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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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9 Squadron crest
22/23.09.1943 9 Squadron Lancaster I R5700 WS:N Plt Off. Edward J. Crabtree

Operation: Hanover

Date: 22nd/23rd September 1943 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit No: 9 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: R5700

Code: WS:N

Base: RAF Bardney, Lincolnshire

Location: Bad Münder-am-Deister, Germany

Pilot: Plt Off. Edward Jeptha Crabtree 409385 RAAF Age 21. KiA

Flt Eng: Sgt. Malcolm John MacRitchie 1560316 RAFVR Age 22. KiA

Nav: Sgt. George Alastair Sales 1803655 RAFVR Age 20. KiA

Bomb Aimer: WO2. Nelson Albert Noble R119448 RCAF Age 25. KiA

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Vincent Hirst-Gee 1451452 RAFVR Age 21. KiA

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Sgt. Denis Everest R173859 RCAF Age 21. KiA

Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Victor James Lander 611578 RAF Age 23. KiA

Above left to right: Sgt. Malcolm John MacRitchie, WO2. Nelson Albert Noble

Above left to right: Sgt. Denis Everest, Sgt. Victor James Lander


Took off at 18:56 hrs. Bardney, Lincolnshire to attack the German city of Hanover. The first major air raid on Hanover for 2 years. 711 aircraft took part but the strong winds caused the markers and bombing to be concentrated up to 8 km (5 mls) away from the main target.

26 aircraft were lost during this raid and 9 Squadron Lancaster R5700 was amongst the many to be claimed by the German night fighters.

R5700 was claimed by Fw. Rudolf Frank, his 18th Abschuss, from 2./NJG3 over the western edge of Hannover at 5.700 m. at 22:39 hrs. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (23 June - 22 September) 1943 Part 2 - Theo Boiten)

Note: Coned by 2./Flakscheinw. Abe. 619 (Refer 131), also claimed by Flak of 1.,2. & 4./schw. Flak Art 801 and Pesonalbatterie Out ('Lancaster Bad Münder 22.35 hrs'). The victory was credited by the OKL to Flak searchlight and Flak on the 8th July 1944. The claim by Fw. Frank, who flew Ju88 C-6 D5+LK was not listed in the OKL/RLM. RLM 2./NJG3 Confirmed Abschussübersicht (Final report). (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (23 June - 22 September) 1943 Part 2 - Theo Boiten)

On the night of the 27th April 1944 Lt. Frank crashed his Bf110 after combat 8km ESE of Eindhoven, Netherlands an was killed. He flew a total of 183 sorties during the war and was credited with 43 confirmed Abschüsse. (Luftwaffe ACES - Biographies and Victory Claims (Mathews and Foreman) - Volume 2).

No 9 Squadron:

On 4 September 1939, the squadron’s Wellington aircraft and crews were the first to hit the enemy, the first to get into a dogfight, possibly the first to shoot down an enemy aircraft, the first to be shot down by one and, towards the end of the war, the first to hit the German battleship Tirpitz with the Tallboy 12,000 pound bomb, an achievement by the crew of a Lancaster on her 102nd operation with the squadron.

9 Squadron fought with RAF Bomber Command in Europe all the way through World War Two, took part in all the major raids and big battles, pioneered and proved new tactics and equipment, produced several of the leading figures in The Great Escape, as well as Colditz inmates - including the legendary 'Medium Sized Man' Flight Lieutenant Dominic Bruce OBE MC AFM originator of the famous 'tea chest' escape; they became one of the two specialised squadrons attacking precision targets with the Tallboy bomb, and led the final main force raid, on Berchtesgaden, 25 April 1945. (Wikepedia)

Extract of an interview that Mel Rolfe had with a friend of Nelson Noble, Mr. Bob Dack in November 2000. Bob's memory about his part in the war and of the men who served with him was sharp and clear. He had a particularly clear recall for Nelson and I remember him throwing back his head and laughing when he spoke about the scrapes Nelson unwittingly got himself into:

Mel Rolfe is a leading researcher who has written many publications on the subject of Bomber Command. Highly recommended reading.

Flt Sgt Nelson Noble:- Nelson was a very self-contained young man, didn’t say much, didn’t speak much and went his own way. (He was, perhaps, preoccupied with his own thoughts. Vague and unable to concentrate on matters which his contemporaries were more able to focus on).

He would come into a meeting with an intelligence officer five minutes after the meeting had started. We had a very smooth intelligence officer. He would stop talking, Nelson would come plodding in. There was a deadly silence. Nelson would shuffle along until he found us and he’d sit down beside us. And then the intelligence officer would say: ‘Are you comfortably seated, sergeant?’ ‘Yes, Sir.’ ‘Now you’re sure that you’re comfortable? You wouldn’t like to sit, perhaps, over there? Or would you prefer to sit – ’ Nelson would go red in the face and say: ‘No, I’m all right, Sir.’

The officer said: ‘Don’t come into my meetings late any more. If so, you’re really in trouble.’ Nelson didn’t turn a hair.

