26/27.07.1942 No. 106 Squadron Lancaster I R5748 ZN-R Sq/Ldr. Francis H. Robertson DFC
Date: 26/27th July 1942
Unit: No. 106 Squadron
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Coningsby
Location: Between Rottevalle and Opeinde, Netherlands (see map)
Pilot: Sq/Ldr. Francis Harold Robertson DFC. 42264 RAFVR Age 27. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Joseph John Cooper 778188 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Nav: Sgt. James Charles Henry AUS/403108 RAAF Age 26. PoW No: 25099 Camp: Stalag Lamsdorf (344) (1)
Air/Bmr: P/O. William Alfred John Fuller 119188 RAFVR Age 31. Missing
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Maurice John Dembrey 1164033 RAFVR Age 26. Killed
Air/Gnr: P/O. Henry Frederick Charles Humphries J/15334 RCAF PoW No: 573 Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria (L3)
Air/Gnr: W/O. R. Stoker 1378878 RAFVR PoW No: Camp: 25081 Stalag Lamsdorf (344)
REASON FOR LOSS:
On July 26, 1942 at 23:30 hrs. departed from RAF Coningsby air base, to bomb Hamburg. 403 aircraft taking part with crews experiencing cloud and icing en-route but clear weather over the target.
Hamburg reports state that widespread damage was caused - 823 houses being destroyed with more than 5,000 damaged - 14,000 people were bombed out, 337 people killed on the ground with 1,027 injured.
A total of 29 allied aircraft were lost during this operation.
Sq/Ldr. Francis Harold Robertson DFC shown at the front of this 106 Squadron group - laughing, 4th from the right (courtesy Pete Bourow)
Lancaster R5748 was shot down over Friesland by the German night fighter, Lt. Lothar Linke (2), of 5./NJG1 at 02.05 hrs. The aircraft crashed in a black peat bob between Rottevalle and Opeinde, Netherlands. This was the 9th abschüsse for the Luftwaffe ace.
Left: Sgt. Joseph John Cooper with right the memorial to the crew - dedicated to P/O. William Alfred John Fuller who has no known grave. This memorial utilises part of a propeller from R5748 mounted on a wooden block, with a stainless steel cloud shown behind.
This photo does not do the memorial justice - it really is a beautiful design and anyone who lives near the location of ‘De Finne School’ in Rottevalle, where it is mounted on an exterior wall and able to take a higher reolution photograph we would really appreciate it - Please request permission first. (see credits)
(1) Sgt. James Charles Henry had completed 4 operational sorties amounting to 25 hours, 25 minutes.(2) Lt. Lothar Linke went on to have a total of 27 kills before he lost his life on the 13/14th May 1943 in a crash west north west of Lemmer due to an engine failure. Lothar Linke was flying over the south of Friesland when one of the engines of his Messerschmitt caught fire. He and his radio/radar operator Walter Czybulka had to abandon the aircraft.
Right: Lt. Lothar Linke of 5./NJG1 (Kracker Archive)
Next morning his body was found not far from the wreck of his aircraft. It is believed that he was hit by the tail unit just after he had bailed out. Walter Czybulka landed safely by parachute. He was wounded and taken to a hospital in Leeuwarden. Lothar Linke, a 33 year old veteran who had participated in the ‘Battle of Britain’, was buried at the Noorder Begraafplaats in Leeuwarden. After the war his remains were re-buried at Ysselsteyn in the south of Holland.
Crew graves (courtesy Anneke Moerenhout)
Sq/Ldr. Francis Harold Robertson DFC. Smallingerland Protestant Cemetery. Grave I. Son of Percy and Alice Robertson, of Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia. Sq/Ldr, Robertson had completed 9 operational sorties with a total of 51 hours, 35 minutes.
Sgt. Joseph John Cooper. Smallingerland Protestant Cemetery. Grave 3. Son of Alfred John and Ann Frances Cooper, of Claremont, Cape Town, South Africa.
P/O. William Alfred John Fuller. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 69. Son of William Alfred John and Amelia Fuller, husband of Mary Fuller, of Westminster, London, England.
Sgt. Maurice John Dembrey. Smallingerland Protestant Cemetery. Grave 2. Son of Frank Maurice and Lily Dembrey, of Taunton, Somerset, England.
Medals awarded to Sgt. Joseph John Cooper (courtesy Michel Beckers)
Researched by Michel Beckers for Aircrew Remembered, November 2014. With thanks to Anneke Moerenhout for grave photos and memorial. Photo of Sgt. Joseph John Cooper with thanks to Jason Adams. Pete Bourow for group photo showing Sq/Ldr. Francis Harold Robertson DFC.