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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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30/31.05.1942 No. 12 Squadron Wellington II Z8643 P/O. William Shearer

Operation: Koln, Germany

Date: 30/31st May 1942

Unit: 12 Squadron

Type: Wellington II

Serial No: Z8643

Coded: PH-?

Location: Dusseldorf, Germany

Pilot: P/O. William Bruce Shearer AUS/404994 RAAF Age 20. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. E.D. Ansford N/Z41529 RNZAF Prisoner of War (PoW) No: 389 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus (Luft 6)

Nav: Sgt. Bruce O. Brown N/Z403496 RNZAF PoW No: 396 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus (Luft 6)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. C.F. McKenna 403763 PoW No: 434 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus (Luft 6)

Air/Bmr: Sgt. Geoffrey A. Gane 402993 PoW No: 409 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus (Luft 6)

Reason for Loss:

Wellington Z8643 took off at 23:36 hours from RAF Binbrook to bomb Cologne, Germany. Whilst flying over the coast of Holland the aircraft developed engine trouble, which caused it to crash in Germany.

Left: P/O. William Bruce Shearer (courtesy AWM)

Statement 1: Made by Warrant Officer 403496 Bruce Oliver Brown, the Bomb Aimer: 

'Soon after crossing the coast of Holland the starboard engine began smoking badly. I was instructed by the Pilot to pump oil, which I did. Shortly afterwards the whole engine nacelle got red hot then burst into flames. The Pilot used the fire extinguisher to no effect. The flames spread to wing and fuselage, the Pilot gave order to bale out. Pilot was still in the aircraft when I baled out. Aircraft, still under control. Believe the aircraft crashed in the region of Dusseldorf. Except the Pilot all the crew baled out and were subsequently taken prisoner. The Pilot was the last to leave the aircraft and was picked up dead by the Germans. I am unable to say how he met his death. I received slight facial wounds. Mouth and eyes. I landed on woods near Dorsten and was captured the next day by a German sentry of a flak battery. The rest of the crew all prisoners of war.'

Statement 2: By the navigator, Sergeant 403496, Bruce O. Brown:

'I was standing at the astro hatch when the order was given to bale out, (approx. 1.30 a.m.0n 31.05.42) and left by the rear escape hatch.The plane was still under control. I neither saw or heard anything of Pilot, Pilot Officer Shearer from that time until arrival at Dulag when I was informed of his death by Sergeant Gane.'

Statement 3: By Sergeant 402993, Geoffrey A. Gane: 

'At approximately 1.30 a.m. on 31.05.42, I was given the order to bale out and immediately left via the rear turret, the plane still being under control. I was picked up by the Germans on Sunday afternoon and spent the night at a village (name unknown) At about two p.m. on Monday 1st June I was transported to Dusseldorf on a truck which also contained a number of coffins. On the outskirts of Dusseldorf the truck stopped at a cemetery and another coffin was put on containing the body of Pilot Officer Shearer. I was invited by the Germans to inspect the body, which I positively identified as the skipper of our plane.The only apparent visible injuries were a severe gash on the left chin bone and injured left ankle. On arrival at Dusseldorf I was taken off the truck and saw nothing more of the coffins.'

Burial Details:

P/O. William Bruce Shearer  RAAF was initially buried in Dusseldorf, in Field IIIB. Grave No: 36. Later to be reinterred in the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery after war end.

P/O. William Bruce Shearer. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany. Grave 9.A. 12. Son of John and Dora Jane Shearer. Further information: born on 2nd May 1922 at Townsville, Queensland, Australia. His religion was Presbytarian. Employed as a bank clerk, enlisted into the Royal Australian Air Force at No.3 Recruitment Centre at Brisbane and listed his father John Clarence Shearer as his next of kin. He then embarked to Canada in 1941 to continue his training. Embarking for the UK on the 3rd November 1941. Then on the 18th September 1941 spent some time at No.3. PRC - on the 18th November 1941 time at No. 23. OTU, finally arriving at RAF 12 Squadron on the 9th September 1942.

Researched by Bob Wilton for Aircrew Remembered. With thanks to the following: Australian National Archive, Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses', the CWGC 

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 and Fred Paradie - Paradie Archive (both on this site), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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Last Modified: 31 July 2014, 19:48

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