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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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434 Squadron Halifax III NR143 F/O. Theodore Kowalchuk

Operation: Soest

Date: 05/06th December 1944 (Tuesday/Wednesday)

Unit: No. 434 Squadron (motto: In Excelcis Vincimus - 'We conquer the heights'). 6 Group

Type: Halifax III

Serial: NR143

Code: WL-M

Base: RAF Croft, Yorkshire

Location: English Channel

Pilot: F/O. Theodore Kowalchuk J/27726 RCAF Age 22. Missing - believed killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Walter Christopher Higginbotham 2205657 RAFVR Age? Missing - believed killed

Nav: F/O. Kenneth Cregeen Christian J/38780 RCAF Age 24. Missing - believed killed

Air/Bmr: P/O. Victor Eugene Prouse J/93111 RCAF Age 23. Missing - believed killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: P/O. David Henry Laval J/95177 RCAF Age 28. Missing - believed killed

Air/Gnr: P/O. Gerald Philip Coughlin J/95336 RCAF Age 18. Missing - believed killed

Air/Gnr: P/O. Joseph Maurice de Macedo J/95219 RCAF Age 21. Killed

REASON FOR LOSS:

Sixteen aircraft from the squadron took part on this operation. NR143 taking off at 17:48 hrs.

This was the only loss from the squadron but we have no further information apart from it seems they came down in the English Channel.

In March 1949 the body of a Canadian sergeant air gunner was found on the shore of Dunkirk. The discovery was published in the British Press which repeated an erroneous statement that the body was that of a 1940 casualty. A Search Officer was sent to investigate and collect the body for burial. His view was that the body was a beach burial that had become unearthed by the force of the waves. It was taken for final internment to Pihem–les Guines Cemetery, Pas de Calais.

The report of this body gave the height as approximately 5’6” to 5’7”; slight build, hair on legs brown and in large quantities, hand missing and the bones badly smashed and broken. A hand-knitted white or khaki pullover, with the label, marked seize 36 was found. On one finger was a silver signet ring with the Prince of Wales Crest and initials "P.W. H.S."; on the inside was the inscription "Sterling Birks".

Above L-R: F/O. Kowalchuk, F/O. Christian, P/O. Prouse, P/O. Laval, P/O. Coughlin and P/O. de Macedo (courtesy John Jones)

On receipt of the report, RCAF HQ Ottawa contacted Henry Birks & Sons, manufacturing jewellers. They stated that they made a ring as described for the Prince of Wales High School, Vancouver BC. The ring was manufactured not for the school itself, but for the sale to graduates in Birks Retail Store at Vancouver.

No record of purchases was kept. This information established that the unknown air gunner was a graduate of Prince of Wales High School Vancouver.

An intensive and detailed investigation which involved interviewing personnel and teachers of the Prince of Wales High School who had been on the staff since 1935 revealed that approximately twelve graduates of the school had been reported missing in the R.C.A.F.. Names were secured and all but three were accounted for. The next of kin of these three were all interviewed. The father of the first stated that he had no knowledge that his son had possessed such a ring. The father of the second said that his son would wear a larger undershirt than size 36 and definitely established that his son did not possess a Prince of Wales ring.

The third candidate for consideration was Sergeant (Pilot Officer) J.M. de Macedo an air gunner of Halifax NR 143, 434 (RCAF) Squadron, reported missing on the night of 5-6 December 1944. His father stated that his son’s height was 5ft 6in and his weight was 135lbs and he had large quantities of brown hair on his legs. He owned a khaki hand-knitted sweater and had taken it with him to the UK. As he was a man of slight build, it was reasonable to assume that he wore a size 36. The father also produced a photograph of his son taken while on operations and it showed a ring on one finger which could have been a Prince of Wales High School ring. All of the clues seemed to fit.

The Air Historical Branch of Air Ministry confirmed that Halifax NR143 had been routed to pass over Reading, England and cross the Channel near the south end of England. This routing would not be inconsistent with the place of discovery of the body.

In view of the circumstantial nature of the evidence, the father was interviewed in Canada once more. He was satisfied that this body was that of his son and asked for a grave to be registered in his name

(The Life and Times of Hubert Brooks MC CD. A Canadian Hero - Ralph Brooks)

Burial details:

F/O. Theodore Kowalchuk. Runnymede Memorial Panel 246. Born on the 07th July 1922. Son of Nick and Helen Kowalchuk, of Wainwright, Alberta, Canada.

Sgt. Walter Christopher Higginbotham. Runnymede Memorial Panel 231. No further information, can you assist?

F/O. Kenneth Cregeen Christian. Runnymede Memorial Panel 245. Son of William Moore Christian and Mildred Mona Christian, of 4305 Prince Albert Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

P/O. Victor Eugene Prouse. Runnymede Memorial Panel 252. Also remembered on the family grave in Groveside Municipal Cemetery, Ontario. Born on the 30th of August 1921. Son of Arthur John (died 1956, age 86 and Sarah Ann (née Routly - died 1970, ahe 86) Prouse, of Claremont, Ontario, Canada.

P/O. David Henry Lavalley. Runnymede Memorial Panel 251. Prior to service worked for Ottawa Car and Aircraft Ltd.Son of John Cecil (died 14th June 1952, age 63) and Hannah J. Lavalley (née Graham - died 02nd December 1956, age 74), of 22 Willow Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

P/O. Gerald Philip Coughlin. Runnymede Memorial Panel 249. Son of James P. and Emma M. Coughlin, of Port Arthur, Ontario, Canada. He was 16 years old when he enlisted on the 09th December 1942. He gave his date of birth as the 10th January 1924, not 10 January 1926.

P/O. Joseph Maurice de Macedo. Pihen les Guines War Cemetery. Plot 1, Row A, Grave 10. Son of Joseph Fidelis and Alice de Macedo, of 3487 Blenheim Street, Ganges, British Columbia, Canada. Grave inscription: 'His Loss Is A Stab In Many Loving Hearts'.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to John Jones, Ralph Brooks, other sources as quoted below:

JJ/KTY 12-04-2022

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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', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), 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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