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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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153 Squadron Crest
05/06.03.1945 153 Squadron Lancaster I PB872 P4:X Fg Off. William J. Bailey

Operation: Chemnitz

Date: 5th/6th March 1945 (Monday/Tuesday)

Unit No: 153 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: PB872

Code: P4:X

Base: RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire

Location: Rossbach, Germany (now Hranice, Czech Republic)

Pilot: Fg Off. William James Bailey 189698 RAFVR Age 20. KiA

Flt Eng: Sgt. James Howard 1898834 RAFVR Age 27. KiA

Nav: Fg Off. Reginald George David Adlam 4212786 RNZAF Age 23. KiA

Bomb Aimer: Fg Off. Edward John Stanley Morris 164354 RAFVR Age 21. KiA

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Jack Dixon 1463894 RAFVR Age 24. KiA

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Sgt. William Boyd Meechan 3022129 RAFVR Age 19. KiA

Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Walter Simpson 3020020 RAFVR Age 19. KiA

Our thanks to Ron Hayne and his research work: "Nothing Heard Since Take Off"


Took off from RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire at 16.40 hrs with the weather forecast unfavourable with a predicted severe icing and caused losses of 9 aircraft crashing near their bases soon after departure. One Halifax crashed in York, killing 5 civilians and 18 others were injured. (The majority were killed when an engine went through the roof of a local primary school). Another raid under operation 'Thunderclap' resulting in huge fires in the City with many casualties.

Operation Thunderclap: At the beginning of 1945 a series of heavy air raids was being considered on German cities by the British Air Ministry. The idea was that this would cause such confusion and consternation that the end of the war would be hastened. Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig and Chemnitz were considered as suitable targets as they were at this point just behind the German lines on the eastern front. Considered to be important communication and supply hubs they were also full of refugees from the overrun German eastern territories. As well as the effect on morale there was also the intention to prevent the Germans from moving reinforcements from the west to face the successful Soviet advance. The Air Ministry issued a directive to Bomber Command at the end of January for raids on Dresden, Leipzig and Chemnitz. On the 4th February 1945 at the Yalta Conference the Soviets asked for raids of this type to be carried out, although these requests came after the plans had been drawn up. The Americans were asked to help and they agreed to do so.

Crew L-R: Fg Off. Bailey, Sgt. Howard, Fg Off. Adlam, Fg Off. Morris, Sgt. Dixon, Sgt. Meecham, Sgt. Simpson

498 Lancasters, 256 Halifaxes, 6 Mosquitos took part in this attack and they suffered heavy losses from both the night fighters and the fierce flak. 22 further aircraft were lost on the raid (31 in total) and it is thought that PB872 was hit by flak and it is reported that the pilot tried to crash land the aircraft - all were killed. Both the rear gunners were ex ATC cadets from Scotland.

153 Squadron aircrew talking to ground crews

Thought to be the impact area of Lancaster PB872

Mr Ron Hayne, a relative of Sgt. Jack Dixon has researched this loss and has since written a book about it. "Nothing Heard Since Take Off". (A few copies of this self-published book may soon be available to purchase)

He wrote

"The Lancaster was it seems, shot down by a Messerschmitt Bf110 night fighter piloted by a Major Walter Borchers who was commander of NJG5 unit.

It is almost certain he attacked using the upward firing cannon which caused a fire in the wing tank between two engines, the pilot Jim Bailey did have some control as the Lancaster descended because a witness I spoke to saw it pass over her village with long flames from one of its wings.

To attempt a successful landing would be almost impossible, shortly after passing over the village at very low level the wing main spar melted and the outer engine and outer section of the wing parted from the aircraft,

The first sign of trouble was a fire in the fuel tank between engines 1 and 2. Bailey attempted to make a crash landing but the outer section of the port wing, including engine 1, came away and the aircraft crashed just outside Rossbach, eastern Germany (now Hranice, Czech Republic) at 21.30 hrs local (20.30 GMT).

The fuselage was burned out. It seems that the aircraft was carrying six incendiary bombs and since no fire in the fuselage could been seen during descent the assumption is that one or more of them detonated on impact. Two members of the crew baled out before impact but with insufficient height for their parachutes to deploy."

Moseley Grammar school (Now secondary/grammar school) and Memorial (click on school photo or memorial to take you to the Moseleians website)

Burial details:

Crew graves - Prague War Cemetery

Fg Off. William James Bailey. Prague War Cemetery. Grave II.C.7. Inscription: "JIM, BELOVED SON OF W.J. AND L.J. BAILEY, "THE CABIN", SANDLEHEATH, HANTS. "AT REST"". Son of William James Bailey and Lydia Jane Bailey, of Sandleheath, Hampshire, England.

Sgt. James Howard. Prague War Cemetery. Grave II.C.10. Inscription: "MAY HE REST IN PEACE". Son of James and Mary Howard; husband of Annie Margaretta Howard, of Cricklewood, Middlesex, England.

Fg Off. Reginald George David Adlam. Prague War Cemetery. Grave II.C.4. Son of John David and Gladys Nellie Adlam, of Auckland City, New Zealand.

Fg Off. Edward John Stanley Morris. Prague War Cemetery. Grave II.C.5. Inscription: "HE GAVE ALL. ALWAYS LONGED FOR. GOOD NIGHT, GOD BLESS. MAM, DAD, RUTH AND MARJORIE". Son of Thomas Stanley Morris and Ethel Annie Morris, of Edgbaston, Birmingham, England.

Fg Off. Edward Morris was a former pupil of Moseley Grammar school (Now secondary/grammar school). We are working very closely with the school's historians to remember all the ex pupils who died whilst serving with the RAF and recorded on the school memorial.

Sgt. Jack Dixon. Prague War Cemetery. Grave II.C.8. Inscription: "YOU LEFT A BEAUTIFUL MEMORY A GRIEF TOO GREAT TO BE TOLD BUT TO THOSE WHO LOVED YOU YOUR MEMORY NEVER GROWS OLD". Son of Walter G. and Rosa C. Dixon, of East Ruston, Norfolk, England.

Sgt. William Boyd Meechan. Prague War Cemetery. Grave II.C.6. Inscription: "HIS MEMORY WILL LIVE WITH US FOR EVER". Son of Thomas and Helen Meechan, of Dalmellington, Ayrshire, Scotland.

Sgt. Walter Simpson. Prague War Cemetery. Grave II.C.9. Inscription: "IN LOVING MEMORY OF OUR DEAR SON WALTER WHO GAVE HIS LIFE FOR OUR FREEDOM". Son of William and Janet Simpson, of Larkhall, Lanarkshire, Scotland.

With thanks to the following: Keith Townsend historian of Moseley Secondary/Grammar school memorial records, Mr Ron Hayne - "Nothing Heard Since Take Off".

Other sources listed below:

RS 03.11.2022 - Reviewed and updated

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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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