21/22.02.1945 No. 576 Squadron Lancaster I RA516 UL-Q2 Fl/Lt. Thieme
Date: 21/22nd February 1945 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: No. 576 Squadron
Type: Lancaster I
Serial: RA516 (1)
Base: RAF Fiskerton, Lincolnshire.
Location: Weert, West of Neuss, Netherlands
Pilot: Fl/Lt. C. 'Don' Thieme 50521 RAFVR Evaded. (2)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. K. Wallis 1892479 RAFVR Evaded.
Nav: W/O. J.H. Lowing AUS/422596 RAAF Evaded. Injured.
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Henry William Vine 1604526 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Cavan Beadon Robinson AUS/427484 RAAF Age 21. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. C.N. Crouch 1880938 RAFVR Evaded.
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Leslie Hull 2221119 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 19:39 hrs from RAF Fiskerton, Lincolnshire joining over 370 aircraft to bomb Duisberg. Bomber Command being very busy on several operations this night, in fact a total of 1.111 sorties. Various operations taking place, Duisberg, Worms and the Mittelland Canal. In addition 77 Mosquitoes attacked Berlin, 5 to Bremen, plus other resistance operations. The Duisberg raid was considered success with this being the last bombing of the city of the war.
576 Squadron lost two other aircraft this night:
Lancaster I ME735 UL-B2. Flown by 30 year old Fl/Lt Charles H. Living who was killed with all six other crew.
Lancaster I NG464 UL-O2. flown by Fl/Lt. Halnan of the RCAF who, along with all his crew baled out over liberated territory.
It is thought 'highly likely' that this Lancaster I RA516 was attacked and shot down by Hptm. Hermann Greiner of Stab IV./NJG3 with the aircraft coming down at 23:40 hrs. West of Neuss. Germany. Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie report in their latest edition of the nightfighter War diaries that this Lancaster had already been hit and damaged by flak, prior to being attacked by Hptm. Greiner.
(1) RA516 was delivered to 576 Squadron on the 17th February 1945 with this its first operation with the Squadron.
(2) W/O. Lowing promoted after this event to F/O.
(3) This was the 48 abschusse for the multi-ace Hptm. Hermann Greiner. He went on to claim a further 3 aircraft before the end of the war which he survived.
Initially jailed by the allies in Schleswig-Holstein. He then studied law and also worked as a textile salesman before going the Bundesluftwaffe serving 17 years. Retired in the 1970's. No further details available.
The daughter of W/O. Lowing wrote to Aircrew Remembered in May 2013 and told her fathers story:
The following is an emotional story that the pilot Don Thieme told to my mother and me, which Dad confirmed but kept saying it was nothing.
"Don ordered everyone to get out of the plane, however, Don could not move because his leg was caught. Dad kept pulling Don until he was free (all the while Don telling Dad to leave him).
After freeing Don, Dad dragged him to the hole and helped push him through. He also said that it was his huge regret to not advise anyone of the events that led him to getting out of the plane, but he was hospitalised and time just slipped by - and he just wanted to forget.
Dad sustained a dislocated shoulder and had shrapnel in his arm and shoulder from that melee, which remained in him until his passing (in 2006) – and caused him much pain from time to time. The shoulder injury occurred because as he was rushing to get out of the plane himself his parachute became damaged as he was getting out through the hole and the ripcord was floating above the parachute. Dad told us that he had no choice but to attempt with both arms (including his injured shoulder) to try and grab the ripcord he needed to open his parachute. He was always amazed that he was able to grab the ripcord, but he did and was able to open the parachute – Dad said – within minutes of landing, but what really saved him was a gust of wind going upwards and some trees.
Dad and Don landed close together.
They heard voices and thought they were in Germany but they were in the Netherlands. The Dutch people who found them hid them for about three months until they were taken back to England – Dad to Edinburgh Castle, I do not remember where Don said he went.
Dad did not speak about his war-time period until Don came to Australia to visit Dad – then he told us of his fear of dying at that time but his huge desire to live just made him do what he had to do to survive.
The reason Don came to Australia – according to Don – was that he was invited by another crew to join them in a reunion in the 1980s. Don said that he would come on the condition they found his old navigator (John Lowing) who saved his life. The man organising the reunion was based in Sydney, so he telephoned a Lowing in the telephone book (who is Dad’s cousin). The rest is history. Don spent about 10 days and they reminisced a lot about those days.
Dad opened up more after that time.
The RAF recorded that Dad’s plane went down near Weert in Belgium, which always confused Dad - however, like Don, Dad did not wish to pursue it - he wanted to forget. However, sadly since Dad passed we have been in contact with and met a young man in the Netherlands who came upon some information about a piece of plane that was found with RA615 on it. This was found near Weert in the Netherlands."
Graves of the three crew killed L to R: Fl/Sgt. Henry Vine, Fl/Sgt. Cavan Robinson and Sgt. Leslie Hull
The funeral for the three crew members lost was held on the 23rd February 1945.
Fl/Sgt. Henry William Vine. Eindhoven (Woensel) General cemetery. Plot KK. Grave 16. Son of Henry William and Gladys Vine, of Gidea Park, Romford, Essex, England.
Fl/Sgt. Cavan Beadon Robinson. Eindhoven (Woensel) General cemetery. Plot KK. Grave 18. Son of James and Mary Grace Robinson, of 90 Douglas Avenue, South Perth, Western Australia. Warehouse assistant prior to call up. Date of Birth 05th January 1924. Signed up in Perth, Australia 28th January 1942. His grandparents were from 14 Barnwell Place, Londonderry, Norther Ireland. His brother Terry. left the Australian navy and went on to become a renowned professor of animal husbandry. His cousin, George, is a politician in Stormount, Northern Ireland.
Sgt. Leslie Hull. Eindhoven (Woensel) General cemetery. Plot KK. Grave 17. Son of Ernest and Annie Hull, of Boston, Lincolnshire, England.
Researched for relatives of the crew with thanks to the following for further information Janice Lowing - daughter of W/O. Lowing, Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses' Vol. 6, 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', Oliver Clutton-Brock - 'Footprints On The Sands Of Time'. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Tom Kracker - 'Kracker Luftwaffe Archives'.
We also recommend that viewers check out the specialist website on RAF Fiskerton - they have a great deal of further information and supplied us with the photo of the pilot, ‘Don Thieme.’