30/31.03.1944 No. 426 Squadron Lancaster II DS840 OW-C Fl/Lt. Walter Cracknell
Date: 30/31st. March 1944 (Thursday/Friday)
Unit: No.426 Squadron RCAF ‘Thunderbirds’
Type: Lancaster II
Base: RAF Linton on Ouse, Yorkshire.
Location: Ermreuth, 4km west south west of Gräfenberg, Germany.
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Walter Charles Cracknell J/8353 RCAF Age 22. Killed (1)
Flt/Eng: Sgt. Harold Wride 652571 RAF Age 24. Killed
Nav: P/O. Alexander Gordon Devoy J/85650 RCAF Age 23. Killed (2)
Air/Bmr: P/O. Hubert Francis Orr J/89072 RCAF Age 30. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: W/O. Milton Cecil Moosman NZ/415551 RNZAF Age 23 Killed
Air/Gnr: F/O. Leroy Edward Robinson J/22460 RCAF Age 27. Killed (3)
Air/Gnr: P/O. Roy Clifford Haycock J/86607 RCAF Age 25. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
This raid on the City of Nuremberg resulted in Bomber Commands heaviest loss of the war.
Despite the fact that it was a period of bright moonlight and an earlier meteorological flight had warned that there would be no cloud cover for the bomber stream, conditions that normally would have ordered a cancellation of the mission, no such order was made. Nuremberg was an important industrial target as well as a centrepiece of the Nazi Party that had not been attacked for seven months. Air Chief Marshall Harris was not to be deterred from his plan.
Above left two: F/O. Leroy Robinson, (courtesy Wendy Robinson), P/O. Alexander Devoy (courtesy Chilliwack Archives - see credits below) far right: Sgt. Harold Wride (courtesy Richard Swanson via Linda Ibrom)
Nuremberg was a distant target and even though the route chosen was to be one of a direct nature it still represented a round trip of between 1300 and 1600 miles dependant upon the base airfield. Additionally, it was one that would lead the bomber stream between the Ida and Otto radio beacons located near Cologne and Frankfurt respectively which in hindsight turned out to be a fatal mistake. German intelligence had monitored the bomber force taking off in England and plotted their course by intercepting their H2S transmissions. Suspecting that the intended target was somewhere in south eastern Germany, the Luftwaffe commanders had ordered their fighters to assemble at the Ida and Otto beacons.
The leading Pathfinders were able to pass through the gap before the consolidated force of over 200 night fighters converging on the beacons hit the middle of the bomber stream.
At two minutes before ten o’clock on the night of March 30 Fl/Lt. Cracknell and the crew of Lancaster DS840, “C” for Charlie, left the runway at Linton on Ouse. The aircraft, with its seven crew members who were on their fifth operation together, was on its final approach to the target when it was attacked by an unknown night fighter (4) and crashed near the village of Ermreuth 15 miles to the north of Nuremberg. There were no survivors. One other Lancaster from the thirteen aircraft that were despatched from 426 Squadron failed to return two of the crew members being killed and five others taken as prisoners of war.
Of the 795 aircraft making up the attacking force 82 of their number would be lost due to enemy action en-route and near to the target. While some of these were brought down by flak by far the majority was as a result of night fighter action. Another nine bombers were brought down by the night fighters and flak on the return leg. Fourteen more were lost, eleven in crashes on take off or on their return to base, one due to friendly fire and two to mid-air collision.
Right: F/O. Alexander Gordon Devoy frame of memories.
In all 543 aircrew were killed and a further 157 captured as prisoners of war.
The operation was a total failure not only in terms of the loss of so many brave aircrew and aircraft but little damage was sustained by the City of Nuremberg.
Although the bombers flight path had been clear and moonlit, by the time the Pathfinders arrived in the vicinity of the target thick cloud cover and strong winds prevailed. The thick cloud made the target indicators all but invisible and, combined with the unexpected winds blowing the Pathfinders off course, caused much of the main force bombing to be cantered on the small town of Lauf and the surrounding villages to the north east of Nuremberg. In the confusion some crews dropped their bombs on Schweinfurt causing minor damage to the ball bearing factories but again many of the bombs fell in the outskirts. Damage in Nuremberg itself was relatively light. Several smaller fires were set in the city centre and a few buildings hit including the railway station, post office and some houses but the main objective of setting the city ablaze and bombing the M.A.N. and Siemens factories failed completely.
