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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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No. 57 Squadron
5/6.07.1944 No. 57 Squadron Lancaster III JB723 DX-P F/O. Smith

Operation: St-Leu d'Esserent, Oise, France

Date: 5th/6th July 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit: No. 57 Squadron

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: JB723

Code: DX-P

Base: RAF East Kirkby, Lincolnshire

Location: Aubermesnil-aux-Erables, Seine-Maritime, France

Pilot: F/O. Ronald Richard Smith AUS/420793 RAAF Age 21. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Robert Denholm Mercer 1823010 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

Nav: P/O. Frederick William Hood J/88657 RCAF Age 21. Killed

Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Charles Frederick Spencer 1387303 RAFVR Age 24. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Ernest Albert Wood 639067 RAF Age 23. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. William Arthur Roberts 1030803 RAFVR Age 27. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Walter Raymond Moore R/195753 RCAF Age 21 Killed

The entrances to the subterranean tunnels at St. Leu d'Esserent


Took off from RAF East Kirkby at 23:22hrs to attack the underground VI flying-bomb site at St-Leu-d'Esserent in order to cut all communications to the lines. The bombing was accurate, but 13 Lancaster were lost with 108 aircrew killed, 8 crew became POW's and 9 managed to evade capture.

It is understood that Lancaster JB723 was shot down with a ‘possible’ identity of Hptm. Heinz-Horst Hissbach (1) of 5./NJG2 a Luftwaffe night ace with 21 abschusse to date of this loss. The interception taking place in the loss area at 01:55hrs at 1,000 m.

Above left Mr. Leger Andre, witness to the crash in field shown right.

Left: Fl/Sgt. Walter Raymond Moore (courtesy of nephew Steven G. Moore) Right: Sgt. Ernest Albert Wood (courtesy of Ken Hunt)

Above, Sgt. Roberts with his wife Edna and the mother of Ken Hunt and below his wedding to Edna.

Left: the original grave marker for the crew. Right: The collective grave (courtesy of Kate Tame)

1. P/O. Hood and Sgt. Mercer. 2. Fl/Sgt. Moore, Sgt. Roberts and F/O. Smith. 3. Sgt. Wood and Fl/Sgt. Spencer. 4. Aubermesnil Churchyard.

(1) Hptm. Hissbach (also spelt Hißbach) was killed on the 14/15th April 1945 near Geinhausen by American anti-aircraft fire during a ground strafing operation. (26 kills to his credit)

Burial details:

All are buried in a collective grave in Aubermesnil Churchyard, Seine-Maritime, France. The graves are a few yards from the south-east corner of the church

F/O. Ronald Richard Smith. Aubermesnil Churchyard. Coll. Grave. Son of Richard Henry and Mary Philomena Smith, of 5 Cleary Avenue, Belmore, New South Wales. Australia. Born 17th June 1923 in Dulwich Hill, New South Wales, Australia. Previous to enlistment he worked as a bank clerk.

Sgt. Robert Denholm Mercer. Son of Mrs. R. Mercer, and stepson of Mr. R. Ewart of Penicuik, Midlothian, Scotland.

P/O. Frederick William Hood. Son of Comdr. Thomas Hood, R.C.N.(R) and Mabel Wallace Hood of Bear River, Annapolis Co. Nova Scotia. Fredeick was born on the 28 April in Ottawa, Canada.

Fl/Sgt. Charles Frederick Spencer. Son of Frederick and Ada Spencer of Vange, Essex, England.

Sgt. Ernest Albert Wood. Son of Percy and Mary Ada Wood of Sevenoaks, Kent. At the time of his death Ernest's address was 8 Camden Road, Sevenoaks, Kent, England.

Sgt. William Arthur Roberts. Husband of Edna and from the Chester area, England. Full N.o.K details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?

Fl/Sgt. Walter Raymond Moore. Son of Jasper and Margaret Moore. Walter was born on the 12th September 1922 in Alliston, Ontario and at the time of his death his address was Addison Street, Ontario, Canada. Walter had served in the RCAF for 2 years.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Ken and the family of Sgt. William Arthur Roberts, Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses' Vol. 4, 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'. Aircrew Remembered own Archives.

KT - Updated 23.05.2018

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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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