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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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434 Squadron Crest
11.03.1945 No. 434 Squadron Lancaster X KB834 WL-Y Fl/Lt. Raymond J. Fern

Operation: Essen

Date: 11th March 1945 (Sunday)

Unit: No. 434 Squadron

Type: Lancaster X

Serial: KB834

Code: WL-Y

Base: RAF Croft, North Yorkshire.

Location: Target area, Essen.

Pilot: Fl/Lt. Raymond John Fern J/15681 RCAF Age 25. Killed (1)

Fl/Eng: P/O. William Thomas Jones 185500 RAFVR Age 37. Killed

Nav: Fl/Lt. Alfred George Rowe DFC. J/16574 RCAF Age 24. Killed

Air/Bmr: F/O. Thomas Donovan Copeland J/18182 RCAF Age 25. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: F/O. Joe Richard Latremouille J/17438 RCAF Age 22. Killed

Air/Gnr: F/O. Gibson Scott J/18994 RCAF Age 26. Killed

Air/Gnr: F/O. Joseph Alfred Henri Bernard “Ben” Marceau J/19723 RCAF Age 24. Survived


Took off from Croft at 11:38 hrs. Hit by flak and crashed within seconds of completing its bombing run, plunging into the target area. Apart from P/O. Jones who had served previously with 419 Squadron, the crew were on their 12th operation of their 2nd tour. (Pilot's 13th)

Above: 18th January 1942 408 Canadian Bomber Squadron. Four new arrivals at a Royal Canadian Air Force bomber squadron who all hale from Saskatchewan, beside a Hampden bomber. Left to Right: Sgt. J.T.F. Craig of Abbey, Sask., Sgt. Raymond Wesley Dreyer of Yorktown, Sask., Sgt. William John Marshall of Harris, Sask., and Sgt. Raymond John Fern, Christopher Lake, Sask. Sgt. Craig and Sgt. Fern trained at Windsor Mills, Que., while Sgt. Dreyer and Sgt. Marshall trained at Malton, Ont, (courtesy François Dutil)

Part of the largest number of aircraft sent to date of the war with 1,079 aircraft taking part, also the last raid on Essen.

The operation was described as very accurate with bombing paralysing the city until the Americans arrived shortly afterwards.

The city had been left in ruins, records for this operation from the city's records are brief, but a figure is given of 897 people killed this night. During the war some 7,000 people had been killed in air raids on Essen, with most of the population evacuating to country areas.

Above taken at RAF Dishforth L-R: William Jones, Alfred Rowe, Thomas Copeland, Raymond Fern, Gibson Scott and Joseph Marceau.

List of Operations by the Fern crew:

February 13/14th 1945 - Dresden - KB789 February 14/15th 1945 - Chemnitz - KB824 February 20/21st 1945 - Dortmund - KB852 February 21/22nd 1945 - Duisberg - NG344 February 23/24th 1945 - Pforzheim - KB834 February 27/28th 1945 - Mainz - KB834 February 28th 1945 - Neuss - KB852 March 01st 1945 - Mannheim - NG344 March 2nd 1945 - Cologne - KB825 March 5/6th 1945 - Chemnitz - KB834 March 7/8th 1945 - Dessau - KB834 March 11th 1945 - Essen - KB834. Final Operation. Only survivor, Flying Officer Marceau.

F/O. Joseph Alfred Henri Bernard “Ben” Marceau. Further information: Rear Gunner, of Montreal, PQ, Canada - no pow details. Flying Officer Ben Marceau was blown out of his rear turret and landed in a field near Essen. Badly injured with wounds to the head and leg caused by the flak fire, he was taken to a local barracks where he was treated before being interrogated and then moved again. Spending several weeks in hospitals in Germany and Belgium before being liberated. Flown to Archibald McIndoe’s special unit, the RCAF Wing at Queen Victoria Cottage Hospital, East Grinstead, Sussex for further treatment to his burns and injuries before returning to his wife in Canada. He flew ten missions with the Fern crew and a total of 47 missions. (His first mission being on the 4th of April 1943 for the Brousseau Crew of 425 Squadron). Treasurer of the 425 Squadron Association. Sadly he passed away on the 10th of December 2008 in Montreal, PQ, Canada.

Burial details:

Six bodies were later recovered from Plot III of the Sud-West Friedhof and taken to the Reichswald Forest war cemetery.

Fl/Lt. Raymond John Fern. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 13.F.8. Further information: Son of Raymond Mason and Vina Olive (née Gibbs) Fern. Born 1st July 1919, eldest brother of Robert, James, David, Edward otherwise known as “Telly and Cynthia of Christopher Lake, Saskatchewan. Raymond Mason Fern and his wife set up a homestead in Christopher Lake, Saskatchewan in 1920. When their other daughter was stillborn they gave land to build a cemetery on and later in 1931/32 donated more land where the first school for their community was built.

