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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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166 Squadron
27/28.09.1943 166 Squadron Lancaster III JA704 WO. Paul F. Chesterton DFC

Operation: Hanover, Germany

Date: 27th/28th September 1943 (Monday/Tuesday)

Unit No: 166 Squadron

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: JA704

Code: AS:A

Base: RAF Kirmington, Lincolnshire, England

Location: Mahlerten, 50 km south of Hanover, Germany

Pilot: WO. Paul Fulton Chesterton DFC 1383472 RAFVR Age? KiA

Flt Eng: Sgt. Harold Ackroyd 1109915 RAFVR Age? KiA

Nav: Flt Sgt. Edward Milling DFM 656624 RAFVR Age? KiA

Bomb Aimer: Sgt. Kenneth Cave 1126812 RAFVR Age? PoW No. 632 *

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Jack Bullock 1215473 RAFVR Age? KiA

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Sgt. Allan Herbert Robson 1601559 RAFVR Age? PoW No. 43117 **

Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Claude Roy Jackson 946403 RAFVR Age 27. KiA

Passenger: Flt Lt. Henry McGhie 129456 RAFVR Age? KiA (1)

* Stalag 357, Thorn (Toruń) in Poland. Moved in September 1944 to the loosely named Stalag 357 Fallingbostel, Lower Saxony, Germany. Officially the designation was Stalag 357 Oerbke.

** Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).


JA704 took off from RAF Kirmington at 19:10 hrs on the 27th September 1943 to join 15 other Lancasters from the Sqn on a mission to bomb Hanover.

This was the third mission for the crew with 166 Sqn and the second to Hanover. The crew was posted onto the Sqn on the 21st September 1943 from 103 Sqn where they had completed a tour of 24 operations.

Whilst 27 aircraft of No. 8 Group made a feint attack on Braunschweig (Brunswick) and 9 Oboe equipped Mosquitos undertook a range test on Emden, a force of 678 aircraft was dispatched to Hanover. The force comprised 312 Lancaster, 231 Halifax, 111 Stirling and 24 Wellington bombers. Also taking part was 5 B-17F Fortresses from the 422 Bombardment Sqn (H), 305th Bombardment Grp (H) of the US 8th Air Force.

The use by the Path Finder Force (PPF) of faulty forecast winds again saved the centre of Hanover. The fall of bombs was very concentrated but fell on an area north of the city centre.

No details from German sources have been found but later day RAF reconnaissance showed that most of the bombs fell 1 to 5 miles north and north east of the aiming point, mainly outside the built-up area among villages and recently developed industrial areas. Several factories were severely damaged including the new branch factory of Hannoverische Maschinenbau AG (Hanomag), intended originally for a locomotive works. Also hit was Hackethal Draht und Kabelwerke and the Brinker Eisenwerke, both producers of steel wire, cables and aircraft parts. Many other smaller industrial concerns were also affected. The Vahrenwalderheide airfield has 120 craters on the landing ground and several buildings damaged. Several military barracks and hutted camps both military and housing for workers at the new factories, were also damaged.

Hannover-Vahrenwalderheide was an operational airfield 4 km north of the Hanover city centre and was used mainly for target-towing units during war. The airfield was effectively bombed out of existence by April 1945 albeit it does not seem to have been intentionally targeted by heavy bombers.

RAF Bomber Command lost a total of 39 bombers on this mission amounting to 5.6% of the force. One of the B-17s was shot down by flak and German fighters.

B-17F #42-29555 ‘Centaur’ crashed WSW of Hanover with 7 of its crew KiA and 4 becoming PoWs.

Of the 16 Lancasters from the Sqn two failed to return, ED372 with a Special Cine Unit and JA704. Two aircraft returned early, DV180 with an unserviceable port outer engine and ED875 which crashed whilst attempting to land, the aircraft coming down on Cain Hill just south of Caister in Lincolnshire killing all aboard.

JA704 was originally claimed by Ofw. Franz Wegener from 4./JG300 North-West of Braunschweig at 6.500 m, at 23:17 hrs.

