28/27.09.1943 432 (Leaside) Squadron Wellington X HE817 Plt Off. Stanley K. Atkinson
Operation: Hannover, Germany
Date: 27th/28th September 1943 (Monday/Tuesday)
Unit: 432 (Leaside) Squadron, RCAF
Type: Wellington X
Base: RAF East Moor, North Yorkshire
Location: 5 km (3 mls) NE of the centre of Hannover
Pilot: Plt Off. Stanley Kyle Atkinson J18229 RCAF Age 20 KiA
2nd Pilot: Flt Sgt. Irvine Charles Randolph Bowden 621553 RAFVR Age 26. KiA
Observer: Flt Sgt. Leo Frederick Cook R144405 RCAF Age 22. KiA
WOp/Air Gnr: Plt Off. Alfred William Chubb 155352 RAFVR Age 35. KiA
WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. William Alexander Grant R116118 RCAF Age? PoW No. 117117 * (1)
Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Shelton Colvin Bybee 1239660 RAFVR Age 28. PoW ** (2)
* Stalag Luft 7 Bankau nr. Kreuzburg O.S." (O.S. standing for Oberschlesien, Upper Silesia). Today called Bąków nr. Kluczbork (Poland).
** Stalag 17b Krems-Gneixendorf near Krems, Austria.
Above: Plt Off. Atkinson as a Sgt. from his service record.
Above left to right: Flt Sgt. Bowden, Flt Sgt. Cook, Plt Off. Chubb
REASON FOR LOSS:
In the early evening hours of 27th September 1943, 678 Bomber Command aircraft began to take off for a bombing mission over Hannover. In the mix of Lancasters, Halifaxes, Stirlings and 24 Wellingtons took part.
Many of the aircraft met severe icing conditions on the outward journey and returned to base. Those that did manage to get through to the target area found the weather to be clear and using the Steinhuder Meer (Lake Steinhude), as a visual reference were able to pinpoint Hannover some 19 miles to the southeast. Unfortunately for the Pathfinders, an error in the wind forecast caused the marking to be 8 km (5 mls) to the north sparing the city centre from most of the bombing. Even so, the high explosive bombs and over 40,000 incendiaries took a heavy toll on the population leaving 20,000 homeless with the loss of 200 lives.
In all, 47 aircraft from Bomber Command were lost with 237 airmen killed and 65 became PoWs. One airman evaded capture after his aircraft was shot down and five more were injured during crash landings upon their return.
432 Sqn was detailed for nine aircraft bombing operations over Hannover on the night of the 27th/28th September 1943. HB817 took off from RAF East Moor at 19:38 hrs and was the only aircraft from the Sqn that failed to return from the mission.
HB817 was claimed Oberfähnrich (Ofhr) (Senior officer cadet) Siegfried König, his 2nd Abschuss, from 9./NJG3, NW of Hannover at 4.000 m. at 23:20 hrs.
Note: the aircraft was coned by 2./Flakscheinw. Abt. 619, also claimed by Flak of 2. & Pers. Batt. Nord/schw. Flak Abt. 185 , 1./schw. Heimatflak Batt. 207/XI and 1. & 6./schw. Flak Abt. 461 (o) (‘Wellington Hannover, Schulenburgerlandstrasse 5500-3000 m. 23.12 hrs’)
Ofhr. König’s claim was confirmed by the OKL on the 17th June 1944, and the Flak searchlight and Flak claims were confirmed by the OKL on the 20th June 1944). (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (23 September - 31 December) 1943 Part 3 - Theo Boiten)
However, given the description provided by M/Sgt. Bybee it has been determined that it was probably Fw. Heinz Radloff from 1./JG300 flying ‘Wild Boar’ Bf109G-6 Werk #27049 that collided with HE817 and brought it down. Fw. Radloff was killed and his Bf109 crashed approximately 2 km (1¼ mls) SE from the crash site of HE817 in the List district of Hannover.
The main part of HE817 crashed on Schulenberger Landstraße, demolishing houses 107 to 120, some 5 km (3 mls) NE of the centre of Hannover. Small scattered parts of a wing were found some 275 m. (300 yards) to the SE in Melanchthonstraße.
The No. 4 Missing Research and Enquiry Unit (MREU) report dated 19th October 1948 recorded that two witnesses mentioned that four bodies were immediately recovered and a fifth was found when the wreckage was removed. Witnesses reported that one airman survived but was slightly injured. It was surmised that this was Plt Off. Grant, a Sgt. at the time. The MREU investigation did not reconcile the eyewitness reports with the fact that two airmen from the aircraft survived.
The remains of the crew were recovered and buried in the Limmer Civilian Cemetery. It is assumed that the remains could not be positively identified hence they are remembered at the Runnymede Memorial.
(1) Sgt. Grant was granted a commission and promoted to J18813 Plt Off. and then to Fg Off. whilst a PoW.
(2) After Fg Off. Grant was repatriated he reported that he saw M/Sgt. Bybee in hospital being treated for his injuries. The investigator from No 4 MREU could not reconcile the information that a Sgt. Bybee S.C. (1239660) who was the Rear Air Gunner on the aircraft with Plt Off. Grant seeing a M/Sgt. Bybee in hospital.
