405 Squadron Lancaster III ME315 LQ-K Fl/Lt. M.L. Mellstrom DFC
Operation: Leipzig, Germany
Date: 10th April 1945 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
Unit: No.405 Squadron RCAF
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Grandson Lodge, Cambridgeshire
Location: Ingelsdorf, Germany - RAF Woodbridge, Suffolk
Pilot: Sq/Ldr. Campbell Haliburton Mussells C/1639 RCAF Survived
Fl/Eng: P/O. Charles R.G. Ryan 185424 RAFVR Survived
Nav: P/O. Eric Leslie Tempest 188493 RAFVR Survived
Nav/Spec.Op: P/O. Peter Young 188718 RAFVR Survived
Air/Bmr: F/O. John P. Dooley 154601 RAFVR Survived
W/Op/Air/Gnr: WO2. Jack L. Larrimore R/178080 RCAF Survived
Air/Gnr: F/O. Robert T. Dale J/86847 RCAF Injured - Survived
Air/Gnr: Fl/Lt. Melborn Leslie Mellstrom DFC. J/18414 RCAF Age 31. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
June 2016 - New information received from the Navigator of this aircraft - page updated.
During the evening Bomber Command launched two large operations, 95 aircraft to bomb the Marshalling Yards at Leipzig with bombing between 22:47 and 23:05 hrs, a further 305 aircraft bombing the Plauen Marshalling Yards between 23:02 and 23:24 hrs.
ME315 took off from RAF Grandson Lodge in Cambridgeshireat 14:41 hrs.
Crew of ME315 and others L-R: F/O. Young, P/O. Ryan, unknown - but not member of this crew at time of incident, Sq/Ldr. Mussells, Fl/Lt. Maelstrom, F/O. Dale, P/O. Tempest and F/O. Dooley (courtesy Eric Tempest via Peter Young)
“In the target area, immediately following release of T.I.’s, Lancaster aircraft "K" ME315 was attacked by an enemy fighter, Me163. The attacking aircraft approached from the rear and above, and with one burst completely shot away the rear turret, rudder and elevator.
Above and below showing the extensive rear damage to the Lancaster (courtesy Eric Tempestvia Peter Young)
Damage was also caused to the H2S set and mid-upper turret. The rear gunner, Fl/Lt. Mellstrom, was in his turret when the attack commenced and is believed killed. This Officer is missing, no further information available. A number of Mustangs who were acting as fighter escort moved in closer to the disabled aircraft and covered it until it reached the front lines.
The pilot, due to the fact that he had only partial control of the aircraft, ordered all the crew to bale out over RAF Station, Woodbridge. Had not the M/U/G been injured the whole crew would have baled out. The pilot was successful in making a reasonable landing at RAF Station Woodbridge. All members of this crew, with the exception of the rear gunner, are back at this unit."
The pilot managed to land the aircraft at RAF Woodbridge.
Note sent by the then P/O. Peter Young, navigator from the crew:
I was one of the two navigators on Fl/Lt. Mellstrom's crew. After leaving the target there was an explosion and I saw an ME 163 (rocket powered) pass us going very fast. The elevators, fins and rudders were damaged and the control column was tied back with a rope. On arrival over the U.K the pilot ordered the crew apart from the flight engineer and the mid upper gunner to bale out. The aircraft was landed safely by Sq/Ldr. Mussells at Woodbridge in Suffolk, England.
DFC: Medal presented to next-of-kin at Government House, 7 November 1949. No citation other than "Completed numerous operations against the enemy in the course of which (he has) invariably displayed the utmost fortitude, courage and devotion to duty." Public Records Office Air 2/9070 Dated 20 February 1945 when he had flown 44 sorties (233 hours 15 minutes), 20 February 1944 to 13 February 1945. Flying Officer Mellstrom is a very keen and excellent Air Gunner who has attacked some of the most difficult targets in Germany, including Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Essen and Cologne. His skill, devotion to duty and his ability to size up a difficult situation quickly, makes him a very valuable crew member. On the ground, his personality and keenness are an inspiration to less experienced Air Gunners.
Further information (courtesy Hugh Halliday - see below)
Fl/Lt. Mellstrom was buried by British PoW’s as reported on 24 June 1945 by 1098208 Gunner Robert David Williams, 11th (HAC) Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery. He was then at Stalag IVG at Engelsdorf and the Chaplain had asked him to preside at the burial of a British PoW soldier killed by an air raid (a man named Gregory) plus an airman found by the Germans. Gunner Williams asked about the identity of the airman after the service, and this was duly provided some hours later. He passed this information to British officers after liberation. His description of the burial is striking:
"The burial took place in the evening of the 13th of April at the cemetery of a Luthren Evangelical Church (the only one in the place) at Engelsdorf. Engelsdorf is situated about ten kilometres to the east of Leipzig. The bearers and all the burial party were from Lager 29. The men were under the command of Lance Sergeant Frank Cole. They slow-marched from outside the mortuary to the grave. The coffins were draped with the Union Jack. They were lowered into the grave simultaneously by two different parties. After the service the men saluted. The Germans were unable to supply the usual firing party as the Americans were just outside Leipzig and the guns could be heard constantly. We ourselves were evacuated by the Germans at 03:00 hrs the following day."
The Mellstrom Memorial at the renamed "Mellstrom Lake" at Alberta, Canada. Dedicated to him on the 22nd September 2004
Originally buried at the Ingelsdorf Gemeinde Cemetery, but after hostilities ceased was exhumed and reburied at the Berlin War Cemetery.
Fl/Lt. Melborn Leslie Mellstrom D.F.C. Berlin 1939-45 War Cemetery Grave. 5.F.37. Son of Andrew and Inga Glen Mellstrom, husband of Irma Janet Mellstrom, of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
With thanks to Hugh Halliday of the RAF Commands Forum, P/O. Peter Young, one of the navigators on this operation who contacted Aircrew Remembered in June 2016, Airman's Memorial Cairns Committee, Royal Canadian Legion, McGrane Branch No 28, Lac La Biche, Alberta and also to Geographical Names Board of Canada), Uwe Jenrich for grave photograph, Les Allison and Harry Hayward - "They Shall Grow Not Old”.