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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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625 Squadron Crest
16/17.03.1945 625 Squadron Lancaster I NG169 CF-B2 F/O. Ernest Frank Seear


Operation: Nuremberg, Germany

Date: 16/17th March 1945 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit: 625 Squadron (1 Group) - Motto: We Avenge

Squadron Badge: Within a circular chain of seven links, a Lancaster rose; The Lancaster rose stands for the aircraft used, the seven links the number of personnel in one such aircraft

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: NG169

Code: CF-B2

Base: RAF Kelstern, Lincolnshire

Location: South of Bastenau, Germany

Pilot: F/O. Ernest Frank Seear 188180 RAFVR Age 26. Killed (1)

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Eric Gordon Wilson 1806521 RAFVR Age 21. Killed (2)

Nav: Sgt. Gwilym John Arthur Kenvin 612923 RAF Age 24 Killed (3)

Air/Bmr: Sgt. Kenneth John Holmes 1604724 RAFVR Age ? Killed (4)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Faucet Logan 1823610 RAFVR Age 20. Killed (5)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Horace Smither 1893583 RAFVR Age 19. Killed (6)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Edmund Kenneth Day 1899663 RAFVR Age 41. Killed (7)



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INTRODUCTION

The Operations Record Book records that Ernest Seear, Arthur Kenvin, Kenneth Holmes and John Logan joined 625 Squadron at RAF Kelstern from 71 Base at RAF Lindholme with effect from 16 February 1945. Although the ORB makes no mention of Eric Wilson or the two gunners Horace Smither and Edmund Day there is no record of them having been with the squadron prior to that time nor any record of them flying with any other 625 Squadron crew. It would seem likely that their names were inadvertently omitted from the list of airmen posted in as recorded in the ORB.


The first experience of operational flying for at least some of them was on 5 March 1945 when Ernest Seear flew as second dickey with Fl/Lt. Harry Chapman. Also flying with him was Eric Wilson, Kenneth Holmes and Edmund Day; the rest of the crew being Harry Chapman's regular crew. The night raid on Chemnitz went off without mishap and all return safely.

Two nights later Ernest Seear was detailed for operations again, this time as captain and with his complete crew in ME682. The target was Dessau upon which 526 Lancaster and 5 Mosquitoes wrought a devastating night attack. 18 Lancasters were lost one of which was NG324 captained by Harry Chapman and his crew. The Lancaster crashed at Verse Talsperre in Germany, resulting in the death of Harry and three of his crew. It was Harry's 23rd operation.

The following night it was another night raid, this time, Kassel, flying NG232.

On 11 March they were detailed for their first day raid. Lancaster FD204 carried them to Essen and back without mishap.

Another day raid on 12 March was to Dortmund in NG169 was another successful operation for the crew but no time to rest on their laurels as the following night, 13/14 March, they were off again. The night raid on Herne was another successful trip for the crew, this time in NG418.

Having flown three operations on the trot the crew enjoyed a welcome day off on 15 March.

On 16 March they were one of 26 crews detailed for a raid on the very difficult target of Nuremberg. For this operation they were to fly Lancaster NG169 again and armed with a bomb load comprised of 1 x 4000lb 'Cookie', 9 x 150 x 4lb clusters and 2 x 60 x 4lb 105 'X' type. Special equipment on board was H2S 2B and Fishpond (see abbreviations).


REASON FOR LOSS

The 26 were led off by F/O. Harold Crooks at 17.18 whilst Ernest Seear in Lancaster NG169 at the opposite end of the line took off at 17.53. On this fine evening the bombers made took their usual route south to Reading and onwards over the Channel via Beachy Head. The briefed route took them in a south easterly direction until just west of Strasburg where they were to fly east for about a hundred miles before turning north east and after by-passing Stuttgart, ENE to the target.


ROUTE: Reading - 50°10N 02°00E - 48°20N 07°00E - 48°27N 09°00E - 49°13N 09°55E - Target - 49°28N 11°12E - 4910N 11°20 E - 48°50N 10°25E - 48°17N 09°00E - 47°50N 07°20E - 50°00N 02°00E - Reading


The bomber stream comprised 231 Lancasters from Group 1 and 46 Lancasters and 16 Mosquitoes from Group 8,, the latter group being responsible for the target marking which for this raid, the intriguingly named system of 'Controlled Musical Newhaven with emergency H2S skymarking'* was to be employed. Zero hour was set for 2130 BST.

