Date: 2/3rd February 1945 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: No. 419 RCAF Squadron (Moose)
Type: Lancaster X
Base: RAF Middleton-St.George, County Durham
Location: 1km. S of Wolf, Germany
Pilot: F/O Bernhard William Martin J/88129 RCAF Age 23. Killed
Flt/Eng: Sgt. John McAfee 1037806 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Nav: F/O Richard William Hodgson J/38227 RCAF Age 31. Killed
Air/Bmr: F/O John Alexander Francis McDonald J/37891 RCAF Age 29. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: P/O Peter Frederick English J/93863 RCAF Age 27. Killed
Air/Gnr: P/O Robert Albert Nisbet J/95453 RCAF Age 22. Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. W.J. McTaggart R/213975 RCAF Age Unknown. Hometown Swift Current, Saskatchewan. Survived the crash and was hospitalised as a PoW for the remainder of the war.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 20:41 hours, F/O Martin’s Lancaster was part of a force of 450 bombers, sixty of which were from Canadian squadrons, detailed to attack the town of Weisbaden. The town, though not of significant industrial importance, was a centre for the rehabilitation of and an assembly point for German troops from which they were transported by rail to the various theatres of war.
A changing forecast of the winds resulted in the force being late over the target by which time the cloud had closed in obliterating the target area from view. Although the Pathfinders dropped their markers their glow was hidden from the following bombers and so most crews used navigational aids to bomb the target. Later, reconnaissance photographs showed that the damage was widespread over an area of about fifteen square miles, mainly by fire, to the railway station, freight sheds, and other municipal and industrial buildings.
From the only survivor of KB750, tail gunner Fl/Sgt. W.J. McTaggart, it is reported that the aircraft was hit by flak soon after dropping its bombs. The pilot, seeing that the aircraft was doomed, gave the order to bale out and it was initially thought that McTaggart was the only member of the crew able to get out of the plane before it crashed heavily into the ground near the village of Wolf on the banks of the Mosel River. Although injured, Fl/Sgt. McTaggart was fortunate to be alive and spent the remainder of the war hospitalised as a PoW.
On the 19 June 1945 the American Government Military Police came across the remaining wreckage of the Lancaster and reported that nearby they had discovered the bodies of two airmen hanging in the trees in a wood near the village of Wolf. From an identity disc one was found to be that of F/O Hodgson and from an electric torch found near the other set of remains identified with the name of F/O McDonald.
It would appear that Hodgson and McDonald had also managed to bale out of the stricken craft but it is unknown how or when they succumbed after crashing into the trees.
In the vicinity of the crash site the police found the well tended grave of the remainder of the crew and buried the bodies of Hodgson and McDonald beside the existing grave .
During the Military Police enquiry they were told that after the crash the local inhabitants were forbidden to approach the wreckage by the Group Leader of the local Nazi Party, Gustav Ketchau. The badly smashed and unidentifiable remains of Martin, McAfee, English and Nisbet were recovered from the debris and upon orders of Ketchau, four French prisoners of war assisted by three German soldiers buried the men in a grave dug near the crash site. Two local women Rosa Claus and Irene Stolz caringley tended to the two graves until they were exhumed and reinterred at the Rheinburg War Cemetery.
The original grave at the crash site near Wolf
F/O. Bernhard William Martin.
Rheinberg War Cemetery, Germany. Collective Grave 8 D 22-24. Son of William Jacob and Susie (nee Pepple) Martin of Golden Prairie, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Born and raised in rural Saskatchewan, Bernhard moved to British Columbia upon leaving school to work at for The Consolidated Mining and Smelting Co., at Trail in order to support his widowed mother and younger brother.
Enlisting in July 1942, Bernhard was assigned to No.3 Manning Depot, Edmonton, Alberta until January 1943 when he was posted to No.7 Initial Training School at Saskatoon. Selected for training as a pilot he was then sent to No.6 Elementary Flying Training School, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan completing the course at the end of May 1943. He was then posted to No.11 Service Flying Training School at Yorkton where he gained his Pilots badge and rank of sergeant on 17 September 1943.
The following month after the customary embarkation leave he set sail from New York for the UK on 8 October 1943.
Upon arriving at No.3 PRC Bournemouth on the 17th of that month he was posted to No.11 Pilots Advanced Flying Unit (P) AFU at RAF Shawbury in Shropshire on the 2nd November for further training on the twin engined Airspeed Oxford as a precursor to piloting heavy bombers.
Completing his course at No.11 (P) AFU on 29 February 1944 Bernhard was posted to No.22 Operational Training Unit at RAF Wellesbourne Mountford, Warwickshire on 15 March until 25 August 1944 where he trained on the Vickers Wellington bomber.
Taken on strength by RCAF 6 Group Base 61, he was attached to No.1664 Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Dishforth Yorkshire where he joined his crew for training on the Avro Lancaster bomber. Their training now complete Bernhard and his crew were posted to No.419 Squadron at Middleton St. George to begin operations on 7 October 1944.
