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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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156 Squadron Crest
24/25.02.1944 No 156 Squadron Lancaster III ND454 GT-L P/O. Stanley W.G. Neighbour

Operation:  Schweinfurt

Date: 24/25th February 1944 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: 156 Squadron

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: ND454

Code: GT-L

Base: RAF Warboys, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire

Location: Schalbach, Germany

Pilot: P/O. Stanley William George Neighbour 170744 RAFVR  Age 22. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Harold Eaton 1274722 RAFVR Age 34. Killed

Nav: Sgt. George William Rugg 1397963 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Leonard Charles Pillinger 1322324 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Samuel Hopkinson 1500726 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air/Gnr: P/O. Roy Edward Whitebeard 160167 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Frank Ronald Morton 1803719 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

REASON FOR LOSS:

Took off at 18:34 hrs from RAF Warboys, which was then in the county of Huntingdonshire. A total of 734 aircraft taking part on this first Bomber Command raid on this city. The USAAF had attacked the ball bearing factories in the city during the daylight hours of the 24th.

Crew photo Left to right: Fl/Sgt. Pillinger, Sgt. Morton, Sgt. Eaton, Sgt. Hopkinson, P/O. Whitebeard and Sgt. Rugg (courtesy Heather Jardine)
A new method was introduce by Bomber Command in that the operation was split into two halves separated by a two hour interval. The purpose was to reduce losses to allied aircrews. The first raid cost a total of 22 aircraft, with the second raid losing half this amount.

Left to right rear: Sgt. George Rugg, Fl/Sgt. Leonard Pillinger, P/O. Roy Edward Whitebeard, Sgt. Samuel Hopkinson
Front: Sgt. Harold Eaton, P/O. Stanley William George Neighbour and Sgt. Frank Ronald Morton (courtesy Michael Wright)

No direct results from this operation, but it is understood that the damage to the factories in the combined operation is described as ‘nominal’ with 362 people killed on the ground.

Bomber Command losing 167 crew killed, 69 taken PoW with 3 evading capture.

156 Squadron lost 3 aircraft on this operation, believed that they were on the first part.

Lancaster III JB479 GT-K flown by 35 year old, W/Cmdr. Eric Frederick Porter 26243 RAF - Killed along with 6 other crew members.
Lancaster III JB721 GT-F flown by Fl/Lt. J.A. Day DFC - PoW along with his flight engineer with the remaining 5 crew killed.

No claims for the loss of ND454 made by the Luftwaffe can be identified.

Sgt. Frank Morton managed to free himself from his turret as ND454 fell to the ground, however his parachute failed to open and his body was found between the villages of Hirschland and Schalbach. He was buried on the 26th of February in a grave set against the wall of Hirschland church. The six other members of this crew perished in the crash and subsequent explosion of the Lancaster and their remains were buried in Schalbach Roman Catholic Cemetery.

Crew photo Left to right: Fl/Sgt. Pillinger, Sgt. Morton, Sgt. Eaton, Sgt. Hopkinson, P/O. Whitebeard and Sgt. Rugg (courtesy Heather Jardine)

A B-17 leaving the target of Schweinfurt on the 24th February 1944

Crew graves (courtesy Isabelle Perrot and Guillaume van der Wende via Pierre Vandervelden - see credits)

Burial details:

P/O. Stanley William George Neighbour. Schalbach R/C. Cemetery. Coll. Grave 4. Further information: Born on the 4th of June 1921in Tottenham, the son of Frederick George and Mabel Alice Neighbour of Hornsey, London. He was part of course No. 60, at No. 11 Service Flying Training School, at Yorkton, in Saskatchewan, Canada, from July to November 1942. Commissioned on the 21st of January 1944.

Sgt. Harold Eaton. Schalbach R/C. Cemetery. Coll. Grave 4. Further information: Born on the 7th of August 1909, his parents were William Thomas and Ellen Eaton of Islington, London. William and Ellen had two daughters and five sons of whom Harold was the youngest. Married to Elsie Kathleen Mathews in July 1939 and their son, William was born in 1940. Harold was an electro-plater before he enlisted in January 1941 serving some time at No.2 Air Gunners School, Dalcross near Inverness before volunteering for aircrew duties.

Sgt. George William Rugg. Schalbach R/C. Cemetery. Coll. Grave 4. Further information: Born on the 14th of March 1923 in Stepney, London, the son of William Alfred and Edith Gladys Margaret Rugg and the brother of Cyril.

Fl/Sgt. Leonard Charles Pillinger. Schalbach R/C. Cemetery. Coll. Grave 4. Further information: Born on the 12th of March 1921 in Bedminster, Bristol, the son of Herbert George and Clara Alice Pillinger of Bristol. Married to Evelyne May Goulter in February 1942. Leonard enlisted in July 1941, training in South Africa and Great Britain from October 1941.

Sgt. Samuel Hopkinson. Schalbach R/C. Cemetery. Coll. Grave 4. Further information: Born on the 11th of December 1922 in Darcy Lever, Bolton Lancashire, the son of the Samuel and Susannah Hopkinson and brother of Alice.

P/O. Roy Edward Whitebeard. Schalbach R/C. Cemetery. Coll. Grave 4. Further information: Roy Whitebeard was born in Broken Hill, Northern Rhodesia (now Kabwe, Zambia) the brother of Daniel William Whitebeard. He trained in Rhodesia and in Great Britain. Before he joined the crew of Stanley Neighbour, he was at 81 Operational Training Unit. At 01:00 hrs on the 30th of November 1942, Whitley bomber EB339 of 81 OTU crashed short of the runway at Whitchurch Heath. The pilot and two other crew members were killed. The unit record book records that Sgt. Whitebeard was the only survivor and that he sustained severe injuries. Commissioned on the 18th of December 1943.

Sgt. Frank Ronald Morton. Hirschland Cemetery. Single grave. Further information: Born on the 15th of July 1922, the son of Henry Douglas and Lilian Charlotte Morton of Custom House, London, the younger brother of Henry Douglas William Morton.

Researched for Heather Jardine, relative of Sgt. Samuel Hopkinson, with thanks also to Michael Wright for the crew identification and further detailed information on crew members.(relative of Fl/Sgt. Pillinger). Dedicated to the relatives of this crew.

With thanks to Pierre Vandervelden of the In Memory website for the crew graves photo, courtesy of Isabelle Perrot and Guillaume van der Wende.

KTY 01.08.2015 Map added

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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