The claim by Ofw. Wegener was not listed in the OKL/RLM (Luftwaffe High Command/ Reich Air Ministry) for 4./JG300. The confirmation Abschussübersicht (review) was rejected in favour of a claim by Hptm. Werner Hoffmann, his 13th Abschuss, from Stab I./NJG5 at 23:18 hrs. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (23 September - 31 December) 1943 Part 3 - Theo Boiten)

Maj. Hoffmann was the Kommandeur of Stab I./NJG5 from the 5th July 1943. He was awarded the Deutsches Kreuz in Gold on the 15th November 1943 and the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes on the 4th May 1944. He survived the war having flown a total of 192 missions with 51 confirmed Abschüsse and 1 unconfirmed. He passed away on the 8th July 2011. (Luftwaffe ACES - Biographies and Victory Claims (Mathews and Foreman) - Volume 2)

Sgt. Cave and Sgt. Robson managed to bale out before JA704 crashed at Mahlerten, 11 km west of Hildesheim and some 27 km south of Hanover.

The six crew members KiA were the first Lancaster casualties suffered by 166 Sqn.

(1) Flt Lt. McGhie was the Squadron’s Gunnery Leader.

Burial details:

The six members of the crew that were KiA were initially buried in the Heyersum Village Cemetery, about 1½ km NW of the crash site and then reinterred at the Hanover Military Cemetery on the 3rd April 1947.

Above Grave markers for WO. Chesterton DFC, Sgt. Ackroyd and Flt Sgt. Milling DFM (Courtesy of BobB - FindAGrave)

WO. Paul Fulton Chesterton DFC. Hanover War Cemetery Coll. Grave 11.B. 15-17. Next-of-Kin information not found.

His DFC was awarded whilst with 103 Sqn as an acting Warrant Officer (WO). Promulgated in the London Gazette on the 15th October 1943.

Citation reads: As captain of aircraft, Warrant Officer Chesterton has undertaken many sorties over German territory and has attacked his targets fearlessly and skilfully, setting a very fine example. His great fighting spirit was amply demonstrated on one occasion when detailed to attack Oberhausen in June, 1943. When approaching the target area, the bomber was hit by anti-aircraft fire whilst illuminated by the searchlights. The elevator controls were severed and the ailerons became jammed, causing the aircraft to become temporarily unmanageable. Considerable height was lost before Warrant Officer Chesterton regained control. Undaunted, he went on to execute a determined attack. Displaying superb airmanship, this pilot succeeded in flying the badly damaged bomber to base. His courage and tenacity in the face of hazardous circumstances were beyond praise”.

Sgt. Harold Ackroyd. Hanover War Cemetery 11.B.13. Next-of-Kin information not found.

Flt Sgt. Edward Milling DFM. Hanover War Cemetery Coll. Grave 11.B. 15-17. Next-of-Kin information not found.

His DFM was awarded whilst with 103 Sqn but was not promulgated in the London Gazette until the 10th April 1945.

Above Grave markers for Sgt. Bullock, Sgt. Jackson and Flt Lt. McGhie (Courtesy of BobB – FindAGrave)

Sgt. Jack Bullock. Hanover War Cemetery Coll. Grave 11.B. 15-17. Next-of-Kin information not found

Sgt. Claude Roy Jackson. Hanover War Cemetery 11.B.12. Grave Inscription: "REMEMBERED ALWAYS BY LOVING WIFE EVELYN AND CHILDREN MURIEL AND TERRY". Born on the 11th March 1916 in Wivenhoe, Essex. Son of Leslie and Jessica May (née Went) Jackson. Husband of Evelyn Jackson, of Handsworth, Birmingham, England.

Flt Lt. Henry McGhie. Hanover War Cemetery 11.B.14. Hailed from Clydebank, Dunbartonshire, Scotland. Next-of-Kin information not found

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

Researched by Nick Jackson, whose uncle was Sgt. Jackson, and Ralph Snape (Aircrew Remembered) and dedicated to the relatives of the crew. (Sep 2022).

Other sources listed below:

NJ & RS 18.09.2022 - Initial upload

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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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