Hanomag), intended originally for a locomotive works, the Hackethal Draht und Kabelwerke and the Brinker Eisenwerke, both producers of steel wire, cables and aircraft parts. Many other smaller industrial concerns were also affected. The Vahrenwalderheide Airfield had 120 craters on the landing ground and several buildings damaged. Several military barracks and hutted camps both military and housing for workers at the new factories were also damaged.

Having turned for home Lancaster ED372 was attacked by a night fighter. 2nd Lt. Finn Bergan described his experience when the aircraft was hit:

"Attacked and raked through fuselage: in front compartment with BA [Bomb Aimer Sgt. Wild], was wounded in back, lost consciousness but saw that BA was hit. Next remember pulling rip cord and hitting ground a few minutes later. Saw wrecked aircraft next day and dead body of BA near it. Germans said there was another body - unidentifiable - probably MUG [Sgt. Butler] from position of body. Met Nav [Sgt. Guerin] when in hospital - seriously injured in back, will probably recover".

Fl/Lt. James Hill said that he was "In rear of fuselage when aircraft attacked. Fuselage raked and fire started. Rear gunner [Sgt. Franklin] baled out but I had difficulty with parachute - but fire got worse and aircraft out of control so jumped and managed to fix one clip whilst falling. Saw aircraft dive in flames but didn't see it hit ground (or anyone else leave it?)".

Wireless Operator Sgt. Bunyan said that he had last seen Fl/Lt Hill, "In fuselage just aft of doors, about 15 secs before explosion and he appeared to be burnt"

The pilot, Sgt. Ken Knott who had been slightly burned about the face said that he had met Fl/Lt. Hill at Stalag Luft III in October 1943 and he had almost recovered from his injuries.

Sgt. Bunyan said that he had "Seen and heard nothing of Sgt. Wild [the Bomb Aimer] after the incident [attack by the night fighter] and prior to the explosion" and Sgt. Franklin the Rear Gunner said that he had learned from German sources at Dulag Luft that Sgt. Wild had been killed.

As for Sgt. Brewer the Flight Engineer, Sgt. Bunyan said that he was believed killed and that he was "Last seen standing by Pilot bending over slightly to fix Pilot's harness 2 secs before aircraft blew up". Sgt. Franklin added "On arrival at Dulag Luft I was informed by the Germans that Sgt. Brewer was reported killed".

With regard to Sgt. Butler, the Mid Upper Gunner, it was reported that he was "Believed killed - letter received from Mrs Bunyan, 9 Beacons Lane, London (?) and stating that he was buried in cemetery near Hannover Sept 29 '43".

The dead were all buried at Groß Gießen but see below for full burial details.

Scale: 1" = 6.25 miles

166 Squadron lost two other aircraft on this mission.

Lancaster III JA704 AS-? piloted by Warrant Officer Paul Fulton Chesterton D.F.C. 1383472 RAFVR was shot down and crashed at Mahlerten, Hildesheim. 5 crew members were killed and 2 became prisoners of war. Also on board this aircraft as a "passenger" was Fl/Lt. Henry McGhie the squadron gunnery leader, he also died in the crash.

The second loss was not included in the 38 recorded missing aircraft. Lancaster III ED875 AS-? piloted by W/O. Cecil Jack Walton Boone 1162710 RAFVR and having taken off from RAF Kirmington at 19:43 returned early. He acknowledged landing instructions but crashed at Cain Hill south of Caistor, Lincolnshire. All seven crew members were killed.


BIOGRAPHIES


Courtesy Oxford Mail

(1) Wg.Cdr. Sidney Kenneth Knott, known as Ken, was born 25 December 1921 at Chorlton, Lancashire the son of Sidney Knott and Olive G. Knott nee Bailey. He attended Manchester Central High School for Boys where he was a member of the Air Defence Cadet Corps. On leaving school in 1938 he became a draughtsman until he joined the RAFVR in 1940. He was sent to the United States for pilot training and on his return was posted to 103 squadron at RAF Elsham Wolds, Lincolnshire. After flying 10 missions with 103 squadron he was posted to 166 squadron at RAF Kirmington where he flew two missions prior to the fateful raid on Hannover.

After the war he continued to serve in the RAF and completed a flying instructor's course. In 1949 he married Betty M. Terry at Fakenham, Norfolk.

Commissioned in 1954 the announcement in the Supplement to the London Gazette of 23 November 1954 reads 'Appointment to Commission (permanent) as Pilot Officer (Branch List) 1430853 Master Pilot Sidney Kenneth Knott (1430853) 21 October 1954 (Seniority 6 March 1953).

On 3 March 1955 he was promoted to Flying Officer (Supplement to the London Gazette 8 March 1955) and to Flight Lieutenant on 6 March 1958 (Supplement to the London Gazette 11 March 1958).

In 1958 he went to Germany to train pilots in the West German Air Force. He continued in that role until 1963. He was also Adjutant to the Oxford University Air Squadron for a time.

Photograph: Courtesy Oxford Mail

On 1 July 1970 he was promoted to Squadron Leader (Supplement to the London Gazette 30 June 1970).

He retired from General Duties Branch on 25 December 1976 (Supplement to the London Gazette 28 December 1976) his final being as commanding officer, No. 6 Air Experience Flight, based at RAF Abingdon in Oxfordshire.

On the same date as his retirement from the RAF he was appointed to commission as a Flying Officer in the RAFVR Training Branch (Supplement to the London Gazette 18 January 1977) and became the volunteer commanding officer of the Oxfordshire, Bucks and Berks Wing of the Air Training Corps.

