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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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61 Squadron crest
10/11.09.1942 61 Squadron Lancaster I W4111 Sgt. Malcolm C. Davies

Operation: Düsseldorf, Germany

Date: 10th/11th September 1942 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit No: 61 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: W4111

Code: QR:N

Base: RAF Syerston, Nottinghamshire

Location: Southeast of Zündorf near Köln

Pilot: Sgt. Malcolm Charles Davies 1238468 RAFVR Age 19 Killed

Flt Eng: Sgt. Peter Alec Lashly 1208560 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Obs: Flt Sgt. John 'Jack' Lawrence Blair R85445 RCAF Age 32. Killed (1)

Bomb Aimer: Plt Off. Louis Poch J8611 RCAF Age 28. Killed

WOp/Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. Frank Wilfred Kidson R92307 RCAF Age 19. Killed

Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. James Harold Boston Woolgar R59555 RCAF Age 21. Killed (2)

Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. Albert Benjamin McLellan R64893 RCAF Age 27. Killed


Above: a rare photograph of W4111, QR:N in flight

Thanks to Kenneth Stone for the photograph of Lancaster W4111 (believed to have been taken in early August 1942 on a repositioning flight from RAF St. Eval to RAF Syerston) and Flt Sgt. Simpson DFM which were provided by the family of Flt Sgt. Eric Vernon Simpson DFM (London Gazette 6th November 1942). Eric was a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner who served with 61 Sqn from August 1941 to September 1942 completing 38 operations.

Above: Flt Sgt. Simpson DFM

He changed crews just before his tour was up but wanted to stay on with the new crew but was stood down which was very fortunate because his crew aboard 61 Sqn Lancaster I R5703 were killed in a tragic accident on the 1st October 1942.

W4111 off from RAF Syerston at 20:20 hrs to bomb Düsseldorf. A large force taking off from various bases - a total of 479 aircraft made up with 242 Wellingtons, 89 Lancasters, 59 Halifaxes, 47 Stirlings, 28 Hampdens and 14 Whitleys.

The pathfinders marked the target area successfully using the 'Pink Pansies' *in converted 4,000 lb. bomb casings. The city was hit in all areas apart from the north, also hit was the neighbouring town of Neuss.

* 'Pink Pansies' a 2800 lb incendiary bomb used as a target marker made up from Benzol, rubber and phosphorous.

Reports are that 39 industrial firms in Düsseldorf and a further 13 in Neuss were damaged to the extent that no production could take place for various periods, 8 public buildings were destroyed and 67 damaged. 911 houses were also destroyed, 1,506 seriously damaged and another 8,340 lightly damaged.

Above: Some of Terry’s RAF friends - guests at his wedding - George, Frank Farr, Peter Williams (Cousin and best man) Terry and Pete Lashly (courtesy Chris Hazell)

On the ground 132 people were killed, made up of 120 in Düsseldorf and 12 in Neuss. A further 11 people were classed as "missing" 2 days after the raid. 19,427 people were made homeless.

The raid took it's toll on the RAF though with 33 aircraft lost. (20 Wellingtons, 5 Lancasters. 4 Stirlings, 3 Halifaxes and 1 Hampden) 60 crewmen were killed, 1 injured and 13 made PoW.

Above: The photograph depicts a Lancaster II which was powered by Bristol Hercules engines. 61 Sqn was the first to use the Lancaster II operationally but was never fully equipped with the type. Most Lancaster II’s were later converted to Lancaster I's (Merlin Engines)

The aircraft and crew failed to return from mission. W4111 was hit by Flak from 7.Flak Div. and crashed southeast of Zündorf near Köln. The time is unknown. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (30 May - 31 December 1942) The Early Years Part 3 - Theo Boiten)

The Squadron also lost another crew this night: Lancaster I R5888 Flown by 22 year old, Flt Sgt. Frank Hobson 912096 RAFVR from Liverpool, England. Killed with all of his crew.

(1) Blair Lake, West of Brabant Lake in Saskatchewan, Canada was named after Flt Sgt. John 'jack' Lawrence Blair.

Above: Sgt. John 'Jack' Blair at RAF Millom (Credit: Jack Blair)

Above left to right: Sgt. John 'Jack' Blair, Sgt. Phil Bridgeman, Sgt. Milt Atkins. (Credit: Jack Blair)

The above photographs are believed to have been taken when Sgt. Blair was at No. 2 Air Observer School (2 AOS), RAF Millom (The unit name was later changed to No. 2 (Observers) Advanced Fly Unit (2(O) AFU). He was at RAF Millom between 12th February 1942 and 21st April 1942.

Milt Atkins is believed to be Sgt. Milton Wilbur Atkins R101589 RCAF who was confirmed to be at 2 AOS, RAF Millom at the same time as Flt Sgt. Blair. Sgt. Atkins was lost without trace along with his crew aboard 207 Sqn Lancaster I R5499 on the 11th August 1942 on a "Gardening" mission in the Silverthorn area.

