19/20.02.1944 No. 61 Squadron Lancaster I HK538 QR-F F/O Wallis
Operation: Leipzig, Germany.
Date: 19/20th February 1944 (Saturday/Sunday)
Unit: No. 61 Squadron.
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire.
Location: 200 metres South West of Lessien, Germany.
Pilot: F/O. Hubert Wallis 155510 RAFVR Age 22. Killed.
Fl/Eng: Fl/Sgt. T.F. Preston 965739 RAFVR - Baled out and captured PoW No. 1616 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria
Nav: W/O. Leslie Edward Tozer 655959 RAFVR - Baled out and captured PoW No. 1739 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Albert Alfred Pardoe 1316665 RAFVR Age 22. Killed.
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Kenneth Sims 1577750 RAFVR Age 21. Killed.
Air/Gnr: Sgt. David John Brewer 1874022 RAFVR Age.18. Killed.
Air/Gnr: P/O. Eric Bremner AUS/426297 RAAF Age 21. Killed.
REASON FOR LOSS:
After taking off from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire at 00:19 hrs. A disastrous raid for Bomber Command losing some 78 aircraft of the massive 823 taking part. The Bomber stream were under attack all the way to the target by the German night fighters. The weather at the target area was not as had been forecast and they arrived too early and had to orbit and await the pathfinders. During this they also encountered heavy flak losing 20 aircraft from this and a further 4 were lost in collisions. 420 aircrew killed, 131 PoW.
The target was cloud covered and the pathfinders had to use the sky-marking technique. No details regarding the effect of the bombing are available. No reports are available regarding the accuracy of the bombing as the target was cloud covered and no post-raid reconnaissance flight made.
HK538 was shot down en-route to the target by German nightfighter, possibly that claimed by Oblt. Hans Leickhardt of 2./NJG5 North East Gifhorn at 5,800 mtrs. Time: 02:57 hrs.
The Squadron lost another aircraft and crew during this operation:
Lancaster I ME591 QR-C Flown by P/O. John William Golightly 170420 RAFVR - killed with all six other crew. 2 Canadians were among the crew.
Detailed below is the crash investigation findings made by Fl/Lt. A.M. Dixon reported on 17th May 1946;
"I visited Lessien (Map Ref:M53 Y0545) and from the villagers ascertained that the Lancaster in question crashed at about 0300 hours on February 20th 1944. There is little to be seen now of the wreckage but a large crater a quarter of a mile SE of the cross-roads shown on sketch marks (no sketch with report) the position of the jettisoned bombs. Bits of metal and fabric lie scattered in a clump of trees 100 yards nearer the cross-roads. The pilots body was found still in the machine which had crashed 130 yards near the crater. The aircraft had been attacked by night-fighters on the way to the target.
From the position of the bodies when found, it would appear that all of the crew had jumped except the pilot, who apparently crash landed the plane. Two of the crew made a safe descent, three others jumped at too low an altitude for the parachutes to open, whilst another was unable to jump clear and according to eye-witnesses the parachute became entangled with the aircraft.
The bodies were placed in coffins and buried on February 22nd 1944. No Military honours or Christian burial was accorded by the Luftwaffe burial party. (Statement by Heinrich Gades - Buergermeister at time of crash), The body of an officer bearing an identification disc with number 155510 was interred in Grave No.1. A second body identified as P/O. Bremner 426247 was placed in Grave No.2.
The three unknown members of the crew that I exhumed and established positive identification of them all.
All wore their brevets and chevrons. In addition, Sgt. Brewer's name and number was still legible on his shirt collar.
A small Iron Cross over the grave is marked "5 Unknown RAF KIA Feb 1944". A rectangular cement curb surrounds the communal grave which is overlaid with small grey stones. In the centre of the grave, small white stones are arranged in the form of a cross" The grave is within a three foot high wooden fence with evergreen plants.
F/O. Hubert Wallis. Hanover War Cemetery, Germany. Grave Reference 8.G.7. Son of Robert William Wallis, and of Alice Wallis, of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.
Fl/Sgt. Albert Alfred Pardoe. Hanover War Cemetery, Germany. Grave Reference 8.G.9. Son of Albert and Florence Emily Pardoe, of Clydach, Glamorgan and husband of Ann Pardoe.
Fl/Sgt. Kenneth Sims. Hanover War Cemetery, Germany. Grave Reference 8.G.10. Son of Francis H. E. and Jessie Sims, of Leigh, Staffordshire.
Sgt. David John Brewer. Hanover War Cemetery, Germany. Grave Reference 8.G.11. Son of James and Ellen Brewer, of Southend-on-Sea, Essex.
P/O. Eric Bremner. Hanover War Cemetery, Germany. Grave Reference 8.G.8. Born on the 25th October 1922 in Brisbane, the son of David John and Mary Smeaton Bremner, of Rundle Street, Enoggera, Queensland, Australia.
Researched for relatives of the crew with thanks to sources as shown as well as the Australian Archives.