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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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115 Squadron crest
13/14.07.1943 No. 115 Squadron Lancaster II DS690 KO-C Sq/Ldr. Baird

Operation: Aachen, Germany.

Date: 13/14th July 1943 (Tuesday/Wednesday)

Time: 02.10 hrs

Unit: No. 115 Squadron

Type: Avro Lancaster Mk. II

Serial No. DS690

Code: KO-C

Base: RAF East Wretham, Norfolk.

Location: La Cornette, 3 km. south Fays-les-Veneaurs, Belgium.

Pilot: Sq/Ldr. Robert Alexander Graville Baird 70789 RAF Age 33. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Johannes Ernest Conraad Odendaal 777926 RAFVR Age 21. PoW No: 83699 Camp: Stalag Mühlberg-Elbe (1)

Nav: F/O. William James Moorcroft RAFVR 127974 Age 22. Killed

Air/Bmr: Sgt. Robert Alfred Walker RAFVR 1235107 Age 21. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Edwin Smith RAFVR 1330882 Age 20. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Nicholas Auber Benjamin Robinson RAAF AUS/406795 Age 31. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Harold Matthews RAFVR 1318179 Age 19. Killed


Lancaster DS690 took-off from its base at East Wretham at 23:59 hours to attack Aachen, Germany.

The following account extracted from the Bomber Command War Diaries:

'A strong tail wind brought the first waves of the main force into the target area before zero hour with the result that, when the first Pathfinder markers were released, an unusually large number of aircraft bombed in the first minutes of the raid.

Visibility was good and large areas of Aachen appeared to burst into flames at once. 2,927 individual buildings were destroyed, 294 people were killed and 745 injured, 28,000 people appear to have fled the town and were still absent when the new ration cards were issued nearly 7 weeks later.'

Allied aircraft lost were 15 Halifaxes, 2 Lancasters, 2 Wellingtons and 1 Stirling.

Memorial for the crew of DS690 Lancaster (courtesy Moinesnoirs)

From the time given to the loss of Sq/Ldr. Baird's Lancaster we can assume that the aircraft was returning home from the target. German night-fighter pilot's were very active during the defence of Aachen. Strong head winds of between 50-90 mph slowed the returning bombers. Lancaster DS690 was claimed by Hptm August Geiger of 7/NJG1.

Approximately 10 weeks after the loss of Lancaster DS690, Hptm August Geiger age 23, (2) with his Radio/Op Fw Dietrich Koch age 22 lost their lives when their Messerschmitt Bf 110G-4 with the Wnr.5477 was shot down by a RAF Beaufighter night fighter. The machine crashed 10 km NW of Harderwijk, Holland.

Another 115 Squadron Lancaster was also lost on this operation, DS660 flown by F/O. Rod Larson.

Right: Hptm. August Geiger on the right with Hptm. Lutje (archives)

(1) Sgt. Johannes Ernest Conraad Odendaal: son of Paul Johannes Odendaal and May Minnie Louise (nee Wilde) Odendaal. He survived the war and eventually returned to Rhodesia / Zimbabwe where he died in August 1995.

(2) This was the 37th claim by the nightfighter ace Oblt. August Geiger (a total of 49 kills).

Later shot down and killed by W/Cmr Bob Braham from 141 Beaufighter squadron after a fierce dogfight on September 29th 1943.

The graves at Les Hayons Churchyard Belgium (courtesy of Jean-Michel Dominique) Sergeant Harold Matthews (courtesy Emma Loveridge)

Burial details:

Those who lost their lives lie in a collective grave at the Les Hayons Cemetery, Belgium.

Sq/Ldr. Robert Alexander Graville Baird. DoB: 15th April 1910. The Hon. Son of John Lawrence Baird, P.C., G.C.M.G., D.S.O., 1st Viscount Stonehaven, and of Ethel Countess of Kintore (nee Ethel Sydney Keith Falconer), husband of Dorviegelda Malvina Baird (Nee MacGregor), of Great Waltham, Essex, England.

F/O. William James Moorcroft. Son of Robert and Elizabeth Margaret Moorcroft, of Maghull, Lancashire, England.

Above: As described at St Andrew’s churchyard, Maghull, Merseyside (courtesy Mike McQuaid)

Sgt. Robert Alfred Walker. Son of Horace Thomas Walker and Alice Isobel Walker, of Ramsey, Isle of Man.

Sgt. Edwin Smith. Son of Douglas and Margaret Carlton Smith of Sheffield, England.

Fl/Sgt. Nicholas Auber Benjamin Robinson. Son of Auber Benjamin and Elizabeth Margaret Ivy Robinson, of Esperence, Western Australia.

Sgt. Harold Matthews. Son of George and Alice M. Matthews, of South Croydon, Surrey, England.

With thanks to the following: Emma Loveridge, Jean-Michel Dominique, memorial photos courtesy Moinesnoirs, Inmemories, Belgium for grave photo, also to Phil Ball for additional information - January 2018, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - "Nightfighter War Diaries Vol's. 1 and 2", Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol's. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Martin Middlebrook "Bomber Command War Diaries". Commonwealth Graves Commission. Tom Kracker - 'Kracker Luftwaffe Archives'.

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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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