Phil Bridgeman is believed to be Sgt. Philip James Bridgemen R92999 RCAF. Sgt. Bridgeman became a PoW (No. 27019) at Stalag 344 Lamsdorf for the duration of the war. His 61 Sqn Lancaster I R5682 was forced to ditch off the Dutch coast after being hit by flak and then a night-fighter on a mission to Bremen on the 5th September 1942. Three of his crew perished and four survived and became PoWs. Philip J. Bridgeman passed away on the 6th March 2015 aged 95.

(2) Woolgar Island in Thachuk Lake, Manitoba, Canada was named after Flt Sgt. James Harold Boston Woolgar in 1995. Sadly the family also lost his brother, 20 year old Fg Off. William Francis Woolgar J26712 RCAF - Woolgar Lake west of Tadoule Lake was named after him in 1975. Fg Off. Woolgar was flying with 1667 Heavy Conversion Unit on Halifax V DK133 on a night circuit training exercise when the aircraft crashed at Crowle in Lincolnshire. All 7 crew lost their lives in yet another training accident.

Burial details:

The crew were initially buried in Köln South Cemetery. Post war they were reinterred in Rheinberg War Cemetery.

Sgt. Malcolm Charles Davies. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Coll. grave 4.B.3-19. Grave inscription: "BLIND UNBELIEF IS SURE TO ERR... GOD IS HIS OWN INTERPRETER AND HE WILL MAKE IT PLAIN". Son of John and Georginia Davies, of High Grosvenor, Shropshire, England.

Sgt. Peter Alec Lashly. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Grave 4.A.12. Grave inscription: "THY WILL BE DONE". Son of Charles Frederick Harry and Nellie May Lashly, of Emsworth, Hampshire, England.

Above: Initial grave marker, Sgt John 'Jack' Blair and final grave marker at Rheinberg War Cemetery (Credit: Jack Blair)

Flt Sgt. John 'Jack' Lawrence Blair. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Coll. grave 4.B.3-19. Born on the 15th December 1909 in Goderich, Ontario. Son of George Frederick and Eleanor Cockburn (née Walker) Blair, of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Above left: Initial Grave marker for Plt Off. Poch (Courtesy John Jones). Right: Memorial plaque hung in the Bomber Museum in Nanton, Alberta, Canada (Courtesy Jack T. Blair)

Plt Off. Louis Poch. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Grave 4.A.11. Born on the 16th October 1914, the son of Anna (née Miller) and Alois Poch (deceased) From Frank, Alberta, Canada. Plt Off. Poch was of Austrian descent. His father became a naturalised Canadian on 31st August 1911.

Flt Sgt. Frank Wilfred Kidson. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Coll. grave 4.B.3-19. Born on the 16th August 1921 at Pentagon, British Columbia. Canada, the son of Ernest Jack and Dorothy Millicent (née Gray) Kidson of Penticton, British Columbia, Canada.

Flt Sgt. James Harold Boston Woolgar. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Grave 4.A.13. Grave inscription: "REMEMBRANCE IS A GOLDEN CHAIN DEATH TRIES TO BREAK, BUT ALL IN VAIN". Born on the 16th August 1920, the son of Norman H. Woolgar and Mary E. Woolgar, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Above: Flt Sgt. Maclellan

Flt Sgt. Albert Benjamin McLellan. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Grave 4.A.14. Grave inscription: "GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN". Born on the 18th January 1916, the son of Albert Richard McLellan and Lillian Edna McLellan, of River Philip, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia, Canada.

His family also suffered the loss of another son, 25 year old, WO2. Cyril Cobb Mclellan R11549 RCAF. Whilst serving with 405 Squadron died on the 2nd August 1943 after being hit by shrapnel during an operation to Essen on the 25th/26th July 1943. Treated at Addenbrook hospital in Cambridgeshire, but succumbed to injuries received.

Researched by Kelvin Youngs (Webmaster) and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Chris Hazell for photo (Dec 2017). Also to John Jones for additional details - June 2018 and August 2019. The father of Chris Hazell, Terry, also served, as one of the valuable ground crew - working on aircraft engines. In January 2018 he supplied details for an obituary to his father. Loss information added by Aircrew Remembered (Jun 2021). Thanks to Jack Blair, namesake and nephew to Flt Sgt. Blair for the images of his uncle and the memorial plaque for Plt Off. Poch (Jun 2021). Thanks to Kenneth Eric Stone for the rare photograph of W4111 in flight and for the photograph and details for Flt Sgt Simpson (Jul 2022).

Other sources listed below:

RS 02.07.2022 - Addition of W4111 photograph and aircraft code

Pages of Outstanding Interest
History Airborne Forces •  Soviet Night Witches •  Bomber Command Memories •  Abbreviations •  Gardening Codenames
CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
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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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