I must tell you a little story. He (Nelson) had a habit, once we were up and flying when everything had settled down, we were on the course and off we were going. Nelson would go back to the Elsen. He always did it, every flight, for some reason, he’d go and sit on the Elsen. That liquid sloshing about in there.Ted, the skipper, called me up: ‘Bob, has Nelson gone back yet?’ I said: ‘Yes, he’s just gone back.’ Bob said: ‘Tell me when he’s got settled, will you?’ So I looked back down there and said: ‘Yes, he’s nice and comfortable on the seat.’ ‘Ah!,’ said Ted, (in delight), ‘Hang on, everybody.’ So up and down we’d go. Ted (twisted and turned, switch backed) tried to splash him with that horrible (dark) liquid, a strong disinfectant.

MR: Did anyone hear Nelson yelling from his perch? Bob: That was the idea of it. But Nelson didn’t, he kept stumm. He just got up and hung on until Ted stopped dancing about and then he hitched his trousers up and went back and never spoke to anybody.

He did the most amazing things. Nelson came out when we were going on a five-hour trip one night. We’d just got in (the aircraft) and had just started the engines up and Nelson came on over the intercom: ‘Hang on a minute Ted, I’ve forgotten my parachute.’ It was a court-martial offence to fly without your parachute.

Ted said: ‘Where is it?’ Nelson: ‘I don’t know, I think I must have left it in the crew room. or somewhere.’ He didn’t give a damn about anything.

We had a hurried half-a-minute conference and Ted said: ‘My engines are running, I’m not stopping for anybody. Nelson, you’ll just have to hope you don’t have to bloody bale out. If you do you’ll have to walk home.’

I liked Nelson, I got on awfully well with him. Told he couldn’t find his parachute Nelson just grunted. That was all. It didn’t bother him in the slightest.

MR: What would have happened if you all had to bale out? Would he have hung on to someone else’s parachute? BD: I don’t know, that was a fictional thing to do to hang on – it did happen on one or two cases, but very rare though. You would have to be strapped on to somebody.

Burial details:

Plt Off. Edward Jeptha Crabtree. Hanover War Cemetery 4.E.14. Inscription: 'SO DEARLY LOVED'. Born on the 13th October 1921 in Surrey Hills, Victoria. Son of Abraham Booth Crabtree and Mabel Eunice Crabtree, of Surrey Hills, Victoria, Australia.

Edward, the only son of Abraham and Mabel, enlisted at the age of 19 on 15 August 1941. He had been schooled at Mt. Albert Central School and Wesley College after which he secured a position as a clerk at Goldsborough Mort Ltd., Melbourne. Posted to No.1 Initial Training School at Somers, Victoria he was selected as suitable for pilot training and posted to No.11 Elementary Flying Training School, Benalla, Victoria on 13 November 1941. On completion of his training at Benalla Edward was posted to No.3 Service Flying Training School at RAAF Station Amberly on 8 March 1942 after a month spent at No.2 Embarkation Depot, Bradley Park. As the school at Amberly was about to be disbanded at the end of March, Edward was moved to No.6 SFTS at RAAF Station Mallala, South Australia on 4 April where he completed his training and gained his Pilots badge on 28. May 1942 and was promoted to Sergeant a month later. Transferred to No.1 Embarkation Depot at Acton Vale on 17 July to await his embarkation from Sydney on 24 August. Arriving in the UK on 18 November, he was posted to No.3 (P) Advanced Flying Unit at RAF South Cerney near Cirencester on 19 January 1943, where potential bomber pilots and crews were trained on the twin-engine Oxford Airspeed.

Edward's next posting was to No.14 Operational Training Unit at RAF Cottesmore, Rutland. Here pilots would train as night bomber pilots on the outdated but much larger and complicated Handley Page Hampden aircraft. In addition to the pilot's conversion to an operational type, at the OTU a "crewing-up" process took place to form the basis of a team to fly together as a cohesive unit. The Hampden crew consisted of the pilot, the captain of the crew, a navigator, air bomber, wireless operator and gunner. It was by no means a formal process and could just as easily been the luck of the draw that Edward met up with the other members of his crew except for the Flight Engineer, MacRitchie, who would join them at their next posting, No.1661 Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Winthorpe, near Newark, a satellite station of RAF Swinderby on 29 July 1943. At Winthorpe the crew were trained on the Lancaster bomber and then posted to No.9 Squadron at RAF Bardney in Lincolnshire on 5 September 1943.

Plt Off. Crabtree participated in a raid on Munich flying as a second pilot or "dickie" to gain actual operational experience. He was lost on the raid on Hanover with the rest of his crew, his first operation as captain.

Sgt. Malcolm John MacRitchie. Hanover War Cemetery 4.E.9. Born on the 23rd February 1921 in Uig, Argyll, Scotland. Son of Peter 'Tailleur’ and Christina 'Christy' (née MacAulay) MacRitchie of 4 Ardroil, Uig, Isle of Lewis, Western Isles, Scotland.

Sgt. George Alastair Sales. Hanover War Cemetery 4.E.17. Inscription: 'WITH THE MORN THOSE ANGEL FACES SMILE WHICH I HAVE LOVED AND LOST AWHILE'. Son of Eustace Clarence and Agnes Barnes Sales, of Wadhurst, Sussex, England.