He resigned his commission on 1 July 1981 retaining the rank of Wing Commander (Supplement to the London Gazette 15 September 1981).

He was a volunteer worker for Save the Children and Chairman of the RAF Bomber Command Association Oxfordshire Branch.

He and his wife Betty had three daughters, one son, and five grandchildren.

He died on 30 March 2011 at the age of 89. His funeral service took place at All Saints Parish Church, Marcham, near Abingdon, Oxfordshire on 6 April 2011 where he was laid to rest in the churchyard.

(2) Sgt. John Harrison Brewer was born in 1924 at Blything, Suffolk the son of Frederick S. Brewer and Daisy M. Brewer nee Cook. He is commemorated on the Dunwich War Memorial, Suffolk.

(3) Sgt. Matthew Guerin was born on 4 June 1917 at Millstreet, County Cork, Republic of Ireland. He married Elizabeth Jane Pocock (born 7 July 1905 at Hawick, Scotland ) in 1941 at Ilford, Essex and they then lived at 119 Castleton Rd, Goodmayes, Essex. They had three children: Peter Brian Guerin born 22 February 1943, Maureen K. Guerin born 28 December 1945 and Margaret Anne Guerin born 30 September 1950.

On 20 Dec 1957 he and his family sailed on the MV Rangitiki from London for Aukland New Zealand where he took a position as a Teacher at Huntley Prepatory School in Marton, Rangitikei District of the Manawatu-Wanganui region. They lived in a house provided by Huntley school in Wanganui Road, Marton.

Matt Guerin's life WAS the school (the Matt Guerin Museum at the school is testament to that). Such was his influence and respect that all three of his children also became teachers.

Elizabeth Guerin died on 4 Sep 1979 aged 74 and was buried at Mount View Cemetery Rangitikei, New Zealand.

In 1982 Matthew Guerin married Joan Soler.

He died on 16 August 1993 aged 76 and was interred on 19 August 1993 at Mount View Cemetery in the same grave as his first wife Elizabeth.

(Biographical details of Matthew Guerin kindly provided by James Collier and Peter Guerin)

(4) Sgt. Reginald Wild was born in 1923 at Chorlton, Lancashire the son of Reginald Wild and Beatrice Wild nee Metcalf. In May 1941 he was employed by Metropolitan Vickers, a heavy engineering company at Trafford, Manchester, as a machine operator. He joined the RAFVR in March 1942.

The family later lived at Timperley, Altrincham, Cheshire.

(5) Sgt. S. Bunyan - nothing further known, can you help?

(6) Sgt. Lionel Wembley Henry Butler was born in 1924 at St. Bernard, Edinburgh, Scotland the son of Henry Butler and Mary F.S. Butler nee White. He is commemorated on the Scottish National War Memorial, Edinburgh Castle, Scotland.

(7) Sgt. R.J. Franklin - nothing further known, can you help?

(8) Fl/Lt. James Douglas Hill D.F.C. was born at Eldwick, West Riding of Yorkshire on the 1st August 1919. He attended Belle Vue Boys School in Bradford and in 1937 joined the GPO Film Unit as an assistant. On joining the RAFVR he became 931489 LAC Hill but with effect from 20 September 1941 he was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) his number now becoming 106673 (Supplement to the London Gazette 21 October 1941). His commission was confirmed and he was promoted to Flying Officer (war subs) with effect from 20 September 1942 (Supplement to the London Gazette 6 November 1942).

In the Supplement to the London Gazette of 2 June 1943 it was announced that he had been 'Commended for Valuable Service in the Air'.

He was promoted to Flight Lieutenant (war subs) with effect from 20 September 1943 (Supplement to the London Gazette 24 September 1943. His D.F.C. was awarded with effect from 18 August 1943 announced in the Supplement to the London Gazette of 28 March 1944.

After the war James Hill became a Film and Television Director, Screenwriter and Producer, his most well-known works being as the Director of the film Born Free and as both Director and Producer of the Television series Worzel Gummidge.

He died in London on the 7th October 1994 aged 75.

(9) Fenrik (Second Lieutenant) Finn Bergan was born 9 July 1918 at Rjukan, Telemark, Norway. In 1942 he went to the United States of America where he graduated at The March of Time School of Cinematography before joining the RAF Film Unit. After his capture in 1943 he was sent to Stalag Luft III from where he later escaped but was recaptured.

After the war he became a renowned photographer and cinematographer. He died on the 25th March 1986 at the age of 67 and was buried on the 23rd May 1986 at the village of Rælingen, Akershus, Norway.

BURIAL DETAILS:

The three crew members killed in the crash were initially buried on 29 September 1943 at the Groß Gießen Cemetery and reinterred at Hanover War Cemetery on 25 June 1947.

Sgt. John Harrison Brewer - buried at the Hanover War Cemetery Grave No. 8.C.8 (2)

He has no epitaph

Sgt. Reginald Wild - buried at the Hanover War Cemetery Grave No. 8.C.9 (4)

His epitaph reads:

'At dawn

And

At the setting of the sun

We will remember him'

Sgt. Lionel Wembley Henry Butler - buried at the Hanover War Cemetery Grave No. 8.C.7 (6)

His epitaph reads

'Ever in our thoughts'



Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all relatives and friends of the members of this crew - December 2015

With thanks to the sources quoted below.

RW 01.12.2015

RW. 29.08.2017 Biographical details of Matthew Guerin provided by James Collier added.

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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