*In layman's terms, Newhaven was the code name for locating and illuminating a target by Blind Markers followed up by Visual Markers positioned throughout the bomber stream dropping Target Indicators to keep the target marked throughout the raid. The target was pin-pointed by a blind-bombing aid using beams from two base stations in England and code named Oboe, hence Musical, whilst a 'controller' of the whole operation, who was in contact with the Pathfinder Markers and Main Force, decided which markers were accurate and instructed the Main Force accordingly.

The following details are taken from the Bomber Command Night Raid Report.

'Enemy fighters were very active and there were 5 attacks and 6 combats en route to the target with 10 attacks and 7 combats over the target between 21.24 and 21.40 hours. Only 1 attack was reported after leaving the target. Moderate predicted heavy flak was experienced at Nurnberg.

24 Lancasters, all of Group 1 were lost, 16 to fighters, 4 to flak, 2 in collision and 2 due to unknown circumstances

283 aircraft bombed the primary target, 4 the alternative and 6 aborted.

Heavy damage was caused to the eastern and south-eastern parts of the town and practically completed the devastation of the built up area. Industries and rail facilities were heavily damaged.'

And from 625 Squadron's Operations Record Book

'16 March 1945

BOMBING ATTACK ON NUREMBURG

26 aircraft from this squadron were detailed to attack this much bombed target during night-time. The weather was fairly good, cloud breaking up to 4-5/10 at the target. The markers were punctual, plentiful and good and the target was well and truly bombed, the glow from the fires being visible 120 miles away on the return journey. H/F [heavy flak] was moderate but fighter opposition from the area around Stuttgart to the target was heavy. Two of our aircraft failed to return from this operation. Detailed 26, Primary 23, Abortive 1, Missing 2.'

The other 625 Squadron Lancaster lost on the raid was RF145 CF-Z captained by F/O. Patrick Morley Rolls RAAF. He and five of his crew were killed and lie in Dürnbach War Cemetery whilst F/Sgt. T. M. Ryan RAAF the air bomber was taken as a prisoner of war.

Nothing was heard from Lancaster NG169 after take off and it was not until 1947 that the fate of the aircraft and crew was established by the Missing Research and Enquiry Service (MRES).

In 1947, a body buried at Schillingsfürst New Cemetery as an unknown, was, on later exhumation, identified as being that of Flying Officer Ernest Frank Seear.

Enquiries at nearby Erzberg revealed that an aircraft had crashed in soft ground and exploded at about 21.15 hours on 16 March 1945. A former policeman from the village of Dombühl some three miles away had attended the scene the following morning to find that all that was visible was part of a wing with other wreckage being strewn around a wide area. The human remains found at the crash site had been buried in the local cemetery.


On exhumation of the remains buried in the local cemetery the identity discs of Sgt H. Smither 1893583, were found and on visiting the crash site an MRES investigating officer found that the remains of the aircraft were in fact still in a crater covered in water. The water was duly pumped out but with no further human remains being found, it was the opinion of the officer that the remains in the cemetery were those of all the missing crew.

The time of the crash at 21.15 hours would indicate that Lancaster NG169 crashed whilst en route to the target whilst the ensuing explosion would also indicate that the bomb load was still on board at the time.

In 1945 between 1 January and 2 April British and German time were the same so the times of take off, zero hour, and the crash are all consistent.




BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW


(1) F/O. Ernest Frank Seear was born in 1918 at Reigate, Surrey the only child of Ernest James Seear and Mary Elizabeth Seear nee Davies later of Lymington, Hampshire, England. His last address as per probate records was Strodeena, Weir Road, Chertsey, Surrey.

946817 Sergeant Ernest Frank Seear was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 24 October 1944 (London Gazette 2January 1945) He was promoted to Acting Flying Officer wef 10 March 1945.


(2) Sgt. Eric Gordon Wilson was born in 1923 at Hampstead, London the only child of Charles Henry Wilson and Dorothy Edith Wilson nee Ricketts. In 1939 Dorothy Wilson and son Eric lived with Ellen Hilda Ricketts at 42 Langdon Park, Highgate, London.


