27/28.01.1943 No. 97 Squadron Lancaster I W4135 OF-A Sgt. A. Robinson
Date: 27/28th January 1943 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: No. 97 Squadron
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Woodall Spa
Location: Maarheeze, Netherlands
Pilot: Sgt. Andrew Robinson 1042473 RAFVR PoW No: 27505 Camp: Stalag Lamsdorf (344)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Richard Harvey 1150604 RAFVR Pow No: 27491 Camp: Stalag Lamsdorf (344)
Nav: Sgt. Charles Pierre de Ferrand Bigg 1319633 RAFVR Pow No: 27525 Camp: Stalag Lamsdorf (344)
Air/Bmr: Sgt. Albert Eric Croome 1575679 RAFVR Pow No: 27515 Camp: Stalag Lamsdorf (344)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Kenneth James West 1379867 RAFVR Pow No: 27510 Camp: Stalag Lamsdorf (344)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Ralph Muskett 1037820 RAFVR Age 32. Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Robert William Rea R/108696 RCAF Age 20. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
162 aircraft taking part on an operation to Düsseldorf with W4135 taking off at 17:20 hrs from RAF Woodall Spa in Lincolnshire.
Above: Fl/Sgt. Robert William Rea, Sgt. Kenneth James West, Sgt. Ralph Muskett?, Sgt. Andrew Robinson, ? ? Sgt. Albert Eric Croome.
This was the first operation when Mosquitoes carried out ground marking of the targets - thin cloud covered the target and without this marking the raid would have surely failed. The bombing was well concentrated in the south of the city - 10 Industrial premises were destroyed, a further 21 suffered damage, 9 public buildings were classed as destroyed, 7 others suffering various degrees of damage.
456 houses were destroyed or suffered serious damage, 2,400 suffered light damage. The Düsseldorf Opera House was destroyed with 66 people killed on the ground with 225 others injured - of these casualties 23 of the dead and 169 of the injured were members of the Wehrmacht who were in a train when hit by the high explosive bombs.
Night fighter activity although present only managed to claim 2 of the 6 aircraft lost this night - most, including Lancaster W4135 were victims of the fierce anti-aircraft fire.
PoW Information as supplied by David West, son of Sgt. Kenneth West - November 2017:
Only Robinson and West were on the same Long March - out of Zeigenhain; both escaped on 9th April 1945, and liberated by US 3rd Army, 4th Cavalry Division on 11th April 1945.
Dad’s (K.J. West) Liberation Questionnaire (18th April 1945) states that he was at Gorlitz on 25th February 1945 and then at Ziegenhain on 21st March 1945, so he had been marching 505 miles for two months! He was marched away from Ziegenhain on 25th March, just before it was taken by the US Army on 30th March. (Dad writes in the right edge of the form that dates are only approx.)
Robinson’s Liberation Questionnaire stated: “Made 2nd and successful attempt (at escaping) on 9th April 1945, at Rauschwitz, nr Apolda, by breaking column on (Long) March with F/Sgt West, Kenneth, J. Liberated at Rauschwitz on 13th April ‘45 by 4th Cavalry Division of 3rd (US) Army. Physically healthy but thin and weak. West liberated.”
Albert Eric Croome’s trade was “Pharmacy” and he lived in Pelsall, Nr. Walsall, Shropshire. He was captured in an area he called the “nearest” town, Eindhoven, on 28th January 1943. He was also in Dulag Luft in Oberursal, Frankfurt from 2nd to 12th February and was in solitary confinement before interrogation. Arrived at Stalag Luft VIIIB/344 Lamsdorf on 15th February 1943.
Croome was one of the 1,000 men (mostly RAF) who during the major part of 1943 had his hands chained. This was done from 08.00 hrs. to 20.00 hrs. each day.
He left Lamsdorf for the Long March, later than most, on the 28th February 1945, arriving on the 6th March at Stalag XIIID at Nurnberg - and leaving on the 14th April, and then ten days later he was at Stalag VIIA at Moosberg on the 24th April. It is not known if the camp was marched out of here before liberation. Moosberg was a 'holding camp' for British PoW’s, and was the largest of all the German camps. It was liberated on the 29th April 1945 by Combat Command A of the 14th US Armoured Division.
