467 Squadron Lancaster III ED867 Fl/Lt. Ivan George Durston DFC
Date: 28/29th January 1944 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: No. 467 Squadron. 5 Group
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire
Location: East of Oranienburg
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Ivan George Durston DFC. Aus/414343 RAAF Age 32. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Francis Alfred Aver 628423 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
Nav: Fl/Lt. Harold Leonard Fry 130598 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Sidney John Griffiths 171170 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: P/O. Robert Lanoel Ludlow Aus/414711 RAAF Age 31. Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Phillip Roy Gill Aus/425153 RAAF Age 20. Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Jack William Alexander Sutherland Aus/417008 RAAF Age 22. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
14 aircraft from the squadron were detailed to take part on this operation to bomb the capital. Berlin.
P/O. Noel Robert McDonald Aus/420048 RAAF failed to take off due to engine trouble, P/O. John William McManus Aus/415349 RAAF (both shown below) returned early after jettisoning his bomb load with similar problems.
ED467 took off at 00:49 hrs, the pilot on his 27th operation, with a bomb load of 1x4000 lb. 48x30 lb. and 900x4 lb. incendiary bombs.
They failed to return, the only aircraft from the squadron lost, but just one crew of 46 that never came home this night.
Probable claim by Major Helmut Lent Stab NJG3 at 03:25 hrs. (shown right)
What is known is that Sydney Griffiths certainly managed to leave the aircraft, but his body was found shortly after in woodland four miles east of Birkenwerder. Meanwhile, the Lancaster with its remaining six crew still on board had ploughed on, spiralling out of control before crashing into forest three miles east of Oranienburg. Two crew bodied were also recovered but buried as 'Unknown Airman' - that left 4 as missing until some dedicated researchers, Rüdiger Kaddatz and his teams discovered the wreckage 60 years later.
Above L-R: P/O. Robert Ludlow, Fl/Sgt. Jack Sutherland, Fl/Sgt. Phillip Gill, Fl/Sgt. Sidney Griffiths, Fl/Lt. Ivan Durston DFC, Sgt. Francis Aver and Fl/Lt. Harold Fry.
The Sun Herald, Sydney, Australia. 05th August 2001.
Written by Frank Walker and Daniel Dasey:
In 1944 a Lancaster bomber with four Australians aboard flew from England for its final mission over Nazi Germany. It never came back. What happened to the Australian airmen on ED867 has remained a mystery. All that their families have been told for the past 57 years is that the men were missing in action. Until now Thanks to the dedication of a group of German amateur historians and the forensic detective work of Australian defence officers, the mystery of ED867 is close to being solved. The Germans have found the wreckage of the Lancaster near their town of Qranienburg, 30km north of Berlin.
They dug down for 3m and found the remains of three, possibly four, crewmen still inside the wreckage of the plane. A wing revealed the serial number: ED867. Australian forensic experts will soon go to Berlin to try to make final identifications of the airmen so they can be given a marked grave and buried with full military honours.
The pilot, Flight Lieutenant Ivan (Joe) Durston, 32, of Windsor in Queensland, had been told he had already completed his number of missions and could be transferred out. The chances of being killed in raids over Germany were so high that airmen were limited to 30 missions. But the Aussies had made a pact that they would all finish together. So the commanding officer told Durston and wireless operator Pilot Officer Robert Ludlow, 31, of Glen Niven, Queensland, gunner Flight Sergeant Phillip Gill, 20, of Coorparoo, Queensland, and gunner Flight Sergeant Jack Sutherland, 22, of Prospect, South Australia, that this would be their last mission before being transferred to other duties. It was a tough one.
Berlin was heavily defended and the Germans threw up all the flak they could at the bombers. Durston's plane was bringing up the rear as he had to photograph the result of the raid. It would draw maximum enemy fire. As they made their final approach to Berlin over the town of Oranienburg the Lancaster was hit by flak or fighters and crashed in flames. Three bodies were quickly found and later buried near the crash site. After the war, one was identified as Englishman Flight Sergeant Sidney Griffiths and he was reburied in the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Berlin. The two others, whose nationalities have not been determined, were placed in graves marked 'Unknown Airman'.
Above actual crash location (courtesy Rüdiger Kaddatz)
Back in Australia, Durston's sister, Betty James, was told he was missing in action. She has carried his photo in her wallet ever since, hoping that somehow he might still be alive. It was not until Mario Schultze, 33, a local cabinet maker and amateur historian, last year started searching the fields around Oranienburg for crashed warplanes that answers to the mystery started to surface. 'The area had been set aside for military manoeuvres by the East German Army and was only opened up to the public recently,' he said. 'We found parts of 14 warplanes that had crashed around the town. We decided it would be our mission to identify them all so relatives could know what happened to their missing men. 'Some were Russian, some American, some British. We found part of a wing of the Lancaster just sticking above the ground.
