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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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RAF Crest
Lancaster PB477 LQ-B crew supplement details

W/Cmdr. Kenneth John Lawson D.S.O and bar, D.F.C. Lancaster PB477 LQ-B crew detailed supplement

Extensively researched by Dorothy Mather from Ottawa, Canada for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to all of the crew of PB477 LQ-B

405 Squadron Lancaster III PB477 LQ-B Lost 2nd January 1945

Additional crew information

Lawson and Crew: 19th October 1944 - 02nd January 1945

After Saarbrücken, Lawson’s crew was transferred to No. 405 (R.C.A.F.) Squadron (8 Group) where they flew 12 operations beginning 19th October 1944 and ending with their last operation on the 02nd January 1945. WO1. Dorland G. Plyley joined the crew when they first transferred to No. 405 (R.C.A.F.) and Sgt. Sidney Rhodes replaced WO Harold Ross Hart (R.A.F.) on their second-to-last operation. F/O. Gerald Edward Geeves D.F.C. replaced W/O. Henry Caine Geddes (R.A.A.F.) and since Plyley was already established as the rear gunner, Geeves took the mid-upper gunner position vacated by Geddes. (It was Geeves’ choice to fly with this squadron. See explanation in F/O Geeves file) These ops are not shown on No.156 Squadron’s list of sorties.

Pilot: W/Cmdr. Kenneth John Lawson D.S.O and bar, D.F.C. 82728 R.A.F.V.R. Age 31. Killed

His mother presented the medals shown to the R.A.F. Museum at Hendon, England.

Born 24 March 1913 Brentford (home in Ealing) Middlesex, U.K. - Son of Frederick John Lawson and Beatrice Mary Hall.

Date of enlistment: August 1939. L.A.C. (Leading Aircraftsman)

Service No. 759231.

P/O. (Pilot Officer): 28 July 1940 – Service No. 82728

Assigned to No. 149 Squadron: 28 July 1940 with ops. starting 25 Sept. 1940 - D.F.C. (Distinguished Flying Cross)

18 April 1941 – No. 149 Squadron - F/O. (Flying Officer)

28 July 1941 - Act. Fl/Lt. (Acting Flight Lieutenant)

28 July 1942 - Posted to No. 1 R.A.F. Depot, Uxbridge for navigational duties

18 Nov. 1942 (Ferried B.26s to Gibraltar) - Assigned to No. 156 Squadron

08 Dec. 1942 - Act Sq/Ldr (Acting Squadron Leader) No. 156 Squadron - 8 Group Navigation Officer 07 June 1943 – July 1944 (Bennett’s Staff) - Act W/C. (Acting Wing Commander)

June 1943 – July 1943 - Sq/Ldr. (Squadron Leader)

07 Sept. 1943 No. 156 Squadron

07 July 1944 – 15 Oct. 1944 - D.S.O. (Distinguished Service Order) Notification: 06 July 1943 as per London Gazette, page 36084 - D.S.O. Award: 09 July 1943 as per ORB (Operations Record Book

Lawson’s next of kin successfully claimed the Air Efficiency Award to W/C Lawson

17th January 1952. Kenneth Lawson had completed the minimum five years needed to claim the medal. Plus wartime service for aircrew could count as treble time towards the ten years needed for the award.

P/O. Stanley Herbert Fitzhenry AUS/410475 R.A.A.F. Age 25. Killed

Born: 13 August 1919 in Richmond, Victoria, Australia, son of Herbert Arthur and Helen Beatrice Fitzhenry, of East Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia.

Date/Place of Enlistment: 30 January 1942, Melbourne,Australia

Promoted to AC 2 (Aircraftsman 2) 30 Jan. 1942 (on enlistment)

From No. 1 R.C. (Recruitment Centre) to No. 1 ITS (Initial Training School) 30 Jan. 1942

Promoted to LAC (Leading Aircraftsman) 25 Apr. 1942

From No. 1 ITS (Initial Training School) to No. 2 AOS (Air Observer School) 30 Apr. 1942

From No. 2 AOS to No. 3 B&GS (Bombing and Gunnery School) 27 July 1942

From B&GS to 2 ANS (Air Navigation School) 21 Sept. 1942

Promoted to Sergeant 15 Oct. 1942

From 2 ANS to 1 ED (Equipment Depot) 16 Oct. 1942

Promoted to Fl/Sgt. (Flight Sergeant) prior to being shipped out from Australia.

