01/02.02.1945 No 101 Squadron Lancaster III JA715 SR-C, Fl/Lt. Robert A.W. Harrison
Date: 1st/2nd February 1945 (Thursday/Friday)
Unit: 101 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Ludford Magna, Lincolnshire
Location: Sorneville, France
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Robert Arthur Wistour Harrison 182126 RAFVR Age ? Survived - injured (1)
Fl/Eng: P/O. (then Sgt) John Barrie Breare 190865 (then 1493363) RAFVR Age ? Killed
Nav: Fl/Sgt. Richard John Frederick Swain 1323649 RAFVR Age 24. Killed
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Geoffrey Hugh Hillman 1602644 RAFVR Age ? Killed
W/Op. Special duties: Sgt. Frank Smith 1896464 RAFVR Age ? Killed (2)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Robert Whiteford 1366140 RAFVR Age ? Survived - injured (3)
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. David John Mackay 648811 RAF Age 26. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Jack Squire 3030598 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from RAF Ludford Magna in Lincolnshire at 15:44 hrs to bomb Ludwigshafen, with the the attack due to commence at 19:15 hrs.
382 Lancasters and 14 Mosquitoes took part from which 6 Lancasters were lost (3 from 101 Squadron alone) a total of 56 crew members killed, 3 more being made PoW.
The raid destroyed or damaged 900 homes but also the railway yards were seriously damaged and one of the Rhine bridges was hit by 2 bombs and was temporary closed. 25 people were killed on the ground and a further 6 injured. The lack of casualties on the ground suggest that the town had been evacuated or were well protected with shelters.
The following is the extract from the official crash report (submitted by Jack Taylor in May 2016 - see acknowledgements below)
After take off the Lancaster set course and proceeded en-route as briefed. At approximately 19:00 hrs whilst at 14,000 ft with cloud at 5-6000 ft the pilot noticed another Lancaster at the same height at 100 yards to starboard - directly at right angles to JA715. At the same tome a shout was heard and the aircraft went into a steep dive which the pilot could not control.
The pilot remembers being rolled over and his face being forced against something - his helmet was also ripped off. The next instant he felt himself falling and he pulled the ripcord of his seat type parachute - making a safe landing in a field near the village of Bezanc-Le-Grand.
During his descent and whilst above the cloud the pilot saw two large flashes from below the cloud followed by the sound and shock of explosions, also pieces of aircraft falling around him.
This was the usual crew of Sgt. Squire's. L-R: Sgt. Joe Lightfoot, Sgt R. Grantham-Hill, D. Simmons, Plt.Off. Walter Hrynkiw, Sgt. R. Ollis, Sgt. Jack Squire, Sgt. E.J. Hartman, Plt.Off B.J. Keynes. Probably taken at RAF Ledford Magna 1944 (courtesy Jack Taylor)
The above crew (without Jack) completed their tour and survived the war - Jack had to join another crew due to illness.
At the time of the collision the wireless operator who before impact had been keeping a search out of the Astrodome was about to receive a broadcast on the COF when he heard a shout from he believes another member of the crew. The aircraft then went a steep dive and his head hit the roof of the fuselage. He remembers vaguely several miscellaneous articles such as books etc, swirling around inside the aircraft. Also a large fire which appeared to come from the vicinity of the pilots position. He also noticed a large hole in the nose of the aircraft directly in front of the pilot.
The wireless operator saw a parachute swirling around with other articles, after a short period managed to grasp it, but had some difficulty putting it on with only one hand (the other was holding onto something to steady himself against the terrific rush of air through the hole in the nose. After jumping he pulled the ripcord almost immediately and made a safe landing in a ploughed field about 5 miles from where the pilot had landed.
Sgt. Jack Squire shown on extreme right (courtesy Jack Taylor)
Both surviving crew members were picked up by units of the US army who reported that they had seen two parachutes descending and that pieces of the aircraft and bombs were scattered around the area. Whilst at the US Divisional HQ a number of escape aids, whistles etc were brought in together with a list of the four name of which the pilot recognised them as being members of 101 Squadron of the other Lancaster ME863 SR-K - believed that they were crew members on the Lancaster that they were involved with in the collision. Later repatriated on a Dakota to England.
Apart from these two Lancasters lost from the squadron on this operation a further Lancaster crew from 101 was also lost:
Lancaster III PB256 SR-P - Flown by 27 year old, F/O. Robert John Clark NZ/4210919 RNZAF from Auckland City, New Zealand - killed with all 7 other crew.
(1) Fl/Lt. Robert A.W. Harrison suffered a broken nose, facial abrasions and bruising. He continued with his service within the RAF, retiring as a Squadron Leader - he passed away in 2015.
(2) Some publications have Sgt Robert Whiteford as the specialist operator - but not according to the accident report.
(3) Sgt Robert Whiteford suffered bruising to his body. From Hawick near Edinburgh, Scotland. Died 14th April 2010, age 89.
Initially buried by the USAAF at Epinal - since exhumed and buried at Choloy War Cemetery
P/O. John Barrie Breare. Choloy War Cemetery. Grave 1.F.6. No further details - are you able to assist?
Fl/Sgt. Richard John Frederick Swain. Choloy War Cemetery. Grave 1.F.3. Son of Charles F. Swain and Ethel M. Swain, of Barking, Essex, England.
Fl/Sgt. Geoffrey Hugh Hillman. Choloy War Cemetery. Grave 1.F.2. No further details - are you able to assist?
Sgt. Frank Smith. Choloy War Cemetery. Grave 1.F.5. No further details - are you able to assist?
Fl/Sgt. David John Mackay. Choloy War Cemetery. Grave 1.F.1. Son of David John and Grace W. Mackay, of Craigie, Perth, Scotland.
Sgt. Jack Squire. Choloy War Cemetery. Grave 1.F.4. Son of Henry and Kathleen R. Squire, of Shepherd's Bush, London, England. Jack Squire was one of 13 children (9 boys and 4 girls), and the mother of Jack Taylor (who submitted most of the information contained within this page) was one of his older sisters - Jack was named after him. They were born and lived in Hammersmith west London, being bombed out of their house during the blitz. Jack had previously served with the Air Training Corps.
Compiled with research by Jack Taylor, the son of one of Sgt. Jack Squire's sisters - May 2016. Other sources as quoted below.