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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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467 Squadron Crest
01/02.01.1944 No. 467 Squadron Lancaster III LM372 PO-K Fl/Lt. Leo B. Patkin

Operation: Berlin, Germany

Date: 01/02nd January 1944 (Saturday/Sunday)

Unit: No. 467 Squadron

Type: Lancaster III

Serial No: LM372

Coded: PO-K

Location: Altmerdingsen, Germany

Pilot: Fl/Lt. Leo Braham Patkin AUS/401146 RAAF Age 30. Killed

Pilot 2nd: Fl/Sgt James Mudie AUS/29886 RAAF Age 21. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Ralph Chambers 1482755 RAFVR Age 37. Missing

Nav: F/O. Raymond Joseph Alfred Maidstone 132722 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Henry Douglas Scott AUS/410611 RAAF Age 30. Killed

Air/Bmr: Sgt. George Andrew Litchfield 1579416 RAFVR Age 21.Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Willam Donald Blackwell AUS/415497 RAAF Age 28. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Arthur Harold Boetcher AUS/414305 RAAF Age 26. Killed

Reason For Loss:

Took off at 23:24 hrs from RAF Waddington on a bombing operation to Berlin LM372 was lost when it crashed near the village of Altmerdingsen, which is in Landkreis Hannover, Neidedsachsen, Germany. (see map)

Thought to be the crew of LM372 with who we know is Sgt. Litchfield front row 1st left, front row 1st right Fl/Lt. Patkin, rear row 2nd right Sgt. Chambers, 2nd from left Sgt. Maidstone. (courtesy Brigadier Andrew Paviour, Bernice Cox via Linda Ibrom - thanks also to Vince Holyoake for identification of others)

Crew of LM372 Sgt. Litchfield front row, first left, Fl/Lt. Patkin front row 1st right, Sgt. Chambers rear row 2nd from left, (courtesy Brigadier Andrew Paviour thanks also to Vince Holyoake for identification of others)

Crew of LM372 Sgt. Chambers 2nd from right, Sgt. Litchfield front row first left, Sgt. Maidstone rear row 2nd left, Sgt. Chambers 2nd right, Fl/Lt. Patkin front row 1st right, from Sgt. Litchfield (courtesy Brigadier Andrew Paviour thanks also to Vince Holyoake for identification of others)

Claimed shot down by Hptm. Heinrich Prinz Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein at 02.20 hrs. on approach to Berlin. He was later killed when his Ju88 was hit by an air gunner in a Lancaster (some reports state that it was a Mosquito flown by Fl/Sgt Desmon B. Snape from 141 Squadron) - his radio operator escaped but it is thought that Wittgebstein hit his head during the bail out - he was found near to the wreckage - parachute unopened. (83 kills to his credit - one of the highest scoring nightfighter aces). See Kracker Archive on this site.

In January 1947, a RAF Investigation Unit commanded by Flying Officer, Lee, of No. 4. MRE acting on information from the Air Ministry carried out a thorough investigation as to why LM372 was lost in January 1944.

Right: Hptm. Heinrich Prinz Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein (courtesy Tom Kracker)

The Investigation Report is recorded below: "Acting on information obtained as a result of Field Activity, I proceeded to the village of Altmerdingsen (Map Ref. L. 53 x 6332) for the purpose of establishing the fate and burial particulars of the eight missing members of Lancaster LM372."

Aircraft - Statements were obtained from Herr Harmann the present Burgermeister of Altmerdingsen, and Herr Warmbold, the local grave digger who was present at the time of the incident. Herr Harmann stated that in early January 1944 (he was not certain of the exact date) a four engined bomber approached the village of Kraetze ( Map Ref. 53 x 6431) from the direction of Berlin and crashed in a field 400 yards west of Atmerdingsen. The aircraft exploded on impact, and so violent was this that roofs and windows of nearby houses were shattered. Herr Warmbold confirmed the above information, and was able to supply the exact date of the incident. He added, that one of the house had been set on fire by an incendiary bomb thrown from the aircraft by the force of the explosion. An investigation carried out by the local forces the following day revealed that the aircraft had lost a wing 2 Km’s east of the village of Kraetze and it was this which had apparently caused it to spin in. The crater caused by the impact was approximately 25 yards in diameter. A detachment of the Luftwaffe from Celle ( Map Ref. L. 53 x 5950) was responsible for the ultimate removal of the wreckage, and disposal of the bodies.

