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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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50 Squadron Crest
21/22.02.1945 50 Squadron Lancaster I LL741 VN:X Fg.Off. Anderson

Operation: Mittelland Canal, Gravenhorst

Date: 21/22nd February 1945 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit: 50 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: LL741

Code: VN:X

Base: RAF Skellingthorpe, Lincolnshire

Location: Helenaveen, Netherlands

Pilot: Fg.Off. Peter Gordon Anderson J36360 RCAF Age 21. Killed

Flt.Eng: Sgt. Denys William Lewis 1836806 RAFVR Age? Evaded capture (1)

Nav: Flt.Sgt. Roy Campbell R187200 RCAF Age 21. Killed

Air Bmr: Flt.Sgt. Denis Alphonsus McCauley 1394837 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

WOp/AirGnr: Flt.Sgt. Ward Rex Southcott R204493 RCAF Age 21. Killed

Air Gnr (MU): Flt.Sgt.. Donald Alexander McFayden R208567 RCAF Age 21. Killed

Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Fred Seddon Langton 1043747 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

Left: Fg.Off. Anderson; Right: Flt.Sgt. Campbell. Taken from their Service records.

Left: Flt.Sgt. McCauley, taken whilst an aircrew trainee (Courtesy Oscar Huisman); Right: Flt.Sgt McFayden, from his service record.


The crew were posted in from No. 5 Lancaster Finishing School on the 2nd November 1944 and this had been their 16th operation.

Taking off at 17:02 hrs from RAF Skellingthorpe to join some 165 Lancaster and 12 Mosquitoes of 5 group to attempt the breaking of the Mittelland Canal, Gravenhorst (an operation the previous night had to be abandoned due to poor weather conditions) The raid was a success with the reports from crews that the target had been rendered totally unserviceable. 13 Lancasters were lost on the operation with 53 crew losing their lives, 19 taken PoW and 11 evading capture.

The Squadron lost another crew during this operation, RF138 VN:D Flown by 27 year old Fg.Off. Paul Herbert Hatcher 186516 RAFVR from Shirley, Southampton, England - killed with 5 other crew, the rear gunner taken PoW.

Lancaster LL741 carried 14 x 1000 lb bomb load, delivering it at 20:37 hrs from 10.000 ft. when shortly afterwards believed to have been hit by flak. The aircraft continued on their return flight with all engines still running. At about 21:15 hrs when approaching Deurne at 7.000 ft the aircraft was attacked by a German night fighter causing a fire on both sides of the cockpit. The pilot ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft. Sgt. Lewis made his way to the front escape hatch where he saw the air bomber also preparing to bale out. Both these two crew members left the aircraft but it seems that the parachute of Flt.Sgt. McCauley caught fire, with him falling to his death.

On this night a total of 13 Abschüsse were made against the Gravenhorst attackers by two German ace crews of Maj. Heiz-Wolfgang Schanaufer and Hauptmann Heinz Rökker. Another Lancaster returned to the UK with damage, following an apparent collision with a night fighter, recorded as being an Me410.

It is extremely difficult to match most of the losses to specific claims by Schanaufer and Rökker, because of the inaccuracy of the claims locations submitted by both pilots, which began to drift westwards from the actual crash sites. For the record the known details from primary sources for LL741 was that it crashed at Deurne, circa 21:15hrs between Griendsveen and Helenaveen, following a night fighter attack. (Nachtjagd War Diaries Volume 2 (April 1944 - May 1945) - Dr Theo E.W. Boiten & Roderick J. Mackenzie)

(1) During the descent by Sgt. Lewis lost both his flying boots gloves and both food boxes - he also injured a muscle in his right leg on landing. Not sure of his position and unable to make little progress with his injury he decided to wrap himself in the parachute and try to sleep. In the morning he noticed two soldiers approaching and attracted their attention by waving and blowing his whistle. One of them spoke English (later learning that they were Dutch soldiers) and after establishing his identity they took the sole survivor of the crew to Helmond, from their he returned to England a few days later- rejoining operations in April 1945.

Sgt. Lewis' (some publications have his name spelt incorrectly as Laws) brother, Fg.Off. James Edgar Lewis 129357 RAFVR (Son of Mr. and Mrs. J. E. Lewis, of Griffithstown, Monmouthshire, Wales), was KiA on a mission to Wuppertal on 25th June 1943 aboard 102 Sqn. Halifax II JB834 DY:C flown by 21 year old Flt.Sgt. James Arthur Marsden 1218435 RAFVR from Great Horton, Yorkshire, England. Commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial as body (with 5 other crew members) not recovered. It seems that Denys Lewis sadly passed away in 2012 at Pontypool, South Wales.

Burial details:

Fg.Off. Peter Gordon Anderson. Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. Grave XV.D.8. Born 4th April 1923 in Oshawa, Durham, Ontario. Son to John Colborne and Lillian Cristabel 'Betty) (née Gordon) Anderson of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. His father predeceased him in 1926.

Plt,Off. Roy Campbell. Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. Grave XV.D.13. Born 13th July 1925 in Alberta. Son of William Martin Bill and Florence (née Hughes) Campbell from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Promoted to Plt.Off. on the 20th February 1945, with a service No. of J94275

Flt.Sgt. Denis Alphonsus McCauley. Overloon War Cemetery. Grave 11.B.1. Son of Francis Leo and Bridget McCauley, of Plumstead, London, England.

Plt.Off. Ward Rex Southcott. Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. Grave XV.D.11. Born 5th May 1915 in London, Middlesex, Ontario. Son of Gordon Ward and Mrytle Irene (née Pike) Southcott. Husband to Marjorie Ethel Southcott from London, Ontario, Canada.

Posthumously promoted to Plt.Off. with a service No. of J94334

Plt.Off. Donald Alexander McFayden. Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. Grave XV.D.9. Born 20th October 1923 in Ontario. Son of Archibald and Pearl Elizabeth (née cain) McFayden of Fort Francis, Ontario, Canada. His father predeceased him in October 1941.

Promoted to Plt.Off. on the 20th February 1945, with a service No. of J94252

Sgt. Fred Seddon Langton. Overloon War Cemetery. Grave 11.B.2. Born 24th June 1921 in. Ormskirk, Lancashire. Son of Ernest and Hannah (née Rimmer) Langton of Southport, Lancashire, England.

Researched for Alison Toon whose daughter was the cousin of Roy Campbell. Thanks to Oscar Huisman for the image of Flt.Sgt. McCauley (Oct 2020). Narrative updated and new images added by Aircrew Remembered (Oct 2020). Sources as quoted below.

RS 11.10.2020 - Update to narrative and new images added

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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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