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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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431 Squadron Crest
03/04.12.1943 431 (Iroquois) Squadron, RCAF Halifax V LK898 SE:O Sqn Ldr. Cook DFC

Operation: Leipzig

Date: 3/4th December 1943 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit: 431 (Iroquois) Squadron, RCAF

Type: Halifax V

Serial: LK898

Code: SE:O

Base: RAF Tholthorpe, Yorkshire

Location: Target area

Pilot: Sqn Ldr. Robert Geoffrey Cook DFC J6276 RCAF Age 22. Killed

Flt Eng: Sgt. Galen Wood 1047841 RAFVR Age? Killed

Nav: Plt Off. Morley Vivian Snow J16804 RCAF Age 23. Killed

Bomb Aimer: Flt Lt. Eric Leslie Lister 131168 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Herbert John Brookman 1337041 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Air Gnr: Sgt. Wilfred James Rattigan R180461 RCAF Age 21.Killed

Air Gnr: Sgt. Jack Williamson R186329 RCAF Age 19. Killed


527 aircraft - 307 Lancasters, 220 Halifaxes - to Leipzig. The bomber force took another direct route towards Berlin before turning off to bomb Leipzig.

German fighters were in the bomber stream and scoring successes before the turn was made but most of them were then directed to Berlin when the Mosquito diversion opened there. There were few fighters over Leipzig and only 3 bombers are believed to have been lost in the target area, 2 of them being shot down by flak.

A relatively successful raid, from the point of view of bomber casualties, was spoiled when many aircraft flew by mistake into the Frankfurt defended area on the long southern withdrawal route and more than half of the bombers shot down on this night were lost there. 24 aircraft - 15 Halifaxes, 9 Lancasters - were lost. The Pathfinders found and marked this distant inland target accurately and the bombing was very effective; this was the most successful raid on Leipzig during the war.

A large area of housing and many industrial premises were severely damaged. One place which was hit by a large number of bombs was the former World Fair exhibition site, whose spacious buildings had been converted to become war factories, the largest buildings being taken over by the Junkers aircraft company.

A report from No. 4 Missing Research and Enquiry Unit (MREU) dated 13th October 1947 reported that at about 04:45 hrs during the night 2rd/4th December 1943, a four engined British bomber approached Altranstadt from the direction of Leipzig at about 1000 ft. It was being attacked by a night fighter and after exploding in the air it crashed just south of the village.

The Squadron lost 4 crews on this operation, the others:

Halifax V EB137 SE:N Flown by 20 year old, Flt Sgt. Francis Albert Long 1335994 RAFVR killed with all 6 other crew.
Halifax V LK685 SE:C Flown by WO2 Robert William Ritchie R119578 RCAF killed - remaining 6 crew PoW.
Halifax V LK968 SE:P Flown by 23 year old, Fg Off. Alexander William Edgar J24430 RCAF killed with 2 other crew, 4 taken PoW.

Burial details:

Sqn Ldr. Robert Geoffrey Cook DFC. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Grave 4.Z.23. Son of William Hamilton and Marguerite Agnes Cook of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Grave inscription reads: “They Shall See His Face And His Name It Shall Be Engraved On Their Foreheads”.

DFC Awarded whilst an acting Flt Lt. With 420 (Snowy Owl) Sqn, RCAF. Promulgated in London Gazette 11th June 1943.

Sgt. Galen Wood. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Grave 4.Z.22. Son of Job Henry and Emma Wood of Bentley, Doncaster, Yorkshire, England.

Plt Off. Morley Vivian Snow. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Joint grave 4.Z.26-27. Son of Vivian M. Snow and Evelyn Mary Pearl Snow of East Kildonan, Manitoba, Canada. Grave inscription reads: "And While He Sleep In Peaceful Sleep, His Memory We Shall Always Keep”.

Snow Island in Shannon Lake, Manitoba, Canada was named Plt Off. Morley Vivian Snow after in 1995

Flt Lt. Eric Leslie Lister. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Joint grave 4.Z.26-27. The son of Edward Leslie and Daisy Victoria Lister and brother of Maisie and Daisy Beatrice (Betty) of Sandgate, Kent. Grave inscription reads: “In Proud And Treasured Memory Of Our Son, In Gods Keeping, Till We Meet Again”.

His parents owned a hotel in Sandgate. Left college before going to Cranwell and the RAF with time at RAF Driffield in November 1942 (Eric’s brother LAC Edwin Lister 577769 RAF was killed serving with 462 Squadron RAAF in Tripoli on the 20th April 1943 (see notes). It is believed that Flt Lt. Lister was posted from 1664 HCU along with Sqn Ldr. Cook and the rest of the crew and joining 431 squadron as a unit. They had only flown one previous op as a crew in Halifax Mark V LK905 SE-D to Frankfurt on November 25th 1943 prior to this their final operation.

