20/21.07.1944 101 Squadron Lancaster I LL862 SR:K Plt Off. Daniel L.W. Meier
Date: 20th/21st July 1944 (Thursday/Friday)
Unit: 101 Squadron
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Ludford Magna
Location: South of Cambrai, France
Pilot: Plt Off. Daniel Lewis Walter Meier J86655 RCAF Age? PoW No: 6956 *
Flt Eng: Sgt. Ian Henry Milne Reid 1293545 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Nav: Sgt. Dominic Ianuziello R169748 RCAF Age 32. Killed
Bomb Aimer: Sgt. Lowell Kennedy Gwilliam R181002 RCAF Age 22. Evaded
WOp/Air Gnr: WO2. Jack Elwin McIntosh Nixon R115325 RCAF Age 21. Killed
Specialist Operator: Plt Off. Keith Gosling 176529 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
Air Gnr: Sgt. Ernest Elroy Boyle R212731 RCAF Age 26. Killed
Air Gnr: Sgt. Glenn Thomas Douglas R220695 RCAF Age 19. Killed
* Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria)
Above: Plt Off. Meier and Sgt. Ianuziello from their service records
Above: Sgt. Gwilliam, WO2. Nixon, and Sgt. Douglas from their service records
REASON FOR LOSS:
LL862 SR:K took off for Homberg on the 20th July 1944 at 22:50 hrs. The aircraft was not heard from again. The loss of Plt Off. Meier and his crew is an incident which continues to be shrouded in controversy and uncertainty.
Plt Off. Daniel Meier and bomb aimer Sgt. Gwilliam, the only survivors, left very little information behind them, and no little ambiguity. The strange story which has built up around these characters since the war ended, aided by some extraordinary speculation, was fully revealed in documentation held by the Canadian and UK National Archives.
Sgt. Gwilliam evaded and completed an Evasion Report on his return (Ref 1). The bare detail adds little in the way of explanation. According to Gwilliam's initial version, about half an hour after leaving the target area the navigator, Sgt. Ianuziello, advised the pilot that the Lancaster was off course. The pilot did not respond, and the aircraft suddenly went into a dive to port. Assuming that a crash was inevitable, Gwilliam baled out. The rest of the crew were still in the aircraft when he left. Gwilliam's obviously had no knowledge of what happened subsequently, and initially there appeared to be no clear indication of the pilot’s state of mind. Nor was there any reference to further discussion between the crew. The bomb aimer, according to his report, left the aircraft of his own volition. While allowing for the possibility that the dive was caused by a malfunction, there was at that point no evidence that Meier ordered the crew to bale out before leaving the aircraft himself.
Another version of events is related by Pat Cunningham (Ref 2), in the form of the recollections of Flt Lt. F.G. James, another 101 Squadron pilot. His recollections reveal the claim that Meier had attempted to persuade his crew that it was immoral to bomb Germany. To some extent Cunningham's account of what happened inside the aircraft is consistent with Gwilliam’s report: the bomb aimer left the aircraft, Meier then exited, and the aircraft was not badly damaged at the time. Gwilliam had made no mention of an attack of any kind, and simply indicated that the pilot put the aircraft into a long, shallow dive then baled out. In this, James confirms Gwilliam’s account.
Bill Chorley’s view is that LL862 SR:K had been hit by flak (Ref 3). This could have led to the loss of control. As the remainder of the crew died, there is no further evidence of the cause of the loss.
At first an odd, but significant, inconsistency was the statement by Cunningham that Meier was German. This contradicted a statement in the official record, which indicated he was Polish. Further research confirmed that he was, in fact, of German extraction and Cunningham's account is absolutely correct in asserting this.