In a letter published by the Mexico Weekly Ledger on March 30th, 1944 M/Sgt. Bybee wrote to his brothers, Jewell and Mart Bybee which is reproduced below:
Oct 7th, 1943
Dear Folks: Sorry to have frightened you but it just couldn’t be helped. I hope you will be able to read this for I am writing this in bed. I was shot out of the skies. Broke my left leg, 3 places, and left arm one, about a dozen bullet holes in my left leg and left arm, have a nice bullet mark across my chin. (Censored). The Germans have treated me swell. I never thought I would have been treated so well. But thanks to them. I haven’t had much sleep and lost a lot of blood so I am very weak, any way I am out of the war. And I shall never fly again. I have gone through hell this war. And it is my last one, I will be home be home when the war is over, you can send me some things to eat through the Red Cross. No more cigarettes for I have quit smoking this time for good. Did you know that I was in the USA Army now? Keep all the money you can for me until after the war for I will need it. I am sending 4 times as much home as I used to. I hope you haven’t worried too much about me.
Write to me a lot. Tell everyone to write. I can’t write back but it would be nice to hear from home. I know nothing which goes on outside this room.
So I am now a prisoner of war. Let me hear from you.
Your Brother, Shell.
Above: Sgt. Bybee (Courtesy of David Robuck)
The photograph of Sgt. Bybee depicts him as an RAF aircrew trainee and the “USA” shoulder flash as an American who volunteered to serve in the RAF.
It is estimated that as many as 7000 Americans were recruited for the RAF and RCAF but the exact number who served has never been properly established because many pretended to be Canadians or even South Africans before America enter the war in December 1941.
The US PoW database records him as a M/Sgt. with an Army Service Number (ASN) of 10601387.
Note: The discrepancy with regard to the RAF service number, which is listed on the Loss card for the aircraft and the Sqn Operational Record Book (ORB), and his USAAF ASN is probably because it appears from records that he was transferred to the USAAF on the 1st September 1943 which may account for the two service numbers.
It appears that he was originally held as a PoW in Stalag 13 before being transferred to Stalag 17b.
Note: Stalag 13 - Comprised the Nordlager (North camp), Oflag 13b, which housed Officer PoWs and Südlager (South camp), Stalag 13c, which housed other ranks. The camp was on the outskirts of Hammelburg, about 80 km (50 mls) east of Frankfurt.
Note: There was also a Stalag 13b located near the town of Weiden in Bavaria.
After M/Sgt. Bybee was repatriated to the UK he wrote to the families of Plt Off. Atkinson and Plt Off. Chubb. The contents of the letter is reproduced below:
“On Sept. 27 1943 we took off from England for Hanover, Germany. We reached the target in good condition, a little ahead of time. We were the only plane over the target at the time. The Jerrys picked us up in the searchlights. A fighter came up from the front and underneath hitting my turret. I was wounded at the time but did not know it.
My communication was cut from the rest of the plane; therefore, I did not know what happened in the front…who was wounded. Another plane (fighter) came in on me from the tail. I shot him, he ran into us, hitting us in the mid-section. It turned the plane upside down, threw the turret with me inside away from the plane that was about 18,000 feet. I bailed [sic] out about 2,000 feet.
The two planes were stuck together and came down in flames. Bill Grant who was the bombardier, was thrown clear of the plane, came down unconscious, landing on a building, fell off and broke his leg. Bill and I landed about two blocks apart. There were six of us on the plane. To the best of my knowledge we two are the only ones that survived. I could have found out the details from the German authorities at the time, if there were any survivors but I would not give out any information concerning our plane, that is, what plane I was on, etc.
After my liberation, I went to the RCAF Headquarters in London, England. I checked all reports stating Bill Grant and I were the only survivors. I saw these photostatic copies, and to my belief they are correct. I am very sorry to give you this report but do not want to tell you something that I do not actually believe myself. This is the truth as far as I know. I have written to Mrs Chubb in England, stating the same thing. Her husband was our Wireless Operator.
I have not held back any information at all. I’d like to tell you that the Canadian boys were some of the best I was ever with, and the Canadian people treated me like a King.”
The Purple Heart was awarded to M/Sgt. Shelton C. Bybee ASN 10601387 on the 19th November 1945 and he was discharged from the USAAF on the 20th November 1945.
Above: Obituary (Courtesy of the Eldon Advertiser, dated March 19th, 1987)
Shelton Colvin Bybee (19th September 1915 - 7th March 1987)
Above: Runnymede Memorial
Plt Off. Staley Kyle Atkinson. Runnymede Memorial Panel 175. Born on the 21st December 1922 in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. Son of the Revd. James Henry and Ethel (née Treadwell) Atkinson, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Atkinson Lake in northern Ontario
is named after Plt Off. Stanley K. Atkinson.
Flt Sgt. Irvine Charles Randolph Bowden. Runnymede Memorial Panel 135. Born in the 3rd Qtr of 1917 in Newton Abbot, Devon. Son of Arthur Edward and Emeline Bond (née Wilce) Bowden, of Torquay, Devon, England
Flt Sgt. Leo Frederick Cook. Runnymede Memorial Panel 181. Born on the 9th December 1920 in Lindsay, Ontario. Son of William (deceased) and Philomene (née Bissette) Cook, of Lindsay, Ontario, Canada.
Plt Off. Alfred William Chubb. Runnymede Memorial Panel 131. Born on the 10th March 1908 in Upton Park, Essex. Son of Alfred Charles Hermitage and Edith Amelia Rose (née Lawrence) Chubb; husband of Hilda Jessie (née Jones) Chubb, of Forest Gate, Essex, England.
Initially researched by our Canadian researcher Colin Bamford and dedicated to the families and crew. Thanks also to Stefan Ilsemann who kindly gave the original permission for the reproduction of Shelton Bybee’s letter and crew photographs. (Sep 2011). Commemorative link added (Mar 2020). Narrative, information accreditations updated by Ralph Snape with thanks to David Robuck, great nephew of Shelton Colvin Bybee for his photograph (Apr 2023).
Other sources listed below: