23/24.11.1943 No. 7 Squadron Lancaster III JB480 MG-N Fl/Sgt. Page
Date: 23/24th November 1943 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
Unit: No. 7 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Oakington, Cambridgeshire
Location: Lost without trace
Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Frank Ronald Page 1332712 RAFVR Age 21. Missing - believed killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Arthur John Stanton 1604584 RAFVR Age 21. Missing - believed killed
Nav: Fl/Lt. James Bannon 107990 RAFVR Age ? Missing - believed killed
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Edwin Henry Blanks 658328 RAFVR Age 32. Missing - believed killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Lt. Leslie James Allum DFM 115341 RAFVR Age 27. Missing - believed killed (1)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. William John Davies 2209522 RAFVR Age 19. Missing - believed killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. William Noel Kinsey 658321 RAF Age 28. Missing - believed killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 17.06 hrs to attack Berlin. A bomber force of some 383 Lancasters planning to bomb the city between 19.56 - 20.35 hrs.
The raid was set up with diversion in an attempt to keep the Luftwaffe controllers guessing what would be the target. This failed somewhat, with the first of 167 twin engine night fighters being sent up as soon as the bomber stream crossed the Dutch coast. Interceptions taking place both on the outward and homeward bound heavy bombers.
Flak was very light during the raids as priority was given to the Luftwaffe.
Bombing was hampered by low cloud cover and the pathfinders carried out sky marking. The main force aimed their bombs through the cloud at the glow of major fires still burning from the previous nights raid.
Enormous damage had been inflicted on Berlin, but reports were recorded together with other attacks, but, it is thought that a further 2,000 houses, 94 wooden barracks and 8 industrial buildings were destroyed, with many more buildings damaged. Around 1,500 people were killed in the city.
The raid cost Bomber command 27 aircraft with 128 crew members killed, 21 being made PoW and a further 14 injured on return as a result of aircraft damage.
Prepared by Marcus Peacock - relative of Flight Engineer, Sgt. Arthur John Stanton
Thursday November 18, 1943 would have been a busy day for Sergeant A.J. “John” Stanton of 7 Squadron at Oakington (5 miles outside Cambridge). As a the crew’s relatively new flight engineer he would have spent the afternoon checking and double checking over 40 parameters on the Lancaster bomber that he and the other six members of his crew planned to fly to Mannheim and back that night. The flight would be piloted by Flight Sergeant N.J. Clifford.
The position of flight engineer had only recently been created by the RAF. The increasing mechanical complexity of multi- engine bombers had resulted in replacing the position of co-pilot with someone who could understand and constantly monitor the many parameters of the engines during flight and quickly respond to a problem. The engineer also watched the use of fuel and was responsible for transferring fuel in order to maintain the proper balance of the aircraft.
Left: A young Sgt. Arthur John Stanton pictured in early 1939 (courtesy Marcus Peacock)
Overall, it was a complex job and required very close coordination with the ground crew. Indeed, many of the first flight engineers were ground engineers who were simply re-assigned as flight crew.
By late afternoon they were ready and took off at 5:32pm loaded with one 4,000 pound high capacity bomb (known as a “cookie”) and four 1,000 pound general purpose bombs. They were one of 21 aircraft to participate in the raid from Oakington. Their Lancaster arrived above Mannheim just before 9pm, the pilot noting that the target area was already on fire. They dropped their load and heard “a huge explosion” not long thereafter.
An idea of what it was like to be a flight engineer over a target was described by flight engineer Brian Soper, who flew his first flight on a Lancaster that same evening, November 18, 1943: “For the first time I experienced the flak, the searchlights, the fires, the bombs bursting on the ground and the Lanc shaking when the flak was close. I saw the brilliant colours of the target markers on the ground and experienced the long, long wait over the target while the bomb-aimer identified the target and gave his instructions to the pilot. I felt the great lift of the Lanc when the bombs were released and then the two minutes flying on straight and level for the camera to check where our bombs had gone. And finally to dive and turn away on a course for home. . . . It seemed like hours before we got away from the target.”