The Lost Gunner - Author Lyndon Pugh. (No longer in print or available from the author)
In 1952, having been presumed killed in action, and after his widow had been granted a war pension, Meier resurfaced in Germany. During a prolonged debriefing by the Allied Authorities in West Berlin, the story began to emerge. Meier confirmed that his Lancaster had bombed Homburg and was homeward bound. He stated that the crew had previously discussed the morality of bombing civilians in Germany, and had unanimously agreed that they would not do it again. This could not be confirmed, as only Meier and Gwilliam survived. They appeared to have 'agreed' a plan that they would all leave the aircraft, but with the exception of Sgt. Gwilliam the others changed their minds, meaning that only the pilot and Gwilliam left the aircraft. Meier's statement reads:
“I decided I could not go through with it again. I’m of German descent and thought it was wrong for me to bomb people of my own race. I therefore decided I would not return to England. I tried to talk my crew into landing in Switzerland where we would all be interned, the crew would not do it. I then decided to bail out on my own. Gwilliam decided to come with me, but not for the same reason as I. He came because he thought the plane would not get back to England safely if I, the pilot, bailed out. . . . I want to make it perfectly clear that Gwilliam had no traitorous reason for bailing out. Anyway, I put the plane in the engineer’s care and Gwilliam and I baled out”. (PIN 93/3 RC1247794 National Archives of the United Kingdom)
The likelihood is that Gwilliam had at first acceded to the plan, assuming that there was one. A document in file O/M/2/41529 confirms that Meier had suffered a crisis of conscience concerning his involvement in bombing German civilians, but there is no confirmation of any connivance by the rest of the crew. By contrast, the assessment of the senior official who interrogated Meier in Berlin during 1952 was dismissive of his apparent high moral principles:
“He expressed much sorrow, but only for himself. I can’t recall him showing any interest whatever in the six of his crew who died, or their dependents. . . . He left me with the impression that something, somewhere, was missing from his story; I have an idea he could have, had he wanted to, given me more detailed information about the plane’s crash”. (Report of Investigation Re: J.86655 (formerly R.162327) MEIER, Daniel L. W.)
Note from webmaster: The Squadron lost another crew on this operation this night on a further operation to Courtrai:
Lancaster I LL779 SR:V Flown by 20 year old, Fg Off. Jack Arthur Harvey J85522 RCAF - killed with all 7 other crew.
Courtrai operation: Lancaster I W4967 SR:P Flown by 31 year old Fg Off. Sydney Emmington Smith J85722 RCAF - killed with 6 other crew, 1 taken PoW - although he was seriously wounded and spent his captivity in hospital (WO2 G. A. Noble (RCAF) memorial was erected to this crew amongst others.
It had taken Meier from 1944 to 1952 to contact his wife via a letter from the Russian Zone in Berlin.
Plt Off. Meier's wife was 463217 Leading Aircraftwoman (LACW) Meier. She was based at an RAF base somewhere in Scotland at a Service Flight Training School (SFTS). Meier introduced her to his crew as "Nelly".
Initially sent to Stalag Luft 3, he was moved to Luckenwalde then freed by the advancing Russian Army. Meier first tried to reach Austria but did not succeed. After the war ended he determined to stay in Germany and ‘break all communications with my former life.’ Until 1948 he worked on a farm near Dana in East Germany. He then spent time working in uranium mines near Annaberg. He had assumed the name of Schmidt but as he was unable to provide a valid birth certificate he could not renew his permit, and moved on. His next appearance was in West Berlin where he remained until 1950. At one point he was arrested as a suspected spy by the East German police. When Mrs. Meier received the letter from her husband, she went to Berlin, and against the advice of the Allied administration crossed into the Soviet Zone, where she met her husband. The truth was then revealed.
During his subsequent debriefing Meier insisted he was not a Communist and neither liked nor supported the regime.
When Mrs. Meier was questioned in some depth by the authorities, she confirmed that her husband had stated that the entire crew had decided to desert before they took off on the raid. They changed their minds after the bombing run. This information could only have come from Meier himself, and it has to be repeated that there is no evidence to support this version of events. However, it might be assumed that Meier was not an impartial witness. Pat Cunningham’s account, and Flt Lt. James's conclusion that loyal and committed airmen may have died because of the pilot’s moral dilemma, has some force.
