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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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RAF Crest
Sgt. Kenneth Charles Bonter further information

From Air Force Association Canada (Permission to use granted to the Aircrew Remembered - but should not be copied and / or published without permission from us)

P/O Kenneth Charles Bonter (J96116) - Mention in Despatches - No.16 OTU - Award effective 24 December 1946 as per London Gazette of that date and AFRO 17/47 dated 10 January 1947. Born 14 March 1913. In private business. Enlisted in Flin Flon, Manitoba; 9 April 1941. To No.11 Equipment Depot, 19 June 1941. To No.2 ITS, 14 July 1941; graduated and promoted LAC, 30 August 1941 when posted to No.12 EFTS; graduated 25 October 1941 when posted to No.5 SFTS; graduated and promoted Sergeant, 16 January 1942. To Embarkation Depot, 19 February 1942. To RAF overseas, 11 March 1942. Shot down 10 September 1942 in a Wellington DV775 of No.16 OTU, Upper Heyford. Repatriated 14 May 1945. To St. Hubert, 8 July 1945. To Release Centre, 13 August 1945. Retired 23 August 1945. The following report of his captivity is from volume 3 of RCAF file 45-19-15A, “Prisoners of War - Escape of - Interrogations” (National Archives of Canada RG. 24 Volume 5373):

The aircraft of which I was captain was detailed to attack Dusseldorf on September 10th, 1942 from base of No.16 OTU, Upper Heyford. Aircraft was coned over the target and port motor hit by flak and put out of action. Set course for base and was again coned south of Rotterdam. At Rotterdam aircraft was hit again and we flew out to sea. Owing to damaged condition of aircraft it was necessary to come down in the sea but a proper ditching could not be carried out. About 35 miles off Dutch coast aircraft finally stalled and hit water. Aircraft sank immediately and P/O Childs, RAF navigator, was drowned with Sergeant [D.R.] Smith, WOP [RCAF). Sergeant [R.C.] Daoust [RCAF), rear gunner, had been killed. by flak crossing coast. This left myself and Sergeant Bob Harvey, RAF, alive. The automatic dinghy functioned and then we climbed into it. We were on the water from September 10th to 16th drifting into the Dutch coast and were spotted by Junkers 88 and picked up by Motor Torpedo Boat at an island immediately south of Hook of Holland. This was a submarine base. On the MTB the only questions asked were in English by a youth, and consisted of name and address. We were then taken to a submarine officers's mess where a naval captain phoned the Luftwaffe. We were given food and dried our clothing. About an hour later we were taken to the aerodrome on that island and slept in the Guardhouse. Whilst there the Commanding Officer brought around some Red Cross forms to be filled in. These asked mere name and address and next of kin. No other questions were asked by the Luftwaffe personnel. Next morning we were taken by ferry and car to Amsterdam with three guards. We were kept in Amsterdam in a Luftwaffe prison for three days. Owing to my exhausted condition most of the time was spent sleeping. My crewman was also given another cell. On Sunday, September 20th, we were taken along with approximately ten other RAF airmen by train to Dulag Luft, arriving there approximately Monday noon, September 21st. The train was heavily guarded and no attempts at escape made. On arrival at Dulag Luft we were put into individual cells.

On Tuesday morning a man representing himself as a Red Cross official arrived with phoney Red Cross forms to be filled in. Later that same afternoon an individual wearing a Luftwaffe uniform representing himself as a mechanic called and asked numerous questions about the aircraft and equipment, target, bomb loads, routes to target and back, etc. To all of which I replied that I was not allowed to give that information. Next day a Luftwaffe man called with a piece of paper on which was written 16 OTU. I answered nothing to this other than to say, "OK, if that's where you think we came from." I gave the names of my crew and their home addresses. Another Luftwaffe man representing himself as a mechanic called again and asked similar questions re target, bomb loads, etc but I replied I did not know. On Wednesday an officer of the Luftwaffe called agin and said there was no use of us refusing to talk since we would stay there until we did. However on Thursday night at approximately 2200 hours we were taken into the main camp. We were at Dulag Luft approximately one week. From there we were taken to Lamsdorf (approximately 100 of us) by train. We arrived at Lamsdorf on Sunday, October 3rd. The party was then split and approximately one-half went to Sagan. There were no escapes known to be attempted en route.

