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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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51 Squadron badge
No. 51 Squadron Halifax III LV778 C6-B P/O. Jackson

Operation: Schweinfurt (Ball bearing factories)

Date: 24/25th February 1944 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: No. 51 Squadron

Type: Halifax III

Serial: LV778

Code: C6-B

Base: RAF Snaith, Yorkshire

Location: Belstein, Germany

Pilot: P/O. Douglas Jackson 159059 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

Pilot 2: P/O. Frederick George Langford J/85119 RCAF Age 27. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Ronald Jack Colley 1802370 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Nav: P/O. Francis Richard Rohrer 159445 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Leslie Noel Atkinson NZ/4310154 RNZAF Age 29. Killed (1)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. John Francis Brown 1163091 RAFVR Age 24. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. John Arthur Lloyd Carmichael AUS/420537 RAAF Age 25. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. John Cameron Harthill 951579 RAFVR Age 24 Killed (2)


Took off at 18.25 Hrs. from RAF Snaith joining 733 aircraft to bomb the ball bearing factories - this follows another raid by American B-17's the previous night.

Above unidentified crew members (courtesy Sandra Colley)

33 Aircraft were lost on this raid which had been split with a 2 hour delay between the first stream and the second, with the majority by the Luftwaffe night fighters hitting the first stream.

Halifax LV778 Shot down at 22.56 hrs by Ofw. Kurt Karsten of Luftbeo Staffel 7/NJG6 following engagement at 6.000 mtrs. over Belstein near Heilbronn. It is thought that Ofw. Karsten survived the war after being injured on the 19/20th October 1944 after running out of fuel and crashing near Sinsheim - he was credited with 8 kills making him an "Ace".

Photo of some of the crew. In the photo above left, identified crew are: Front row left to right: Fl/Sgt. Atkinson, Fl/Sgt. Carmichael, Fl/Sgt. Harthill. Rear row left to right: Sgt. Colley, Unknown, Fl/Sgt. Brown? (courtesy Sandra Colley)

Above left to right: Fl/Sgt. Atkinson. (Courtesy Mike Harrison) P/O. Rohrer (Courtesy Pam Bossick) Fl/Sgt. John Harthill, (courtesy Kate Tame) P/O. Frederick Langford, Sgt. Ronald Colley (courtesy Sandra Colley)

Above left: Wedding of Les Atkinson and his wife Joyce. Right Wedding of Ron Colley and his wife Florence (courtesy Sandra Colley)

Memorial to the crew at the superb Pollington Memorial gardens (courtesy Pam Bossick) Memorial tree for the crew (courtesy Sandra Colley)

Above: P/O. Douglas Jackson (courtesy Sandra Colley)

Above right: Fl/Sgt. John Arthur Lloyd Carmichael - photograph discovered in August 2013 by Sandra Colley and original grave marker

Crew grave photographs (courtesy David Franklin - who has provided us with permission to supply any of the relatives with a copy of the original photo at full resolution free of charge) With regret the pilot's grave, P/O. Jackson, was under restoration at the time. Burial details: Crew Initially buried in Beilstein cemetery on 25th February 1944. Removed and re-interred in the British Cemetery at Bad Toelz, Durnbach 1948.

P/O. Douglas Jackson. Durnbach War Cemetery 9.E.26. Son of Herbert and Frances Louise Jackson, of Gipsyville, Hull, England.

P/O. Frederick George Langford. Durnbach War Cemetery 9.E.27. Son of Frederick William Langford, and of Amy Elizabeth Langford of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Sgt. Ronald Jack Colley. Durnbach War Cemetery 9.E.22. Son of Albert John and Sylvia Valerie Colley, of Catford, London, England, husband of Florence Colley.

P/O. Francis Richard Rohrer. Durnbach War Cemetery 9.E.25. Son of Francis and Florence Rohrer, of Burnt Oak, Edgware, Middlesex, England.

