AR banner
Search Tips Advanced Search
Back to Top

Info LogoAdd to or correct this story with a few clicks.
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.
Check our Research databases: Database List


We seek additional information and photographs. Please contact us via the Helpdesk.

405 Squadron
15/16.03.1945 405 (Vancouver) Squadron RCAF, Lancaster III NE119, Flt Lt. Leslie Norman Laing MiD

Operation: Misburg (Deurag Oil Refinery), Germany

Date: 15th/16th March 1945 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit No: 405 (Vancouver) Squadron RCAF, 8 (Pathfinder) Group, Bomber Command

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: NE119

Code: LQ:P

Base: RAF Gransden Lodge, Cambridgeshire

Location: Bad Grund, Germany

Pilot: Flt Lt. Leslie Norman Laing MiD J26053 RCAF Age 25. Killed

Flt Eng: Sgt Robert Morris 3020201 RAFVR Age 20. Survived/Murdered (1)

Nav: Fg Off. Ian Wesley Bonter J35906 RCAF Age 29. PoW *

Bomb Aimer: Fg Off. Donald George 'Don’ Smith MiD J35778 RCAF Age 22. Survived/Murdered (1)

WOp/Air Gnr: Fg Off. Raymond M. Hyde J40210 RCAF Age? PoW *

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Flt Sgt. Francis Joseph Marsh MiD R266317 RCAF Age 28. Survived/Murdered (1)

Air Gnr (Rear): Flt Sgt. James R. Crisp R217630 RCAF Age? PoW *

* Stalag Luft 1 Barth-Vogelsang, today situated in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany.

Above: From their service records. Left to right: Flt Lt. Laing, Fg Off. Smith, Flt Sgt. Marsh


NE119 took off from RAF Gransden at 17:59 hrs on the 15th March 1945 on a Path Finder Force (PFF) mission to mark the Deurag refinery at Misburg, on the outskirts of Hannover.

Of the 257 Lancasters and 8 Mosquitoes that bombed the refinery four Lancasters and a Fortress III (B-17 Radar jamming aircraft) were lost during the raid. Only two of these losses were due to German defences while two Lancasters were lost in a collision near Hannover and another Lancaster seems to have had an engine failure. (Nachtjagd War Diaries Volume 2 (April 1944 - May 1945) - Dr Theo E.W. Boiten & Roderick J. Mackenzie).

The two aircraft downed by German defences were claimed by Hptm Ernst-Georg Drünkler from 1./NJG5, his 34th and 35th Abschüsse. The two aircraft were:

550 Sqn Lancaster I NG287 3km south of the Breidenback/Wilnsdorf-Hartenrod area at 3.000m at 22:16 hrs;

214 Sqn Fortress III HB803 1km NW of the Mayen/Waldbreitbach-Neuwied area at 2.800 m at 22:46 hrs. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (1 January 1945 - 3 May 1945) Part 6 - Theo Boiten).

From the available evidence it appears that 153 Sqn Lancaster I NG488 and 405 Sqn Lancaster III PB516 were the two aircraft that collided in mid-air. This left NE119 as the Lancaster with the potential engine failure.

It should be noted, albeit coincidently, that on the 11th March 1945, on take off the port outer engine of NE119 overheated, caught fire and was feathered. The fire was extinguished and Flt Lt. Laing continued on to the target on three engines returning safely.

An investigation conducted by No. 23 Section, No. 4 Missing Research and Enquiry Unit (MREU) on the 30th December 1946 (Ref 1) determined that on the night of the 15th March 1945 at approximately 21:15 hrs several witnesses observed a large aircraft approaching the village of Bad Grund flying in a WSW direction. Just before reaching the village it banked sharply to the left and crashed 1km to the east of Bad Grund.

Several witnesses agreed that there was no large explosion on impact indicating the probability that there were no bombs still aboard the aircraft. Since no one had heard any gunfire or other aircraft it was assumed that the crash of the aircraft was caused by flak damage.

