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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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199 Squadron Crest
27/28.08.1943 No. 199 Squadron Stirling III EE913 EX-F P/O. Odgers

Operation: Nuremburg

Date: 27/28th August 1943 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit: No. 199 Squadron

Type: Stirling III

Serial: EE913

Code: EX-F

Base: RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk

Location: Futtersee, 13 km. NNE of Scheinfeld

Pilot: P/O. Thomas Rex Odgers AUS/401659 RAAF Age 19. Killed.

Flt/Eng: Fl/Sgt. Cyril Elvett Gregory 576245 RAF Age 20. Killed.

Nav: Fl/Sgt. Roland Ernest James Rees 1386919 RAFVR Age 35. Killed.

Air/Bmr: Sgt. Lancelot Walter Davies 1332402 RAFVR Age 21. Killed.

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Benjamin Joseph Barton 1382842 RAFVR Age 23. Killed.

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Thomas William Albert Wilkes 1322035 RAFVR Age 19. Killed.

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Barton Thomas Eric Parker NZ/412420 RNZAF Age 30. Killed.

REASON FOR LOSS :

Took off from RAF Lakenheath on an operation to Nuremburg. 674 aircraft – 349 Lancasters, 221 Halifaxes and 104 Stirlings. 11 of each type were lost on the raid : 4.9% of the force. The marking of this raid was based mainly on H2S. 47 of the Pathfinders H2S aircraft were ordered to check their equipment by dropping a 1000 lb bomb on Heilbronn while flying to Nuremburg. 28 Pathfinder aircraft were able to carry out this order. Heilbronn reports that several bombs did drop in the north of the town soon after midnight. The local officials assumed that the bombs were aimed at the industrial zone ; several bombs did fall around the factory area and other bombs fell further away. No industrial buildings were hit, one house was destroyed but there were no casualties.

Nuremburg was found to be free from cloud but it was very dark. The initial Pathfinder markers were accurate but a creepback quickly developed which could not be stopped because so many Pathfinder aircraft had difficulties with their H2S sets. The Master Bomber (whose name is not recorded) could do little to persuade the Main Force to move their bombing forward, only a quarter of the crews could hear his broadcasts. Bomber Command estimated that most of the bombing fell in open country SSW of the city but the local reports say that bombs were scattered across the SE and eastern suburbs. The only location mentioned by name is the Zoo, which was hit by several bombs. 65 people were killed. 

The Odgers Crew

Although there were seven members of the crew on the night they lost their lives, the Odgers crew initially operated as a five man crew with 199 in March 1943 when the Squadron were with 1 Group flying Wellingtons and based at Ingham. The first mention of Sgt. Odgers was on 26/27 March 1943 when he was occupying the second pilot role in the crew of Sgt. Shorttle on an operation of five hours duration to Duisburg. The majority of pilots, before flying with their crew operationally, flew as a second pilot with an experienced crew to gain some operational experience and an idea of operational conditions, particularly over Germany. Such a role was known to crews as a “second dickey”. 

Right: Fl/Sgt. Roland Ernest James Rees (courtesy Muriel George, née Rees)

The target was identified by the release point flares which were reported to be directly above the aircraft at the time of the bombing and the bombs were dropped from a height of 13000 feet on a course of 190 degrees magnetic. As conditions were described as 10/10 cloud, 7000 feet tops and clear above, no results of the bombing were observed. Although the fuselage was holed by what was believed to be flak, the aircraft safely returned to Ingham. As a sad footnote, F/O. Joseph Malpas Shorttle D.F.M. was to lose his life on Bomber Support duties with 214 Squadron on 24/25 February 1945.

Unlike the four engine heavy bombers, Wellington bombers usually had a complement of five and the crew consisted of Sgt. Odgers, Rees, Davies, Barton and Parker. The first time the five men were operational with 199 was on the evening of 27 March 1943 when flying Wellington BJ991 EX-H on a sea mining operation. The mines were dropped from 700 feet on a course of 234 true in very hazy conditions and some sea mist. Both parachutes, which were attached to the mines, were seen to open during the descent to the sea below.

As with the operation to Duisburg, Sgt. Odgers was again second pilot with the Shorttle crew on 29/30 March 1943 for an operation to Bochum. After taking off from Ingham at 19.49 hours, the bombs were dropped at 21.55 hours on a course of 190 degrees magnetic and at a height of 13000 feet. Although some ground haze was reported, visibility was good and the target was identified by red and green tracking flares and target release flares. Several fires were taking hold and a large explosion was seen when 90 miles from the target. The trip was considered to have been successful.

On 2 April 1943, the crew left Ingham at 06.55 hours in Wellington Z1602 EX-B and flew to St. Eval in Cornwall. The purpose of this was to take part in a sea search. Although flying for more than six hours on the Air Sea Rescue (ASR) patrol at heights of no more than 500 feet, the search was completed without sighting the dinghy.

The newly promoted Fl/Sgt. Odgers (shown left) and his crew returned to sea mining duties on 11/12 April in Wellington X3819 EX-F. After identifying the target by Le Perray off the Brittany coast, at 00.42 hours and when flying at a height of 1000 feet on a course of 190 degrees magnetic in conditions of excellent visibility, the mines were dropped and both parachutes were seen to open prior to the mines entering the sea. The trip was considered by the crew to be successful.

