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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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158 Squadron Crest
24/25.03.1944 No. 158 squadron Halifax III LW718 NP-T P/O. Simpson

Operation: Berlin

Date: 24/25th March 1944 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit: No. 158 Squadron (4 Group) Motto: 'Strength in unity'

Type: Halifax III

Serial: LM718

Code: NP-T

Base: RAF Lissett, Yorkshire

Location: Horsey Gap, Norfolk

Pilot: P/O. Keith Shambler Simpson AUS/414166 RAAF Age 25. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Thomas James Barnett 1174351 RAFVR Age 39. Killed

Nav: F/O. Norman Hindley DFC. 144450 RAFVR Age 27. Killed

Air/Bmr: P/O. Derek Joseph Hemsley 168620 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Walter Suddaby 1495722 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. William Alexander Buchan 954002 RAFVR Age 28. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Malcolm John McKay AUS/425042 RAAF Age 21. Killed


Although the period known as the Battle of Berlin had ended by the end of January, Bomber Command staged one last major raid against the city on the night of 24/25 March, 1944.

Of the 811 aircraft that took part in the sortie, 72 failed to return. Very high winds from the north blew the bombers off course that night which afterwards became known as ‘the night of the strong winds’. The lack of an accurate forecast and subsequent notification to the crews resulted in the scattering of the bomber stream to the south west of the target.

Towns and villages well outside the city boundaries were hit as the markers drifted in the strong wind which accounted for 30 civilian deaths. In the south west suburbs of Berlin many houses were destroyed and 150 people killed. Some industrial premises were damaged as well as five military targets the most important being a depot of the Waffen SS.

Taking off at 18:55 hrs from RAF Lissett in Yorkshire to join the bomber stream. However, at 22:40 hrs they called base indicating serious engine trouble with a port and a starboard engine and that they were abandoning the sortie and returning.

This was the last contact with the aircraft. At 23:11 hrs the aircraft came down on the sand dunes at Horsey Gap on the Norfolk coast. All crew are thought to have been killed instantly after the mine exploded. It is not known if they had dumped their ordnance, but during the forced landing the aircraft set off one or more of the mines placed in the area due to invasion threats. The civil defence were quickly on the scene and removed the bodies of the crew. Following that specialists had then to deal with an unexploded bomb found nearby.

Also lost from the Squadron this night:

Halifax III LW721 NP-S Flown by W/O.2. Allan Ross Van Slyke J/85605 RCAF Killed with 2 other members of his crew, remaining 4 taken PoW. They were on their homebound trip when shot down by a Ju88, crashing at Pausin, North West of Berlin.

Burial details:

Five of the crew were buried on the 31st March at Cambridge City Cemetery - the others had private burials in their home towns.

P/O. Keith Shambler Simpson. Cambridge City Cemetery. Collective grave 13559-13561. Born on the 19th August 1919 in Texas, Queensland, the son of Malcolm George and Florence Nellie Simpson, of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Grave inscription reads: "Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten".

Sgt. Thomas James Barnett. Cambridge City Cemetery. Collective grave 13559-13561. Son of Benjamin and Sarah Ann Barnett, of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire and husband of Nellie May Barnett, of High Wycombe, England. Grave inscription reads: "In Loving Memory Of My Dearest Husband Jim. Loved By All".

F/O. Norman Hindley DFC. Morden Cemetery. Section. G.4. Grave 5703. Son of Walter and Sarah Hindley, of Merton, London, England and husband of Maisie Patricia Hindley. Grave inscription reads: "If Love Could Have Saved They Would Not Have Died".

P/O. Derek Joseph Hemsley. Cambridge City Cemetery. Collective grave 13559-13561. Son of Joseph and Winifred J. Hemsley, of Salfords, Surrey, England. Grave inscription reads: "In Proud And Loving Memory Of Our Darling Boy. Always With Us".

Fl/Sgt. Walter Suddaby. Cambridge City Cemetery. Grave 13558. Son of Richard and Caroline Suddaby, of Hull, England. Grave inscription reads: "In Memory Of A Loving Son Who Died That We Might Live. One Of England's Heroes".

Sgt. William Buchan. Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Cemetery (St. Andrews and Jesmond) Section D. Cons. Grave 374. Son of William Alexander and Martha Buchan, of Newcastle-on-Tyne, England. Grave inscription reads: "At The Going Down Of The Sun And In The Morning We Will Remember Them".

Fl/Sgt. Malcolm John McKay. Cambridge City Cemetery. Grave 13557. Born on the 06th May 1922 in Brisbane, Queensland, the son of Charles Lindsay McKay and Constance Kate Alice McKay, of North Ipswich, Queensland. Australia. Grave inscription reads: "By These Shall Our Liberty Live".

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to sources as shown. Also to 'Poppylands' at Horsey who hope to place a memorial at some stage for the crew.

KTY - 19.06.2018

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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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