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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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Bomber Command Crest
14/15.10.1944 186 Squadron Lancaster I LM165 WP:T Flt Sgt. Cook

Operation: Duisburg

Date: 14th/15th October 1944 (Saturday/Sunday)

Unit: 186 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: LM165 *

Code: WP:T

Base: RAF Tuddenham, Suffolk

Location: Meidrich, North of target - Duisburg

Pilot: Flt Sgt. Francis John Cook 429526 RAAF Age 21. Missing believed killed

Flt Eng: Sgt. Frederick Henry William James 1896671 RAFVR Age 20. Missing believed killed

Nav: Sgt. Kenneth Morrell 1397720 RAFVR Age 21. Missing believed killed

Bomb Aimer: Sgt. Kenneth Brian Howell 1581325 RAFVR Age 21. Missing believed killed

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. George Irving Read 2215997 RAFVR Age 19. Missing believed killed

Air Gnr (Mid Upper): Sgt. William Paston Liddon Purnell-Edwards 605673 Age 19. Missing believed killed

Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. John Robert Sunley 1623987 RAFVR Age 20. Missing believed killed

* There is some confusion as some records show that this aircraft was recorded as XY:T with 90 Squadron. Flt Sgt. Francis Cook joined 90 Squadron from 31 base on the 30th September 1944, previous to that the crew formed at 11 Operational Training Unit (OTU) then joined 186 Squadron on the 9th October 1944 - all his crew were from 186 Squadron at the time of this loss.


Taking of from RAF Tuddenham in Suffolk at 22:52 hrs to carry out an operation to Duisburg. The aircraft was fuelled with 1,410 gallons and was due to return at 03:09 hrs on the Sunday.

Operation ‘Hurricane’ continued against Duisburg (to show to the Germans the overwhelming power of the Allied Air forces) 1,013 aircraft bombed the city during the day of the 14th - with support from 1,251 USAAF B17s with the RAF dropping 3,574 tons of high explosive and 820 tons of incendiary bombs.

During this operation the same night a further 4,040 tons of high explosive and 500 tons of incendiary bombs were dropped by another 1,005 aircraft.

The city suffered huge casualties with very serious property damage. Other German cities were also bombed by other units.

Lancaster LM165 failed to return and was listed as lost without trace. However, according to the National Archives of Australia, in a report made by Officer in charge of No. 15 Search Section based in Germany and dated 23rd March 1946, German reports state that the aircraft was shot down at Meiderich (north of Duisburg) at 01:45 hrs. It also mentioned that 4 of the crews bodies (Sgt. John Sunley, Sgt. William Purnell-Edwards, Sgt. Kenneth Morrell, Sgt. George Read) were recovered and buried at the North Cemetery in Hamborn. They instructed No. 3 team Missing Research and Recovery Unit (MRRU) to obtain full burial details of these and ascertain the fate of the remaining 3 crew members.

Lancaster LM165 or 166 Sqn Lancaster MF748 was hit by flak from 3./schw. Flak Abt. 446 (Eisb.), 1. schw. Flak Abt. 472 (0), 1./schw, Flak Abt. 243 (0) and 8. & 9./schw. Flak Abt. 244. One aircraft crashed at Hamborn-Bruckhausen at 01.35 hrs, the other crashed at the railway station of Meiderich-Neumühl at 01:34 hrs. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (24 July 1944 - 15 October 1944) Part 4 - Theo Boiten)

Note: according to ‘Report on Duisburg crashes 14/15th October 1944’ from RAF Graves Service Rheinberg to Air Ministry dated 03.08.1950, LM165 and MF748 collided in mid-air and crashed in fairly open grounds near Flak barracks in the area between the Brahmsstraße, Neumitihler Straße, Moriansmuhle and the Oberhauser Allee in Duisburg-Meiderich. An engine excavated from the crash scene was identified as having come from LM165, four of the crew of LM165 were buried in the North Cemetery at Duisburg-Hamborn, and the pilot of MF748 was found by personnel of the Flak barracks and buried in Essen South West Cemetery. During the second half of the 1940's, farmers working in the fields of the crash location found two lots of human remains, which were buried in Rheinberg Military Cemetery, Plot VIl-D-21 and in Plot XXIX-B-7. Still, the whole crew of LM165 and six of the crew of MF748 are officially posted as missing in action to this day. (Found in the Canadian Service Files of War Dead, 1939-1947 of Fg Off. Archie Verdun Batty J21182 RCAF trom 428 Sqn Lancaster KB780)

A further report dated 4th June 1951 states that after an exhaustive investigation from the MRRU they have failed to locate the graves of any of the crew and are therefore classed as missing, presumed killed.

The Royal Air Force Missing Research and Enquiry Service (MRES) was set up in 1944 to trace the 42,000 personnel who were listed as 'missing, believed killed'. The demand was so great that the department was expanded in 1945.
These men had no special training, and did not have the benefits that modern technology offers; only a strong desire to bring home those who had not returned. Despite the obstacles caused by the lack of tools, the MRES was able to account for over two thirds of the missing personnel by a thorough combing of the globe. Those found were identified and reinterred in Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) plots. The unit was disbanded in 1952 despite many protests as they still had a great deal of work that was to be completed.

Another report sent to the the families (19th June 1951) stated that some 19 aircraft were shot down over the target area and the bodies recovered at the time were buried in various German cemeteries - some were identified, many were not. All unidentified bodies were buried in various war cemeteries and marked as “Unknown Airman”. But that their names would be recorded on a new memorial being instructed on a hill overlooking the River Thames. (webmasters note: 5 aircraft were lost from this operation - although 14 were lost on the daylight operation. All part two of the aircraft were shot down by anti-aircraft batteries)

Burial details:

Flt Sgt. Francis John Cook. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 260. Born on the 8th March 1923 at Rockhampton, Queensland the son of Alexander David and Hilda Mary Cook, of Smanden Park, Anakie, Queensland, Australia.

Sgt. Frederick Henry William James. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 232. Son of Frederick and Mary Leah James and husband of Hilda A.M. James, of Feltham, Middlesex, England.

Sgt. Kenneth Morrell. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 234. Son of Charles Henry and Florence May Morrell, of Wanstead, Essex, England.

Sgt. Kenneth Brian Howell. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 231. Son of Lionel and Emmie Howell, of Derby, England.

Sgt. George Irving Read. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 236. Possible NoK details but not corroborated: Born 4th Quarter 1924 in Sculcoates, Yorkshire East Riding. Son of George and Ada A. (née Hargreaves) Read of Sculcoates, Yorkshire East Riding, England.

Sgt. William Paston Liddon Purnell-Edwards. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 236. Son of John Purnell Purnell-Edwards and of Gwladis Ruth Purnell-Edwards (née Liddon), also Nephew of Mr. N. Dawson of Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Republic of Ireland.

Sgt. John Robert Sunley. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 238. Son of Albert Robert and Elsie Sunley, of Rainton, Yorkshire, England.

Researched by Kelvin Young (Webmaster) for John Sprigge - nephew of Sgt. William Purnell-Edwards and dedicated to the relatives of this crew. Thanks to John Jones for the Loss information (Feb 2022). Tentative NoK details for Sgt Read added (Feb 2022). Thanks to sources as shown.

RS 07.02.2022 - Loss details and Sgt Read NoK details 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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