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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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207 Squadron Crest
25/26.08.1944 207 Squadron Lancaster I PD216 EM-J Flt.Lt. Harding

Operation: Darmstadt

Date: 25/26th August 1944 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit: 207 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: PD216

Code: EM-J

Base: RAF Spilsby, Lincolnshire

Location: Near Groß-Gerau, Germany

Pilot: Flt.Lt. Maurice Frederick Cleave Harding 89808 RAFVR Age 27. Killed

Flt.Eng: Sgt. Leslie Percy Gower 1894705 RAFVR Age 30. Killed

Nav: Flt.Sgt. Stephen Simm J/89268 RCAF Age 30. Killed

Air Bmr: Flt.Sgt. Thomas John Jones 1578097 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

WOp/Air Gnr: Plt.Off. Maurice Savage 56045 RAF Age 26. Killed

Air Gnr: Sgt. Hugh Graham Hamilton 1568684 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Edward Kisilowsky R/255246 RCAF Age 19. Killed

REASON FOR LOSS:

This night's operations had been the largest number of sorties flown by the RAF of the war:

412 Lancasters to bomb Russelsheim - 190 Lancasters, 6 Mosquitoes to Darmstadt - 284 Halifaxes, 32 Lancasters and 18 Mosquitoes to Brest - 2 Mosquitoes reconnaissance - 182 training aircraft sent on a diversionary sweep over the North Sea - 36 Mosquitoes to Berlin - 22 other aircraft to 5 other targets - 68 Mosquito patrols - 6 Halifaxes on Gardening operations - 6 aircraft on resistance operations.

Also, the same day Paris was liberated.

Taking off from RAF Spilsby in Lincolnshire at 20:48 hrs - part of a force of 190 Lancasters and 6 Mosquitoes from 5 Group. This was the first serious operation on this town. 95 buildings were reported to have been hit - with some 8 people killed on the ground.

The operation was classed as a failure due to the marker aircraft not finding the target and the Master Bomber having to return to base. The two deputy bombers were shot down with 33 of the aircraft bombing other targets. Of the 190 aircraft that took part in this operation, 7 Lancasters were lost. Much damage was caused to Darmstadt but the bombs had been scattered over a wide area

PD216 was delivered to 207 Squadron in June 1944 with the Merlin 24 engines. When lost this aircraft had a total of 128 hours.

Probable claim by Htm. Ernest Wallner, his 3rd, from 6.NJG6 over Oberamstadt, 15km west of Darmstadt at 6,500 m, at 01:38 hrs. (Nachtjagd War Diaries Volume 2 (April 1944 - May 1945) - Dr Theo E.W. Boiten & Roderick J. Mackenzie) Hptm. Wallner was killed on the 4/5th December 1944 by Lancaster return fire at Ludwigsburg, near Winzerhausen during a Heilbronn raid.


Note: Many reports in National Newspapers in 2007 were made covering the planned recovery of this aircraft previously discovered in 2003. They stated that the farmer who owned the land, declined permission for a full excavation as he wanted to be sure that the land would be returned to its previous state or that he should be paid to cover this. It was reported at the time that the remains of some of the crew were still within the wreckage.

Normally when such excavations are carried out by professional bodies (under licence) returning the land to its previous state would be part of the operation and is part of the requirement for a licence to be granted. Sadly, there have been many ‘amateur groups’ who have made unauthorised “digs” and one can perhaps sympathise with the land owner, as previously many people had previously dug around on his land trespassing looking for souvenirs.

It was reported that the remains of some of the crew were still within the wreckage. We are unable to conclude if such an excavation was indeed made - but for sure someone will contact us if they have further details. But we can confirm that all the crew are now buried at the Durnbach War Cemetery.

Further update to the above note which has been provided by Danny Keay

In regards to the crash-site and planned excavation in 2007, the recovery was supposed to be done by a team from the German EOD and members of my own organisation. The owner's issues stemmed with the individual who had originally located the site and repeatedly dug in the field without permission (this individual has since passed away). The landowner had given permission for a test excavation, which was cancelled the day prior to the start of the test dig. The reason being was a newspaper article by a self-proclaimed aviation archaeology expert and Crash Site Investigator who claimed the owner wanted money for the human remains, which was untrue and caused the property owner to withdraw his permission.

In regards to human remains, the graves in Durnbach only hold fragments of the crew. This was even confirmed by eye-witnesses of the time. Human remains, in particular vertebrae, were plowed up almost every year. Plus, the German EOD conducted a survey which showed all 4 engines and a large section of fuselage still in the ground. EOD even ventured the idea that the 4000lbs Cookie was still in the fuselage as the signal received was over four meters long and of ferrous material.


Burial details:

Flt.Lt. Maurice Frederick Cleave Harding. Durnbach War Cemetery. Collective grave 2.E.3-7. Son of Ernest Oswald Harding, and of Helena Josephine Harding (née Cleave) and husband of Audrey Harding (née Milner), and father to April of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England.

Sgt. Leslie Percy Gower. Durnbach War Cemetery. Collective grave 2.E.3-7. Son of Percy and Constance Gower; husband of Violet Jessie Gower, of North Wembley, Middlesex, England.

Plt.Off. Stephen Simm. Durnbach War Cemetery. Collective grave 2.E.3-7. Born on the 23rd November 1914, Ontario. Son of James and Margaret (née MacPhail) Simm and husband to Kathleen (née Smee) Simm of Humber Bay, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Posthumously promoted to Plt.Off. with a Service No. of J/89268

Flt.Sgt. Thomas John Jones. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 2.E.1. Son of Thomas Michael and Hettie Jones, of Penmaenmawr, Carnarvonshire, Wales.

Plt.Off. Maurice Savage. Durnbach War Cemetery. Collective grave 2.E.3-7. Husband of Betty Savage - no further details - are you able to contribute?

Sgt. Hugh Graham Hamilton. Durnbach War Cemetery. Collective grave 2.E.3-7. Son of James and Helen Wilson Hamilton, of Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland.

Plt.Off. Edward Kisilowsky. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 2.E.2. Born on the 17th May 1924, Toronto, Ontario. Son of Mr and Mrs Onufriy Kisilowsky from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Promoted to Plt.Off. with a Service No. of J/91061 on the 24th August 1944.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to the Kirk family in New Zealand, who supplied photographs and information. Flt.Sgt Aubrey Charles Kirk was good friends with Plt.Off. Edward Kisilowsky.

RS 07.05.2020 - Update to status of recovery and editorial updates

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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