Left: P/O. Thomas Rex Odgers (courtesy N/A. Australia)

On the night of 14/15 April 1943 flying Wellington III Z1602 EX-B, the crew operated for the first time over a major German city, in this instance Stuttgart, as part of a force of 462 aircraft. The Battle of the Ruhr had commenced the previous month but this operation was to prove to be a deep penetration in the South of the country with the operation lasting almost eight hours. Very clear visibility was reported over the target which was identified by green Target Indicators. The bombs were released from a height of 14.000 feet on a course of 190 degrees magnetic and although the results of the bombing were not observed, a number of very concentrated fires were noted near the river and railway and the trip was considered to be very successful.

After the crew were stood down on the following night, operations were “On” again on the night of 16/17 April 1943 with the target being Mannheim. The crew took off from Ingham in Wellington X HZ262 EX-K as part of a force of 271 aircraft. On this night, Bomber Command also sent a force of 327 Lancaster and Halifax bombers to bomb the Skoda armaments factory in Pilsen which showed the ever increasing effort and expansion of Bomber Command activities. Conditions over Mannheim were considered to be rather cloudy with ground haze but at 01.10 hours at a height of 13000 feet and on a course of 020 degrees magnetic, the target was identified by green Target Indicators and the bombs were released. Fires were reported on both sides of the river and, as with the Stuttgart raid, the crew considered the trip to be very successful.

     

Above: Fl/Sgt. Roland Ernest James Rees - rear row, fifth from left, taken during navigator training, signatures shown below. (courtesy Muriel George, née Rees)

     

On the night of 20/21 April 1943, the crew returned to sea mining duties off the Brittany coast. Although sea mining gave some respite from the stresses of operating to Germany, these operations were also very dangerous due to the low height from which the mines were laid leaving the bomber exposed to any flak ships in the vicinity. Their aircraft was Wellington HZ262 EX-K and at a height of 1000 feet and on a course of 138 degrees magnetic, the mines were laid after a run of three minutes to the dropping area.

The crew returned to sea mining duties off the Brittany coast on 27/28 April 1943. The target was identified by a three and one half minute timed run from Pont Aven and the mines were released from a height of 1.260 feet. The starboard mine parachute was seen to open but the port mine was seen to explode in the sea. An electrical problem caused the crew to land the aircraft away from Ingham and they landed at New Zealand Farm.

The bombing campaign of the Ruhr continued into May and on the night of 12 May 1943, the crew flew Wellington HE787 EX-Z to Duisburg a part of a force of 572 aircraft. This was the fourth raid on Duisburg since the battle of the Ruhr had commenced and was the most successful. Although there was considerable smoke over the target, weather conditions were reported to have been clear. The target was identified by a timed run from yellow Target Indicators and by red and green Target Indicators over the target itself. No results were observed from the bombs released by the aircraft but the crew reported one vast fire concentrated in the area of the markers. Although the raid was considered to be a success, the Squadron were to suffer a sad loss that night when Wellington HE702 EX-Y flown by Sgt. Leonard Waldorf and crew failed to return. This Wellington was one of a total of 10 Wellingtons lost during this raid giving a loss rate for this type of nearly 9%.

     

On 23/24 May 1943, the Odgers crew were detailed to be part of a force of 826 aircraft operating to Dortmund. Other than the 1000 bomber raids in 1942, this was the largest number of aircraft despatched by Bomber Command to date. The crew were flying in Wellington  HE462 EX-F and in conditions with good visibility and some haze, the crew released the bombs at a height of 14.000 feet on a course of 210 degrees magnetic at a point where red and green Target Indicators were visible. Many fires were reported to be well established and another sortie was considered to be successful. It was later reported that Dortmund was not attacked for another year due to the success of this raid. However, the success from this raid was negated for the Squadron by the loss of Sgt. Horace William Austin and his crew.

The night of 25 May 1943 brought another visit to the Ruhr region with Dusseldorf being the target. After taking off from Ingham just after midnight, the bombs were dropped at 02.00 hours over a target with good visibility. At a height of 15.000 feet and on a course of 030 degrees magnetic, the target was identified by one red target Indicator and five green target Indicators, The centre of the green target indicators were bombed although results from the crew’s bombing were not ultimately observed. The raid was subsequently deemed to be a failure due to a reported difficulty of marking by the Pathfinders and the use of decoy fires and fire sites by the Germans. To reflect the increased losses by Bomber Command, the Squadron suffered another loss with F/O. Dennis Makin and crew failing to return.

     

Crew grave markers (courtesy Muriel George, née Rees)

Although not on for operations to Essen on 27 May, the crew were detailed for operations to Wuppertal on 29/30 May 1943. Conditions over the target were described as a lot of ground haze but no cloud but Wellington HE462 EX-F bombed at 01.07 hours with a red Target Indicator in the bomb sight. Very concentrated fires were reported in the centre of the target area with a lot of smoke rising to 6.000-7.000 feet. 

