24/25.03.1944 No. 15 Squadron Lancaster III LM490 LS-L Fl/Sgt. Wheeler
Date: 24/25th March 1944 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: No. 15 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk
Location: Teltow South West of Berlin.
Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Leslie William Charles Wheeler 1388461 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Herbert Longworth 974506 RAFVR Age 27. Killed
Nav: Fl/Sgt. Robert McIntosh 951312 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Air/Bmr: Sgt. Augustus Edward Smith 547611 RAF Age ? Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Francis Donald Wells 1600882 RAFVR Age 27 Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Eric Donald McCallum NZ/425586 RNZAF Age 20. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. James Briggs 1132443 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Another huge raid with 811 Allied bombers formed up to bomb Berlin. The weather was extremely good with very high visibility which resulted in many losses to the german night fighters who were already closing in on the bomber stream as early as 19:45 hrs! Un-forecasted jet stream winds scattered the bombers to the South of the intended route and many of the aircraft were flying without the protection of "Window". (1)
The night became known within Bomber Command as the "night of the strong winds".
The raid itself resulted in the usual damage to civilian properties with 150 people being killed on the ground in the target area (A further 30 people killed in other areas bombed by the scattered force.) No major industrial targets were hit although some damage was done to 5 military establishments - including the Waffen SS depot in Lichterfield
A total of 72 aircraft were lost in this last major raid on Berlin of the war. LM490 was delivered to 15 squadron on the 13th March 1944 and was one of two Lancasters from 15 squadron to be lost on this operation, the other being LM441 LS-T flown by Fl/Lt. William Grove who, together with his crew of 6 were all killed.
Lancaster LM490 had just eleven hours of flying time before it took off at 18:48 hours from Mildenhall. Homeward bound, shot down by a night-fighter probably flown by Oblt. Friedrich Tober (2) of 8./NJG2 in a Ju 88C at 23:15 hrs. and exploded with great force over Teltow, 16km SW from the centre of Berlin.
On 1st April all were laid to rest at Teltow, but since the cessation of hostilities, their bodies have been taken into Berlin and interred in the 1939-1945 War cemetery.
(1)"Window" see abbreviations.
(2) Oblt. Frederick Tober survived the war as an ‘Ace’ with 6 night claims and 1 daylight operation. (Shown left)
Fl/Sgt. Leslie William Charles Wheeler. Berlin War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 8.J.3-4. Son of William and Emily Wheeler, of Highbury, London, England.
Sgt. Herbert Longworth. Berlin War Cemetery. Grave 8.J.1. Son of Jeptha and Martha Longworth and husband of Dorothy Longworth, or Blackpool, Lancashire, England. Grave inscription reads: “The Lord Is My Shepherd Until We Meet Again Blackpool, England.”
Fl/Sgt. Robert McIntosh. Berlin War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 8.J.3-4. No further details as yet - are you able to assist?
Sgt. Augustus Edward Smith. Berlin War Cemetery. Grave 8.J.5. No further details as yet - are you able to assist?
Sgt. Francis Donald Wells. Berlin War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 8.J.3-4. Born in London, England in 1917 and known as “Frank” by his family and friends. No further details as yet - are you able to assist?
Sgt. Eric Donald McCallum. Berlin War Cemetery. Grave 8.J.6. Son of Kennedy Barclay McCallum and Pearl Maud McCallum, of Porangahau, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand.
Sgt. James Briggs. Berlin War Cemetery. Grave 8.J.2. Son of Ethel May Briggs, of New Herrington, Co. Durham, England. Grave inscription reads: “ Peacefully At Rest.”
Researched by: Linda Ibrom for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to all the relatives of the crew. With thanks to Nikki Castle for photograph of Sgt. Francis Donald Wells
With thanks to sources as quoted below, as well as Errol Martyn - For Your Tomorrow Vol’s 1-3 for information on Sgt. Eric Donald McCallum.