WO2. Nelson Albert Noble. Hanover War Cemetery 4.E.5. Inscription: 'FATHER, IN THY GRACIOUS KEEPING LEAVE WE NOW OUR LOVED ONE SLEEPING'. Born on the 17th September 1919 in Toronto, Ontario. Son of Sidney H. and Mary Ellen (née Power) Noble, of 38 Bloomfield Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The eldest son of Sidney and Mary, Nelson completed his schooling in Toronto at the Malvern Collegiate after which he was employed as a clerk for the Ontario Hydro-Electric Commission. Enlisting on 30 July 1941, he was posted to No. 3 Initial Training School, Victoriaville on 10 October that same year. Selected for pilot training he was posted to No.21 Elementary Flying Training School, Chatham, New Brunswick on 22 November 1941. Unfortunately for Nelson, his piloting skills were not up to par and he was washed out in January 1942 and posted to Composite Training School (KTS), Trenton, where he was recommended for re-training as an Observer. Posted to No.4 Air Observers School, London, Ontario 15 February 1942. Taken on strength at No.4 Bombing and Gunnery School, Fingal, Ontario attending Course No. 44 for bombing and gunnery training, 25 May - 4 July 1942. Passed to No. 1 Air Navigation School at Rivers, Manitoba, where he graduated with his Observers badge on 21 August 1942. Posted to Y Depot, Halifax, Nova Scotia to await embarkation on 27 October arriving at No.3 PRC, Bournemouth, 5 November. On the 8th March 1943, Nelson was posted to No.4 Air Observers School at RAF West Freugh, near Stranraer, Scotland for further training in bombing and gunnery until 20 April when he was posted to No.14 OTU at RAF Cottesmore, Rutland. Taken on strength at 1661 Conversion Unit at RAF Winthorpe, Nottinghamshire, for training on the Lancaster heavy bomber 29 July 1943, joining No.9 Squadron on 5 September. WO2 Noble was on his first operation over enemy territory when lost.

Above: Newspaper report on WO2 Noble (courtesy Lisa T.)

Sgt. Vincent Hirst-Gee. Hanover War Cemetery 4.E.16. Inscription: 'LEST WE FORGET. MUM, DAD, BASIL AND STUART'. Son of William and Alice Hirst-Gee, of Laisterdyke, Bradford, Yorkshire, England.

Sgt. Denis Everest. Hanover War Cemetery 4.E.7. Born 31st March 1922 in Newcastle-under-Lyme, England. Son of William James and Louise (née Trebble) Everest, of St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.

Denis emigrated to Canada with his mother and father and two older sisters in 1929. Denis completed his Grade 8 education in St.Catherines in 1936 and returned to England where he worked as a light machinist for a company located in Coventry. Returning to Canada in 1938, he worked as a salesman and stockkeeper when he applied for enlistment as an Air Gunner in May 1942. Passed as fit for aircrew, he was posted to No.9 Bombing and Gunnery School, Mount Joli, Quebec on 11 October 1942 gaining his Air Gunner badge in April 1943. Sent to Y Depot, Halifax, Nova Scotia, he embarked at New York on 4 May arriving at 3 PRC, Bournemouth on 12 May 1943. Posted to No.14 OTU at RAF Cottesmore, Rutland where he joined his crew and trained on Wellingtons completing his training course on 20 July 1943. Taken on strength at 1661 Conversion Unit at RAF Winthorpe, Nottinghamshire, for training on the Lancaster heavy bomber 29 July 1943, joining No.9 Squadron on 5 September. Sgt. Everest was on his first operation over enemy territory when lost.

Above: Original Grave marker for Sgt. Victor James Lander (courtesy Bruce Lander)

Sgt. Victor James Lander. Hanover War Cemetery 4.E.4. Inscription: '"THRO' THE STARS TO GLORY" EVER REMEMBERED. MUM, DAD AND FAMILY. TILL WE MEET AGAIN'. Born in January 1920. Son of Percy James Lander and Edith Lander, husband of Lilian Lander, of Oldham, Lancashire, England.

On leaving school aged 14 joined the Merchant Navy ( the Union Castle Line), serving on the SS Dunotter Castle on the South Atlantic run. On leaving the Sea in 1938 aged 18 he joined the RAF, he married Edith in May 1940. In December 1940 he was trapped in the Manchester Blitz and so was delayed returning to camp at Blackpool, as a result he was reduced to Corporal for a while. He served as a Sergeant PTI at Blackpool and Morecambe and eventually volunteered for Bomber Command in early 1943.

Researched for relatives of the crew by Colin Bamford (Feb 2010). For further details our thanks to the following, Lisa T. for newspaper report on WO2 Noble, Lisa is a relative. Mel Rolfe, Bruce Lander, Patricia MacDonald for additional information on Sgt. Macritchie (Oct 2021). Reviewed, updated and new information about German Flak and Night-fighter Claims. Thanks also to Rick Everest for correcting the first name of Sgt. Everest (Sep 2023).

Other sources listed below:

RS 14.09.2023 - Reviewed, updated and new information added including German Flak and Fighter claim

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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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