Whilst at Lamsdorf I worked on and ran the RAF Escape Committee. When I went there it appeared the escape work was being conducted in separate groups without an attempt at coordination. I therefore became interested in this and spent my whole time working on it. We procured several cameras and made portraits, etc for passes. A typewriter was also secured and we were able to type passes. We supplied personnel with kits to take on escapes and clothing etc. Our "papers" were a specialty. Whilst there the Canadian Army built a tunnel from which some people got free. One of the POWs (a British Army man) who attempted an escape using some of our materials was captured shortly after leaving the gates. We were warned of this by a German interpreter. The man was questioned and gave some details concerning our organization, with the result that I was subjected to close interrogation by camp officials. They knew that we had cameras and promised that if I gave them to them, I would not suffer any further punishment. However I stated I knew nothing about the matter. They kept close watch on me. I therefore turned over my role in leading this escape committee to an Australian, Sergeant Bill Harrison.

First Attempt to Escape - March 20, 1943.

I changed identity with a Staff Sergeant Jackson of Royal Army Service Corps and went out on a working party to Ratibor-Hamer to cut wood, where we built a tunnel. Corporal Joe O'Brien of Sherwood Foresters, Sergeant Jake Becker (Royal Marines), Corporal Towood of 51st Highlanders (taken at St. Valerie), Private Alan (British Army) were on the party. Whilst at Ratibor-Hamer I cut an Army great coat over and made a coat of it, and dyed a pair of army pants.

On 2359 hours of March 20th we made our escape crawling out of the tunnel. Becker, O'Brien and myself went north to Stettin. The others went south for the Czech border. Next day Becker was picked up at Breslau and I saw him later again at Lamsdorf. I met O'Brien again on Wednesday in Frankfurt-on-Oder. I went by stages from Opeln to Kustrin using passenger trains and paying my way. I went to sleep in the station at Kustrin. The police came around on a routine check-up on Thursday night. They detected my papers as false and took me back to Frankfurt-on-Oder where I stayed in the Gestapo prison for eleven days. They asked me some questions - where I obtained papers - and I replied I made them. A guard was sent from Lamsdorf and I was returned there in April.

I remained in Lamsdorf until January 20th 1945 when owing to the approach of the Russians we were marched by devious route to some place (name not known) near Kassel. However the Americans advanced and we finally were overtaken by the Americans and liberated at Ditford near Eiseleben. This was on April 7th, 1945. From Ditford we were taken to Hildesheim by truck. From Hildesheim we were flown by RAF C-47 to an OTU near London, arriving 12th April 1945.

Additional Note Re Escape Plans:

It was planned to again escape in May 1944 but it appeared rather hopeless since the Germans had information in their possession which rendered it dangerous to try. The Gestapo conducted a check and picked up some man's papers (Corporal Bert Staff, New Zealand Army). They told him they had information that there was someone on the working party making papers. I realized that they were looking for me and therefore decided not to try and escape.

Directorate of History and Heritage file 181.001 D.24 has the following account he gave on 30 June 1945 (Questionnaire for Returned Aircrew: Loss of Bomber Aircraft) in which he gives the aircraft letter as “O”:

September 10th, 1942 - Took off from Upper Heyford - Target Dusseldorf - Climbed to 12,000 feet by the time we reached the Dutch coast. Reached target area which was clearly marked, pathfinder flares on E.T.A. Glided from 12,000 feet to 10,000 feet to drop bombs. After dropping photo flash we were coned by 6-7 searchlights. Dove from 10,000 feet to 5,000 feet in getting out of the searchlights. After opening up the engines and starting to climb the port motor packed up. The aircraft would not maintain height and on reaching Dutch coast we were down to 1,200 feet. As we approached the coast we were picked up by two more searchlights and fired at with light ack-ack, by which the rear gunner was killed. I dove to 300 feet to get out of range, and later the aircraft stalled when we were about 30 miles out to sea.

Interrogator’s Notes - After preparations for ditching had begun. The stall precipitated the ditching but the aircraft and crew were prepared. Aircraft sank immediately. Dinghy came out on automatic release. Pilot and Bomb Aimr remained in it for six days. Signaling equipment got out, it would not work although Hudsons were seen searching. Finally drifted to shore. WOP said too low to send SOS when asked to send it but may have tried. Water and rations lasted well and could have carried on for two or three more days. Dinghy leaked and had to be pumped repeatedly. Sea calm when landed and remained calm for two days, though later it was rough.

Symptoms of engine failure were sudden rough running and a jet of flame from the oil pipe round to the botch [?] control unit. This flame remained to the end.

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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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