Sgt. Herbert John Brookman. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Grave 4.Z.25. Son of Arthur John and Helen Frances Mary Brookman of Wing, Buckinghamshire, England. Grave inscription reads: “He Is Not Dead, But Sleeping”.

Sgt. Wilfred James Rattigan. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Grave 4.Z.24. Son of Mr. and Mrs. William James Rattigan of Sleeman, Ontario, Canada. Grave inscription reads: “In Loving Memory Of Our Dear Son Who Gave His Life That Peace Be Won”.

Sgt. Jack Williamson. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Grave 4.Z.21. Born on the 11th April 1924 in Tilbury, Ontario. Son of David and Elizabeth Kate (née Darling) Williamson of Melbourne, Ontario. Husband to Jean Alice (née Coulter) Williamson of Millbrook, Ontario, Canada.

Researched for Aircrew Remembered by Linda Ibrom in June 2017 with thanks to Maisie Edwards (née Lister) sister of the pilot, Simon Toynbee and Caroline Hooper, Bill Heron (‘A Yorkshire Squadron,The History of 431 RCAF Squadron’) Page originally placed with Matt Lacroix running the great Bomber crew website - now updated with further information and operation details. Thanks to John Jones for the updates to the death of LAC Edwin Roland Lister (Nov 2021). Other updates by Aircrew Remembered (Nov 2021).


Halifax II BB325 was being bombed up and fuelled for the nights operation when a bomb exploded and the aircraft caught fire. There was a massive explosion and the aircraft disintegrated and shrapnel flew in all directions killing 12 airmen and seriously injured two others. A Court of Enquiry assumed that the cause of the disaster was a faulty delayed action fuse. (Brave and True Second Edition - Stan Parker & John McManus DFC)

The following ground crew perished in the explosion:

Sgt. William Henry Mason 525479 RAF Age 25. Tripoli War Cemetery 5.B.3. Son of Henry and Elizabeth Mason.
Cpl. George Thomas Atkinson 1112942 RAFVR Age 34. Tripoli War Cemetery Coll.grave 5.B.5-11. Son of James Nelson Atkinson and Florence Marion Atkinson, of South Shields, Co. Durham; husband of Esther Atkinson (nee Stephenson), of South Shields.
LAC Thomas Boan 1551256 RAFVR Age 20. Tripoli War Cemetery Coll.grave 5.B.5-11. Son of William and Elizabeth Boan, of Catrine, Ayrshire.
LAC Henry Dyne 1204592 RAFVR Age 38. Tripoli War Cemetery Coll.grave 5.B.5-11. Son of Frederick and Agnes Dyne.
LAC Cyril Grove 1140019 RAFVR Age 22. Tripoli War Cemetery Coll.grave 5.B.5-11. Son of Albert George and Beatrice Grove, of Cleveleys, Lancashire.
LAC Edwin Roland Lister 577769 RAF Age 19. Initially buried in Misrata Civil Cemetery Cemetery Plot 1 Row B Grave 3. Reinterred on the 30th November 1944 in the Tripoli War Cemetery Coll.grave 5.B.5-11. Son of Leslie and Daisy Victoria Lister, of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.
LAC Truman Joseph Merricks 1299118 RAFVR Age 18. Tripoli War Cemetery Coll.grave 5.B.5-11. Son of John and Annie Merricks: husband of Joyce Kathleen Merricks, of Hockley. Birmingham.
LAC John Scott 994763 RAFVR Age 27. Tripoli War Cemetery Coll.grave 5.B.5-11. Son of James and Jane Scott; husband of Constance Jessie Scott, of Wolvercote, Oxford.
LAC Peter Thomas Robert Spry 1279389 RAFVR Age 35. Tripoli War Cemetery Coll.grave 5.B.5-11. Son of Thomas R. Spry and Mary Spry, of Westminster, London.
LAC Robert Gray Thompson 1551979 RAFVR Age? Tripoli War Cemetery Coll.grave 5.B.5-11.
LAC Joseph Roy Watts 1352287 RAF Age 22. Tripoli War Cemetery Coll.grave 5.B.5-11. Son of Thomas and Ellen Watts, of Porthcawl, Glamorgan.
AC1 Victor Courtney 1557703 RAFVR Age 22. Tripoli War Cemetery 5.E.5. Son of Joseph and Elizabeth Courtney, of Liverpool.

RS 28.11.2021 - Loss of BB325 updated and NoK details

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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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