02.01.1945 No 405 Squadron Lancaster III PB477 W/Cmdr. Lawson DSO & Bar DFC
Date: 2nd January 1945 (Tuesday)
Unit: No. 405 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Gransden Lodge
Location: Rohrau, Germany
Pilot: W/Cmdr. Kenneth John Lawson DSO and bar, DFC 82728 RAFVR Age 31. Killed (1)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Sidney Rhodes 1680670 RAFVR Age 33. PoW No ? Camp: Stalag Luft Barth Vogelsang
Nav: P/O. Stanley Herbert Fitzhenry AUS/410475 RAAF Age 25. Killed
Air/Bmr: Sq/Ldr. Nathan Crawford DFC J/12954 RCAF Age 35. Killed (2)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Lt. Eric Cecil Duke DFM 118147 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Air/Gnr: F/O. Gerald Edward Geeves DFC J/19058 RCAF Age 34. Killed (3)
Air/Gnr: WO1. Dorland G. Plyley R/108467 RCAF PoW No ? Camp: Stalag Luft Barth Vogelsang
REASON FOR LOSS:
Mrs. Dorothy Mather from Ontario, Canada is seeking any further information on Sgt. Sidney Rhodes. Please contact us - any details will be forwarded.
Took off at 15.54 hrs from RAF Gransden Lodge near Cambridge to bomb Nuremburg. 514 Lancasters took part in this early evening raid. The Pathfinders produced good ground-marking for the attack, visibility was good with a rising full moon.
The city was devastated by the bombing runs with over 4,000 houses destroyed killing over 1,800 people and at least 50 missing, injuries were not recorded.
The MAN and Siemens factories were damaged as well as the railway system. Another 415 industrial buildings were also destroyed.
Above left: F/O. Geeves DFC Right: Fl/Lt. Duke DFM.
Above left: WO1. Plyley Right: Sq/Ldr. Crawford DFC
156 Squadron pilots. F/O. Lawson is fifth from left, front row.
The allies lost 10 aircraft - 6 during the operation itself, two others colliding on return at Sudbrooke, Lincolnshire - 150 Squadron Lancaster NG421 IQ-N and a 153 Squadron Lancaster PB515 P4-N, killing all 14 crew members, 1 on landing at Methwold 149 Squadron Lancaster NG362 OJ-S and a 419 Squadron Lancaster KB700 VR-Z Lancaster Named Ruhr Express and was the first Canadian built Lancaster.
Left: Newspaper report on P/O. Stanley Herbert Fitzhenry
PB477 LQ-B was shot down by Hptm. Kurt-Heinz Weigel (4) of 11./NJG6 at 18.44 hrs. The combat took place at 4,500 mtrs over the west of Stuttgard. He also shot down another Lancaster PB518 HW-P from 100 Squadron 11 minutes later.
Reports state that Lancaster PB477 flew in from the west of the village and crashed. All five bodies were recovered the next day within a radius of 500 yards from the scene of the crash.
On the morning of the 3rd January a Mr. Kientzle a member of the Landwacht (5) visited the scene with six German police from neighbouring villages and guarded the spot.
During the same evening Luftwaffe personnel arrived and removed all identity tags and documentation from the bodies which were buried in their parachutes on the 5th January 1945.
(4) Hptm. Kurt-Heinz Weigel (pictured left)
had a total of 4 claims before he was shot down and killed on 5th March 1945 Brunnstadt near Gerolzhofen airfield by Fl/Lt. McFadyen and Fl/Lt. Shail of 406 Squadron in a Mosquito.
Although some reports state that landed and was then strafed by the Mosquito. Hptm. Weigel had been shot down early on in the war at Scapa Flow and taken as a P.O.W. He feigned mental sickness and repatriated to Germany in 1944.
(5) Landwacht - Dutch Home Guard serving under the Germans.
(2) Crawford Lake in Northwest Territories is named after Sq/Ldr. Nathan Crawford. D.F.C.
(3) Geeves Lake in Northwest Territories is named after F/O. Gerald Edward Geeves. D.F.C.
(1) W/Cdr. Kenneth Lawson had a lucky escape earlier in the war. On the 23/24th October 1940 on return from an operation to Emden. After taking off from RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk at 23.24 hrs whilst with 149 Squadron the Wellington IC T2740 OJ-E is understood to have been hit by flak from a British Anti-Aircraft factory and the pilot, F/O. Donaldson had to try an emergency landing at RAF St. Osyth, near Clacton in Essex.