(3) Sgt. Gwilym John Arthur Kenvin (known as Arthur) was born in 1920 at Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan, Wales the son of Gwilym Kenvin (a Locomotive Fitter's Mate) and Mary Kenvin nee Price. He had three siblings: Mary Kenvin (1921-2004), Margaret E. Kenvin born 1926 and David Kenvin born 1924

Arthur Kenvin was a pupil at the Cyfartha Castle Grammar School, Merthyr Tydfil where he played in the school rugby team in 1938.

In 1939 the family lived at 52 Francis Street, Dowlais Merthyr Tydfil

Gwilym John Arthur Kenvin is commemorated on the Pant and Dowlais War Memorial, Merthyr Tydfil and the Cyfartha Castle Grammar School War Memorial, Merthyr Tydfil.


The following photograph and story relating to Arthur Kenvin are from the BBC archive, WW2 People's War. https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/storie...

'WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/'



My Great Uncle's Last Letter by Sarah Ware

My Great Uncle Arthur was a navigator in the RAF during WW2. He was born on 23rd May 1920 and was from Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. He was in the 625 Squadron in the RAF and during a night bombing on 16th March 1945 he was killed. Me and my family visited his grave in Durnbach War Cemetery after finding his last letter which I wanted to put here. I think the letter is beautiful and the fact that he is not at all bitter is amazing.

Wed 7th March, 1945

Dear Mam and Dad, Mary, Marg and Dave,

As you read this your hearts will be heavy and your sorrow will be great. The future and the past are blacked out by this tradegy of war, and the burden of personal loss will feel too heavy to be borne on your shoulders. Now this is when our faith in our creator takes it's stand and issues it's challenges to us. If you accept this challenge and trust in implicity in the goodness of Christ you will recieve in return his wonderful sympathy and understanding and his everready helping hand will be outstretched to lift the load of sorrow from our backs.

If the news is 'Missing', do not give way to anxiety, Mam and Dad, because the opportunities of a safe return are many now, and if I should come back safely then all of your weeks of worry and sadness would be in vain.

If the news is of a more definite nature, though, and all hopes of my return to the family circle are gone, then, Mam and Dad, Mary and Margaret, please accept the facts without bitterness in your hearts. Find great comfort in the knowledge that I found real happiness in our home. All around us, there is unhappiness, but in our four walls enclose a real family love. I set out into the world knowing that I had the love and understanding of you all behind me. I learned the good things of life, how to appreciate the simple beautiful things around me, and I thank you all for the happiness I have enjoyed. I have no regrets, and you can have none too because you have all done so much to make our home life a happy one. I am flying as I have always wanted to do and face the future fearlessly saying "Thy will be done". Have faith in God, please conquer this sorrow and face the future with an ever deeper faith than before. Actions that are strange to you now will appear as the correct portion of a mighty pattern later. God knows his work and let us accept it.

Among my books there is a Golden Treasury. On the back cover there is a poem called "Crossing The Bar". That explains my wishes far better than I can. Please read it slowly and carefully, and take it as my closing lines.

Until we meet again, May God Bless You and Sustain You,

All my love to all I know from your every loving son.

Arthur


(4) Sgt. Kenneth John Holmes. Nothing known; if you have any information please contact our helpdesk


(5) Sgt. John Faucet Logan was born in 1925 at Kirkcaldy, Scotland the son of George Logan and Helen Logan later of Windsor, Ontario, Canada. His parents were possible George Thomas F. Logan and Helen Adamson married at St. Giles, Edinburgh in 1924.

He is commemorated on the Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle.

Alternative spellings of his name in records include Fawcett/Faucett)


(6) Sgt. Horace Smither was born in 1925 at Hackney, London the son of Samuel Smither (a General and Woodstore Proprietor) and Emily Ethel Smither nee Green. He had 6 siblings: Ethel Louisa Smither born 1908, Dorothy V. Smither born 1910, Samuel L. Smither born 1912, Gladys Smither born 1914, Reginald Smither born 1916 and Elsie Smither born 1918.

In 1939 the family lived at 301 Hall Lane, Chingford, London.

In 1944 Horace married Gladys Florence Smither at Chingford and their daughter Linda J. Smither was born later that year.


