25/26.11.1943 No. 429 Squadron Halifax V LK995 AL-C W/O.2 David M. Smith DFM
Date: 25/26th November 1943 (Thursday/Friday)
Unit: No. 429 Squadron
Type: Halifax V
Base: RAF Leeming, Yorkshire
Location: Dinant, Belgium
Pilot: W/O2. David McM Smith DFM R/106305 RCAF PoW No: 2982 Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug - / Sagan and Belaria
Fl/Eng: Sgt. J.A. Renton RAFVR PoW No: 43185 Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug / Stalag Kopernikus
Nav: F/O. Jacob John Thurmeier J/14165 RCAF Age 27. Evaded
Air/Bmr: W/O2. Douglas Rae Nelson RCAF Age 23. PoW No: 2977 Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug (although not positive) / Sagan and Belaria
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Randolph “Randy” Thadius Abbott RAFVR PoW No: 2981 Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug / Sagan and Belaria
Air/Gnr: F/O. Manuel Rabinovitch RCAF PoW No: 3614 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Robert Henry Davis J/19412, RCAF Age 21. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Halifax V LK995 AL-C took off from RAF Leeming, Yorkshire at 23.27 hrs. on operation to Frankfurt. 262 aircraft taking part on what was a cloud covered target with the result that bombing was scattered. Just 100 aircraft were reported as bombing the target. Reports from Frankfurt state that 80 people were killed on the ground but that 3,500 people were bombed out of their homes.
The allies lost some 13 aircraft on this operation, with the loss of some 49 aircrew, 38 being made pow and a further 9 evading capture.
Above left: original crew taken on 22nd october 1942 : Left to right: Believed to be Sgt. Howard Tennis, Sgt. Nelson, Sgt. Ray Crimmins, Sgt. Bill Nicholl and Sgt. Smith taken on 22nd October 1942, Above centre: Fl/Sgt. Abbott, unknown, Sgt. Nelson and unknown. Above right: Fl/Sgt. Abbott, Sgt. Nelson, St. Bill Pass and Sgt. Smith taken in August 1943. (see credits)
Halifax V LK995 was the first aircraft to be lost on this operation. Shot down by a night-fighter ace Hptm. Hans Autenrieth (1) of 6./NJG4 at 4,900 mtrs. 16 km. East of Dinant at 02.12 hrs.
(1) Hptm. Hans Autenrieth already an ace at this time with 15 kills, went on to make a total of 22 kills, before he was shot down on the 4th August 1944 and taken prisoner. He did manage to evade capture for 2 days before being caught by the French resistance.
Further details of some of this crew:
W/O2. David McM Smith DFM:
In a report extracted from a PoW debriefing by the pilot WO2. David McM Smith DFM RCAF on the 11th of May 1945 he states:-
“After setting course, I checked D/R compass with P/p and found a difference of several degrees from the navigators figures and we had some difficulty in getting it settled. On crossing the French coast we were port of track and the navigator suggested greater alteration to starboard. When I saw other aircraft crossing in front I resumed course. In 15 minutes, we were port of track again when we were attacked. I had every confidence in F/O. Thurmeier as a navigator and believe that the P.4 compass was unserviceable. We were attacked with only a pip or so from Monica just before being hit. The Rear gunner saw and I believe fired in exchange to two bursts from the fighter which severed all controls and set incendiaries afire in centre and port bays. I gave the order to prepare to abandon, when attempts to jettison failed (circuit cut), then almost immediately I ordered to abandon the aircraft, to which only the navigator was heard to acknowledge as intercom faded out. I had made an attempt to hold the aircraft straight and level while the others got out but the controls were dead and useless. There seemed to be some delay as others were waiting to leave. Since I had on a seat type chute, I stood up in the seat and had the fantastic idea of sliding down the fuselage. Of course I was gone immediately I felt the slipstream. There was only one crew member that I could see left and about to leave the aircraft (W/O. Nelson who was last to leave the aircraft) when I had left. There was no word from the rear gunner and call light received no reply. I found my chute split in several places and almost severed when I attempted to stop turning. I landed safely but sprained my ankle and wrenched my back”
F/O. Jacob John Thurmeier: Born in Southey, Saskatchewan on 29th of December 1916.
Flying Officer Thurmeier evaded capture and was to be hidden and helped by the Comet line (Belgian Resistance) While evading he apparently met up with Doug Nelson after three days, although Doug and the remaining crew members were to become PoW’s.
Above left: Doug and his wife Peggy, centre: guests at the wedding, Peggy's mother and father in the middle and right: Doug Nelson during training (see credits)
WO2 Douglas Rae Nelson RCAF:
Born on the 25th of May 1920 in St.Catharines, Ontario to Everett Parmer Nelson and Annie Lulu (nee Smith.) On the 12th of January 1926 Everett crossed the border and went to live in North Tonawanda, New York State and Annie and the six children joined him in January 1927.