Uncertainty also surrounds the circumstances of the loss of LL862 SR:K. Some accounts, albeit liable to the vagaries of partial recall many years after the war, suggest that the aircraft was attacked by a fighter shortly after crossing the French coast, which would have been approximately 120-130 km from the crash location. This can be discounted, because none of it fits with the known timings of the aircraft’s progress, and there was no Luftwaffe claim for LL862 SR:K. Another error is also clear. In some sources, the name of the bomb aimer has been misread as L.K.G. Williams. It was actually L.K. Gwilliam. This error has been repeated in print and online, and may have led to the surmise that an evasion report which might have confirmed Plt Off. Meier’s actions has been suppressed. The fact is that Sgt. Gwilliam’s evasion report is on record under his correct name.
An enquiry into the incident after the war (Ref 4) took evidence from Gwilliam. It came to no clear conclusion, indicating that Sgt. Gwilliam could remember nothing of the other members of his crew and was hazy and confused about the crash. The inability to remember the detail of the crash, nor recall anything of the crew, is unusual for most ex-Bomber Command men. Equally, there may be another reason for the amnesia, and this crew will remain at the heart of an unusual and contentious incident in the history of 101 Squadron.
As for Gwilliam himself, his progress as an evader was smooth. After landing in a wheatfield, he hid his parachute and began walking South. Sustained by the emergency food supplies in his escape kit, which he supplemented with apples ‘found’ on route, he eventually fell in with a ‘friendly’ Belgian who took him to a house in Estinne (Hainault). Ernest Dartevelle lived on the Rue de Riviere. Gwilliam remained there until Allied troops arrived at the beginning of September 1944.
Sgt. Lowell Kennedy Gwilliam - Born on the 20th January 1922 in Coronation, Alberta, the son of John and Edith Blanche (née Kennedy) Gwilliam (He was of Welsh extraction). Returned to England on the 16th September 1944. Lowell Kennedy Gwilliam died on the 16th October 1965, apparently in a boating accident in Malaspina Strait in Canada. Aged 63 at the time, he was a garage proprietor, and left a widow, Sheila Ellen (née McNeil) Gwilliam.
Plt Off. Daniel Lewis Walter Meier of 409 Boyd ave, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Daniel Lewis Walter Meier died in Germany on the 28th January 1977.
The speculation of Flt Lt. James of 101 Squadron, that the pilot could have attempted to persuade his comrades of the dubious morality of bombing Germany must be the most likely conclusion. James’s final comment remains "And so we learnt that Keith (Plt Off. Keith Gosling, special equipment officer) and his fellow crew members might well have fallen victim to their pilot’s flawed moral conscience." (Ref 5)
This seems to be the only supportable conclusion on the basis of the records and written accounts.
A Lawrence Richier undertook an analysis of a number of official documents concerned with the investigation surrounded the loss of then aircraft and six of the crew and posted the results in French.
Essentially, the analysis covered the same elements as already addressed in this archive report. However, in his deposition Sgt. Gwilliam recalled that this mission was their third operational mission. The first was whilst the crew (minus Mid-Upper Gunner and Flight Engineer) was at 30 OTU aboard a Wellington bomber and involved a leaflet drop north of Paris. Their second, with the addition of the Mid-Upper Gunner and Flight Engineer, was aboard a Lancaster on a bombing mission over Paris.
Note: Ianuziello, Nixon and Boyle were posted to 30 OTU on the 1st February and Douglas on the 15th February 1944 and the four were posted to 101 Sqn on the 24th June 1944.
For Ianuziello, Nixon, Boyle, Douglas and the remainder of the crew the subject mission was their first on the Squadron. They do not feature in the Squadron ORB between the 24th June 1944 and this mission.
It is possible that the second mission to Paris may have been during their period on the Lancaster Conversion course.
Another document that Richer analysed was a report that recorded an interview with Daniel L.W. Meier conducted in the West Zone of Berlin, he was living in the East Zone at that time. It is believed that the interview was conducted on the or about the 21st March 1952. The interviewer was not named but was it was speculated that the individual may have been a member of the military possibly from the RCAF. Mrs Meier was also present.
The interview revealed that Meier’s story was full of contradictions. For example, Meier had previously stated that he had decided to desert after the bombing of the target. However, Mrs. Meier told the interviewer upon their return to London that when she was with him in the East Zone, which was unauthorized, he had told her that the entire crew had decided to desert before take-off from England but that most of them had changed their minds after the bombing. However, Gwilliam made no mention of Meier’s claim in his deposition.