(7) Sgt. Edmund Kenneth Day was born on 18 April 1903 at Romford, Essex the son of Henry George Day (an Inland Revenue Taxes Clerk) and Florence Kate Day nee Farrow. He had one sibling: Winifred Florence Day and following his mother's death in 1907 his father married Alice Louise Heaps with who he had two children, Edmunds half siblings: Muriel Ellis Day born 1908 and Beryl S. Day born 1916. In 1911 the family lived at 375 Dersingham Avenue, Manor Park, London

In 1930 Edmund Day married Evelyn Maud Woolston at Lambeth. They had five children: Kenneth H. Day (1932-2009) Pamela J. Day born 1936, Jacqueline A. Day born 1939 Brian D. Day born 1942 and John Victor Day (1944-2010)

In 1939 Edmund ad his family lived at 2 Burton Road, Stockwell, Lambeth. Edmund's occupation at that time was a Carver (Hotel) and he was a member of the Auxiliary Fire Service.

At the age of 41 Edmund Kenneth Day was amogst the oldest airmen killed on Bomber Command operations during the Second World War.


BURIAL DETAILS


(1) F/O. Ernest Frank Seear was originally buried Schillingsfürst New Cemetery, Ansbach, in Bavaria and on 12 June 1948 re-interred at Dürnbach War Cemetery - Grave 11.J.11.

His epitaph reads:

"All he had, he gave,

In sure and single faith"

(2) Sgt. Eric Gordon Wilson was originally buried at Erzberg village cemetery and on 12 June 1948 re-interred at Dürnbach War Cemetery - Collective grave 11.J.12-15.

In CWGC records and on his headstone Sgt. Wilson is described as a 'Pilot'.

His epitaph reads:

In memory

Of a dearly beloved son

(3) Sgt. Gwilym John Arthur Kenvin was originally buried at Erzberg village cemetery and on 12 June 1948 re-interred at Dürnbach War Cemetery -Collective grave 11.J.12-15.

No epitaph

(4) Sgt. Kenneth John Holmes was originally buried at Erzberg village cemetery and on 12 June 1948 re-interred at Dürnbach War Cemetery - Collective grave 11.J.12-15.

No epitaph

(5) Sgt. John Faucet Logan was originally buried at Erzberg village cemetery and on 12 June 1948 re-interred at Dürnbach War Cemetery - Collective grave 11.J.12-15.

His epitaph reads:

"Memory

Is our greatest treasure.

In our hearts

He lives forever"

(6) Sgt. Horace Smither was originally buried at Erzberg village cemetery and on 12 June 1948 re-interred at Dürnbach War Cemetery - Collective grave 11.J.12-15.

His epitaph reads:

"Safe in the arms of Jesus"

Always in our thoughts

(7) Sgt. Edmund Kenneth Day was originally buried at Erzberg village cemetery and on 12 June 1948 re-interred at Dürnbach War Cemetery - Collective grave 11.J.12-15.

His epitaph reads:

Deeply mourned by his wife,

Five children & father,

Reunited

With mother & sister



This Archive Report was originally researched by Jack Albrecht as part of his project 'The History of 625 Squadron Losses'


Co-Author's Note

I am most grateful to Roy Wilcock, Aircrew Remembered webmaster, for rewriting and expanding the archive report on 625 Squadron Loss No. 71, NG169, F/O E.F. Seear and Crew.

In particular I wanted to ensure that the sacrifice made by the rear gunner, Sgt. Edmund Kenneth Day, was recognized. Sgt. Day was one month short of his forty-second birthday and he would lose his life in combat two months before war's end. Tragically, he was married, the father of five! His youngest son, John Victor Day was born in 1944.

One cannot help but question the wisdom and judgment of the RAF Recruiting Officer who signed him up and took his oath to serve King and Country for the duration of the war. Ground crew, yes, but not the high risk tasks of a rear gunner in Bomber Command!

DECORATION SUGGESTIONS:

188180 F/O E.F. Seear: DFC, KIA.

1806521 Sgt E.G. Wilson: DFM, KIA.

1604724 Sgt K.J. Holmes: DFM, KIA.

612923 Sgt G.J.A. Kenvin: DFM, KIA.

1823610 Sgt J.F. Logan: DFM, KIA.

1893583 Sgt. H. Smither: DFM, KIA.

1899663 Sgt. E.K. Day: CGM, KIA, text above.

Jack Albrecht



Researched by Canadian researcher Jack Albrecht and Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - May 2020

Our thanks to Patricia Calverley, the niece of Sgt. Kenvin for his next of kin details.

With thanks also to the sources quoted below.

RW 24.05.2020

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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