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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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97 Crest
11.07.1942 No. 97 Squadron Lancaster I R5696 Fl/Lt. C.W. Miller DFC loss

Operation: Danzig (Gdansk)

Date: 11th July 1942 (Saturday)

Unit: No. 97 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: R5696

Coded: OF-H

Base: RAF Woodhall Spa

Location: Forest area north of Danzig, Germany. (now Gdansk, Poland)

Pilot: Fl/Lt. Charles William Miller DFC. 36270 RAF Age 24. Killed

Co/pilot: Sgt. John Forsyth 1007363 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Obs: Sgt. Alan Thomas Grossmith 1280705 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: P/O. Joseph Norman Eslick 106076 RAFVR Age 30. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: P/O. Robert John Westgate J/15812 RCAF Age 20. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Norman Lindsay Smith AUS/401251 RAAF Age 27. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Alden Ernest Nickerson R/64786 RCAF Age 20. Killed

Relatives are keen to correspond with all relatives from this crew. Please contact us in the first instance.


Took off at 16.42 hrs from RAF Woodhall Spa joining 43 others in an experimental daytime operation. It was hoped that if the bomber stream flew at low level over the North Sea then, splitting us to stay independently in the clouds which were forecast over Denmark then over the Baltic onto Danzig.

Crew of Lancaster R5696 - Top row L-R: Robert John Westgate, Pilot Charles Miller DFC, Joseph Eslick, John Forsyth. Bottom row: Alden (Nicky) Nickerson, Alan Grossmith and Norman Smith. (courtesy Lynn Berry)

It was planned that they would hit the target - U-Boat yards, just before dusk, returning using the cover of darkness. The operational idea went well, Luftwaffe fighters never intercepted, 24 aircraft bombed Danzig - others were unable to locate the target and bombed the city instead.

Fl/Lt. Charles William Miller DFC was a New Zealander serving in the Royal Air Force. His award was published in the London Gazette on 27th July 1943.

Another aircraft, Lancaster I L7543 EM-Z from 207 Squadron was also lost on this raid. Flown by 26 year old Fl/Sgt. George H. Duke 1163246 RAFVR from Sherwood, Nottinghamshire who, along with his 6 other crew members were killed.

Both aircraft fell victims to the massive flak defences around Danzig and both, it seems crashed in the same area. We have various reports where this actually was.

Sgt. Norman Lindsay Smith with his friend Jacky at Woodall Spa (see credits)

The MRES (1) report states ‘Kinglershobe - Danzig area’. Which we understand to be misspelt as Zinglershohe - we have been unable to find the Polish name for this area. Two possible sites are shown on the map.

Marlbork Commonwealth War Cemetery (Poland) crew graves - together with that from 207 squadron crew.

Burial Details:

Fl/Lt. Charles William Miller DFC. Marlbork Commonwealth War Cemetery (Poland) Coll. grave 3. B. 12-14. Son of Charles Fraser Miller and Elizabeth Johnson Miller (formerly McIntosh), of Blenheim, Marlborough, New Zealand.

Above: family grave of the Forsyth family (courtesy David Forsyth)

Sgt. John Forsyth. Marlbork. Commonwealth War Cemetery (Poland) Coll. grave 3. B. 12-14. Son of John (died January 20th 1946 - age 50) and Margaret Macpherson Forsyth (died January 2nd 1953, age 63), of Hope House Farm, Gosforth, Newcastle-on-Tyne, England. Brother of Jean Dickinson Forsyth who died on June 22nd 1990, age 65.

Sgt. Alan Thomas Grossmith. Marlbork Commonwealth War Cemetery (Poland) Coll. grave 3. B. 12-14. Son of Thomas John and Maud Evelyn Grossmith, of Stoke Newington, London, England.

P/O. Joseph Norman Eslick. Marlbork. Commonwealth War Cemetery (Poland) Coll. grave 3. B. 12-14. Further information: Born in 1911 in Capetown, South Africa, the son of Arthur Eslick and his wife Olivia Martin. It was a widely travelled family as his grandfather had been a Cornish mine agent. Joseph's father had been born in Brazil and the family is seen re-entering the UK from both South Africa and Mauritius. Like his father, Joseph worked as a blacksmith in the mines. He married Kathleen Clarice Lisk in Plymouth in 1934 with whom he had two daughters.

Left. Mrs Lynn Berry and her mother at RAF Woodhall Spa in 2005. Above the stained glass windows commemorating 97 Squadron (courtesy Lynn Berry)

P/O. Robert John Westgate. Marlbork Commonwealth War Cemetery (Poland) Coll. grave 3. B. 12-14. Further information: Son of Robert John Westgate and Marion Turriff Ward of East Angus, Quebec, Canada. His sister, the mother of Lynn Berry, is Marion Jean Westgate Berry. He was one of 6 children and the second youngest son and their third child. His older brother trained the Canadian boys to fly in Quebec and his younger brother, Kenneth joined the Canadian army. His other brother was not able to join up because he did not pass the vision test. He stayed back in East Angus and helped her grandfather, Westgate run the farm during the war. He was always envious that all of his brothers went overseas but he couldn't. Born on Monday,10th October 1921.

Sgt. Norman Lindsay Smith. Marlbork Commonwealth War Cemetery (Poland) Coll. grave 3. B. 12-14. Son of Alexander and Ethel Smith; husband of Edith Winnifred Smith, of Alphington, Victoria, Australia.

Fl/Sgt. Alden Ernest Nickerson. Marlbork. Commonwealth War Cemetery (Poland) Coll. grave 3. B. 12-14. Son of George Wesley Nickerson and Kathleen Marion Nickerson, of Anagance, King's Co., New Brunswick, Canada.

Researched for Leanne Saunders, Lynn Berry. Further information from David Forsyth. Additional photographs by Mike Harrison, Leanne Saunders, Lynn Berry and Margaret Tappenden. Also to Kim Baldacchino and her research into the family of P/O. Joseph Norman Eslick. Other sources as quoted below.

KTY 28.06.2016 Additional information placed.

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: 28 June 2016, 22:59

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