25/26.05.1943 No. 12 Squadron Lancaster III ED967 PH-F Fl/Sgt. Robert J. Steele
Date: 25/26th May 1943 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
Unit: No. 12 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Wickenby, Lincolnshire.
Location: Ratingen, Germany.
Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Robert James Steele 655242 RAF Age 24. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Alexander Alwyn Prowse AUS/21144 RAAF Age 26. Killed
Nav: F/O. ‘Bob’ Cecil Bertie Hooper 129598 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Air/Bmr: Sgt. Douglas William Creevy 1330741 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Edward Temple Powell 1082026 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Sydney Arthur James Bailey 1332267 RAFVR Age 21. Killed (1)
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Leslie Charles Schroeder 1339266 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
The family of Fl/Sgt. Schroeder would very much like to be contacted by other crew relatives. In 2013 they placed the ‘special poppies’ by each of the graves of the crew, together with a note (see photographs) These poppies were taken from the ones dropped during the flypast of the Lancaster at the opening of the Bomber Command Memorial at Green Park, London, England in June 2012. A very special remembrance!
Update: September 2015 - a further relative contacted us - now placed in contact with other relatives!
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 00.37 hrs from RAF Wickenby - 22 Lancasters from 12 Squadron taking part in this operation. In total 323 Lancasters, 169 Halifaxes, 142 Wellingtons, 113 Stirlings with 12 Mosquitos were to bomb Dusseldorf - 759 aircraft in total.
The weather on leaving England was fine with showers, over the Dutch coast broken cloud, which increased as the target was approached. Dusseldorf was covered in 10/10 cloud at various heights.
Bomb load has been described in the Squadron Operation record book as 1 x 4000 lb, 600 x 4 lb incendiary, 48 x 30 lb incendiary.
Despite the huge bomber force the raid was classed as a failure with bombing scattered over a wide area. Between 50 - 100 buildings were destroyed with some 50 people killed on the ground. It is understood that the Germans lit various fires and also placed decoy markers to fool the allies.
The allies lost some 29 aircraft - one on return, Halifax II HR747 from 51 Squadron, crashing at Highfield Farm near Doncaster, all crew survived uninjured. Another, Halifax II HR806 crashing immediately after take off, all 7 crew injured but survived. 27 others were lost either on route or returning from the operation. 27 were taken pow with a shocking 170 other crew killed or missing!
The night fighters were hampered by the cloud cover plus the half moon rose at about 03.00 hrs. when the crews were on their way home. However 21 were confirmed to have been shot down, mainly on the very slow return trip, when the allies suffered 40-60 mph head winds. 2 other aircraft were lost when 77 Squadron JB837 was shot down by Maj. Walter Ehle of stab II./NJG1 over Eisdorf at 01.51 hrs. The full bomb load exploded bringing down two Stirlings. Maj. Ehle was credited with 5 abschüsse on this night - not including the 2 Stirlings.
Above rear gunner: Fl/Sgt. Leslie Charles Schroeder and grave (courtesy Lillian Edwards, nee Schroeder and family)
Above W/Op/Air gnr: Sgt. Edward Temple Powell (courtesy Ronald Powell)
Lancaster ED967 was shot down by Anti-Aircraft fire, crashing at Ratingen, Germany. Although the radar operated searchlights were being used, due to the cloud base they were not very effective.
One crew member from 12 Squadron died on return from anoxia. 29 year old Fl/Sgt. Thomas A. Routledge 1178835 RAFVR (2 )
(1) Tragically the sister of Sgt. Bailey was killed during the same month the following year. LAC Dorothy F.J. Bailey 445195 WAAF serving with 692 Squadron was hit by a motor vehicle whilst cycling back to the camp. She died from her injuries at the 49th American Station Hospital, Diddington, Cambridgeshire, the second largest American hospital in England.
Crew graves (courtesy Lillian Edwards, nee Schroeder and family) - available to others at a high resolution - please contact us.
The crew were originally buried at the North Cemetery in Dusseldorf, prior to be moved to Reichswald Forest War Cemetery after the end of the war.
The note by each of the crew’s grave reads: “Poppies from the Lancaster ‘poppy drop’ over the London Bomber Command Memorial on 26th June, 2012. A tribute from Flt. Sgt L.C. Schroeder’s sister for Leslie’s comrades. They made the ultimate sacrifice together.”
Fl/Sgt. Robert James Steele. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 5.D.12. Son of Robert James Steele and Hannah Steele, of Wednesbury, Staffordshire, England. His grave inscription reads: ’Time passes but memory remains. And still to memory thou art for ever dear’.
Sgt. Alexander Alwyn Prowse. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 5.D.15. Son of Walter Clarence and Florence Maud Prowse, of Muswellbrook, New South Wales, Australia. His grave inscription reads: ‘Greater love hath no man than this’.
F/O. ‘Bob’ Cecil Bertie Hooper. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 5.D.10. Son of Charles Ernest and Violet Emmeline Hooper, of Battersea, London, England. His grave inscription reads: ’Father, in thy gracious keeping, leave we now, our loved one sleeping’.
Further crew graves (courtesy Lillian Edwards, nee Schroeder and family) - available to others at a high resolution - please contact us.
Sgt. Douglas William Creevy. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 5.D.13. Son of William and Katie Creevy, of 292 Dogsthorpe Road, Peterborough, Northamptonshire, England. His grave inscription reads: ‘For the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them’.
Sgt. Edward Temple Powell. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 5.D.8. Son of Samuel Temple Powell and Phoebe Ellen Powell, of Walton, Liverpool, England. His grave inscription reads: ‘And how can man die better than fearful odds’.
Sgt. Sydney Arthur James Bailey. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 5.D.11. Son of Albert Harry and Frances Jane Bailey, of Plaxtol, Sevenoaks, Kent, England. His grave inscription reads: ‘At the dawn and at the setting of the sun, we will remember them’.
Fl/Sgt. Leslie Charles Schroeder. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 5.D.9. Son of Norman and Louisa Ada Maud Schroeder of Wrington, Somerset, England. His grave inscription reads: ‘ Loving memories of a brave son and brother resting in a beautiful garden’. Note: despite requests, the CWGC have not placed his age at death on his grave.
(1) LAC. Dorothy Frances Joan Bailey. Plaxtol Churchyard. Daughter of Albert Harry and Frances Jane Bailey, of Plaxtol, Sevenoaks, Kent, England.
(2) Fl/Sgt. Thomas Anthony Routledge. Pershore Cemetery. Plot S.R. Grave 29. Son of Thomas and Elizabeth Routledge, of Pershore, Worcestershire.
The card and poppy cross (words enlarged), left by Lillian Edwards, nee Schroeder and family. They also placed a similar cross and card at the graves of all the crew, as can be seen above.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Lillian Edwards, nee Schroeder and family, relative of Fl/Sgt. Leslie Schroeder, Ronald Powell, relative of Sgt. Edward Temple Powell. Further sources as quoted. Aircrew Remembered own Archives.
12 Squadron RAF Wickenby 1943
(courtesy Jo Lewis and family)