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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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429 Squadron Crest
25/26.07.1943 429 (Bison) Squadron, RCAF Wellington X HE803 Plt Off. Keith M. Johnston

Operation: Essen

Date: 25th/26th July 1943 (Sunday/Monday)

Unit No: 429 (Bison) Squadron, RCAF

Type: Wellington X

Serial: HE803

Code: AL:?

Base: RAF East Moor

Location: Culemborg

Pilot: Plt Off. Keith McLean Johnston J16067 RCAF Age 25. KiA

Obs: Sgt. Howard William Clarke R130684 RCAF Age? PoW No: 83666 *

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Frank William Robert Frost 1320228 RAFVR Age? PoW No: 83665 *

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Joseph Arthur Marcel Lortie R79144 RCAF Age? PoW No: 83668 **

Air Gnr (Rear): 1st Lt. John Chapman Elliott O-885955 USAAF Age 23. PoW ** (1)

* Stalag 4b Mühlberg, Sachsen, Germany.

** Stalag 7a Moosburg, Bavaria (Work Camps 3324-46 Krumbachstrasse and 3368 Munich)

Richard van de Velde and indeed Aircrew Remembered would very much like to obtain any photographs of this crew in particular of Plt Off. Keith McLean Johnston - please contact us in the first instance.


Taking off at 22:39 hrs. on an operation to bomb Essen. Over 700 aircraft taking part in this operation overseen by the Commander of American Bomber Command Brigadier General Fred Anderson, who flew as a passenger on an 83 Sqn Lancaster.

The use of Window was still very new and the allies wanted to make best use of this diversion. The raid was a success with damage to the mainly industrial areas of the city. In particular the Krupps works suffered its most damage during the complete war. Its founder, Dr Gustav Krupp suffered a stroke the following morning of the raid.

Window or Chaff as it is known today, is a radar countermeasure in which aircraft or other targets spread a cloud of small, thin pieces of aluminium, which either appears as a cluster of secondary targets on radar screens or swamps the screen with multiple returns.

51 Industrial buildings were destroyed, 83 more suffering serious damage. Nearly 3,000 homes were destroyed. Casualties on the ground amounted to 165 civilian men, 118 women, 22 children, 22 German forces, 131 foreign workers and 42 prisoners of war. 1,208 others ere injured with 12 people missing.

Reports differ as to the loss area. According to the British Red Cross reports shown they crew were ordered to bale out with the pilot following but his chute failed to deploy. Aircraft crashing at Culemborg. Other reports state that after a forced landing the pilot tried to take off again, but the aircraft hit trees and crashed near Asch.

HE803 was claimed by Hptm. Hans-Dieter Frank of Stab I./NJG, at 01:30 hrs 500 metres south of Culemborg. Note: the Wellington was also claimed by Flak of 1./gem. Flak Abt. 155(v) (Wellington 600 m. south of Culemborg at 01:26 hrs). The victory for Hptm. Frank was confirmed on the 19th December 1944. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (23 June - 22 September) 1943 Part 2 - Theo Boiten).

This was the 43rd victory by Hptm Hans-Dieter Frank who went on to claim a massive 52 confirmed victories (plus a further 5 unconfirmed) before he was KiA on the 27th/28th September 1943. His aircraft was in collision with a Bf110 of stab 1./NJG1 - he managed to bale out but was strangled when he failed to disconnect the cable of his radio helmet before ejecting from his He219. The crew of the Bf110 were also killed during the collision

(1) The son of 1st Lt. John Chapman Elliott, Jock Elliott has contacted Aircrew Remembered and provided a link to his blog entry entitled "WWII Radio Letters: A real-life shortwave story" which tell the story of 1st Lt. Elliott's escape from the Wellington and his subsequent capture.

Burial details:

Plt Off. Keith McLean Johnston. Bergen-Op-Zoom Canadian War Cemetery. Grave 5.G.10. Grave inscription: 'HE WAS SO DEAR TO US" TO LIVE IN THE HEARTS OF THOSE YOU LOVE IS NOT TO DIE'. Born on the 26th December 1917 the son of John Thomas and Margaret Ann (née Thompson) Johnston of Vancouver, Canada. Husband of Elizabeth Robertson (née Smith) Johnston, of Blairgowrie, Perthshire, Scotland. Keith was the youngest of 8 children.

For further details our thanks to Richard van de Velde and his great research work in this area. Thanks to Jock Elliott for the link to his blog (Jan 2023). Other updates by Aircrew Remembered (Jan 2023).

Other sources listed below:

RS 31.01.2023 - Updates to the narrative and addition of link to Blog

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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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