24/25.03.1944 No. 578 Squadron Halifax III MZ512 LK-C Sgt. Arthur
Date: 24/25th March 1944 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: No. 578 Squadron
Type: Halifax III
Base: RAF Burn, Yorkshire
Location: Großvargula, Germany
Pilot: Sgt. Robert Geoffrey Arthur 1393861 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Norman Bernard Lowlett 1602820 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Nav: F/O. K.J. Avent RAFVR PoW No: Not known Camp: Stalag Luft Barth Vogelsang
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Robert James Middlemas R/155997 RCAF Age 22. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Leonard Robert Morgan 1414772 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Robert Cunningham Foss Davidson 1372843 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. P.J. Kinsella RAFVR PoW No: 4001 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria and Barth Vogelsang
REASON FOR LOSS:
Bob and his crew in Halifax MZ512 LK-C were the tenth to take off at 18:53 hours from RAF Burn in Yorkshire.
Three 578 Squadron aircraft returned early with various faults. The remainder continued, with “C”-Charlie making it’s bombing run and setting course away, East of Berlin.
Right: Pilot of MZ512 Sgt. Robert Arthur (courtesy Joy and David Hammond)
Some reports state that continuing on a homebound course, the Halifax sustained flak damage near Großvargula, 22km N.W. of Erfurt and caught fire. Other reports, including the loss card, state that MZ512 was intercepted and shot down by a night fighter. We await further confirmation on this.
Bob ordered his crew to abandon the Halifax. Four crew were to lose their lives and two were to become PoW. The survivors later said that Bob had stayed at his controls to give his crew time to bale out.
578 Squadron were also to lose two other crews on this operation:
Halifax III LW472 LK-H Flown by F/O. James M. Row RAFVR killed with 6 other crew, 2 taken pow. Also on the website.
Halifax III LW508 LK-Y Flown by P/O. Duncan A. Long DFM. RAFVR killed with all 7 crew.
811 aircraft took part in what has become known as the "night of the strong winds" as a very strong wind took the bomber stream further south at every stage of the outbound flight. The bomber stream became very scattered in particular on the homeward bound stages where the radar controlled flak batteries were able to score many successes.
Left: Fl/Sgt. Robert James Middlemas (courtesy Eileen Hazell and Amy Middleton)
A total of 72 aircraft were lost, Berlin reported that 14 Aircraft were shot down by night fighters over the target area. Bombing was very scattered with over 100 towns and villages around Berlin being bombed and very little commercial damage done in Berlin itself. Civilians were hardest hit again with 20,000 made homeless and 150 people on the ground killed. This was the last major bombing raid on Berlin of the war although it was of course attacked by many small raids using Mosquitoes.
As explained previously 72 aircraft were lost on this raid - but the true horror being 220 aircrew killed with a further 133 made PoW.
In 1990 Joy and David Hammond, the nephew of the pilot, visited the small village where the crew was shot down. A member of the local church showed them the spot where the crew had first been buried in the Church grounds prior to their re-interment by the Americans after the war.
Sgt. Robert Geoffrey Arthur. Berlin War Cemetery. Grave 6.C.20. Further information: Son of Henry Frederick and Elizabeth Arthur of Luton, Chatham, Kent. The only son and brother of Dorothy Rosemary, Vera Audrey, Elsie Iris and Iris Daphne. Robert, known as Bobby to family and friends was born on the 22nd December 1921 in Chatham, Kent and after passing the entrance exam and starting a four-year training course, became an apprentice Shipwright at HM. Dockyard at Chatham. When war broke out he was excused call up but like so many wanted to volunteer as aircrew. He was selected for Pilot/Observer training and joined the Euston reserve. After training in England and America and various postings he was posted to 578 Squadron at Burn under the leadership of Wing Commander David ”Wilkie” Wilkerson. RAFVR, DSO, DFC. Flying Halifaxes, his first operation was to Frankfurt, followed by his last - Berlin.
Sgt. Norman Bernard Lowlett. Berlin War Cemetery. Grave 6.C.21. Next of kin details not available, are you able to assist?
Fl/Sgt. (Post. W/OII) Robert James Middlemas. Berlin War Cemetery. Grave 6.C.23. From Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. Known as Bobbie. His parents emigrated to Canada in 1920. Mother, Clara "Maud" Moseley 1889-1988 was born in Wandsworth London and his father John William Middlemas 1884-1962 was born in Eccles Manchester England. He had a younger brother William "Hughie" Middlemas. Understood to have been his first mission.
Sgt. Leonard Robert Morgan. Berlin War Cemetery. Grave 6.C.24. Son of Robert Frank and Caroline Morgan of Cardiff, Wales.
Sgt. Robert Cunningham Foss Davidson. Son of the Reverend Reginald Ian Davidson M.A. and Martha Dickie Davidson of Maryton Manse, Angus, Scotland.
Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew. Photo credits to Joy and David Hammond. Thanks also to Eileen P. Hazell for information on Fl/Sgt. Middlemas - July/November 2016. Also to Amy Middleton - niece of WO. Middlemas.