EMB (Embarked) Melbourne 02 Nov. 1942

Disemb U. K. 15 Dec. 1942.

To PRDC (Personnel Reception Centre) 16 Dec. 1942

From PRDC to 10 (0) AFU (Advanced Flying Unit) 19 April 1943

No. 10 AFU (Advanced Flying Unit) Dumfries, Scotland, 19 April 1943 – 16 May 1943.

To 27 OTU ( Operational Training Unit) Lichfield, Staffordshire, U. K., 25 May 1943 – 18 Aug. 1943.

To 1662 CU (Conversion Unit) Blyton, Lincolnshire, U. K., 01 Sept. 1943 – 06 Nov. 1943.

No. 7 Squadron (1 day only) before transferring to No. 460 Squadron

To No. 460 Squadron, Binbrook, Lincolnshire, U. K., 09 Nov. 1943 – 04 Jan. 1944.

No. 156 Squadron, Warboys in Huntingdonshire, U. K., 20 Jan. 1944 – 22 Apr. 1944.

Promoted to W/O 18 April 1944.

No. 156 Squadron, Upwood, Huntingdonshire, U.K., 18 May 1944

NTU Warboys P.F.F.N.T.U. (Path Finder Force Night Training Unit) 24 Aug. 1944 – 25 Aug. 1944

No.156 Squadron, Upwood, 29 Aug. 1944 – 12 Oct. 1944

Awarded Path Finder badge 22 Sept. 1944; notification letter signed by Air Commodore, D. C. T. Bennett.

Commissioned as Pilot Office 11 October 1944 shortly before being transferred to No. 405 (R.C.A.F.) Squadron

To No. 405 (R.C.A.F.) Squadron Gransden Lodge (Cambridgeshire) 14 Oct. 1944

First op. with No. 405 (R.C.A.F.) Squadron 19 Oct.1944.

Date of Death: 02 Jan. 1945 with No. 405 (R.C.A.F.) Squadron

Burial: 05 Jan. 1945 Rohrau Cemetery (without honours); reburial 14 July 1947 Durnbach War Cemetery, Bad Tolz, Bayern, Germany. Grave reference: 8.C.4.

Summary of awards:

1939-45 Star

Air Crew Europe Star with “France and Germany” Clasp

Defence Medal

War Medal 1939-45

Australia Medal 1939-45

Sgt. Sidney Rhodes 1680670 R.A.F.V.R. Age 33. P.o.W.

Born 14th March 1912.

Son of John Thomas Rhodes and Kate McQuade (née McQuade) Rhodes, 15 Myrtle Avenue, Williamson St. Drypool, Yorkshire.

Married Elizabeth Hastings West Gardiner, On the 8th September 1934.

Retired from the R.A.F,(Regiment) as a Fl/Lt. on 29th January1958.

Died on July 22nd 1985, age 73, of natural causes.

His last address was 38 Watson Court, Bridlington, Yorkshire.

F/O. Gerald Edward Geeves D.F.C. J/19058 R.C.A.F. Age 34. Killed

First tour was the North African Campaign; his second tour was in the European Theatre. Below is a synopsis of events after shipping out to the U.K. He enlisted in the R.C.A.F. 10 Oct. 1940 with his training carried out in Canada.

To R.A.F. overseas, 12 Dec. 1941

Taken on strength of No. 3 PRC (Personnel Recruiting Centre) Bournemouth, 26 December 1941.

1 “Y” Depot to R.A.F. Trainees Pool, 12 Dec. 1941

Taken on strength 3 PRC (Personnel Recruit Centre) 26 Dec. 1941

From 3 PRC to 1 AAA (Air Armament School) for #6 Refresher Course 07 March 1942.

R.A.F. Manby to 7 AGS (Air Gunnery School) Stormy Down (Newton Down), South Wales, 29 April 1942

To 15 OTU (Operational Training Unit) from 7 AGS at R.A.F. Harwell in Berkshire, 19 May 1942

From 15 OTU to Middle East Command 24 Aug. 1942.

