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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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97 Squadron Crest
23/24.09.1943 No. 97 Squadron Lancaster III JA708 OF-P Fl/Lt. Robert A. Fletcher

Operation: Mannheim

Date: 23/24th September 1943

Unit: No. 97 Squadron

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: JA708

Code: OF-P

Base: RAF Bourn, Cambridgeshire,

Location: South of Mannheim, Germany

Pilot: Fl/Lt. Robert A. Fletcher RAFVR PoW No: 2612. Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria

Fl/Eng: Fl/Sgt. Joe E. Nelson RAFVR PoW No: 501. Camp: Stalag Kopernikus

Nav: Sq/Ldr. Kenneth Jack Foster DFC-bar 77915 RAFVR Age 26. Killed

Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Jack F. Beesley RAFVR PoW No: 509. Camp: Stalag Kopernikus

W/OpAir/Gnr: P/O. Wally H. Layne RAFVR PoW No: 605. Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug (1)

Air/Gnr: Sq/Ldr. Robert Alexander McKinna DFC-bar 69440 RAFVR Age 33. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Henry Reuben Page 1316109 RAFVR Age 20. Killed


Took off at 1930 hrs from RAF Bourn, Cambridgeshire as part of a force of 628 aircraft (312 Lancasters, 193 Halifaxes , 7 Wellingtons, 8 Mosquitoes and 5 B-17's from the 8th US Army Air Force) to destroy the northern part of Mannheim.

A total of 927 houses, 20 industrial premises, 11 schools, 6 public buildings and a church were destroyed in this raid. 25,000 people were bombed out of their homes, 102 people on the ground were killed and a further 418 injured. There were more than 2,000 fires started.

P/O. Wally H. Layne and right pilot, Fl/Lt. Robert A. Fletcher

It is also reported by local records that during the later part of the bombing stages the bombers hit the northern part of Ludwigshafen where the I.G. factory was severely damaged and also smaller outlying towns of Oppau and Frankenthal were also hit with 47 people killed and 260 injured. A total of 8,000 people were bombed out of which 4,289 were foreign workers. The centre of Frankenthal was completely burnt out and a further 38 people were also killed.

During this raid 32 aircraft were lost. (18 Lancasters, 7 Halifaxes and 7 Wellingtons) A german nightfighter force of 153 Bf110's, 17 Ju88's and 16 Do217's were scrambled to intercept them. 7 of the bomber force were shot down before they reached the target zone and another 20 were shot down over the target area by this force. During the many engagements 7 German nightfighters were shot down.

Lancaster JA708 was claimed to have been shot down by Uffz. Josef Brunner from 2./NJG1 south of Mannheim at a height of 3,800 m at 22.50 hrs. (source Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten - April 2017)

Burial Details:

Sq/Ldr. Kenneth Jack Foster DFC-bar. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Grave 18.B.25. Son of Mr. and Mrs. J.E. Foster, husband of Eileen Foster, of Southport, Lancashire, England.

Sq/Ldr. Robert Alexander McKinna DFC-bar. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Joint grave. 18.B.23-24. Son of Alexander and Margery of Edinburgh, Scotland. Husband of Helen Dorothy.

Fl/Sgt. Henry Reuben Page. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Joint grave. 18.B.23-24. Son of Arthur George and Ruby of Bristol, England. Husband of Myrtle Jean.

With thanks to David Layne son of P/O. Wally Layne for information and the series of photographs. For further details our thanks to the following, Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol's. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vol's. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries (Updated 2014 version), Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Thanks to Kiel Almond for pointing out the base for the Squadron was RAF Bourn in Cambridgeshire.

(1) David Layne has contributed a great deal of information on this crew and others, we are extremely grateful to him and his research. He also runs a blog: 'Wally's War'.

RS 12.06.2019 - Correction to airbase location

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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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