Meier during his interview appeared ill, malnourished, and shabbily dressed. He had a surly demeanor and appeared to be contemptuous of the interviewer. He expressed a lot of grief, but only for himself. He did not show any regret for causing the deaths of the six members of his crew nor for their loved ones. Although, generally speaking, he answered the questions asked of him, however, on some points he was, if not evasive, at least cautious.
For example, nothing in what he said gave any indication why his aircraft crashed almost immediately after Gwilliam and he had bailed out. He couldn't or wouldn't shed any light on this point and to this day the reason remains a mystery. More so considering that Flight Engineers were given basic single and twin-engine pilot training as an element of their Engineer training.
After Mrs Meier had returned to London she initiated divorce proceedings.
Sgt. Ian Henry Milne Reid. Cambrai Communal Cemetery. (Route De Solesmes) Plot 1. Row A. Grave 3. Born in 1923. Son of Alexander and Lilian (née Sayers) Reid from Epsom, Surrey. Husband to Margaret (née Caines) Reid from St. Michaels Lane Leeds, England.
Plt Off. Dominic Ianuziello. Adegem Canadian War Cemetery. Grave XI. G. 3. The inscription reads: "HIS KIND WORKS WILL LONG BE REMEMBERED". Born on the 1st August 1912 in Pisticci, Italy. Son of Michael and Carmina (née Borraccio) Ianuziello. Husband of Mrs Edith Marie (née Hoag) Ianuziello. of St. Thomas, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Sgt. Ianuziello was posthumously commissioned and promoted to Plt Off. (J9105) with effect from 19th July 1944
Plt Off. Jack Elwin McIntosh Nixon. Cambrai Communal Cemetery. (Route de Solesmes) Plot 1. Row A. Grave 1. Born on the 31st January 1921 in Brampton, Ontario. Son of Albert Harrison and Ellen (née McIntosh) Nixon from Brampton, Ontario, Canada.
WO2. Nixon was posthumously commissioned and promoted to Plt Off. (J91096) with effect from 19th July 1944
Plt Off. Keith Gosling. Cambrai Communal Cemetery. (Route de Solesmes) Plot 1. Row A. Grave 2. Son of Flora C. Gosling, of 30 Ferndald Street, Frizinghall, Bradford, Yorkshire, England.
Plt Off. Ernest Elroy Boyle. Adegem Canadian War Cemetery. Grave XI. G. 4. The inscription reads: "HE GAVE HIS ALL THAT WE MIGHT LIVE. EVER LOVED EVER REMEMBERED". Born on the 5th May 1918 in Markdale, Ontario. Son of Ernest Howard and Ina Minerva (née Magee) Boyle from Kimberley, Ontario, Canada. His father predeceased him.
Sgt. Boyle was posthumously commissioned and promoted to Plt Off. (J91059) with effect from 19th July 1944
Plt Off. Glenn Thomas Douglas. Adegem Canadian War Cemetery. Grave XI. G. 1. The inscription reads: "A SCOUTMASTER. HE ENDEAVOURED TO DIRECT YOUTH INTO A MORE USEFUL LIFE". Born 5th October 1924 in London, Ontario. Son of William John and Jessie Joan (née Kennedy) Douglas from London, Ontario, Canada. (Also a Boy Scout Leader prior to service).
Sgt. Douglas was posthumously commissioned and promoted to Plt Off. (J94225) with effect from 19th July 1944
Researched by the aviation author Lyndon Pugh for Aircrew Remembered - July 2017 and dedicated to the relatives of this crew. NoK updates and addition of crew photographs by Aircrew Remembered (Jul 2021). Thanks to John Jones for the Lawrence Richer document (Jul 2021).
1. National Archives of the UK. I. S. 9/W. E. A./6/323/2067 Evaded Capture in Belgium.
2. Cunningham, P. Bomb the Red Markers. Country Books.
3. Chorley, W. R. Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War Volume 5 Aircraft and Crew Losses 1944. Midland Publishing 1997.
4. Royal Canadian Air Force. CAN.J.86655 Plt Off. D. L. Meier. Can/P.420524/44/P.4/CAS/C.4B/610.
5. Cunningham, op cit.