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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 158 squadron Halifax III LW718 NP:T Plt Off. Simpson

Operation: Berlin

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

Unit: 158 Squadron (4 Group) Motto: 'Strength in unity'

Type: Halifax III

Serial: LW718

Code: NP:T

Base: RAF Lissett, Yorkshire

Location: Horsey Gap, Norfolk

Pilot: Plt Off. Keith Shambler Simpson 414166 RAAF Age 25. Killed

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

Nav: Fg Off. Norman Hindley DFC. 144450 RAFVR Age 27. Killed

Bom Aimer: Plt Off. Derek Joseph Hemsley 168620 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

WOp/Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. Walter Suddaby 1495722 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Sgt. William Alexander Buchan 954002 RAFVR Age 28. Killed

Air Gnr (Rear): Flt Sgt. Malcolm John McKay 425042 RAAF Age 21. Killed

REASON FOR LOSS:

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 southwest 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 southwest suburbs of Berlin, many houses were destroyed and 150 people were killed. Some industrial premises were damaged as well as five military targets the most important being a depot of the Waffen SS.

Above: Thought to be some of the crew with Sgt. William Alexander Buchan on the left (courtesy Elaine Hunton)

LM718 took off from RAF Lissett in Yorkshire at 18:55 hrs 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.

The following is an extract from the Court of Inquiry into the accident to Halifax II LW718 which occurred on the 24th March 1944.

“The aircraft was returning from operations on the two engines, one on the port and one on the starboard but whether inboard or outboard engines could not be determined owing to the state of the engines after the crash. The pilot flew in over the coast, and on evidence apparently at the same height above the cloud, that is above 3,500 ft. The aircraft then dived into the ground with engines running at an angle almost to the vertical. This being indicated by the crater and the comparatively small amount of wreckage scattered above the ground The aircraft crashed at 23.16 hrs on 24th March 1944. In evidence, six members of the crew were killed. The seventh member of the crew, Fg Off. Hindley had not been recovered at the time but his body was later retrieved from the wreckage

No cause can be given for this sudden dive into the ground unless the pilot temporarily lost control while attempting to break cloud, but one hesitates to speculate in this case where this is such a lack of evidence of any kind”.

Also lost from the Squadron this night:

Halifax III LW721 NP:S Flown by WO2. Allan Ross Van Slyke R121701 (Plt Off. J85605) 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.

Four of this crew escaped injury when on an operation to Leipzig they were hit by an incendiary bomb hit their Halifax HR716. The pilot put the aircraft into a dive and the wind extinguished the flames. The pilot managed to return to base at RAF Lissett at 08:16 hrs on the 04th December 1943.

Burial details:

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

Plt Off. Keith Shambler Simpson. Cambridge City Cemetery. Collective grave 13559-13561. Grave inscription: "TOO DEARLY LOVED TO BE FORGOTTEN". Born on the 19th August 1919 in Texas, Queensland, the son of Malcolm George and Florence Nellie Simpson, of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

Sgt. Thomas James Barnett. Cambridge City Cemetery. Collective grave 13559-13561. Grave inscription: "IN LOVING MEMORY OF MY DEAREST HUSBAND JIM. LOVED BY ALL". Son of Benjamin and Sarah Ann Barnett, of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire and husband of Nellie May Barnett, of High Wycombe, England.

Fg Off. Norman Hindley DFC. Morden Cemetery. Section. G.4. Grave 5703. Grave inscription: "IF LOVE COULD HAVE SAVED THEY WOULD NOT HAVE DIED". Son of Walter and Sarah Hindley, of Merton, London, England and husband of Maisie Patricia Hindley.

DFC awarded to Fg Off. Hindley whilst with 158 Sqn. Promulgated in the London Gazette 21st April 1944

Plt Off. Derek Joseph Hemsley. Cambridge City Cemetery. Collective grave 13559-13561. Grave inscription: "IN PROUD AND LOVING MEMORY OF OUR DARLING BOY. ALWAYS WITH US". Son of Joseph and Winifred J. Hemsley, of Salfords, Surrey, England.

Flt Sgt. Walter Suddaby. Cambridge City Cemetery. Grave 13558. Grave inscription: "IN MEMORY OF A LOVING SON WHO DIED THAT WE MIGHT LIVE. ONE OF ENGLAND'S HEROES". Son of Richard and Caroline Suddaby, of Hull, England.

Sgt. William Buchan. Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Cemetery (St. Andrews and Jesmond) Section D. Cons. Grave 374. Grave inscription: "AT THE GOING DOWN OF THE SUN AND IN THE MORNING WE WILL REMEMBER THEM". Son of William Alexander and Martha Buchan, of Newcastle-on-Tyne, England.

Flt Sgt. Malcolm John McKay. Cambridge City Cemetery. Grave 13557. Grave inscription: "BY THESE SHALL OUR LIBERTY LIVE". Born on the 6th May 1922 in Brisbane, Queensland, the son of Charles Lindsay McKay and Constance Kate Alice McKay, of North Ipswich, Queensland. Australia.

Researched by Kelvin Youngs (Webmaster) (Jun 2018) and dedicated to the relatives of this crew. Also to 'Poppylands' at Horsey who hope to place a memorial at some stage for the crew. Court of Enquiry findings and update to the narrative by Aircrew Remembered (Feb 2022). Also to Elaine Hunton (née Buchan) for the crew photo. Other sources as quoted below:

RS 22.02.2022 - Court of Enquiry results added and other updates to narrative.

KTY 25.02.2022 - Crew photo added.

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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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