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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
20/21.12.1943 No. 50 Squadron Lancaster III DV217 VN-C P/O. Heckendorf

Operation: Frankfurt

Date: 20/21st December 1943 (Monday/Tuesday)

Unit: No. 50 Squadron

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: DV217

Code: VN-C

Base: RAF Skellingthorpe, Lincolnshire

Location: Kelsterbach, Germany

Pilot: P/O. John Llewelyn Heckendorf AUS/412442 RAAF Age 25. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. John Henderson 1019301 RAFVR Age 32. Killed

Nav: F/O. Kenneth Thornton Dale 141548 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air/Bmr: F/O. R. Les Rutherford 146342 RAFVR PoW No: 3276 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. A.D. Hope 169139 RAFVR PoW No: 269778 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Douglas Sinclair Hall 1483259 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Robert Campbell Turner AUS/408379 RAAF Age 26. Killed


Taking off from RAF Skellingthorpe in Lincolnshire at16:58 hrs to bomb Frankfurt together with 13 others from the squadron.

The operation involved 650 Bomber Command aircraft made up with 390 Lancasters, 257 Halifaxes and 3 Mosquitos, of which forty-one were lost.

It appears that at 19:43 hrs they were intercepted by a Lt. Edgar Honold of 2./NJG2 and shot down at 19:43 hrs. Initially claimed by Hptm. Wilhelm Herget contested later and 'awarded' to Lt. Honold for his first of 3 claims of the war. The order to abandon the aircraft was given, but within seconds the Lancaster exploded throwing the two survivors clear. The wreckage of the aircraft falling at Kelsterbach.

The Squadron lost another aircraft on this operation:

Lancaster III DV234 VN-M Flown by W/Cdr. Edward Pullen 44315 (565935) RAF killed with 3 other crew, 4 taken PoW. Hit by flak and then shot down by the Luftwaffe ace Oblt. Martin Becker of Stab I/NJG5 with the aircraft coming down at Bodenrode at 19:50 hrs. The crew who lost their lives were also buried at Durnbach War Cemetery.

Painting by the brother of Les Rutherford (courtesy Bruce Neill-Gourlay)

Burial details:

P/O. John Llewelyn Heckendorf. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 7.A.9. Born on the 05th January 1918 at Lockhart, NSW, the son of John and Emma Agusta Maria Heckendorf, of Mount View, Lockhart, New South Wales, Australia. Grave inscription reads: "His Duty Nobly Done. Ever Remembered. Rest In Peace".

Sgt. John Henderson. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 7.A.10. Son of John and Charlotte Henderson and husband of Jane Ann Grant Henderson, of St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland. Grave inscription reads: "They Grow Not Old, As We Grow Old: Age Shall Not Weary, Nor The Years Condemn".

F/O. Kenneth Thornton Dale. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 7.A.11. Son of Richard and Annie Dale, of Levenshulme, Manchester, England. Grave inscription reads: "They Left The Vivid Air Signed With Their Honour".

Sgt. Douglas Sinclair Hall. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 7.A.8. No further details - are you able to assist?

Fl/Sgt. Robert Campbell Turner. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 7.A.12. Born on the 13th September 1917, the son of Arthur Thomas Turner (Deceased) and Louise Turner, of 41 Elphin Road, Launceston, Tasmania, Australia. Grave inscription reads: "Lord, Let Us Not Thy Purpose Seek For All Is Well As Done By Thee".

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Ken Ogilvie, W/Cdr. Paula Wilmot and Les Rutherford for bringing this loss to our attention. Also to Bruce Neill-Gourlay for crew photo and painting.

KTY 21.10.2018

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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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