29/30.12.1943 No. 115 Squadron Lancaster II DS834 KO-F Fl/Sgt. J.Y. Lee
Date: 29/30th December 1943 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: No. 115 Squadron
Type: Lancaster II
Base: RAF Witchford, Cambridgeshire.
Location: Tungelroij, Holland
Pilot: Fl/Sgt. J.Y. Lee 1480142 RAFVR PoW No: 269857 Camp: Stalag Muhlberg-Elbe (4B)
Fl/Eng: Sgt Anthony F. Gunnell 1625022 RAFVR - Evaded capture via Comet Line
Nav: Sgt. H.L. Pike 1396474 RAFVR PoW No: 270070 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria (L3)
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Keith Selwyn Bell AUS/414457 RAAF Age 23. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Laurence Havard Jones 1576162 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Arthur Morley Wilkinson R/182329 RCAF Age 23. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Graham Johnson 1818684 RAFVR Age 19. Killed (1)
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 17:28 hrs. from RAF Witchford near Ely to bomb the heart of Germany, Berlin. Carrying a bomb load of 1 x 4000 lb, 32 x 30 lbs incendiaries, 720 x 4 lb incendiaries. A long approach route from the south, passing south of the Ruhr and within 20 miles of Leipzig, together with Mosquito diversions at Düsseldorf, Leipzig and Magdeburg, caused the German controllers great difficulty, leaving Berlin defended by few fighters. Bad weather on the outward route also hindered German fighters finding the bomber stream.
Berlin was cloud-covered. The Bomber Command report claiming a concentrated attack on sky-markers is not confirmed by the local report. The heaviest bombing was in the south and south-eastern districts, but many bombs also fell to the east of the city. 388 houses and other mixed properties were destroyed. 182 people were killed, more than 600 injured and over 10,000 bombed out.
21 aircraft were lost from the 712 that left for this raid. with 79 aircrew killed, 53 being made PoW with 1 escaping capture. DS834 was shot down by Lt Otto Fries (2) of 5./NJG1 after the Lancaster had dropped its bombs and started the homebound route, with combat taking place near Tungelroij at 2,800 mts.
Right: Lt Otto Fries (2) of 5./NJG1 (courtesy Tom Kracker collection)
The aircraft crashed at 22.16 hrs. The Luftwaffe pilot commented that the Lancaster put up a huge fight lasting over 10 minutes - the pilot Fl/Sgt. Lee was corkscrewing as if in a fighter aircraft, so much so the Lt. Fries noticed the wings flexing during the engagement.
(1) Sgt. Graham Johnson was a former pupil of Moseley Grammar school
(Now secondary/grammar school. We are working very closely with the school's historians to remember all the ex pupils who died whilst serving with the RAF and recorded on the school memorial.
(2) This was the 5th victory for Lt Otto Fries making him an ace. He went on to claim a total of 14 kills and survived the war, despite being shot down 4 times, the second of which was by catapult ejection seat out of the He219 - only the third such ejection in combat in the world. His story is told in the publication 'Under A Bombers Moon'.
Fl/Sgt. Keith Selwyn Bell. Tungelroij Roman Catholic Cemetery Row 1. Grave 4. Born on the 03rd May 1920 at Ipswich, Queensland, the son of Gordon Percy and Minnie Bell, of Cunnamulla, Queensland, Australia. Prior to service worked as a clerk with Shire Council.
Sgt. Laurence Havard Jones. Tungelroij Roman Catholic Cemetery Row 1. Grave 3. Son of Francis Arthur and Elizabeth Jones, of Bournville, Birmingham, England.
Fl/Sgt. Arthur Morley Wilkinson. Tungelroij Roman Catholic Cemetery Row 1. Grave 1. Son of Walter Morley Wilkinson and Zilpah H. Wilkinson, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Sgt. Graham Johnson. Tungelroij Roman Catholic Cemetery Row 1. Grave 2. Son of Esmond and Elsie Mary Johnson, of King's Heath, Birmingham, England.
Researched for relatives of the crew. With thanks to Keith Townsend historian of Moseley Secondary/Grammar school memorial records, other sources as quoted below.