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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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RAF Crest
31/01.08.1942 No. 23 OTU Wellington Ic X9917 BY-N P/O. John L. Dowdeswell

Operation: Düsseldorf

Date: 31/01st August 1942

Unit: No. 23 Operational Training Unit (OTU)

Type: Wellingtons Ic

Serial: X9917

Code: BY-N

Base: RAF Pershore, Worcestershire

Location: Nr Venlo, Netherlands

Pilot: P/O. John Leslie Dowdeswell 122995 (903235) RAFVR PoW No: 595 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria (L3)

Obs: W/O. Arthur George Allen 49722 (566894) RAFVR PoW No: 25667 Camp: Marlag Ind Milag Nord, Westertimke (Tarnstedt)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. G.C. Maddams 1250404 RAFVR PoW No: 25161 Camp: Stalag Lamsdorf (344)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. E.E. Brocklehurst 1050065 RAFVR PoW No: 25162 Camp: Stalag Lamsdorf (344)

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. M.T.C. Shields 128371 RAFVR PoW No: 25160 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria (L3)


Taking off at 23:22 hrs from RAF Pershore, Worcestershire to take part on the first bombing mission where more than 100 Lancasters would participate. Many were made up with aircraft from the training units, which, resulted in very high losses. The OTU’s losing some 16 aircraft (1) during the night.

The night was described as clear with a bright moon which assisted the Luftwaffe night fighters even though six sorties of Blenheims from 2 Group attacking their bases over a two hour period were sent to assist the operation.

484 aircraft reported successful bombing, although photographic evidence showed that part of this force bombed open country. Over 900 tons of bombs were dropped during the raid, which attacked the city between 01:50 hrs and 03:03 hrs.

Records from Düsseldorf are very detailed with most of the city and the suburbs of Neuss being hit. 453 buildings were destroyed, a further 15,000 damaged. On the ground 279 people were killed, 1,018 were injured with 12,053 people bombed out of their homes.

The crew were made up with a screened crew - all serving at the time as instructors with 23 OTU. Claim by Lt Hans Autenrieth Stab II/NJG1 - 2km South of Berg ENE Maastricht: 1,800m at 0220. Crashed near Venlo (Nachtjagd War Diaries Vol 1 Theo Boiten) - His 3rd confirmed claim of the war.

(We understand that Craig Shields has researched this loss and he states that the aircraft came down in the region of Venlo in the Netherlands)

(1 This Düsseldorf operation cost Bomber Command dear with the loss of 32 aircraft. Aircrew killed 118, Injured 6, PoW 34, evading capture 4.

(2) Oblt Hans Autenrieth (shown above) - went on to make a total of 22 kills, before he was shot down on the 4th August 1944 then taken prisoner. He did manage to evade capture for 2 days, before being caught by the French resistance. Served the remainder of the war as a PoW. Died from cancer on the 8th June 1996, age 75.

Burial details:

None - all crew survived as PoW. We also understand that they survived the war.

For further details our thanks to Craig Shields for bringing this loss to our attention - January 2017. Thanks to John Jones for the update to the fighter claim. Also to the sources shown below.

RS 22.06.2019 - Update to fighter claim

Acknowledgements: 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', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', 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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