20/21.07.1944 No. 101 Squadron Lancaster I LL862 SR-K P/O. D.L.W. Meier
Date: 20/21st July 1944 (Thursday/Friday)
Unit: No. 101 Squadron
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Ludford Magna
Location: South of Cambrai, France
Pilot: P/O. Daniel Lewis Walter Meier J/86655 RCAF PoW No: 6956 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Ian Henry Milne Reid 1293545 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Nav: P/O. Dominic Ianuziello J/9105 RCAF Age 32. Killed
Air/Bmr: Sgt. Lowell Kennedy Gwilliam R/181002 RCAF Evaded
W/Op/Air/Gnr: P/O. Jack Elwin McIntosh Nixon J/91096 RCAF Age 21. Killed
Specialist Operator: P/O. Keith Gosling 176529 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
Air/Gnr: P/O. Ernest Elroy Boyle J/91059 RCAF Age 26. Killed
Air/Gnr: P/O. Glenn Thomas Douglas J/94225 RCAF Age 19. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
101 Squadron's Lancaster LL862 SR–K took off for Homberg on the 20th July 1944 at 22:50 hours. The aircraft was not heard from again. The loss of P/O. Meier and his crew, flying this Lancaster, is an incident which is shrouded in controversy and uncertainty.
P/O. 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 United Kingdom National Archives.
Of this crew, Sgt. Gwilliam evaded, and he completed an Evasion Report on his return (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 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 (2), in the form of the recollections of another 101 Squadron pilot, Fl/Lt. F.G. James. The book reveals 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 (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, F/O. Jack Arthur Harvey J/85522 RCAF - killed with all 7 other crew.
Courtrai operation: Lancaster I W4967 SR-P Flown by 31 year old F/O. Sydney Emmington Smith J/85722 RCAF - killed with 6 other crew, 1 taken PoW - although he was seriously wounded and spent his captivity in hospital (W/O G.A. Noble RCAF). Memorial was erected to this crew amongst others by the local people.
It had taken Meier from 1944 to 1952 to contact his wife via a letter from the Russian Zone in Berlin.
Initially sent to Stalag Luft III, he was moved to Luckenwalde. 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 F/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 P/O. 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 (4) took evidence from Gwilliam. It came to no clear conclusion, indicating that Fl/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.
Lowell Kennedy Gwilliam died in 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. He was of Welsh extraction, the son of John Gwilliam and Edith Blanche Gwilliam (née Kennedy).
Daniel Lewis Walter Meier died in Germany on the 28th January 1977. The speculation of Fl/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 (P/O Keith Gosling, special equipment officer) and his fellow crew members might well have fallen victim to their pilot’s flawed moral conscience." (5)
This seems to be the only supportable conclusion on the basis of the records and written accounts.
P/O. Daniel Lewis Walter Meier of 409 Boyd ave, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Sgt. Lowell Kennedy Gwilliam - born on the 20th January 1922, the son of John and Edith Blanche (née Kennedy) Gwilliam. Returned to England on the 16th September 1944.
Sgt. Ian Henry Milne Reid. Cambrai Communal Cemetery. (Route De Solesmes) Plot 1. Row A. Grave 3. No further details - are you able to contribute?
P/O. Dominic Ianuziello. Adegem Canadian War Cemetery. Grave XI. G. 3. Son of Michael and Carmena Ianuziello and husband of Edith Marie Ianuziello, of 50 Kains Street, St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada.
P/O. Jack Elwin McIntosh Nixon. Cambrai Communal Cemetery. (Route De Solesmes) Plot 1. Row A. Grave 1. Understood to be from 10 Queens Street, Brampton, Ontario, Canada. No further details - are you able to contribute?
P/O. 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.
P/O. Ernest Elroy Boyle. Adegem Canadian War Cemetery. Grave XI. G. 4. Son of Ernest Howard Boyle and Ina Minerva Boyle, of Kimberley, Ontario, Canada.
P/O. Glenn Thomas Douglas. Adegem Canadian War Cemetery. Grave XI. G. 1. Son of William and Jessie Douglas, of 131 Dreaney Avenue, London, Ontario, Canada. (Also a Boy Scout Leader prior to service).
Researched by the aviation author Lyndon Pugh for Aircrew Remembered - July 2017 and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Sources:
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 P/O D. L. Meier. Can/P.420524/44/P.4/CAS/C.4B/610. 5. Cunningham, op cit.