F/O Martin's first taste of enemy action to gain experience was on the night of 9 October 1944 when he flew as a Second Pilot on a raid to Bochum. This was followed up in the same role on 14th of that month on a raid to Duisberg. In total he completed 15 sorties accumulating 60 points and 96.10 operational hours before he was lost.
Operations as Captain:
25/26 October 1944 Essen Lancaster KB712 VR-L
30/31 October 1944 Cologne Lancaster KB752 VR-V
1/2 November 1944 Oberhausen Lancaster KB752 VR-V
2/3 November 1944 Dusseldorf Lancaster KB769 VR-I
27/28 November 1944 Nuess Lancaster KB750 VR-N
30 Nov/ 1 Dec 1944 Duisberg Lancaster KB750 VR-N
27/28 December 1944 Opladen Lancaster KB787 VR-M
29/30 December 1944 Scholven-Buer Lancaster KB746 VR-S
30/31 December 1944 Cologne Lancaster KB752 VR-V
2/3 January 1945 Nuremberg Lancaster KB804 VR-S
5/6 January 1945 Hannover Lancaster KB733 VR-G
6/7 January 1945 Hanau Lancaster KB733 VR-G
28/29 January 1945 Stuttgart Lancaster KB761 VR-H
2/3 February 1945 Weissbaden Lancaster KB750 VR-N Failed to return
Martin Rapids on the Smoothstone River in Saskatchewan was named after F/O Bernhard Martin in 1968
Sgt. John McAfee. Rheinberg War Cemetery, Germany. Collective Grave 8 D 22-24. Son of Vernor and May (nee Crangle) McAfee, of Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. Epitaph reads: “Till Memory Fades And Life Departs He Will Live For Ever In Our Hearts”.
No further details.
F/O. Richard William Hodgson.
Rheinberg War Cemetery, Germany. Grave 8 D 20. Son of R. W. Hodgson and Mary (nee Murray) Hodgson, of Blue Ridge, Alberta, Canada. Epitaph reads: “Thy Will Be Done".
Richard came from a family of four brothers and three sisters. His younger brother Albert was killed while serving with the Royal Canadian Navy aboard HMCS St. Croix which was torpedoed by U305 in September 1943.
After leaving school in 1928 at the age of 16 with a Grade VIII level education, Richard spent the next twelve years doing various jobs mostly as a mechanic or a labourer ending up at MacDonald Aircraft in Winnipeg, Manitoba assembling trainers for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan where he took up an interest in aero engine mechanics.
It was in Wininpeg that he enlisted for ground crew duties on 2 September 1941 acquiring the trade of Aero Engine Mechanic Group 'A'. Always having a desire to fly but hampered by his lack of education in the past, Richard was interviewed for re mustering as air crew in September 1942. Upon his acceptance he was posted to No.2 initial Training School, Regina to upgrade his schooling from March until June 1943 passing the final examination with a mark of 83.7%.
Selected for training as a navigator he was next posted to No.5 Air Observers School at Winnipeg, Manitoba completing his course there in November 1943.
Following six weeks at No.1 "Y" Depot, Halifax, Richard was posted for a months schooling at the Advanced Ground Training Schools at Three Rivers, PQ and Maitland, Ontario prior to embarking for the UK on 5 March 1944.
Arriving at 3PRC, Bournemouth on 15 March, he was posted to No.4 Observers Advanced Flying Unit at West Freugh, Scotland and then to No.22 Operational Training Unit at RAF Wellesbourne Mountford on 1 May 1944.
Upon completion of his training at 22 OTU, Richard was next posted to 61 Base Battle School, Dalton where aircrew were taught basic escape and evasion tactics in the event that they were shot down and fell into enemy hands.
At the end of August 1944, Richard was attached to 1664 Heavy Conversion Unit for training on the Lancaster bomber before joining No.419 Squadron on the 7 October 1944.
F/O Hodgson completed 13 operational sorties over enemy held territory for a total of 84.15 hours.
F/O John Alexander Francis McDonald.
Rheinberg War Cemetery, Germany. Grave 8 D 21. Son of Daniel Allen McDonald and Mary Catherine McDonald, of Grand Forks, British Columbia, Canada. Epitaph reds: "Eternal Rest Grant Unto Him,O Lord And Let Perpetual Light Shine Upon Him. Amen".
F/O McDonald had been working as a smelter at The Consolidated Mining and Smelting Co., at Trail British Columbia about the same time as Bernhard Martin and could quite possibly have known each other prior to enlisting in the RCAF. John was the second eldest child born to Daniel and Mary in a family of two brothers and three sisters.