We dug and found the serial number ED867. 'With the help of the German Army we dug further and found the remains of three, possibly four, men about three metres under the ground. It seems the plane exploded on impact and so it buried itself deep in the ground.' The German Army gave the airmen a temporary grave and notified British authorities. RAF records gave the name of the crew and dental records indicated the remains found were of Flight Lieutenant Durston. In October defence experts from Canberra will go to the site to examine the remains. It is hoped all the remaining bodies can be finally identified and reburied with full military honours in the Berlin Allied War Cemetery alongside 252 other Australians. The bodies of all seven crewmen appear to have been found now and, even if individual remains can't be identified, they are no longer missing and can be buried in a grave marked with the names of the full crew of ED867.
Above: Recovery operation (courtesy Rüdiger Kaddatz)
Betty James, 83, said finding her brother's body after almost 60 years had at last brought peace to her and the family. "When you lose someone like this you are still waiting and wondering. You wonder where he is, was he captured, was he kept overseas?" she said from her Adelaide home. 'I always thought he was lost over the sea. We weren't told much about how it happened. 'Now we are at peace because he is going to be officially buried. I am not looking for his body to be brought home, just for him to be buried. It closes a chapter. It's peace of mind.' She said her brother, a motor mechanic, had been a steadying influence on the crew because he was regarded as the old man. He was 32. He had a girlfriend waiting at home.
Betty James's son, Greg Bickford, said he had heard three crewmen had parachuted out and later died in PoW camps. Mr Bickford said: 'That story seems to have been disproved. My uncle trained pilots at Bankstown before they sent him to Britain. He never came back, but his photo has been on our family's mantelpiece ever since. 'It has been marvellous for my mum to put an end to the chapter of what happened to her brother.' Ross Stanford, 83, (See webmaster note below) was a pilot in A-flight of the 467 Squadron alongside Durston. 'It grips you a bit after all this time, particularly when you knew that bloke and used to see him every day for six months. Joe was a quiet, steady man. He was a regular guy' Some 1,300 Australian airmen arc still listed as missing in action over Germany in World War II.
Webmaster note: Fl/Lt. Ross Milton Stafford DFC OAM Aus/416624 RAAF. Enlisted on the 21st July 1941, (son of Frank Stamford) - was not on this operation but flew on many others to Berlin and other targets over 47 in fact, also served in 617 squadron. Born on the 25th September 1917 in Fulham, South Australia.
Played for Australia cricket team in England, India, Ceylon and Australia. Left the RAAF on the 26th March 1946 and started his own market garden business. He died on the 11th July 2006, at the age of 88, at Kilburn, South Australia. He was married to Joyce, with whom he had two children, Greg and Cynthia.
Fl/Lt Ivan George Durston DFC. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. 5.J. Collective Grave 9-12. Born on the 25th January 1912 in Brisbane. Enlisted on the 13th September 1941. Son of Hugh Bourne George (died 28th April 1957, age 79) and Emma Elizabeth Durston (née Bridge - died 23rd August 1949, age 70), of Windsor, Queensland, Australia. Epitaph: 'In Service Of His Country Ever Remembered With Great Pride By All His Family'. DFC awarded posthumously 01st June 1945 for service with 467 squadron with effect from 28th January 1944.
Sgt. Francis Alfred Aver. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. 5.J. Collective Grave 9-12. Son of Sydney George and Ivy Victoria Florence Aver, of Merstham, Surrey, England.
Fl/Lt. Harold Leonard Fry. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. 5.J. Collective Grave 9-12. Son of Leonard and Daisy May Fry, of Ilford, Essex., England. Epitaph: 'He Gave His Life That We Might Live'.
Fl/Sgt. Sidney John Griffiths. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Grave I.C1. Son of John George and Dorothy Lillian Griffiths, of Cardiff, Wales. Epitaph: 'Loving Memories Of A Devoted Son And Brother. Sadly Missed'.
P/O. Robert Lanoel Ludlow. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. 5.J. Collective Grave 9-12. Born on the 21st May 1912 in Stanthorpe, Queensland. Enlisted on the 08th November 1941. Son of Arthur Henry (died 30th September 1953, age 61) and Isabella Ludlow (died 19th June 1972, age 81), of Glen Niven, Queensland, Australia. Epitaph: 'Peace Of Mind Now Comes From Knowing Where Bob Is At Rest'.
Fl/Sgt. Phillip Roy Gill. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. 5.J. Collective Grave 9-12. Born on the 04th May 1923 in Brisbane. Enlisted on the 31st January 1942. Son of Walter Roy and Gertrude Doris Philimina Gill, of Coorparoo, Queensland, Australia. Epitaph: 'Loved Son Of Walter And Gertrude And Brother Of Donald Forever Remembered'.
Fl/Sgt. Jack William Alexander Sutherland. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. 5.J. Collective Grave 9-12. Enlisted on the 08th November 1941. Son of William Alexander Sutherland and Vera Edith Sutherland and husband of Edna Jean Sutherland and father of David William, of Prospect, South Australia. Epitaph: 'Loved Husband Of Edna Loving Father Of David Proudly He Fought, Courageously He Died'.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Rüdiger Kaddatz, Mario Schulze, Uwe Rathenow, Airwar over northern Germany, National Archives Kew Air-27-1931-1/2, International Bomber Command Centre IBCC, National Archives Australia NAA, Kracker Luftwaffe Archive.
Other sources as quoted below: