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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
14/15.02.1945 No. 640 Squadron Halifax III MZ856 P/O. de Bij

Operation: Chemnitz

Date: 14/15th February 1945 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit: No. 640 Squadron

Type: Halifax III

Serial: MZ856

Code: C8-S

Base: RAF Leconfield, Yorkshire.

Location: Neuwirtshaus Forest, 14km West of Bad Kissingen

Pilot: P/O. Henri Mari de Bij 185127 RAFVR Age 32. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Sidney William Ede 1880840 RAFVR Age 28. Killed

Nav: Fl/Sgt. Frederick Henry Riches 1460401 RAFVR Age 32. Killed

Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Bob Longworth 1622238 RAFVR Age ? Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Bernard Whitfield 220936 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Thomas Edward Teanby 1809870 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Reuben Ridsdale 1591283 RAFVR Age 20. Killed


T/O at 17.04 hrs from RAF Leconfield, Yorkshire to bomb Chemnitz as part of the "Operation Thunderclap" (1) 717 aircraft from 1, 3, 4, 6 and 8 group taking part.

The bombing was hampered by cloud, even though very little is available as to the results of the raid many parts of the city were hit. Although the majority of the bombs fell in open country.

The diversionary tactics used by the allies resulted in relatively few aircraft losses, 13 in total during the Chemnitz raid.

640 Squadron also lost another crew on this operation:

Halifax III NP953 C8-G Flown by 28 year old F/O. Keith Weber of the RAAF - killed with five other members of his crew, one being made pow.

MZ856 was shot down by Maj. Werner Hoffmann (2) of Stab 1./NJG5. South West of Bad Kissinghen at 22.11 hrs in Neuwirtshaus Forest.

Halifax MZ856 Crew: Rear - Sgt. Whitfield, Sgt. Ridsdale, Sgt. Teanby and Sgt. Ede - Front: F/Sgt. Longworth, P/O. de Bij and Sgt. Riches.

(1) "Operation Thunderclap" - In August 1944 plans were drawn for an operation code named Thunderclap but it was shelved and never implemented. The plan envisaged a massive attack on Berlin that would cause 220,000 casualties with 110,000 killed, many of them key German personnel, which would shatter German morale. But on consideration it was decided that it was unlikely to work, so it was shelved.

The plan was reconsidered in early 1945, to be implemented in coordination with a Soviet advance, but again was rejected again as impractical, and instead a number of coordinated smaller attacks against cities in the communications zone of the Eastern Front, through which key routes to the east converged, were chosen. The cities designated as choke points where the bombing would be most effective were Berlin, Dresden, Chemnitz and Leipzig. Intensive bombing of these targets was carried out with the intention of disrupting the rear areas of the German Eastern Front lines, to aid the Soviets advance as had been requested by the Soviets at the Yalta Conference. These raids were large ones, but were not the massive raids envisaged in the original Thunderclap plan.

(2) Maj. Werner Hoffmann survived the war with a total of 51 night kills and a further 1 day kills. He had flown over 200 missions and awarded the Knights Cross in 1943. Became a Pharmacist settling in Bremen. Werner died on the 8th July 2011, age 93.

Eye witness reports state that the aircraft was in flames as it plunged into the forest. Several people from the village ran with the local police to the crash site to find the Halifax totally destroyed with no chance of finding any survivors.

Among the eye witnesses was a 15 year old boy, Oswald Beck, shown above taken at the Schwärzelbach Cemetery. This also shows the north west corner of the churchyard where the crew were originally buried.

We are indebted to Holger Worner, Mr Oswald Beck, Mr Werner Ziegert and Erich Reidinger for this information and photographs.

New memorial unveiled in February 2015 with large attendance in the cold weather by locals and visitors.(courtesy Holger Worner)

On the right of the guard of honour: Marine soldier: Oberstabsbootsmann A.D. Gerhard Theis, who is extremely proud to take part in this honour guard and for sure, so are Aircrew Remembered!

The memorial was built in 1994 on the initiative of a forestry director Mr. Hermann Bock and the district director Mr. Ernst Steinocher. The location of the plane crash has now been named as "Flyer Curve".

Durnbach War Cemetery - The quality of these photographs shown here can not be fully appreciated when the size is reduced for the web page. (courtesy David Franklin - David has kindly provided us with permission to release high definition copies to relatives)

Burial details:

The crew were originally buried in the cemetery at Schwärzelbach prior to be moving after hostilities to Durnbach.

P/O. Henri Mari de Bij. Dürnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 5A. 7-10. Further information: Son of Lambertus Theodor Joseph Hubert and Wilhelmina Lamberdina (nee Knol) de Bij. Born on 5th September 1913 at Zwolle, Netherlands, living in London at the time of his death.

Sgt. Sidney William Ede. Dürnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 5A. 7-10. Further information: Husband of Ivy Elizabeth Ede and father to Janet, born 1942 and Barry, born 1944. Sidney Ede was born in Kent but moved to Colchester in Essex with his parents when he was a teenager. Worked as an engineer, a reserved occupation, at Brackets of Colchester enlisting in the R.A.F. on the 23rd July 1943.

Service record:
Air-craftsman 2nd Class 23rd July 1943, Sergeant 11th September 1944.
Aircraft-hand/Flight Engineer - 23rd July 1943, Under training Flight Engineer -15th January 1944, Flight Engineer -11th September 1944
2 Reception Centre - 23rd July 1043, Reserve - 24th July 1944, 3 Aircrew Recruit Centre - 27th December 1943, 21 Initial Training Wing - 15th January 1944, 5 School of technical Training - 8th March 1944, 4 School of Technical Training - 25th May 1944, 41 Base - 22nd September 1944, 640 squadron-6th February 1945
Awarded the 1939/45 Star, France and Germany Star, War Medal 1939/45.

Fl/Sgt. Frederick Henry Riches. Dürnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 5A. 7-10. Son of Richard and Margaret Riches, husband of Ethel Gladys Riches of Sanderstead, Surrey. A.L.A.A.

Fl/Sgt. Bob Longworth. Dürnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 5A. 7-10. No further details as yet.

Sgt. Bernard Whitfield. Dürnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 5A. 7-10. Son of John James and Mary Dorothy Whitfield of Warrington, Lancashire, England.

Sgt. Thomas Edward Teanby. Dürnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 5A. 7-10. Further information: Son of George Edward and Mabel Blanche Teanby (nee Wood) of 34 Brook Street, Peterborough, Northamptonshire, England.His father died on the 17th October 1935, his widow, Mabel never remarried and raised Thomas alone. She died on 5th November 1964. Thomas attended Peterborough Kings School from May 1932 - July 1939. After leaving he joined an engineering company before enlisting in the RAFVR.

Sgt. John Reuben Ridsdale. Dürnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 5A. 7-10. Son of John and Florence Ridsdale of Norton, Stockton-on-Tees, Co. Durham, England.

Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew.

Special thanks to Barry and Jean Ede for crew photo and information on Sergeant Ede. To Miss Jane King for details on Sgt. Thomas Edward Teanby who attended Kings School in Peterborough. We are hoping that we will have other information on other pupils from this school in the future. We also in the process of assisting the School with their research. Also many thanks to Holger Wörner - Holger discovered the memorial to the crew and also the exact location of the crash. We hope to have further information from Holger soon including up to date photographs of the crash site and memorial. Thanks to Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - "Nightfighter War Diaries Vol. 2", Bill Chorley - "Bomber Command Losses Vol. 6", Tom Kracker - 'Kracker Luftwaffe Archives'.

Pages of Outstanding Interest
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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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