Fl/Sgt. Leslie Noel Atkinson. Durnbach War Cemetery 9.E.21. Son of Noel Furniss Atkinson and Ruby May Atkinson, of Taumarunui, Auckland, New Zealand; husband of Joyce Atkinson, of Moston, Manchester, England. (1) Leslie was born 1914 in Auckland and had been a Bushman before the war. He travelled from his hometown of Taumarunui to the United Kingdom early in the war 1940/1941 with the NZEF (New Zealand Expeditionary Force) Sapper Leslie Noel Atkinson 34429, 15 Forestry Company, New Zealand Engineers. In October 1941 he transferred to the Royal Air Force and two years later transferred to the RNZAF. He had completed part of his training at No 24 OTU and No 10 OTU (Operational Training Unit) and No 1652 HCU (Heavy Conversion Unit) Posted to No 578 Squadron and then to No 51 Squadron. He had completed 460hrs operational flying before being killed on active service. Leslie Noel Atkinson is remembered Waiuku High School. In 1946 a row of 15 totara trees was planted in front of the school. A memorial plaque was placed at the foot of each tree in memory of the eleven past students, one to honour each of the three armed services, and one as a tribute to members of the home services

Fl/Sgt. John Francis Brown. Durnbach War Cemetery 9.E.23. Son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Brown, of Sunderland, Co. Durham, England.

Fl/Sgt. John Arthur Lloyd Carmichael. Durnbach War Cemetery 9.E.28. Son of Arthur Russell Carmichael and Ellen Carmichael, of Tamworth, New South Wales, Australia.

Fl/Sgt. John Cameron Harthill. Durnbach War Cemetery 9.E.24. Son of James Falconer Harthill and Isabella (Bella) Harthill of Stotfield, Lossiemouth, Scotland. His brother James Cameron Harthill also fell. (2) John (Ian) Cameron Harthill was born in Rock House 26 May 1919 in Buckie, Banffshire. John completed part of his education at Elgin Academy after the family moved from Buckie to Lossiemouth. Before enlisting John worked for the Lossiemouth electricity department. His service with the RAF began on 16 February 1940. John completed part of his training at Ground Armament and Gunnery School, No 410 Squadron, No 19 OTU and No 10 OTU (Operational Training Unit) and No 1652 HCU (Heavy Conversion Unit) John was posted to No 51 Squadron 25 July 1943, RAF Snaith, Yorkshire. John (Ian) Cameron Harthill was promoted to Flight Sergeant 21 February 1944

Report of Encountering an Enemy Aircraft

On the 16/17 September 1943 John Cameron Harthill and John Arthur Lloyd Carmichael were part of the crew of Halifax JN899 on an operation to Modan. The aircraft was returning to base when it was attacked by a German JU88 night fighter. Rear Gunner Sgt Harthill and Mid Upper Gunner Sgt Carmichael both opened fire at same time and the JU88 dropped back. It came in for a second time to 400yds when both engines on enemy aircraft burst into flames and then dived steeply into the ground and exploded. No damage was done to own aircraft. Gunnery Leaders Comment: An excellent combat on the part of both Gunners. Good shooting caused certain destruction of enemy aircraft although Rear Gunner was handicapped by the fact his turret had to be rotated manually. A very good show

Top: John (Ian) Harthill. Below: 1947 Bella Harthill visiting Ian's grave for the first time. Right: The cherished flowers taken from his grave in 1947 as they are today in 2016 (courtesy Kate Tame)

John (Ian) Cameron Harthill and brother James (Hamish) Cameron Harthill are remembered on the Lossiemouth War Memorial, Morayshire Scotland

For Pam Bossick, niece of P/O. Rohrer and for all the relatives of this crew.

Acknowledgments: With thanks to the following Pam Bossick, Sandra Colley, Kate Tame for the supply of the photographs, Bill Chorley - "Bomber Command Losses", Theo Boiten - "German Nightfighter War Diaries", Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt "Bomber Command War Diaries". The Commonwealth Graves Commission.

KT. Page updated 09.09.2016

KTY Page updated 19.03.2019

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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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