Aircrew - "According to my two informants, seven bodies were recovered from the vicinity of the crash. The force of the explosion had hurled the bodies over a considerable distance and one of them was recovered from a point of 500 yards from the point of impact. The condition when recovered proved that although they had been hurled out of the aircraft only one was partially mutilated. He had lost a leg. The bodies were collected by the Salvage Unit from Celle who placed them in separate coffins, and gave orders for digging of the seven graves in the local cemetery. They were interred two days later, the Luftwaffe carrying out the ceremony. The local Pastor was not present, and it is not known whether Christian Burial or Military Honours were accorded. ‘Rumours’ had been received that before the bodies were recovered, Polish Displaced Personnel had been robbing the bodies of their personal affects. What means of identification remained were removed by the local Police from Uetze ( Map Ref. L.53 x 6832) who were relieved of office at the same time of the occupation. Consequently, no records were available.

F/O."Ted" Maidstone with his future fiancee Marion, just before he was killed. (courtesy of his relatives - see credits, via Linda Ibrom)

I visited the local cemetery at Altmerdingsen and found that the seven men had been interred in separate graves along the out perimeter of the North edge of the cemetery. The graves showed signs of recent attention, and each carries it’s own cross which is inscribed: “Unknown British Airmen. January 1944”. The graves have been registered by the 35 GRU.”

Further investigation failed to produce any information regarding the eighth member of the crew, and it is possible that he baled out before the plane reached the village of Kraetze. In view of the fact that the aircraft still carried its bomb load, it is reasonable to presume that the direction of approach given by Herr Harmann, was the heading of the aircraft after the loss of one of its wings during the decent, would have circled this area before eventually crashing.

Exhumation - This was carried out by Pilot Officer. Seilern and members of 85 GCU on 3rd January,1947. All the bodies were in coffins.

Body 1: Medium build and height. Light brown hair. RAAF Battle dress with Fl/Lt. braid and pilot’s wings. Officer type shirt. Four pairs of pants, three short, one long. One blue roll neck and three Australian “comforts” sweaters. Blue “submarine” type socks. Mae West and parachute harness. The collar band of this bodies shirt was marked “Patkin.” It might be assumed that this coffin contained the remains of AUS/401146 Fl/Lt. L.B. Patkin.
Body 2: Brown hair. No tunic. RAF Battle dress trousers. OR type shirt. Blue issue socks. Remains of outer flying suit and parachute harness. One identity disc stamped 1579416 Litchfield and a ring inscribed G.A.L.(enclosed). Identified this as the body of 1579416 Sgt. G.A. Litchfield.
Body 3: Medium height. Brown hair. No tunic. RAF Battle dress trousers. Officer type shirt and collar (size 15.5); laundry marks in ink M9 W.A.D. and S. 226. Long aircrew underwear. Remains of parachute harness. A ring with the initials RM would appear to identify this as the body of 1327722 F/O. R.J. Maidstone (ring enclosed)
Body 4: Dark brown hair. No tunic. RAF Battle dress trousers. OR tropical type shirt. Long aircrew underwear. R.A.A.F. issue socks. Remains of inner and outer flying suit. Key, religious medal and identity discs in right trouser pocket (enclosed) The discs identify this as the body of AUS/414305 Fl/Sgt. A.H. Boetcher.
Body 5: Dark hair. No tunic. RAAF Battle dress trousers. OR tropical issue shirt, with Sgts. Stripes. Aertex singlet and pants and long aircrew pants. RAAF issue socks. One brown suede type flying boot. Electrically heated flying slippers. Mae West marked No. 238, parachute harness.
Body 6: Dark hair. RAF Battle dress trousers. No tunic. OR type shirt. Three pairs of underpants, one set long aircrew under wear; laundry mark in ink HLL 878. Blue socks. OR tunic belt. Remains of black “escape” type flying boot.
Body 7: Medium height and build. Dark hair. RAAF Battle dress tunic and trousers. Fl/Sgt’s stripes and pilots wings. OR type shirt. Long aircrew underwear. One white aircrew and two blue “comforts” sweaters. Boots and socks missing. Civilian braces. Mae West and aircrew whistle. Presumably the remains of AUS/529886 Fl/Sgt. J. Mudie.
All bodies were removed to the British Military Cemetery at Hanover Limmer. (L. 53 X. 306218)
(Signed) J.B. Lee, F/O.
Investigating Officer.

