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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.576 Squadron Crest
02/03.02.1945 No. 576 Squadron Lancaster I NG119 UL-D2 F/O. Richard Christopher Sowerbutts

Operation: Wiesbaden, Germany

Date: 02/03 February 1945 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit: 576 Squadron Motto: "Carpe diem" ("Seize the opportunity").

Badge: A merlin, wings inverted and addorsed, preying on a serpent. This squadron had aircraft fitted with Merlin engines and the badge is symbolic of the unit seeking out and destroying its prey. Authority: King George VI, June 1945.

Type: Avro Lancaster I

Serial: NG119

Code: UL-D2

Base: RAF Fiskerton, Lincolnshire

Location: Near Kautenbach, Luxemburg

Pilot: F/O. Richard Christopher Sowerbutts 179187 RAFVR Age 31 - Killed (6th mission) (1)

Fl/Eng: P/O. Melvin Douglas Groundwater 187136 RAFVR Age 23 - Killed (2)

Nav: Sgt. Herbert Walter Porter 1685119 RAFVR Age 22 - Killed (3)

Air/Bmr: F/O. Henry John O'Connor 154742 RAFVR Age 21 - Killed (4)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: F/Sgt. Henry John Knightbridge 1385209 RAFVR Age 23 - Killed (5)

Air/Gnr (MU): Sgt. Gordon Lester 1818761 RAFVR Age 19 - Killed (6)

Air/Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Ronald Ernest Streatfield 1809414 RAFVR Age 19 - Killed (7)


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REASON FOR LOSS:

Took off from RAF Fiskerton, Lincolnshire at 21:28 hours to bomb Weisbaden in Hesse, Germany

Special Equipment on board was H2S + C8179VH7 (or C5179VH7) see abbreviations.

Bomb Load: 1x4000lb, 14x500lbs, 2x60x4lb clusters

Route as per loss card: Base - Reading - 4950N/0200E -4955N/0635E - Target - 5005N/0820E - 5017N/0815E - 4957N/0700E - 5020N/0600E - 5000N/0400E - Hastings - Reading

A force of 495 Lancasters and 12 Mosquitos was despatched on this the one and only large raid of the war by Bomber Command on Weisbaden. Despite complete cloud cover most of the bombing hit the town. A brief local report stated that 520 houses and about 30 other buildings were destroyed and 400 houses and 50 other buildings were seriously damaged.

5 important war industries along the banks of the Rhine were untouched but the railway station was damaged. Casualties were recorded as 'approximately 1000 killed and 350 injured'

12 Lancasters were lost: 3 due to flak, 3 due to collisions, 1 abandoned after engine fire, 1 returned due to engine failure and crashed on landing and 4 crashed in Germany cause unknown.

Lancaster NG119 was one of those that were lost to unknown causes and crashed at Kautenbach on the Wiltz river, 13 km NNW of Ettelbruck in the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg.

Scale: 1" = 25 miles


BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW

(1) F/O. Richard Christopher Sowerbutts was born in 1913 at Macclesfield, Cheshire the son of James Barrington Sowerbutts (a Commercial Traveller) and Anne Sowerbutts nee St. Laurance of 79 Morley Avenue, Mapperley, Nottingham.

Admitted to Nottingham High School 15 September 1927. He was a corporal in the school OTC and left in July 1931 to enter the Surveying profession. (Details courtesy of Nottingham High School Archives)

Richard Sowerbutts graduated as a Bachelor of Science and was an Associate Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. He is commemorated on the Nottingham High School War Memorial.

1607648 Sergeant R.C. Sowerbutts was appointed to commission as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 4 July 1944 (London Gazette 29 August 1944). The details of his confirmation in his appointment as a Pilot Officer and subsequent promotion to Flying Officer are not known.

(2) P/O. Melvin Douglas Groundwater possibly born in 1921 at Greenock West, Renfrewshire Scotland. 1878687 Acting Flight Sergeant M.D. Groundwater was appointed to commission as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 5 November 1944 (London Gazette 12 June 1945)

(3) Sgt. Herbert Walter Porter was born in 1922 at Chorlton, Lancashire the son of Walter Porter and Beatrice Porter nee Forrest later of West Didsbury, Manchester.

(4) F/O. Henry John E. O'Connor was born in 1923 at Hampstead the son of Harry and Hilda F. O'Connor nee Price later of Iver, Buckinghamshire. 1800793 LAC Henry John O'Connor was appointed to commission as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 10 December 1943 (London Gazette 14 March 1944) His appointment was confirmed and he was promoted to Flying Officer (war subs) on 10 June 1944 (London Gazette 14 July 1944)

(5) F/Sgt. Henry John Knightbridge was born in 1922 at Croydon, London the son of Henry Sloman Knightbridge and Ada Annie Knightbridge nee Carey; husband of Dorothy Jean Knightbridge nee Cox, of Wandsworth Common, London.

(6) Sgt. Gordon Lester was born in 1925 at Shardlow, Derbyshire son of James Harold Lester and Dorothy Winifred Lester nee Warren later of Derby

(7) Sgt. Ronald Ernest Streatfield son of Ernest William Streatfield and Louisa Streatfield of Tottenham Middlesex



BURIAL DETAILS AND EPITAPHS

The crew were originally buried at Bure Temporary Burial Ground, Belgium and re-interred at Hotton War Cemetery, Belgium on 9 May 1947.

(1) F/O. Richard Christopher Sowerbutts was buried at Hotton War Cemetery - Grave Ref: IV.D.9

His epitaph reads:

RIP

(2) P/O. Melvin Douglas Groundwater was buried at Hotton War Cemetery - Grave Ref: IV.D.12

No epitaph

(3) Sgt. Herbert Walter Porter was buried at Hotton War Cemetery - Grave Ref: IV.D.7

His epitaph reads:

You live within our hearts

Beloved and unforgotten.

Mother and sister

(4) F/O. Henry John O'Connor was buried at Hotton War Cemetery - Grave Ref: IV.D.10

His epitaph reads:

Jack, so dearly loved

And for ever missed

By us all

In Iver, Bucks, England

(5) F/Sgt. Henry John Knightbridge was buried at Hotton War Cemetery - Grave Ref: IV.D.6

His epitaph reads:

Dearly loved husband of Jean,

And son of Henry

And Ada Knightbridge

Of London

(6) Sgt. Gordon Lester was buried at Hotton War Cemetery - Grave Ref: IV.D.11

His epitaph reads:

Our loved one lies sleeping

Until the day break

And the shadows flee away

(7) Sgt. Ronald Ernest Streatfield was buried at Hotton War Cemetery - Grave Ref: IV.D.8

His epitaph reads:

Peace, dear Ron,

Your life you gave

That men who journey in

A war-scarred age might live



Photographs of graves courtesy Hotton War Cemetery, Belgium



Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for Nottingham High School and all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - April 2016

With thanks to the sources quoted below.

RW 18.04.2016

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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