The following Monday, November 22, John and his crew fly another mission although in a different Lancaster (JA 962, marked “MG-Q”, also known as “Queenie”) to a different target – Berlin. John had no way of knowing this, but he was part of the second major raid of what became known as the “Battle of Berlin.” This was a Bomber Command strategy to flatten Berlin over a period of a few months thereby crushing German morale and the Nazi’s nerve center. “It will cost us 400 to 500 aircraft,” Air Marshal Harris predicted, but “it will cost Germany the war.”
Queenie was one of 24 aircraft that took off on that Monday from Oakington, part of a mass attack on Berlin of 764 aircraft. John’s crew dropped its load, but, due to heavy cloud cover, could not observe the result. They landed back in Oakington at 11:18pm. Two of Oakington’s aircraft did not return that night.
The very next night John flies on another raid to Berlin, but with a different crew -- piloted by Flight Sergeant F.R. “Doe” Page. This is unusual. Like John’s regular crew, Page’s crew had flown to Berlin the day before, but with their regular flight engineer, Sergeant G. Roberts. John Stanton’s regular crew does not fly on November 23 but, according to Captain Clifford, John is ordered to take the place of Roberts on Page’s crew. (Was Roberts sick? Injured?) While it conflicts with information the RAF provided Joan afterwards, this flight appears to be in yet another Lancaster: JB 480, marked “MG-N”. (That the aircraft was a Lancaster was verified with Captain Clifford in an email exchange in 2014.) The aircraft is almost new, having been delivered to Oakington less than a month before, on October 10. It is John’s third mission in six days; the die is cast.
They take off at 17:06 hrs, one of 26 planes from Oakington bound for Berlin, loaded with a 4,000 pound “cookie” and 5 medium capacity bombs. Their bomber, and two others from Oakington, do not return. It was cloudy over the target. No one knows what happened to them.
The two nights (November 22 and 23) of mass bombings of Berlin result in 3,000 Berliners killed and almost 300,000 homeless.
When the RAF replaced downed aircraft, they simply painted the same unique identification markings on the new fuselage.
The record of John Stanton's last mission in the Oakington Operations Book.
The Squadron lost 3 aircraft during this operation, the others:
Lancaster III JA971 MG-J2 Flown by F/O. P.K.B. Williams RAFVR - returned safe but due to flak damage to the elevators the crew abandoned the aircraft over the base in England.
Lancaster III JA932 MG-M Flown by 23 year old, Fl/Sgt. Tindle NZ/417128 RNZAF - killed with all other 6 other crew.
(1) Fl/Lt. Leslie James Allum DFM then a Sgt, escaped with injuries from an earlier crash. On the 12th February when their 51 Squadron Whitley T4217 MH-J was abandoned over Wetherby, England. He had already served a full tour with 51 Squadron prior to joining 7 Squadron.
Fl/Sgt. Frank Ronald Page. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 138. Son of Frank and Elizabeth Page and husband of Winifred Page, of West Hampstead, London, England.
Sgt. Arthur John Stanton. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 165. Son of Mrs. C.L. Stanton, of Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England.
Fl/Lt. James Bannon. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 119. No further details - are you able to assist?
Fl/Sgt. Edwin Henry Blanks. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 135. Son of Henry E. and Ethel B. Blanks, of Edmonton, Middlesex, England.
Fl/Lt. Leslie James Allum DFM. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 119. Son of Herbert George and Florence Allum, of Oxford, England.
Sgt. William John Davies. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 147. Son of William John and Kathleen Mary Davies, of Birkenhead, Cheshire, England.
Sgt. William Noel Kinsey. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 137. Son of John and Margaret Kinsey and husband of Doris Eileen Kinsey (née Spencer), of Brixton, London, England.
Researched by Marcus Peacock - relative of Sgt. Arthur John Stanton and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to other sources as shown below.