As they were coming into land, guards form the camp mistook the aircraft for enemy and a shot was fired which went through the cockpit. Luckily no one was hurt and although the aircraft was destroyed in the landing after hitting an obstruction, all the crew survived.
(Initially buried at Rohrau, Germany and later exhumed and reburied at Durnbach)
W/Cmdr. Kenneth John Lawson. DSO and bar, DFC. Durnbach War Cemetery Grave 8.C.1. Further information: 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. LAC (Leading Aircraftman) – 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 - DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross): 18 April 1941 – No. 149 Squadron - F/O (Flying Officer): 28 July 1941 - AF/Lt/F/Lt (Acting Flight Lieutenant/Flight Lieutenant): 28 July 1942 -Posted to No. 1 RAF Depot, Uxbridge for navigational duties: 18 Nov. 1942 (Ferried B26s to Gibraltar) - Assigned to No. 156 Squadron: 08 Dec. 1942 - AS/L (Acting Squadron Leader) No. 156 Squadron - 8 Group Navigation Officer: 07 June 1943 – July 1944 (Bennett’s Staff) - AW/C (Acting Wing Commander): June 1943 – July 1943 - S/L (Squadron Leader): 07 Sept. 1943 No. 156 Squadron; 07 July 1944 – 15 Oct. 1944 - DSO (Distinguished Service Order) Notification: 06 July 1943 as per London Gazette, page 36084 - DSO Award: 09 July 1943 as per ORB (Operations Record Book).
P/O. Stanley Herbert Fitzhenry. Durnbach War Cemetery Grave 8.C.4. Son of Herbert Arthur and Helen Beatrice Fitzhenry, of 83 Tooronga Road, East Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia. This was his 30th operational tour.
Sq/Ldr. Nathan Crawford. DFC. Durnbach War Cemetery Grave 8.C.3. Son of Thomas Remsen Crawford and Winnifred Crawford; husband of Elizabeth S. Crawford, of Chatham, New Brunswick, Canada.
Fl/Lt. Eric Cecil Duke. DFM. Durnbach War Cemetery Grave 8.C.5. No further information as yet.
F/O. Gerald Edward Geeves. DFC. Durnbach War Cemetery Grave 8.C.2. Further information - Son of Thomas R. Geeves and Jean Geeves (nee Hamilton), of Montreal, Province of Quebec, Canada. This operation was to have been his last having already completed 2 tours. Enlisted in Montreal, 14 October 1940. - To RAF overseas, 12 December 1941 - To Middle East Command, 24 August 1942 - Taken on strength of No.108 Squadron, 19 September 1942. - To No.148 Squadron, 26 November 1942 - To No.40 Squadron, 7 December 1942. - To No.104 Squadron, 1 January 1943 - To No. 405 Squadron, 11 June 1944.
Sgt. Sidney Rhodes. Further information - Born 14th March 1912, the 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.
Left: Copy of the letter Sgt Sidney Rhodes wrote to the wife of Fl/Lt. Duke.
Researched for: David Franklin whose father-in-law lived near the crash site as a child. Dedicated to relatives of the crew. With thanks for additional information to Dorothy Mather from Ottawa, Canada for information on Sgt. Rhodes and others, (Dorothy's Uncle was F/O. Geeves) Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vol. 1 and 2', Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol. 6', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Oliver Clutton-Brock 'Footprints On The Sands Of Time', Les Allison and Harry Hayward - 'They Shall Grow Not Old' and the Commonwealth Graves Commission. Australian National Archives.
Thanks also to Volker Mall, John Kuhn for further information on Hptm. Weigel
The many great crew photographs ad newspaper cutting supplied by Dorothy Mather, niece of F/O. Geeves. Dorothy has researched this loss and that of the crew and is seeking any further information from others, please contact us via the 'add info' or the 'help' button at the top of the page.
Grave photographs courtesy David Franklin. David has kindly provided us with permission to release these photographs, (as well as many others at Durnbach) in a higher resolution to any relative of the crew. Please contact us via the 'add info' button or the 'help' button on the top of the page.