He enlisted for aircrew duty at Calgary on 12 October 1942 and was posted to No.3 Manning Depot, Edmonton for basic training. In order to upgrade his educational requirements for aircrew service he was next posted to the Recruiting Centre at Edmonton to participate in the War Emergency Training Program academic course commencing on 23 November 1942. Upon successfully passing the examination on 9 February 1943 he was posted to No.4 Initial Training School at Edmonton on 21 March until 16 June 1943.
Selected for training as an air bomber, John was posted to No. 2 Bombing And Gunnery School, Mossbank, Saskatchewan and then to No.5 Air Observers School, Winnipeg to complete his training, graduating with his Air Bomber badge and a commission on 29 October 1943.
Embarked for the UK on 24 November 1943 arriving at 3 PRC on 2 December.
Posted to No.8 Observers Advanced Flying Unit at RAF Mona, Anglesey, Wales on 22 March 1944 and then to No. 22 Operational Training Unit at RAF Wellesbourne Mountford on 2 May . Taken on strength 61 Base Battle School, Dalton on the 26 July until 27 August when he was posted to 1664 Heavy Conversion Unit joining 419 Squadron on 7 October 1944.
F/O McDonald completed 13 operational sorties over enemy held territory for a total of 84.15 hours.
P/O. Peter Frederick English
Rheinberg War Cemetery, Germany. Collective Grave 8 D 22-24. Son of Roy Edward and Winnifred Hilda (nee Keary) English, of Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Epitaph reads: "In Memory Of Our Beloved Son And Brother. R.I.P.".
The youngest of three brothers, Peter enlisted at Windsor, Ontario on March 30, 1942.
Upon completion of high school he enrolled in a matriculation course at Kennedy College, Windsor before spending two years at the Meinzinger School of Commercial Art in Detroit , Michigan where it was remarked in his letter of recommendation that he had "exceptional talent".
After his commercial art course, Peter was employed for two years as a clerk for the Ford Motor Company in Windsor, Ontario.
Selected to be trained as a navigator he was posted to No.1 Bombing and Gunnery School at Jarvis , Ontario on 9 November 1942. Unfortunately he failed the initial training course there and failed to qualify for further training as a navigator, washing out on 10 January 1943.
Sent to the Composite Training School, Trenton, Ontario on 13 January, Peter was reassessed for training as a wireless operator and on 20 March was posted to the No.4 Wireless School, Guelph, Ontario completing the course there on 1 October. To qualify for his Wireless Operator Air Gunner (WAG) badge he needed to complete the bombing and gunnery training course at No.4 Bombing and Gunnery School, Fingal, Ontario from 4 October until 15 November. The graduating remarks on his final report read: "Above average. Keen and intelligent."
Posted to No.1 'Y' Depot, Peter embarked for the UK on 14 December 1943 arriving at 3PRC on 22 December.
Posted to No.9 Observers Advanced Flying Unit, Llandwrog, Wales on 1 February 1944 until 7 March when he was posted to No. 22 Operational Training Unit at RAF Wellesbourne Mountford. On 26 July he was posted to 61 Base until 7 October when he joined 419 Squadron.
P/O English completed 14 operational sorties over enemy held territory for a total of 91.20 hours.
P/O Robert Albert Nisbet
Rheinberg War Cemetery, Germany. Collective Grave 8 D 22-24. Son of Robert and Maggie O'Della (nee Conquergood) Nisbet, of Ardath, Saskatchewan, Canada. Epitaph reads: "To Us Who Loved And Lost You Your Beautiful Memory Will Never Grow Old".
Robert was the eldest of two brothers working the family farm after their father died in 1941. In November of 1942 he applied to join
the RCAF at Saskatoon and was placed on Special Reserve until February 1943.
He completed his basic training at No.3 Manning Depot, Edmonton and after a month at No.8 Bombing and Gunnery School at Lethbridge, Alberta, Robert was sent to No.23 Pre-Aircrew Education Detachment at the University of Toronto on 28 June.
Upon successfully passing his exams in Toronto, he was next posted to No.1 Air Gunners Ground Training School at Quebec City on 21 August and then to Course 64 at No.9 Bombing and Gunnery School, Mount Joli, PQ on 4 October until he graduated with the award of his Air Gunners badge on 12 November 1943.
Posted to No.1 'Y' Depot, Robert embarked at Halifax for the UK on 14 December 1943 arriving at 3PRC on 22 December.
Posted to No.23 Operational Training Unit at Pershore, Worchestershire on 1 February 1944 and then to No.22 OTU at RAF Wellesbourne Mountford on 15 March.
On 26 July he was posted to 61 Base until 7 October when he joined 419
P/O Nisbet completed 10 operational sorties over enemy held
territory for a total of 66.05 hours.
Nisbet Lake Saskatchewan was named after P/O Robert Nisbet in 1956
Researched and compiled by Colin Bamford for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of the crew.
Crew portraits copied and reproduced courtesy Library and Archives Canada.