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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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61 Squadron Crest
16/17.03.1945 61 Squadron Lancaster I RF176 QR-T Flt.Lt. Henryk B. Grynkiewicz

Operation: Würzburg

Date: 16/17th March 1945 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit: 61 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: RF176

Code: QR:T

Base: RAF Skellingthorpe

Location: Target area.

Pilot: Flt.Lt. Henryk Boleslaw Grynkiewicz 49628 RAF Age 27. Killed

Flt.Eng: Sgt. Walter Milton Ratcliffe 1591174 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

Nav: Flt.Sgt. John Lewis Jones 1653028 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Air Bmr: Flt.Sgt. Eric John Day 1581324 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

WOp/Air Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Eric William Gibbs 1335091 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Air Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Gordon Edward Gwalter 847206 RAuxAF Age 30. Killed

Air Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Edmund William Browne 1256422 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

REASON FOR LOSS:

Lancaster RF176 took off from RAF Skellingthorpe at 17:14 hrs to attack the ancient city of Würzburg. 225 Lancasters together with 11 Mosquitoes took part in this operation, at the same time another operation was also underway to bomb Nürnberg. Bombing for this raid was planned to take place between 21:25 hrs and 21:41 hrs - weather was not good for later that night which is why they left at an unusual early hour.

A total of 1,127 tons were dropped with what has been great accuracy within 17 minutes.

The result was devastating on what can only be called area bombing - this old city suffered 89% destruction in the built up area, the city contained very little industry. The number of people killed on the ground is estimated as between 4,000 to 5,000. A massive loss of life for an area of no great importance to the industry of the Reich.

61 Squadron Lancasters (courtesy Tony Cantlow)

6 aircraft were lost on this sortie (many more on the operation to Nürnberg - 26 Lancasters!)

RF176 was shot down by the Luftwaffe night fighters at 21:43 hrs. Two pilots, Hptm. Wilhelm Johnen of Stab III./NJG6 and Oblt. Erich Jung of 5./NJG2 claimed a Lancaster in the vicinity of the target area but it is not impossible to place a name against a particular aircraft on this night of furious activity.

Hptm. Wilhelm Johnen this was his 33rd confirmed claim of the war. He went on to claim a total of 33, he survived, but no further details available.
Oblt. Erich Jung brought his total to 27 confirmed claim of the war. This was his final total, he survived, but no further details available.

Burial details:

Flt.Lt. Henryk Boleslaw Grynkiewicz. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll Grave 1. K. 1-4. Son of Paul and Frances Grynkiewicz, of North Chingford, Essex, England.

Right: memorial at Skellingthorpe.

Sgt. Walter Milton Ratcliffe. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll Grave 1. K. 1-4. Born in June 1925. Son of Walter and Rhoda Ratcliffe of Horsforth, Leeds.

Flt.Sgt. John Lewis Jones. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll Grave 1. K. 1-4. Son of John Lewis Jones and Mary Ann Jones, of Penvdarren, Merthyr Tydvil, Glamorgan, Wales.

Flt.Sgt. Eric John Day. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll Grave 1. K. 1-4. Son of John Thomas Day and Mabel Day, of Welford-on-Avon, Warwickshire, husband of Elizabeth Agnes Day, of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Flt.Sgt. Eric William Gibbs. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll Grave 1. K. 1-4. Son of Harold William and Alice Mary Gibbs, of Orford, Suffolk, England.

Flt.Sgt. Gordon Edward Gwalter. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll Grave 1. K. 1-4. Born 20 May 1914, Manor Park, Essex. Son of Ephraim Walter and Margaret Joyce (née Cookson) Gwalter. Husband of Edna Mary (née Hughes) Gwalter, of 60 Balliol Road, Bootle, Liverpool, England.

Flt.Sgt. Edmund William Browne. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll Grave 1. K. 1-4. Son of Edmund and Gertrude Browne, husband of Audrey Eleanor Isobel Browne, of Blackpool, Lancashire, England.

Researched for John Lewis Jones, nephew of Flt.Sgt. Jones and for all relatives of the crew. Thank to Trevor Baker for the Next of Kin details for Sgt. Radcliffe. Thanks to John Wynne for the Next of Kin details for Flt.Sgt. Gwalter. With thanks to the many sources used - shown below.

RS 06.07.2020 - Addition of NoK details for Flt.Sgt. Gwalter

Acknowledgements: 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', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', 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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