From early June 1943, the Squadron were in the process of leaving 1 Group, Ingham and their Wellington X aircraft behind for 3 Group, Lakenheath in Suffolk and Short Stirling Mk. 111 four engine bombers. On 5 June the Odgers crew were posted to 1651 O.C.U at Waterbeach and during the next month, undertook a series of training flights. As the Short Stirling in 1943 generally had a crew of seven, the crew were augmented by the addition of two new members, namely the Mid Upper Gunner (Sgt. Wilkes) and the Flight Engineer (Sgt. Gregory).

On the evening of 1 August, the newly expanded crew took off from Lakenheath in Stirling EE947 EX-D to carry out a sea mining operation in the Gironde River area (codenamed “Deodars”). Although there was evidence of thin sea haze, the mines were dropped from a height of 4.200 feet on a course of 340 degrees magnetic after a timed run from Lake Hourtin. 

     

On 10/11 August 1943, the crew were detailed for operations to Nuremburg in Stirling EE946 EX-P as one of a total of 653 aircraft. To confirm the crew were now considered to be one of the most experienced crew on the Squadron, a “second dickey” Sgt. Alan Allson was also on board to gain operational experience. Weather conditions were reported to be 10/10's cloud up to 10.000 feet but the bomb load was dropped at 13.000 feet on a course of 120 degrees magnetic when green Target Indicators were seen cascading down on the estimated time of arrival over the target. The very intense glow of fires through the cloud were noted. A sad footnote to this raid resulted on 10 February 1944 when Fl/Lt. Alan Allson and three of his crew were killed shortly after take off when Stirling EF153 EX-D crashed at Shakers Road, Lakenheath.

The crew were again detailed for operations to Nuremburg on 27 August 1943 in Stirling EE913 EX-F. Since the crew were last detailed for operations, the Squadron had lost two aircraft and crews piloted by P/O. Ronald Widdecombe R.A.F.V.R. and P/O. Russel Fisher RAAF on an operation to Berlin on 23/24 August. These losses reflected the mounting toll suffered by Bomber Command and, at the time, Stirling bombers. Sadly, the Squadron were to lose another two aircraft during the Nuremburg operation as the Odgers crew and the crew of Sgt. Victor Drayton were to lose their lives on this night. 

Left: Oblt. Albert Walter of 1./NJG6 (Kracker archives)

The exact circumstances of the loss of the Odgers crew are now clear. The aircraft was intercepted by Oblt. Albert Walter (1) of 1./NJG6, this being his first confirmed kill of the war. Combat took place over Geiselwind, 25 km. north east of Kitzingen at 02.15hrs.

EE913 EX-F crashed at Futtersee, 13 km. N.N.E. of Scheinfeld and about 40 km. N.W. of Nuremburg killing all seven crew. It was reported by the Buergermeister of Fuettersee that the aircraft was seen approaching from the east on fire at 03.00 hrs. and that the Stirling crashed just outside the village and burnt for 7 hours. The Luftwaffe from Illesheim transported the wreckage away. 

(1) Oblt Walters went on to claim a total of 10 night kills before he was killed on the 24/25th February 1944 near Egenhausen/Calw in air combat - almost certainly due to combat from a 420 Squadron Halifax LW427, which was also his last kill.

     

Above: Durnbach War Cemetery

Burial details : 

The crew were initially buried locally at the Parish Cemetery, Fuettersee in individual coffins and after the war, re-interred by the CWGC at Durnbach War Cemetery.

P/O. Thomas Rex Odgers. Durnbach War Cemetery Grave 9.B.12. Son of John and Elsie Sherwin Odgers of Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia, husband of Marjorie Joyce Odgers of Castlemaine.

Fl/Sgt. Roland Ernest James Rees. Durnbach War Cemetery Grave 9.B.13. Son of James and Clara Jane Rees, husband of Ivy Muriel Rees of West Bromwich, Staffordshire, England.

Sgt. Lancelot Walter Davies. Durnbach War Cemetery Grave 9.B.14. Son of James Lancelot Richard and Olive May Davies of Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, England.

Sgt. Benjamin Joseph Barton. Durnbach War Cemetery Grave 9.B.15. Husband of Beryl Barton of Colchester, Essex, England.

Fl/Sgt. Cyril Elvett Gregory. Durnbach War Cemetery Grave 9.B.16. Son of William Alfred and Christina Gladys Gregory of Pontygwaith, Glamorgan, Wales.

Sgt. Thomas William Albert Wilkes. Durnbach War Cemetery Grave 9.B.17. Son of Albert Edward and Violet Ann Wilkes of Aldershot, Hampshire, England.

Fl/Sgt. Barton Thomas Eric Parker. Durnbach War Cemetery Grave 9.B.18. Son of Joseph Henry Parker and Inez Lily Parker (nee Ginger) of Lower Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand.

Researched by Douglas Wood / Aircrew remembered for Muriel George (nee Rees) and dedicated to relatives/friends of the crew. Sources: The 199 Squadron ORB, The Bomber Command War Diaries by Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt Bomber, Command Losses of the Second World War Vol's 4 and 6 by W.R. Chorley. The  CWGC.

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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