AR banner
Search Tips Advanced Search
Back to Top

• Kracker Archive
• Allied Losses
• Archiwum Polish
• Paradie Canadian
• Searchable Lists

Info LogoAdd to or correct this story with a few clicks.
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.
Check our Research databases: Database List


We seek additional information and photographs. Please contact us via the Helpdesk.

9 Squadron Crest
15/16.03.1944 9 Squadron Lancaster I HK540 WS-H Sqn.Ldr. Backwell-Smith

Operation: Stuttgart

Date: 15/16th March 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit: 9 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: HK540

Code: WS-H

Base: RAF Bardney, Lincolnshire

Location: Heutingsheim, Germany

Pilot: Sqn.Ldr. Raymond Backwell-Smith 37871 RAF PoW No. 1905 Camp: Stalag Mühlhausen

Flt.Eng: Sgt. Norman V. Sirman 1612116 RAFVR PoW No. 4022 Camp: Stalag Luft Barth Vogelsang

Nav: Fg.Off. Herbert Keith Sheasby 134586 RAFVR Age 31. Killed

Air/Bmr: Plt.Off. Douglas Raymond Eley J/86764 RCAF Age 20. Killed

W/Op/Air Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Ronald West 1575466 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Mid-Upp Gnr: Sgt. Brian Glover 1588485 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

Rear Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Eric Alfred Birrell 416923 RAAF Age 21. Killed

Page dedicated to the fiancée of Fl/Sgt. Eric Birrell - they were engaged the day the day before he went to war.


The crew flying Lancaster HK540 took off from RAF Bardney, Lincolnshire at 19:18 hrs. on an operation to Stuttgart.

This operation consisted of some 863 aircraft which flew over France, nearly as far as the Swiss border before turning north-east to approach the target.

This tactic delayed the Luftwaffe intercepting the bomber stream, but arrive they did, just prior to reaching the city.

Left: Sgt. Brian Glover (see credits)

The usual fierce combats ensued with the allies eventually (1) losing some 43 aircraft!

The aircraft was claimed by Uffz Hugo Oppermann from 8./NJG2 - North of Stuttgart: 5,600m at 23:32 hrs. Also claimed by Flak of 4/schw Flak Abt 21, schw Hei Flak Battery 206/XIII and 4 & 6/schw Flak Abt 436 (“Viermot Ludwigsburg 23:37”). Victory confirmed for Uffz Oppermann on 28 July 1944. The aircraft crashed near the "Wilhelmshof" near Heutingsheim, North of Ludwigsburg (Baden-Württemberg). (Nachtjagd Combat Archives Part 1 1944 - Theo Boiten).

(1) Not all losses are due to combat, on this operation alone some 7 aircraft were lost for other reasons:

578 Squadron Halifax III LW495 LK-C crashed on return at a brickworks at Selby.
578 Squadron Halifax III LW348 LK-X ran short of fuel on return and crashed to the east of Biggin Hill
463 Squadron Lancaster III ED606 JO-E collided midair with another aircraft from 625 Squadron, crashing at Branston, south east of Lincoln.
625 Squadron Lancaster III ND637 CF-L as above.
426 Squadron Lancaster II DS829 OW-U abandoned following total engine failure.
425 Squadron Halifax IIILW413 KW-Q abandoned out of fuel, crashing into houses on Adelaide Street, Brierley Hill on the outskirts of Halesowen, Birmingham.
57 Squadron Lancaster III JB474 DX-F all four engines caught fire over target area, pilot headed for Switzerland, with the aircraft crashing at Saignelegier.

9 Squadron Lancaster at RAF Bardney with insert Flt.Sgt. Eric Alfred Birrell (with thanks to National Archives of Australia)

Stuttgart raid 15/16th March 1944

Aircrew losses: Killed: 218 - Injured: 3 - PoW: 47 - Interned: 1 Evaded:17. Such was the nature of any operation, many aircraft being lost through other causes.

Burial details:

Fg.Off. Herbert Keith Sheasby. Durnbach War Cemetery. Collective grave 4F 28-31. Son of Joseph A. and Hildred M. Sheasby, husband of Marjorie Irene Sheasby of Shirley, Warwickshire, England.

Plt,Off. Douglas Raymond Eley. Durnbach War Cemetery. Collective grave 4F 28-31. Son of Mabel Eley of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Flt.Sgt. Ronald West. Durnbach War Cemetery. Collective grave 4F 28-31. Son of William Edward and Florence Ethel West of Nottingham, England.

Above: Crew graves at Durnbach War Cemetery (courtesy David Franklin - any relative would like a higher definition copy of the grave David has provided permission for us to send a copy)

Sgt. Brian Glover. Durnbach War Cemetery. Collective grave 4F 28-31. Son of Silvester and Fanny Charlotte Glover of Didsbury, Manchester, England.

Flt.Sgt. Eric Alfred Birrell. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 4F 27. Born 06th March 1923 at Mount Gambier, Southern Australia. Son of James and Emilie Minna Birrell of Mount Gambier, Southern Australia.

Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew. With thanks to Vicki Erceg (nee Glover) for photograph of Sgt. Glover, further information supplied by sources as shown below. Also to David Franklin for sending the grave photographs. Thanks to John Jones for the new Night Fighter claim information.

Note: Flt.Sgt. Eric Alfred Birrell escaped with injuries during a crash landing of Wellington III BK139 whilst with 30 OTU on the 15th May 1943 at RAF Llandwrog in Wales. 6 of the crew were injured (pilot serious) the rear gunner, 22 year old Sgt. Alec Edgar from Harlesden, Middlesex was killed.

Right: Sgt. Alec Edgar grave at Brookwood Military Cemetery

In April 2015 we received this immensely moving letter via our Helpdesk:

".. I am hoping you can help me! I'm sure you get a lot of people asking for help. I am searching for a photo of a man called Eric Alfred Birrell. All I know was that he died on the 14th March 1944. I work in an aged care facility in Australia and a resident I work with asked to speak to me one day. I sat down with her for an hour while she told me of her long lost love, Eric. They got engaged the day before he had to leave for war. He never came home. It just broke my heart! He was her one and only love and she never went on to marry or have children. I would desperately love to give her a photo of Eric. Regards,Tanya" ... and after seeing our page..

"Oh my god!!! Thank you so much Kelvin! I have tears in my eyes..I just can not wait to show her this!!! How absolutely incredible."

Sadly we learnt that in 2015 the lady Eric Birrell was engaged to had passed away.

RS 13.02.2020 - Update to Night fighter claim and new map

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'
Concept of Colonial Discrimination  •  Unauthorised First Long Range Mustang Attack
RAAF Bomb Aimer Evades with Maquis •  SOE Heroine Nancy Wake •  Fane: Motor Racing PRU Legend
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.
Click any image to enlarge it

Click to add your info via ticket on Helpdesk •Click to let us know via ticket on Helpdesk• Click to buy research books from Amazon •Click to explore the entire site
If you would like to comment on this page, please do so via our Helpdesk. Use the Submit a Ticket option to send your comments. After review, our Editors will publish your comment below with your first name, but not your email address.

A word from the Editor: your contribution is important. We welcome your comments and information. Thanks in advance.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember them. - Laurence Binyon
All site material (except as noted elsewhere) is owned or managed by Aircrew Remembered and should not be used without prior permission.
© Aircrew Remembered 2012 - 2024
Last Modified: 27 March 2021, 19:58

Monitor Additions/Changes?Click to be informed of changes to this page. Create account for first monitor only, thereafter very fast. Click to close without creating monitor