(1) Cracknell Lake in northern Ontario is named after Fl/Lt. Cracknell
(2) Mount Devoy east of Laidlaw, British Columbia is named after P/O. Devoy.
(3) Robinson Peaks north west of Golden, British Columbia are named after F/O. Robinson and his brother Private Everett Carl Robinson of the 2nd Battalion Highland Light Infantry, City of Glasgow Regiment who was killed in action on 27 June 1944 near Caen, France. He is buried at St.Manvieu War Cemetery, Cheux, France.
Right: Robinson Peaks certificate (courtesy Wendy Robinson)
With thanks to Jim Robertson (the son of the late brother - Robert Earl Robinson) the moving story on F/O. Robinson is told on this website.
(4) It is thought that the claim made by Uffz. Heinz Krause of 3./NJG3 probably claimed this aircraft, with combat taking place at 5,600 mtrs at 01:18 hrs. Although another Lancaster also matched this time and area, that of 101 Squadron DV275. Such was the fierce combats taking place during this raid it is very difficult to pinpoint exactly.
He made two confirmed claims during this raid, one at 01:14 hrs and another at 01:18 hrs. same height and same area so it is probable that he did shoot both of these aircraft down, we are just not able to pinpoint at what time the combat took place.
He made a total of 5 confirmed kills during the war and it is thought that he survived - no further details are available.
Durnbach War Cemetery - The quality of these photographs shown here can not be fully appreciated when the size is reduced for the web page. (courtesy David Franklin - David has kindly provided us with permission to release high definition copies to relatives)
Fl/Lt. Walter Charles Cracknell. Durnbach War Cemetery Grave 11 A 8. Son of Frederick Cass and Eva Helena (nee Candlish) Cracknell of Fort William, Ontario, Canada.
Sgt. Harold Wride. Durnbach War Cemetery Grave 11 A 12. Son of Henry and Lucy Wride of Hull, England.
Left: F/O. Alexande Devoy
F/O. Alexander Gordon Devoy. Durnbach War Cemetery Grave 11 A 9. Further information: Brother of Mrs. Alan Minter and Miss Betty Devoy of Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada. Brother of Mrs. Alan Minter and Miss Betty Devoy, Chilliwack, B.C. Although Gordon was born and resided in Cumberland, B.C., his sisters, Mrs. Alan Minter and Miss Betty Devoy lived in Chilliwack. Gordon lived in Chilliwack, off and on, and became friends with Alan and Glen Minter. Gordon enlisted in the RCAF in May 1941 and was trained as a navigator. Overseas he served on Lancaster bombers with 426 Squadron.
P/O. Hubert Francis Orr. Durnbach War Cemetery Grave 11 A 11. Son of Edward Elliott Orr and Etta Mae Orr husband of Jeanne Orr of Peace River, Alberta, Canada.
Right: W/O. Milton Cecil Moosman
W/O. Milton Cecil Moosman. Durnbach War Cemetery Grave 11 A 10. Son of Ernest and Kathleen Moosman of Wanganui, Wellington, New Zealand.
F/O. Leroy Edward Robinson. Durnbach War Cemetery Grave 11 A 13. Son of Edward Clark and Effie May (nee Bailey) Robinson of Golden, British Columbia, Canada.
P/O. Roy Clifford Haycock. Durnbach War Cemetery Grave 11 A 14. Son of Abram and Ethel Haycock of Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada.
P/O Devoy’s biographical information researched by Paul Ferguson, Heritage Collections Manager, Chilliwack Museum and Archives and reproduced courtesy of The Chilliwack Museum and Archives, British Columbia, Canada.
Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and RCAF specialist Colin Bamford for relatives of this crew. We would like to thank Wendy Robinson, niece of F/O Leroy Robinson, for her assistance in researching this article which is dedicated to her family and all of the relatives of the crew of Lancaster DS840. Also, many thanks to Linda Ibrom and Richard Swanson for further information and photographs. Bibliography: Martin Middlebrook - "The Nuremberg Raid" Allen Lane Publishing 1973.