On the 5th of July 1941, Douglas Nelson returned to Canada intending join the RCAF and after training at 22 OTU was posted in the capacity of Sgt. to 429 Squadron on the 27th of December 1942.
On one of his earlier ops, flying in Wellington’s as bomb aimer for the crew, he was badly injured along with Sergeant Abbott when on the 25th of June 1943 on operation to Gelsenkirchen, they were attacked by a Me 109. After dropping their bombs, a fire started in the bomb bay which was extinguished by the wind as the aircraft went into a violent dive. Both Sergeants Nelson and Abbott were hit by gunfire and the aircraft crash-landed at Hardwick. The skill of the pilot WO2. David Smith RCAF earned him the DFM
While Doug was stationed at East Moor he met his future wife Margaret Elizabeth (Peggy) Collingbourne who then waited for his return from the prisoner of war camp.
After he was liberated in 1945, Doug returned and married Peg on the 22nd of May 1945 at St.Stephens Church, Acomb, taking her back to St.Catharines, Canada where some of his siblings also lived. One of his brothers, Donald Smith Nelson, was a Flight Lieutenant in the airforce and also a witness at Doug’s wedding. In December 1955 Doug, Peg, son David and daughter Sheila came to live in England where Doug started his own business as motor mechanic, running Nelson’s service station at Green Hammerton, Yorkshire till he retired. They also had another son Gordon, born in Yorkshire.
Sadly, Peggy died of cancer in Harrogate General hospital of the 23rd of July 1996, the day after her 74th birthday. Doug died of heart problems in the same hospital on May 3rd 1997.
After the war W/O. Doug Nelson had recounted his experiences of the night of the 25/26th of November to his daughter. As Bomb Aimer, his position on the aircraft was such that he was responsible for holding open the hatch door for the rest of the crew to jump out (the hatch opened inward and had to be held up). After the rest of the crew had jumped, Doug attempted to follow them but, as he exited the trap door, it fell down and held him by the ankle. He hung underneath the aircraft as it continued on its flight until such time as it disintegrated enough for his foot to be released and let him fall. Because of this delay in parachuting out, the other crew members landed in Germany and he landed in France where the Resistance helped him. Dressed as civilians they reached Paris where they and their rescuers were betrayed and picked up by the SS. As they were in civilian clothes, they were treated as spies and tortured over a long period of time. This was to leave an enduring legacy by way of treatment and operations to repair the body and mind. Along with his fellow PoW’s, Doug endured the Long March before repatriation.
Fl/Sgt. Randolph “Randy” Thadius Abbott:
Born in the West Indies on 26th June 1916, he left to enlist in the RAF serving from the 12th of March 1940 to the 4th of May 1946.
After parachuting from the Lancaster, he went on the run and was hidden in a cellar in Brussels, Belgium by the Resistance, he was captured by the Germans and taken to the notorious St.Gilles prison before being sent to prisoner of war camps.
After his repatriation in 1944-45, he was brought back on the Queen Mary in a very weak state, only surviving on milk and soft eggs. After meeting and marrying his wife in Chorley in 1948, he worked in their café and also at Leyland motors. His two children were born in Chorley and he then took his family to New York on the QE2, then on to Montreal before moving to Hollywood in 1955. He worked very hard and achieved four masters at college before the family returned to England, returning to El Sagundo, Los Angeles, California in 1981. A keen cyclist, sadly Randolph was hit by a hit and run driver whilst out cycling and sadly passed away of severe head injuries a fortnight away from his sixty fifth birthday. He is remembered as being an exceptionally brave man who endured terrific hardships during the war but went on to achieve many things in his life.
F/O. Manuel Rabinovitch:
Arrested in Brussels on 10th February 1944 and taken to the notorious St. Gilles prison for interrogation before being sent to Camp L3. in 1945.
Fl/Sgt. Robert Henry Davis. Hotton War Cemetery, Belgium. Grave 1.C.9. Son of Henry Noel Cochrane Davis and Ethel Jane Davis of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Fl/Sgt. Davis was killed during the attack and it is believed that he was brought from Florennes to Hotton.
Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew. Photos courtesy of David and Linda Nelson and Sheila Ibbotson (Nelson) Family information on Fl/Sgt. Abbott to his daughter Susan Abbott, also thanks to Yvette Donovan. Thanks to Richard Kovel and also the Comet Line (Belgian Resistance website) for extra information. Special thanks to Matt (Bomber Crew Website), Further information supplied by Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol's. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vol's. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission.