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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: 25th/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 R70174 RCAF Age 30. Killed

Bomb Aimer: 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 R255246 RCAF Age 19. Killed

Above left to right: Flt Sgt. Simm and Flt Sgt. Kisilowsky (From their Service Records)


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.

PD216 was claimed by Maj. Harald Lange 3./NJGr.10 - Darmstadt: 5,000m at 01:31 hrs. Also claimed by Flak of 1. & 4./schw Flak Abt 322, 2./schw Flak Abt 255, 2./schw Flak Abt 435 and 3. & 7./schw Flak Abt 637 (Unknown type of aircraft 1km North of Wilfskehlen, 10km South of Gross Gerau 01:31”) Victory for Maj. Lange was confirmed on 18th November 1944. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (24 July 1944 - 15 October 1944) Part 4 - Theo Boiten).

The aircraft crashed approximately 3 km NW of Dornhelm at about 23:00 hrs. The seven aircrew were found amongst the aircraft wreckage and were buried the following day at the scene of the crash. (3 MREU Investigation Report)

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.

Commissioned and promoted to Plt.Off. with a Service No. of J89268 with effect 7th August 1944.

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. Born on the 27th January 1919 in Whitechapel, Lancashire. Son of Robert Arthur and Annie (née Freedman) from Middlesex, England. Husband to Betty Savage.

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

Above: Plt Off. Edward Kisilowsky

Plt Off. Edward Kisilowsky. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 2.E.2. Born on the 17th May 1924 in Toronto, Ontario. on of Onufriy and Frances (née Smela) Kisilowsky from Toronto, Ontario Canada.

Commissioned and promoted to Plt.Off. with a Service No. of J91061 with effect 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 who was good friends with Plt Off. Edward Kisilowsky. Thanks to John Jones for the correction to the German fighter claim, the 3 MREU report and the image of Plt Off. Simm (Sep 2021). Other updates to NoK details by Aircrew Remembered (Sep 2021).

RS 03.09.2021 - Correction to German fighter claim and other updates

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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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