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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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550 squadron badge
05/06.01.1945 550 Squadron Lancaster I NG331 BQ-M Fg.Off. Adams

Operation: Hannover

Date: 5/6th January 1945 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit: 550 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: NG331

Code: BQ-M

Base: RAF North Killinghome, Lincolnshire.

Location: Langenhagen, Hannover, Germany

Pilot: Fg.Off. John Charles Adams J/36193 RCAF Age 23. Killed (1)

Flt.Eng: Sgt. William Percy Scott 1593364 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

Nav: Flt.Sgt. Benjamin Sterman 1390537 RAFVR Age 26. Killed

Air/Bmr: Fg.Off. William Robert Elcoate J/24653 RCAF Age 33. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Frederick Papple 1002042 RAFVR Age 24. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fg.Off. Francis Swann Renton 173905 RAFVR Age 30. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Kenneth Douglas Winstanley 634829 RAFVR PoW No. 7739. Stalag Luft 1 Barth-Vogelsang, Prussia now Poland


Leaving RAF North Killinghome at 19.15hrs. on an operation to Hanover, their Lancaster was shot down by flak on the Northern outskirts of Hanover.

It is believed that the aircraft crashed at around 21.50 hrs.into Hindenburgstraße at Langenhagen, northern Hannover with wreckage scattered over a large area

Above left: Taken during air gunnery training and what is thought to show: L-R: Fg.Off. Renton, Fg.Off. Elcoate, Sgt. Winstanley, Flt.Sgt. Sterman, Fg.Off. Adams, Flt.Sgt. Papple. Above right: Fg.Off. Francis Swann Renton and Sgt. Kenneth D. Winstanley

Fg.Off. John Adams on the left with another of the crew relaxing (courtesy Brian and Jennifer Goodwin

Above Flight Sergeant Frederick Papple (courtesy Val Papple

Left: Fg.Off. John Adams with Fg.Off. Francis Renton and his wife, Evelyn. Right: Newspaper cutting

Kenneth Winstanley described later how they came up to the target which was ablaze with fires from incendiaries and being knocked out in a terrific explosion. He fell through the air and free fell at about 3,000 feet before pulling the ripcord. He landed on wasteland on the edge of Hanover at about 23.00 hrs. and into several inches of snow.

Realising that apart from being badly shaken up, he was uninjured, he made a hole in the snow and buried his parachute, harness and Roberts suit and his one remaining boot. He made his way into the countryside and was consulting his silk map when a group of Luftwaffe ground staff with sub machine guns and two dogs appeared. They took him to a nearby airfield and placed him in one of the cells in the guardroom.

A large radiator heated it and one of the Luftwaffe brought him in some stew. From there he was taken to Stalag Luft 1. There were several American airmen there and he remembers the extreme cold and hunger as the German rations were negligible.

Zukov's Red army eventually freed him and his fellow airmen. After helping to clear the nearby airfield of mines a group of Flying Fortresses arrived and took Kenneth and other PoW’s back to England.

As a quirk of fate, Kenneth and Frank Renton the other gunner tossed a coin for who would have which turret. Initially Frank Renton had the rear turret but swapped to mid-upper. It was this that saved Kenneth’s life just before their final mission.

Sgt. Kenneth D. Winstanley and his PoW photograph (Courtesy of Torin Douglas)

(1) His brother, Sgt. Frederick Coulson Adams R/54373 RCAF Age 24, killed whilst serving with 10 OTU on a training exercise in a Whitley V Z6667. The aircraft broke up in the air during a night bombing exercise and crashed at Garsington near Oxford. The pilot, Flt.Sgt. Arthur E. W. Lynch RAF was killed, along with all 6 crew members. Sgt. Coulson is buried at Brookwood. A remembrance page has been produced for this crew also, as we are in contact with another crew members relative from that crash.

Burial details:

Fg.Off. John Charles Adams. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 2F.13. Born on July 10th, 1922, son of Dr Fred and Essie (nee Watson) Adams of Toronto, Ontario.

Sgt. William Percy Scott. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 3C.18. Son of William and Margaret Scott of Sunderland, Co. Durham, England.

Flt.Sgt. Benjamin Sterman. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 3C.17. Born in 1919, Islingdon, London, England. No further details as yet.

Fg.Off. William Robert Elcoate. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 2F.11. Born in 1912 at Whitemouth, Manitoba, Canada the son of Robert Elcoate and Ellen Louisa (nee Harrison) and brother of Mrs D.Turner of Hairy Hill, Mrs F.Bateman of Didsbury and Mrs Jack Keys (deceased) of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.

Married with a son, Robert, he and his wife lived at 735,18th Street North, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. Prior to his enlistment in the spring of 1942, worked at Zimmerman’s grocery for thirteen years and later with Jenkins Grocetaria. He was a great sports enthusiast and very popular. He graduated from S.F.T.S. at Edmonton in 1943 and was commissioned as a pilot officer before taking an instructors course at Mountain View, Ontario, Canada. In April 1943 he was posted to No. 8 Bombing and Gunnery school as an instructor. On May 3rd 1943 he received his commission before being sent to England. He had flown a total of 21 ops in the three months prior to his death.

Flt.Sgt. Frederick Papple. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 2F.9. Known as Freddie, he was the first son and fifth child of Frederick and Hilda Maud Papple of West Hartlepool, Co.Durham, England.

Left original grave marker for Fg.Off. Renton at Hanover.

Fg.Off. Francis Swann Renton. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 2F.4.

Born on the 2nd of December 1915 at Donaldson Lodge, Cornhill-on-Tweed, the son of Alexander (K.I.A. France 1917) and Mary Renton and brother of William Renton of Cornhill-on-Tweed, Northumberland, England.

Fg.Off. Renton served in the Libyan campaign in the Middle East as a RAF police corporal and after convalescing from shrapnel wounds to his back, volunteered for aircrew, being commissioned in November 1943 and promoted to Fg.Off. in early November 1944.

He married Evelyn Thomson in 1944.

Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom with the valuable assistance of Brian and Jennifer Goodwin (relatives of Fg.Off. Renton) and the Lethbridge Herald, the family of Kenneth Winstanley, Val Papple (Husbands uncle), Tony Waller and also to the Birmingham Library service, further new information supplied by John Adams (relative of pilot Fg.Off. John Adams - this page of remembrance is dedicated to all the relatives of the crew. Suggested further reading the '550 Squadron Association.' Thanks to Torin Douglas for the images of her father-in-law, Sgt.Winstanley.

RS 24.11.2019 - Addition of photographs for Sgt. Winstanley

Pages of Outstanding Interest
History Airborne Forces •  Soviet Night Witches •  Bomber Command Memories •  Abbreviations •  Gardening Codenames
CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
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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, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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