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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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427 Squadron Crest
31/01.09.1943 No. 427 Squadron Halifax V EB251 ZL-T P/O. Vandekerckhove

Operation: Berlin

Date: August 31st/01st September 1943 (Tuesday/Wednesday)

Unit: No. 427 Squadron

Type: Halifax MkV

Serial: EB251

Code: ZL-T

Base: RAF Leeming, Yorkshire

Location: Bramsche, Germany

Pilot: P/O. George Pierre Cornelius Vandekerckhove DFC. J/17326 RCAF Age 26. Killed (1)

2nd Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Cyril Campbell Gofton 1095873 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Edward Bartlett 578277 RAF Age 19. Killed

Nav: Sgt. William Alfred "Bill" Williamson R/108342 RCAF Age 21. PoW No: 222800 Camp: Stalag Muhlberg (Elbe) 4B

Air/Bmr: Sgt. A.D Rothwell 156352 RAF PoW No: 222841 Camp: Stalag Muhlberg (Elbe) 4B

W/Op/Air/Gnr: P/O. Alan Edward Young 156416 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. John Amos Albert R/134836 RCAF Age 22. Killed (2)

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. John James Mclean R/124704 RCAF Age 27. Killed

REASON FOR LOSS:

Taking off from RAF Leeming in Yorkshire at 20:20 hrs. to attack the heart of Germany - Berlin.

622 aircraft took part made up from 331 Lancasters, 176 Halifaxes, 106 Stirlings and 9 Mosquitoes. Due to the use for the first time of fighter flares dropped by German aircraft to mark the route of the bombers the German night-fighters made many attacks on the bomb run. This resulted in huge losses to the allies with 47 aircraft lost - 10 Lancasters, 17 Sterling's and 20 Halifaxes.

The raid was hampered by cloud and the very heavy defences around the German capital and the raid was considered as not very successful - 85 homes were destroyed, and only 1 industrial building was damaged. 66 civilians were killed and 2 German soldiers with another 109 injured - nearly 3,000 people were made homeless which resulted in Goebels ordering the evacuation of Berlin of all children and adults not engaged in war work to country areas.

The loss of allied crews on this raid amounted to: 237 Aircrew killed, 102 made PoW with 3 others evading capture.

After this raid, Gauleiter Goebbels ordered the evacuation from Berlin of all children and all adults not engaged in war work to country areas or to towns in Eastern Germany where air raids were not expected.

Rear L-R: Sgt. A.D Rothwell, Sgt. Edward Bartlett, P/O. George Vandekerckhove DFC, Sgt. William Williamson, Centre extreme right: Fl/Sgt. John Albert, Front: P/O. Alan Young, Fl/Sgt. John Mclean (Recognition courtesy of Jim Busby - November 2017)

This Lancaster was thought to have been brought down by a nightfighter although no claims have been identified to date. The crew were initially buried at Bramsche on the 6th September - after war end reinterred in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.

(1) Vandekerckhove Lake, East of Reindeer Lake, Manitoba, Canada was named after the pilot, P/O, Vandekerckhove in 1947.

(2) Albert Lake, East of Tadoule Lake, Manitoba, Canada was named after the air gunner, Fl/Sgt. Albert in 1975.

Burial details:

P/O. George Pierre Cornelius Vandekerckhove DFC. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Collective grave 26. D.1-3. Son of Basil and M. Vandekerckhove, of Stony Mountain, Manitoba, Canada. He originated from Neuville in France. Grave inscription reads: “May He Rest In Peace”.

Sgt. Edward Bartlett. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 26.D.9. Son of William Edward Henry and Florence Daisy Bartlett, of Sandford, Dorsetshire, England. Grave inscription reads: “Lost But Not Forgotten”.

Fl/Sgt. Cyril Campbell Gofton. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 26.D.4. Son of Richard Alder Gofton and Hannah Isabella Gofton, of Monkseaton, Northumberland, England. Grave inscription reads: “In Proud Memory Of Cam. The Future Must Be Great To Be Worth His Passing”.

P/O. Alan Edward Young. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Collective grave 26. D.1-3. Son of John William and Florence Young; husband of Phyllis Joan Young, of Sprowston, Norfolk, England. Grave inscription reads: “Beloved Husband Of Joan And Son Of Major and Mrs. J. Young, Norwich. "Memories Linger”.

Fl/Sgt. John Amos Albert. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 26.D.10. Son of Thomas and Olivine Albert, of Sandy Lake, Manitoba, Canada and husband of Norma T. Albert. Grave inscription reads: “Heaven's Winds, Blow Softly O' Er This Sweet Spot Where One We Loved Lies Sleeping”.

Fl/Sgt. John James Mclean. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Collective grave 26. D.1-3. Son of John James and Mary McLean, Reserve Mines, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Researched by Michel Beckers for Aircrew Remembered - October 2017. With thanks to the following: Online Begraafplaatsen for grave photographs, Christian Larsen of Pennfield Parish Military Historical Society for crew photograph, Others from the collection of Michel Beckers. With many thanks to Jim Busby who has researched the pilot and contacted us in November 2017.

MB - 02.10.2017 KTY - Page updated 23.11.2017

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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Last Modified: 22 November 2017, 22:59

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