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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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50 Squadron Crest
08/09.05.1942 No. 50 Squadron Manchester IA L7489 Sgt. Maurice Gruber

Operation: Warnemünde  Germany

Date: 8/9th May 1942 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit: No. 50 Squadron

Type: Manchester Mk.IA

Serial: L7489

Code: VN-?

Base: RAF Skellingthorpe

Location: Store Lind, Denmark

Pilot: Sgt. Maurice Gruber 777669 RAFVR Age 30. Killed (1)

Fl/Eng: Sgt Sydney Garbutt 1027581 RAF PoW No: 47 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagen and Belaria  

Nav: P/O. Harold Frederick Avery R/1315 RCAF PoW No: 1758 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagen and Belaria        

Air/Bmr: Sgt. John Pearce 1251293 RAF PoW No: 81 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Donald Broadhead 1311493 RAF PoW No: 798 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Richard Solomon 107282 RAF PoW No: 92 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Kenneth G.R. Johnson 940043 RAF PoW No: 63 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus  


The Manchester crossed the Danish west coast north of the island of Sylt and flew on to the Heinkel works at Warnemünde. The attack was successfully carried out from 1500 feet even though flak was intense. Of the 193 aircraft taking part in this operation, 19 aircraft were lost with a remarkable 16 claimed by the flak divisions - night fighters claiming the remainder.

After the bomb run the crew were not able to close the bomb doors and with these open it would not be possible to reach base. Course was set for Sweden via Denmark.

The Manchester managed to climb to 4500 feet but was not able to maintain the altitude even with engines running at full power. The starboard engine and wiring caught fire and could not be put out, when they approached the island of Møn they were down to 2000 ft. 

Pilot Sgt. Maurice Gruber ordered the crew to bail out when over the island. The last of the crew to leave was Navigator/Bomb Aimer P/O Harold Avery who told Gruber that he would leave through the rear hatch and leave the front hatch clear for Gruber. 

Avery hurried down to the rear hatch and jumped out in a hurry as they were down to 500 feet. When his chute came out the harness hit him in the face and rendered him unconscious. He came too after about an hour.

The aircraft crashed in a field belonging to the “Marienborg” estate at 02:23 hours.

P/O. Harald Avery discovered at 06:30 hrs on Nøbøllegaard farm near Stege. At 07:00 Sgt, John Pearce and Sgt. Sydney Garbutt were found at a farm belonging to Farmer Jantsen, Lerbæk, Askeby. Shortly afterwards at 07:30 Sgt. Donald Broadhead was found at a farm near Hjelm and at the same time Sgt. Kenneth Johnson was found on a farm in Nr. Frenderup. 

The last crewmember to be found was Sgt Richard Solomon who was located at 12:15 in Frenderup. 

Later on the same day the flyers were handed over to Leutnant Detmar from the Luftwaffe based at Avnø airfield.

(1) The family of Sgt. Gruber also lost another son in the very same year. His younger brother 21 year old Sgt. Rufus Isaacs 777670 RAFVR - flying with 44 Squadron as an air gunner when Lancaster W4180 KM-D - lost on the 9th November 1942. Buried in Hanover Cemetery - Grave 10A.J.1.

One other aircraft from 50 Squadron, although made it back to base, was written off by the damage caused by flak, that of Manchester I R5778 flown by Sgt. J.B. Wilkie 1068112 RAFVR - all crew safe. However, just a couple of weeks later on a trip to Cologne on the 30/31st May the same pilot was forced to crash land his Manchester L7456 - 4 of the crew were made PoW with 3 others killed.


Burial Details:

Sgt. Maurice Gruber. Svinø Churchyard, Denmark. Grave 1. Son of Sismund and Annie Gruber, of Mashaba, Southern Rhodesia.

Researched by Michael Beckers and submitted to Aircrew Remembered August 2015. For further details our thanks to Soren Flensted, Bjorn Aslog, Larry Wright at the Lancaster-Archive, Michel Becker collection. Other sources as shown below.

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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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