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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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51 Squadron
30/31.03.1944 51 Squadron Halifax III LW579 MH:V Plt Off. James Brooks

Operation: Nuremberg, Germany

Date: 30th/31st March 1944 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit No: 51 Squadron

Type: Halifax III

Serial: LW579

Code: MH:V

Base: RAF Snaith, Pollington, Yorkshire

Location: Cowleaze Wood, about 2½ mls (4 km) west of Stokenchurch.

Pilot: Plt Off. James Brooks 159065 RAFVR Age 21. KiA

Flt Eng: Sgt. Thomas Samuel Connell 1567790 RAFVR Age 20. KiA

Nav: Flt Sgt. Dennis Patrick McCormack 1455591 RAFVR Age 21. KiA

Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt. Stewart Glass 1372859 RAFVR Age 23. KiA

WOp/Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. George William West 1334079 Age 22. KiA

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Flt Sgt. Dennis Arthur Churchill 1332240 RAFVR Age 20. KiA

Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Robert Frederick Kelly 1321703 RAFVR Age 20. KiA


51 Squadron despatched 17 aircraft to join a force 795 aircraft to bomb targets at Nuremberg. LW579 took off from RAF Snaith at 22:07 hrs on the 30th March 1944. Two aircraft were forced to abandon the mission and jettisoned their bomb loads at a predetermined site.

When LW588 took off the pilot’s hatch blew off. The aircraft returned to base at 00:50 hrs;
LW522 developed high oil temperature in the port inner engine and returned to base at 01:07 hrs.

This mission was ultimately a failure due to a number of factors not least for the loss of 82 bombers on the outbound leg of the mission. Overall 95 aircraft failed to return and of these 6 of the 15 from 51 Squadron failed to return and were reported missing.

In an attempt to land at 05:50 hrs LW579 crashed into Cowleaze Wood, about 2½ mls (4 km) west of Stokenchurch. It is not known whether the aircraft had been damaged by enemy action or was running low of petrol. It is possible that they were attempting to reach either RAF Chalgrove (USAAF Station #465) which was 6 mls (9½ km) west of Cowleaze Wood or RAF Benson which was 6¾ mls (11 km) WSW of Cowleaze Wood.

The other aircraft that failed to return were:

LW537 MH:C - Shot down outbound by Lt. Hans Raum from 9./NJG3, 30 km ESE of Fulda, Germany. (2 KiA, 5 PoW);
LV857 MH:H - Claimed as a possible by Oblt. Hans Leickhardt from 11./NJG5, NE of Fulda, Germany. (7 KiA);
LW544 MH:Q - Shot down by Oblt. Martin Becker, one of six this night, from 2./NJG6 at 00:50 hrs, 4 km south of Neustadt (Hessen), Germany. (5 KiA, 2 PoW);
LV777 MH:F - Hit by flak and crashed at Bietigheim, Germany at 02:33 hrs (7 KiA);
LV822 MH:Z - Shot down by Oblt. Johannes Werth from Stab NJG2 at 00:41 hrs, 6 km SW of Herborn, Germany. (7 KiA).

Above: Cowleaze Wood Memorial to the crew of Halifax LW579 (Courtesy of Simon Cains)

The book "Failed to Return" by Bill Norman describes the loss of LW579 and its memorial along with other memorials in Yorkshire.

Burial details:

Plt Off. James Brooks. Bo’Ness Cemetery, Section D. Grave 12142. Son of James and Mary Brooks, of Bo'ness; husband of Jacqueline Brooks; nephew of Mr. D.A. Hunter, of Bo'ness, Falkirk, Scotland.

Also remembered on the Roll of Honour at the Scottish National War Memorial.

Above Grave marker for Sgt. Connell (Courtesy of Marc - FindAGrave)

Sgt. Thomas Samuel Connell. Campsie Cemetery, East Extension, Grave 504. Inscription: ‘HIS BROTHER ROBERT WAS KILLED IN GERMANY 26.4.1945 AGE 25. BEAUTIFUL MEMORIES FOR EVER’. Son of Robert and Sarah Connell, of Campsie, Stirling, Scotland.

Pvt. Robert Connell 1567643, 4th Battalion, King’s Own Scottish Borderers was KiA on the 26th April 1945. He was laid to rest at the Becklingen War Cemetery in Germany.

Flt Sgt. Dennis Patrick McCormack. Leeds Roman Catholic Cemetery, Section D, Grave 314. Inscription: ‘REQUIESCAT IN PACE’ (REST IN PEACE). Born on the 5th August 1922 in West Bromwich, Staffordshire. Son of Gerald Edward and Honorah (née McGarry) McCormack, of Leeds, England.

Flt Sgt. Stewart Glass. Yester Parish Churchyard, Section A, Grave 106. Inscription: ‘EVER IN OUR THOUGHTS’.Son of Mary Moffat Glass, of Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland.

Also remembered on the Roll of Honour at the Scottish National War Memorial.

Flt Sgt. George William West. Nunhead (All Saints) Cemetery, Screen Wall. Panel 19, Square 5, Collective Grave 41286. Born in 3rd Qtr 1921 in Woolwich, London. Son of George William and Ellen Esther (née Sutton) West, of Bermondsey, London, England.

Flt Sgt. Dennis Arthur Churchill. Greenwich Cemetery, Plot D, Grave 441. Born on the 7th April 1923 in Greenwich, Kent. Husband to Anne McDonald (née Duffy) Churchill of Greenwich, Kent, England.

Sgt. Robert Frederick Kelly. Oxford (Botley) Cemetery, Plot I/2, Grave 192. Inscription: ‘BELOVED ONLY SON OF ROBERT AND BERYL KELLY "BENEATH HIS WINGS SECURELY SHELTERED" R.I.P.’ Son of Robert James and Beryl Janet Kelly, of Wellington, Nilgiris, India.

Researched by Ralph Snape for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew. Thanks to Simon Cains for the photographs of the memorial to the crew at the crash site (Mar 2023).

Other sources listed below:

RS 06.03.2023 - Memorial photographs added

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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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