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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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429 Squadron Crest
19/20.02.1944 No 429 Squadron Halifax V LK662 AL-Q F/O. Leslie B. FIncham

Operation: Leipzig

Date: 19/20th February 1944 (Saturday/Sunday)

Unit: No. 429 Squadron (Bison)

Type: Halifax V

Serial: LK662

Code: AL-Q

Base: RAF Leeming, Yorkshire.

Location: Between Andisleben and Dachwig, Germany

Pilot: F/O. Leslie Bernard Fincham J/24432 RCAF Age 22. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. William Hobson Cotterill 1378318 RAFVR Age 35. Killed 

Nav: Fl/Sgt. Oscar Langdon Morrison J/85943 RCAF Age 36. Killed (1)

Air/Bmr: F/O. M. Meech J/23746 RCAF PoW No: 3534 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria

W/Op/Air/Gnr: W/O.2 S. Mingle R/96356 RCAF PoW No: 1751 Camp: Stalag Luft Bankau-Kreulberg / Stalag Kopernikus

Air/Gnr: Sgt. L. Martin R/194826 RCAF PoW No: 2127 Camp: Stalag Luft Bankau-Kreulberg / Stalag Kopernikus

Air/Gnr: Sgt. V. Barton R/181950 RCAF PoW No: 1702 Camp: Stalag Luft Bankau-Kreulberg / Stalag Kopernikus

REASON FOR LOSS:

Taking off from Leeming at 23.17 hrs. on an operation to bomb Leipzig. Taking part with 822 other aircraft (561 Lancasters, 255 Halifaxes. 7 Mosquitoes)

A very sad day for Bomber Command - they had though that the German controllers would send their night-fighter to the diversionary raid on Kiel Bay but when this bomber stream crossed the Dutch coast they were met by a larger force of the night fighters (some that had left for the Kiel diversionary raid returned) They were then under attack all the way to the target. The winds had not been as forecasted and a number of the bombers had to circle the target waiting for the pathfinders during this period they lost 4 aircraft in collisions and a further 20 from the heavy flak.

Sgt. William Hobson Cotterill

The target was cloud covered and the pathfinders had to use the sky-marking technique. No details regarding the effect of the bombing were available.

Sgt. Cotterill's body and parachute were found in a snow covered field by a Polish farm worker working at Dachwig and it is believed that he was too low to bale out and for his parachute to open successfully. The Luftwaffe examined the body, took all personal effects and ordered it to be buried in the local cemetery. On the 9th of April 1944, this body was placed in a coffin and buried in an individual grave (3144). A cross was erected, bearing the inscription in German - “Here lies an unknown Canadian Airman”. 

Nothing was known of the other two members of this crew. A later exhumation of the body on the 4th of December 1947, carried out by Captain J.B.Cheetham of 56 G.C.U., assisted by F/O. R.P.Hunter of Berlin detachment, M.R.E.S revealed that the body was wearing an RAF type battledress with a Sergeants chevron, (brevet not found, probably previously removed), no shirt or markings of any kind. The body has been re buried in the British cemetery Heerstrasse, Berlin in Plot VIII, Row C; Grave 33. The body therefore could be that of P/O. Morrison RCAF. or Sergeant Cotterill RAFVR.

According to German documents captured at the end of the war, state that at the time of the crash, German investigators were of the opinion the body was that of Sergeant Cotterrill, RAFVR. The case remains open.

Also lost on this operation from 429 Squadron:

Halifax V LK974 AL-S Flown by Fl/Lt. John J. Stephen RCAF. Killed with 6 crew, 1 made pow.
Halifax V LK993 AL-J Flown by Fl/Lt. Jack Bowen RAFVR. Killed with all 8 crew.

(1) Fl/Sgt. Oscar Langdon Morrison older Sgt. Bruce Ralph Morrison was killed just one month earlier on the 21/22nd January 1944 flying with 405 Squadron Lancaster III JB188, he is also buried in the same cemetery. 

Burial details:

F/O. Leslie Bernard Fincham. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Grave 7.A.5. Son of Bernard and May Fincham of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Husband of Lillian Fincham

Sgt. William Hobson Cotterill. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Grave 8.C.33. Further information: Son of Arthur Cotterill, brother of Gladys, Renee and Betty. William was born in Barnsley but the family worked in the main as publicans in Bradford and lived in Eccleshill, Bradford, England. Husband of Bridget Agnes Cotterill of Ecclesfield, Bradford, he joined the squadron on the 31st of December 1943. They had three sons, William born in 1939, Michael born in 1941 and Morton born in 1943

Fl/Sgt. Oscar Langdon Morrison. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Grave 7.A.6. Son of Herman J. and Myrtle G. Morrison of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew, with information on loss from Richard Koval, for relatives of this crew. Photo and information credits to the late Michael Cotterill (son) and Liz Cotterill.

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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Last Modified: 11 April 2015, 22:45