Above as described - before and after the 'Long March' (courtesy David West)
Charles Pierre de Ferrand Bigg was a Land Agent before joining the RAF and lived in Leicester. He was captured in Holland on 27th January 1943 (the day of the crash) but stated in his Liberation Questionnaire that he spent 3 days evading capture in Holland when shot down. Given up when getting food from Dutch farmer who proved to be of German extraction.
He too was taken to Dulag Luft at Oberursal, Frankfurt for 'routine interrogation' from the 3rd to 13th February 1943 and also ended up at Lamsdorf Stalag VIIIB/344 on 13th February (not a correct date!) until 20th January 1945. He left Lamsdorf on the Long March on 20th January 1945 (so he stated) and arrived at Stalag VIIIA at Gorlitz on 2nd February and then arriving at Stalag XIB at Fallingbostel (North West Germany) on 12th March.
He does not give any liberation date nor arrival at any other Stalag. It seems too early to have been liberated soon after 12th March so I would assume that he continued the march from there before being liberated later that month or in early April. There was a Long March from the camp but many had to remain. The camp was liberated on 16th April 1945 by British troops from B Squadron 11th Hussars and the Reconnaissance Troop of the 8th Hussars.
Richard Harvey stated his occupation before enlisting as a driver and lived in Mayhill, Swansea, South Wales. He was age 27 when he enlisted. He was captured, after bailing out near Eindhoven, on the 29th January (two days after the crash) when he approached a house to obtain food but was handed over to the Dutch Police who sent for German Military, was taken away by them to Eindhoven.
Harvey was also taken to Dulag Luft at Oberursal, Frankfurt for verbal Interrogation by German Officers - Normal Interrogation.
Arriving at Stalag Luft VIIIB/344 Lamsdorf on 14th February 1943 he left on the Long March on 22nd January 1945. In his Liberation Questionnaire he states that he was in Gorlitz (8A) on 22/2/45 but the “2” is changed to a “1”, so I assume that he was there on 22nd February, the “1” changing to a “2”, for he couldn’t have been there and at Lamsdorf on the same date! He was then at Bad Sulza (9C) during March and April but mentions no dates. Bad Sulza was evacuated on 29th March 1945 by the Germans who marched everyone eastwards away from the Allies. Four weeks later the US 3rd Army liberated the marchers.
The others lost:
Lancaster I R5637 ZN-D from 106 Squadron hit by flak - Flown by 22 year old, Sgt. Giles Bacchus Marsh NZ/414657 RNZAF from Southland, New Zealand - killed with all 6 other crew.
Lancaster I W4817 UV-K from 460 Squadron hit by flak - Flown by 28 year old, P/O. Raymond Arthur Brittingham AUS/403160 RAAF from NSW, Australia - killed with all 6 other crew.
Halifax II DT705 MH-S from 51 Squadron shot down by night-fighter of I./NJG1 - Flown by 23 year old, Fl/Sgt. Frederick Howard Barrett R/107341 RCAF from Saskatchewan, Canada - killed with 3 other crew, 3 taken PoW.
Halifax II DT721 MH-J from 51 Squadron shot down by night-fighter of 3./NJG1 - Flown by 25 year old, W/O.I. Lawrence O’Neill Weakley R/67735 RCAF from Missouri, USA - killed with 3 other crew, 4 taken PoW.
Halifax II W7918 DY-T from 102 Squadron hit by flak - Flown by Fl/Lt. Bruce Keith Lindsay 106366 RAFVR - killed with 2 other crew, 3 others PoW.
Sgt. Ralph Muskett. Eindhoven General Cemetery (Woensel). Plot JJB. Grave 1. Son of William and Sarah Elizabeth Muskett, of St. Helens, Lancashire, England.
Fl/Sgt. Robert William Rea. Eindhoven General Cemetery (Woensel). Plot JJB. Grave 2. Born on the 4th April 1922 the son of Thomas David and Martha Rea, of Whitby, Ontario, Canada.
Researched for John Yearnshire - John’s father worked for the pilots family at Tughall Farm near Embleton, Northumberland, England - the pilot wrote to him whilst a PoW. Also with many thanks to David West, son of Sgt. Kenneth JamesWest who contacted us in November 2017 with comprehensive PoW information. Page dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to sources as quoted below.