Departed from 10 ADV by air for overseas, 24 Aug. 1942

Promoted to F/Sgt (Flight Sergeant), 01 Sept. 1942.

Taken on strength of No. 108 Squadron 19 Sept. 1942 (Egypt operations).

Promoted to WO2 24 Nov. 1943.

To No. 148 Squadron 26 Nov. 1942 (Lybia operations)

To No. 40 Squadron 07 Dec. 1942 (Luqa, Malta operations)

To No. 104 Squadron 01 Jan. 1943

To Home Establishment 22 Feb. 1943

Dis-embarked Malta 26 Feb. 1943 – 01 June 1943

Passed through Gibraltar, 07 March 1943.

At No. 1 Personnel Despatch Centre, West Kirby, Merseyside, 28 Feb. 1943

To Station Pershore, Worcestershire, 30 March 1943

Attached to No. 10 OTU (Operational Training Unit) Abington near Abington, Oxfordshire. 01 –10 May 1943

To No. 23 OTU Pershore, 07 Oct. 1943 as instructor (77 hours logged)

To “R” Depot, Warrington, 29 Feb. 1944 (R.C.A.F. Personnel Despatch Centre. It was located at Houghton Green, Warrington, Lancashire, U. K.)

Processed on special leave to Canada, 11 March 1944

Arrived in Canada 16 March 1944.

Promoted to F/O (Flying Officer) 07 April 1944.

Embarked for the U. K. 29 April 1944.

Disembarked in U. K. 07 May 1944

To No. 61 Base Topcliffe, Yorkshire (No. 6 Group R.C.A.F.) 25 May 1944

Attended Dalton Battle School, Yorkshire, 25 May – 11 June 1944.

Posted to No. 405 Squadron, 11 June 1944

Attended NTU (Night Training Unit). 11 June – 06 July.

Posted to No. 405 (R.C.A.F.) Squadron 02 Jan. 1945

Missing 02 Jan. 1945

Presumed Dead 03 Jan. 1945

Burial: 05 Jan. 1945 Rohrau Cemetery (without honours); reburial 14 July 1947 in Durnbach War Cemetery, Bad Tolz, Bayern, Germany. Grave reference 8.C.2

Note: Gerry previously flew with skipper “Tex” McQuoid of No. 405 Path Finder Squadron and completed quite a few ops. with him. However, McQuoid was involved in an automobile accident and would be hospitalised until Feb. 1945 or thereabouts. At this particular time, Gerry had one op. to go to complete his second tour of operations. Under circumstances such as these, airmen were given two choices: they could wait until their pilot was back in service OR they could opt to fly with another crew. With one op to go, Gerry chose to fly with W/C Lawson, a pilot with 93 ops. to his credit. His crew was an elite hand-picked group of men. Gerry was in such a hurry to return home for good that he broke a cardinal rule of superstition among airmen. Sadly, it led to his undoing.

Records show that F/O. Gerald Edward Geeves D.F.C. had been involved with 5 previous accidents - we have details of three (so far):

Incident one:

Squadron: 108 Squadron

Date: 06th November 1942 - 04.25 Hrs.

Aircraft: Wellington IC

Serial No: HD980

Pilot: Sgt. N.S.Toms R.N.Z.A.F.

Pilot 2: Sgt. H.M. Sells

Nav: Sgt. A.H. Bassam

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. J. Hogg

Air/Gnr: Sgt. C.R. Purvis R.N.Z.A.F.

Air/Gnr: Sgt. G.E. Geeves R.C.A.F.

Reason:

Following an operational sortie the pilot taxied the aircraft along the runway and switched on his landing lights, forgetting or not knowing that they had been patched over with doped fabric. The result was a fire in the wing, causing Category "A" damage. There were no injuries to the crew.

