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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 Squadron Halifax VII NP711 EQ:O Flt.Lt. Donald M. Sanderson

Operation: Worms, Germany

Date: 21/22nd 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 2 miles 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


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: Part of the crew of Halifax VII NP711 - probably taken during training at OTU as only six people shown. Plt.Off. Donald Edison Sherman known to be front left, but others remain unidentified - can you assist further? (courtesy of Kingsville Historical Park) A relative of Plt.Off. William Wagner (see acknowledgements) has contacted us and feels that the chap standing on far right is Billy Wagner. Right: Same group with a Hurricane - probably used for fighter affiliation. Note the chequered control van on left.

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

Left: 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 the German claim for NP711 as for this night alone the allies lost a total of 42 aircraft.

Pierre Lorang has provide Aircrew Remembered with a link to a report concerning the discovery of the crash site of Halifax VII NP711 which can be seen here:

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.

(1) 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 by 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). Other sources as quoted below.

RS 07.12.2020 - Addition of crash site link and other updates

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CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
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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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