Burial details:

Fl/Lt. Leo Braham Patkin. Hanover War Cemetery, Germany. Grave 1.G.14. Further Information: Son of Maurice and Marie Estelle Patkin, husband of Claire Patkin, of South Tarra, Victoria, Australia. Born at Melbourne, Victoria on 28.09.1913. Enlisted into the RAAF at Melbourne.

Fl/Sgt. Jame Mudie. Hanover War Cemetery, Germany. Grave 1.G.8. Further Information: Son of Edward and Jane Mudie, of Claremont, Western Australia. Born in Dundee Scotland on 20.05.1922. Enlisted into the RAAF at Perth, Australia.

Sgt. Ralph Chambers. The Air Force Memorial, Runnymede Surrey. Panel 226. Further Information: Son of James Chambers and of Elizabeth Chambers (née Jones), of Barrow in Furness, Lancashire, England.

Sgt. George Andrew Litchfield Hannover war Cemetery, Germany. Grave 1.G.13. Further Information: Son of Frederick and Margaret Litchfield, of Bedford, England.

Sgt. Arthur Harold Boettcher. Hanover War Cemetery, Germany. Grave 1.G.12. Further Information: Son of Albert and Bridget Boettcher, of South Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Born at Gatton, Queensland, Australia, on the 29.08.1917. Civilian occupation is recorded as being a Shop assistant and a Motion picture projectionist. Enlisted into the RAAF, at No.3, Recruiting Centre, Brisbane, on 12.09.1941.

Fl/Sgt. Henry Douglas Scott. Hanover War Cemetery, Germany. Joint grave. 1.G. 9-10. Son of Henry Douglas Scott and Rachel Scott, of Reservoir, Victoria, Australia. Born at Pascoe Vale, Victoria, Australia, on 20.04.1914. Enlisted into the RAAF at Melbourne, Australia. Served in the Australian Army, in the 37/52 Btn, from 01.07.1931 to 06.07.1934.

Fl/Sgt. William Donald Blackwell. Hanover War Cemetery, Germany. Joint grave 1.G. 9-10. Further Information: Son of Donald Stanley Blackwell and Bridget Josephine Blackwell, husband of Gladys Muriel Blackwell, of South Guildford, South Australia. Born at Footscray, Victoria, Australia, on 03.11.1915.

F/O. Raymond Joseph Alfred Maidstone Hannover War Cemetery. 1.G.11. Further Information: Son off William Henry and Olive Maidstone, of Barnwood, Gloucester, England. Born on 28th February 1923 and was killed just before his 21st birthday. He attended the Crypt School in Gloucester before Oxford University, a University in Scotland and then travelled to Canada. In the scouts as a boy and was looking forward to coming home to get engaged to his girlfriend, Marion - just before he was killed. He had three sisters, Mrs. Joy Gaze, Mrs. Patricia Nichols (presently living in Phoenix, Arizona, the late Mrs. Gray Griffin and a brother, Kenneth. He was known as “Ted” to family and friends.

Researched by Bob Wilton for Aircrew Remembered. Also to researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew for her many further contributions. With thanks to Brigadier Andrew Paviour, cousin of the air bomber, Sgt. George Andrew Litchfield also to Helen Peart (née Gaze), niece, Nicholas Gaze, nephew and Mrs Joy Gaze, relatives of the navigator F/O. Raymond Joseph Alfred Maidstone. For further details our thanks to the following, Australian National Archives, also to 467 Squadron historian, Vince Holyoke for identification of some of the crew.
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: 20 June 2016, 18:58

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