Fl/Lt. Fern, known as “Johnny” was raised on the family homestead, later working for the Prince Albert National Park and dreamed of becoming a pilot. He took a High School Correspondence course so that he could get into Flight School with the RCAF and enlisted in 1939.

After arriving in England and while stationed at Dishforth, John and the crew came up to London on leave. Here he met Esme Dorothy (Temple) of East Acton, London who was a WAAF working as a continuity girl at Pinewood Film Studios. They married at St. Dunstans Church, East, Acton, London on December 12th 1944 and had planned to go to Scotland on John’s next leave. Their best man was the crew’s mid upper gunner, Gibson “Scottie”Scott. On the same day another of their crew, Don Copeland also got married. His father erected a granite memorial to John at Christopher Lake Cemetery, Saskatchewan. His mother, Vina died in 1941.

P/O. William Thomas Jones. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 12.1B. Further information: Son of William David and Margaret Jones, husband of Elsie Jones and father of Harry of Liverpool. P/O Bill Jones worked in the building trade, an enforced Reserved Occupation, until he was released to join the RAF in 1942 as a Flight Engineer. He was commissioned from 419 Squadron to join the crew. The Essen raid was his 26th Operation.

Fl/Lt. Alfred George Rowe DFC. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Joint Grave 1B 9-10. Further information: Son of Alfred James and Agnes Miriam (nee Nailson) Rowe of 81 Wanless Crescent, Toronto, Ontario, husband of Pearl Ruth Cranstoun Rowe of Summerhill Gardens, Toronto, Ontario, Canada Born 24th March 1921, known as George by friends and family, Fl/Lt. Rowe worked as a clerk at the Bank of Nova Scotia in Toronto where he is remembered on their roll of honour.

Enlisted at Toronto on 3rd May 1941, embarking for England on March 20th 1942. Promoted to Flight Sergeant on July 31st 1942, taken on strength to 425 Squadron on August 19th 1942. Received his commission as Pilot Officer, 30th of November 1942. Transferred to 432 Squadron, May 1st 1943, promoted to Flying Officer on May 30th 1943. On August 6th 1943 awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, promoted to Flight Lieutenant January 1st 1944. From July 25th to September 25th 1944, sent to Canada on special leave having completed an operational and instructional tour. December 31st 1944 he was taken on strength to 434 Squadron.

F/O. Thomas Donovan Copeland. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 11.1B. Further information: Son of James Coulter and Elizabeth Copeland, brother of James Coulter Copeland (2) (k.i.a. serving with 429 Squadron, 6th December 1944) and Mary Copeland and husband of Vivienne (nee Tomkins) Copeland and father of Donna Marie Copeland of Whitton, Middlesex. Whilst on leave in London he met Vivienne Tomkins and married on December 12th 1944 with Flight Lieutenant George Rowe of the crew as best man.

F/O. Joe Richard Latremouille. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Joint Grave 1B 9-10. Further information: Son of John Anthony and Maude Latremouille of Toronto, Canada.

F/O. Gibson Scott. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 13.1B. Further information: Born 8th January 1918, son of Robert Chisholm Scott, a carpenter, (originally from Hawick, Selkirk, Scotland) and Mary (nee Warburton) Scott of 655,51st Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia, brother of Robert, Daniel, Andrew and Sarah of Vancouver British Columbia, Canada.

(1) Fern Lake, south of Keeley Lake, Saskatchewan (73K16) 54 49’ 108 12’ renamed in honour of Fl/Lt. Fern

(2) The very sad story on the loss of W/O. Copeland has been researched: 429 Squadron Halifax III MZ463 AL-J - 06/07th December 1944.

Left: Britain and the British Commonwealth - showing the dedication to Fl/Lt. Alfred George Rowe DFC. Written by the father of researcher and genealogist Linda Ibrom Aircrew Remembered volunteer who researched this loss.

With special thanks to the following, who have made this page of remembrance possible: Esme Fern, widow of Fl/Lt. Fern, Cynthia Morrow (nee Fern) and his family for the personal information and photographs. Vernon Harcourt Simms (father of Linda Ibrom, researcher) for the photographs of Fl/Lt. Rowe and his wife and the dedication to Fl/Lt. Rowe in the front of one of his published books.

Pat Zelikovitz, (mother married to Fl/Lt. Rowe for the additional information and numerous photographs of Fl/Lt. Rowe.) Harry Jones for the photo’s and information on his father, P/O. Jones.

Wanda and Gibson Scott (nephew of F/O. Scott) Fred Carter and the family of Fl/Lt. Latremouille. To the late Ben Marceau for his friendship. Finally thanks to Matt Lacroix, Richard Kovel and Alan Soderstrom.

Also to Francois Dutil for new photograph.

KTY New photo added 31.12.2019

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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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