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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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408 Squadron Crest
21/22.02.1945 408 (Goose) Squadron, RCAF Halifax VII NP711 EQ:O Flt Lt. Donald M. Sanderson

Operation: Worms, Germany

Date: 21st/22nd February 1945 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit: 408 (Goose) Squadron, RCAF

Type: Halifax VII

Serial: NP711

Code: EQ:O

Base: RAF Linton-On-Ouse

Location: Forest hillside at Weilerkopf 3 km west of Leistadt

Pilot : Flt Lt. Donald McWilliam Sanderson J29724 RCAF Age 22. Killed

Flt Eng: Sgt. James Wilson 1822188 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Nav: Fg Off. Reginald Bertram Smith J38711 RCAF Age 33. Killed

Air Bmr: Fg Off. William James Gilmore J37870 RCAF Age 33. Killed

WOp/Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. William Wallace Wagner R203097 RCAF Age 22. Killed

Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. Nels Peter Helin Anderson C95210 RCAF Age 21. Killed

Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. Donald Edison Sherman R205805 RCAF Age 20. Killed

REASON FOR LOSS:

Took off from Linton-On-Ouse at 17:14 hrs to attack the main railway station in Worms. A total of 334 heavy bombers were used including 288 Halifaxes, 3 Lancasters and 25 Mosquitoes.

Above: area of loss with insert of Flt Lt. Donald McWilliam Sanderson

The raid caused massive destruction to the town with 39% of the towns built up area totally destroyed. 1,116 tons of high explosive was dropped killing 239 people on the ground and 35,000 people were bombed out of their homes (Population: 58,000).

Above left photograph: Part of the crew of Halifax VII NP711. More than likely taken during training at 24 Operational Training Unit (OTU) as only six crew are shown. Based upon their service record photographs and heights their identities are believed to be: Standing left to right: Flt Lt. Sanderson, Flt Sgt. Anderson, Flt Sgt. Wagner, Sgt. Smith. Front left to right: Flt Sgt. Sherman, Fg Off. Gilmore. (courtesy of Kingsville Historical Park)

Above right photograph: Same group with a Hurricane - probably used for fighter affiliation. Note the chequered control van on left. Based upon their service record photographs and heights their identities are believed to be: Left to right: Flt Sgt. Sherman, Sgt. Smith, Fg Off. Gilmore, Flt Lt. Sanderson, Flt Sgt. Anderson, Flt Sgt. Wagner.

Above photo with names as placed - sadly Richard passed away in 2015 age 96 - missed his brother until the day he died.


Above: The Rheinpfalz (Die Rheinpfalz) dated 17th October 2017 - awaiting translation. courtesy Anthony who sent this into us in October 2017)

A total of 11 aircraft were lost together with 33 aircrew deaths and a further 16 being made PoW.

Most were shot down by German night fighters and such was the ferocity of the air battles on this and other raids taking place this night.

It has not been possible to determine a German claim for NP711 because of the number, a total of 42 aircraft lost this night.


Pierre Lorang has provide Aircrew Remembered with a link to a report concerning the discovery of the crash site of Halifax VII NP711


Rob Wagner has contacted Aircrew Remembered regarding a documentary film project "Searching for Halifax NP711". The film focuses on the last days of the ill-fated crew and the excavation of the aircraft. The project is currently in pre-production with filming scheduled in June through August in England and Germany.

The details of the project can be found on the documentary film website.


Burial details:

Flt Lt. Donald McWilliam Sanderson. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 18. G.2-5. Born on the 7th February 1921 in Toronto, Ontario. Son of Albert Watson and Mary Clare (née McWilliam) Sanderson of Haileybury, Ontario.

13 Operations - with 72 operational flying hours logged.

Sgt. James Wilson. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 18. G. Son of Thomas Wilson, and of Janet K. Wilson, of Douglas, Lanarkshire, England.

11 Operations - with 60.15 operational flying hours logged.

Fg Off. Reginald Bertram Smith. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 18. G.2-5. Born on the 18th August 1911. Son of Thomas B. Smith and Catherine Monica Smith, of Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada.

11 Operations - with 60.15 operational flying hours logged.

Fg Off. William James Gilmore. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 18. G.2-5. Son of William James Gilmore and Faith Clark Gilmore, husband of Helen Neal Gilmore.

11 Operations - with 60.15 operational flying hours logged.

Plt Off. William Wallace Wagner. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 18. G.2-5. Born on the 17th July 1922 in Salinas, California, USA. Son of Robert H. Wagner and Beryl Wagner, of Napanee, Ontario, Canada.

Posthumously promoted to Plt Off. with a Service No of J95503

His older brother, Richard, was two years older. The family lived in North Hollywood while their father, Bob, worked for Warner Bros. The entire family - Billy's uncles and cousins - were in the motion picture business. Richard joined the US Army in 1942, but Billy was living in Napanee by the end of the 1930’s when his parents moved back to their original home. He joined the Royal Bank of Canada, and, as you know, joined the RCAF on November 30th, 1942, against his parents wishes. 10 Operations - with 53.10 operational flying hours logged.

The only personal titbit about Billy in the RCAF told to Rob Wagner, (cousin of Plt Off. William Wagner) by his brother many years ago. Billy flew a total of 11 missions, but each mission was exceedingly difficult for him to fly. He admitted to his brother, while they were on leave in New York City in 1944, that he faked illness to get out of one mission. Apparently this was not uncommon among bomber crews. The last thing he told his brother before he parted was that he believed he was never coming back. It was the last time Richard saw his brother.

Billy was declared missing in action. His parents never knew of his fate, although they firmly believed he was alive, until he was officially declared killed in action in December 1945.

Plt Off. Nels Peter Helin Anderson. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 18. G.2-5. Born at Tyndall on the 20th March 1923. The youngest son of Hans Peter and Hulda Carolina Anderson, of Woodside, Manitoba, Canada.

Joined the RCAF in 1943 - Commissioned on the 20th February 1945. 11 Operations - with 60.15 operational flying hours logged.

Anderson Lake was named after Plt Off. Nels Peter Helin Anderson on 16th December 1994.




Plt Off. Donald Edison Sherman. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 18. G.2-5. Born on the 27th September 1924 in Essex, Ontario. Son of Gordon and Ina May (née Malott) Sherman of Kingsville, Essex South, Ontario, Canada.

Posthumously promoted to Plt Off. with a Service No of J95492

Researched byKelvin Youngs (Webmaster). With thanks to Rob Wagner, (cousin of Plt Off. William Wagner) the Kingsville Historical Park of Canada for the use of some of these pictures. Crash location identified (Oct 2017). Thanks to Pierre Lorang for the link to crash site report (Dec 2020). Other updates by Aircrew Remembered (Dec 2020). Thanks to Rob Wagner for the information regarding the film project (Mar 2022). Other updates by Aircrew Remembered (Mar 2022).

Other sources as quoted below.

RS 20.03.2022 - Addition of link to documentary film website and update to crew picture IDs.

Pages of Outstanding Interest
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CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
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RAAF Bomb Aimer Evades with Maquis •  SOE Heroine Nancy Wake •  Fane: Motor Racing PRU Legend
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, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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