Incident two:

Squadron: 148 Squadron

Date: 07/08th December 1942

Aircraft: Wellington IC

Serial No: HF887

Pilot: Sgt. H. Barrie - Survived - Seriously injured

Pilot 2: P/O. G.B. Hunter - Survived - Seriously injured

Nav: P/O. R.A. Mackness - Survived - Seriously injured

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Clifford Roy Grandfield 1253914 R.A.F.V.R. - Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. George Bunnett 1325479 R.A.F.V.R. - Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. G.E. Geeves R.C.A.F. - Survived

Passengers:

Fl/Sgt. John Irving Kitchen 560634 R.A.F. - Killed

Sgt. Smith - Survived - Seriously injured

L.A.C. Ernest Ford 1072270 R.A.F.V.R. - Killed

L.A.C. Haywood - Survived - Seriously injured

L.A.C. Wilson - Survived - Seriously injured

A.C. Brown - Survived - Seriously injured

Reason:

On a relocation flight. Took off 17.54 Hrs. ALG (Advanced Landing Ground) 167*, for Luqa, Malta. As the aircraft was approaching Luqa, it swung on approach (?), bounced, stalled and hit a dispersal pen. The aircraft was destroyed by fire. All the survivors save Sgt Geeves were seriously injured.

Incident three:

Squadron: 40 Squadron

Date: 25/26th December 1942

Aircraft: Wellington IC

Serial No: DV532

Pilot: Fl/Lt. L. McLachlan R.N.Z.A.F. - Survived

Pilot 2: P/O. J.D. Kitchen - Survived

Obs: Sgt. F. Hughes - Survived

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. A. Challand - Survived slightly injured

Air/Gnr: Sgt. G.E. Geeves R.C.A.F. - Survived

Reason:

Explained in report sent by pilot Fl/Lt. McLachlan:

Airborne Luqa at 18.15 hours and proceeded to Tunis. Found target area cloud-covered so proceeded to the secondary target, Sousse, which was also cloud-covered, then proceeded to permanent secondary target, Panteleria, which was bombed. In leaving target area, both the inter-communication system and W/T (Wireless Telegraphy) went U/S. On E.T.A. 22.52 hrs. Malta, there was no sign of the Island so proceeded on same course for a quarter of an hour then flew back on the reciprocal for 15 minutes and started on a square search. The wireless operator then reported that the W/T was serviceable so I immediately asked for Q.D.M.s (magnetic bearings). The first Q.D.M. for base was 104 or 108 at 23.55, approximately, and this course was flown on for 10-15 minutes when another Q.D.M. was received - 240, which was flown on for about 3 minutes. The next Q.D.M.s were 310, 310, 309, 302 and 299. We had been flying on the latter Q.D.M.s for half an hour when both aircraft engines cut out through lack of petrol, so aircraft had to be ditched. This operation was carried out successfully and all members of the crew were safely in the dingy within 2 minutes.

The Wireless Operator, Fl/Sgt. Challand, received slight facial injuries and was in a somewhat dazed condition. The behaviour of the entire crew in ditching is to be very highly commended; there was no panic and everyone remained cool. A Beaufighter was sighted about 10 minutes later flying at about 1,500 ft. one mile away. At 08.00, four Spitfires were sighted flying fairly low about 3 miles away. Efforts were made to signal but the Marine Distress Signal failed to operate. There was no Verey pistol (flare pistol) as the navigation kit bag was swept to the back of the fuselage on ditching. At about 08.15 hrs., a Swordfish of the F.A.A. (Fleet Air Arm) was sighted. Immediately, a Marine Distress Signal was sent off which was seen by the Swordfish. The swordfish then circled us dropping smoke floats right around us. At 08.23 hrs., the Air-Sea Rescue Launch was sighted and we were picked up at 08.30. Treatment on board the launch was excellent. We were provided with rum, hot tea and dry clothes. We landed at St. Paul’s Bay at 11:00 hours. Fl/Sgt. Challand was taken to the 90th General Hospital and the other members of the crew proceeded to their billets after a meal prepared by the Air-Sea Rescue Unit.

No exact times as regards Q.D.M.s are stated as both Navigator and Wireless Operator lost their logs.

(Signed) L. McLachlan

W/O. Henry Caine Geddes D.F.C. AUS/427619, the usual mid-upper gunner was on his way home to Perth, Australia, when he read about the crash of PB477 in The Argus newspaper. D.F.C. Presented on the 1st March 1945 for skill and fortitude in operations against the enemy. Home address of 26 Bernard Street, Claremont, Western Australia.

Thanks to Brock for the newspaper cutting for Plt.Off. Greeves

RS 22.09.2019 - Addition of newspaper cutting for Plt.Off. Greeves

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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