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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 23 OTU Wellington Ic X9917 BY:N Plt Off. John L. Dowdeswell

Operation: Düsseldorf

Date: 31st July/1st August 1942 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit No: 23 Operational Training Unit (OTU)

Type: Wellingtons Ic

Serial: X9917

Code: BY:N

Base: RAF Pershore, Worcestershire

Location: Near Venlo, Netherlands

Pilot: Plt Off. John Leslie Dowdeswell 122995 RAFVR PoW No: 595 * (1)

Obs: WO. Arthur George Allen 566894 RAF PoW No: 25667 ** (2)

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Geoffrey Charles Maddams 1250404 RAFVR PoW No: 25161 ***

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Edward Edgar Brocklehurst 1050065 RAFVR PoW No: 25162 ***

Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. Maurice Tom Craig Shields 128371 RAFVR PoW No: 25160 *

* Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria)

** It is unknown why WO. Allen was held at Marlag und Milan Nord, Westertimke, which was a PoW camp for British & Canadian Merchant Navy and Royal Navy personnel

*** Stalag 8b, in 1943 renamed Stalag 344, Lamsdorf (now called Łambinowice) in Silesia, Lamsdorf (now called Łambinowice) in Silesia


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 during the night.

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

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.

X9917 was claimed by Leutnant Hans Autenrieth, his 3rd Abschuss and the second of two this night, from Stab II./NJG1 2km south of Berg at 1.800 m at 02:30 hrs. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (30 May - 31 December 1942) The Early Years Part 3 - Theo Boiten)

(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)

On the 3rd/4th August 1944 Hauptmann Autenrieth flying Ju88 C-6 3C+KP with his regular crew of Feldwebel Adam (Bordfunker) and Unteroffizier Helbig (Bordschütze) was shot down by a Mosquito of either 264 Sqn or 488 Sqn. The aircraft came down in flames at Fougères, NE of Rennes at 01:30 hrs. Hauptmann Autenrieth managed to hide for two days, before he was found and taken prisoner near Combourg by French resistance fighters on 5th August. His Bordfunker remains missing to this day. He was credited with 22 victories. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (16 October 1944 - 31 December 1944) Part 5 - Theo Boiten).

After the war he joined the Bundes Luftwaffe where he reached the rank of Oberstleutant. He died from on 8th June 1996, age 75.

(1) Promoted to Fg Off. with effect 1st November 1942, London Gazette 12th January 1943;
Promoted to Flt Lt. with effect 1st May 1944, London Gazette 19th May 1944.
(2) 566894 WO. Allen was commissioned and promoted to Plt Off, 49722 with effect 13th July 1942 whilst a PoW;
Promoted to Fg Off. with effect 4th January 1943, London gazette 11th May 1943;
Promoted to Flt Lt. with effect 13th July 1944, London gazette 4th August 1944;
Extended service as a substantive Fg Off. with effect 12th December 1946, London Gazette 19th August 1947;
Confirmation of promoted to Flt Lt. (Substantive) with effect 13th December 1946, London gazette 30th September 1947;
Retired from the RAF on the 16th May 1961, London gazette 23rd May 1961;
Born on the 16th May 1918 in the Isle of Wight, Mother’s maiden name Corney. No further details.

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 (Jan 2017). Thanks to John Jones for the update to the fighter claim (June 2019). Update to Narrative by Aircrew Remembered (May 2022).

Other sources shown below.

RS 20.05.2022 - Updated narrative

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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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