The wreckage, which was spread over a large area burnt for a considerable time and no attempt was made to extinguish the flames. One of the four engines was found some distance from the main wreckage so it appears to have detached from the aircraft prior to the crash. Parts of the other three engines were found in the remains of the wreckage.

It became apparent during the course of the investigation that all of the crew had bailed out of the stricken aircraft between the villages of Clausthal-Zellerfeld and Bad Grund prior to the crash.

At Bad Grund the body of an airman, which was subsequently identified as that of Flt Lt. Laing, was found at the foot of a tree about 1 km from the scene of the crash. The cords of his parachute had been cut with the canopy found in the tree some 30 ft from the ground. The only injuries visible were two broken legs and no one could state the exact cause of death. On the 18th March 1945 he was placed in a coffin and interred at the village cemetery in grave #634. A ceremony was performed by the Luftwaffe with no pastor being present.

Two other members of the crew were take prisoner in the area and were taken to Bad Grund however the only information found was that they were taken to Goslar airfield. These two airmen have been identified as Fg Off. Hyde and Flt Sgt. Crisp.

Goslar Airfield was located 40 km SSW of Braunschweig, 1½ km NE of the town of Goslar and 17½ km NE of Bad Grund.

At about 21:15 hrs an airman was seen to descend on a parachute and land 2 km SW of Wildemann. This airman was identified as Fg Off. Bonter. The next afternoon he was collected by Luftwaffe personnel from Goslar airfield.

Wildemann is situated between the villages of Clausthal-Zellerfeld and Bad Grund.

(1) At Clausthal-Zellerfeld at approximately 21:00 hrs three airmen were seen to bail out of a burning aircraft passing over the town. They landed in the northern outskirts of the town and were brought to the local police office. The three were identified as Fg Off. Smith, Flt Sgt. Marsh and Sgt. Morris.

Herr Schulze, a former police officer at Clausthal-Zellerfeld, stated that they were fit and well whilst in his custody and that he notified the Luftwaffe at Goslar airfield and the Deputy Bürgermeister (mayor) Mahn of their capture so that their removal could be arranged.

On the afternoon of the 16th March 1945 a man named Fricke arrived from the Kreisleitung (Nazi District Office) at Goslar and claimed the three prisoners. Schulze asserts that he refused to hand them over but was overruled by Mahn. Fricke then left with the three airmen sitting in the back of his car. This was the last time the three were seen alive.

At about 17:00 hrs a teacher named Herr Langerhagen saw the bodies of three airmen in flying clothes lying face down on the crown of the Clausthal-Zellerfeld to Altenau road about 3 km out of Clausthal-Zellerfeld. He inspected the men but could not state the nature of their injuries. He informed the police and then searched the airmen’s pockets but found them empty. Schulze thought that these bodies were further victims of the crashed aircraft.

Mahn arranged for the removal of the bodies to the local cemetery and it was not until later that Schulze heard that the three dead men were the prisoners that were previously in his custody. The grave digger who saw the bodies said that two two had been shot in the back of the head and one in the temple. The bodies were interred in a communal grave in the Clausthal-Zellerfeld cemetery on the 18th March, no coffins being provided and no Christian rites or military honours accorded.

The following narrative is based upon a translation from Ref 2:

Fricke was apprehended and brought to trial by a British military court in Hamburg for being concerned in the killing of three Canadian airmen on 16th March 1945 in Altenau. Otto Fricke was a former member of the Nazi party and the personal driver to the Kreisleiter (Nazi District Leader) of Goslar.

The prosecution based its case on the sworn statements of Fricke and co-defendant Christoph Hartwig. Fricke admitted to shooting the three PoWs who had parachuted into Clausthal-Zellerfeld after a plane crash and were being held in the local jail.

He testified that together with Hartwig he had received orders from his superior, the Kreisleiter of Goslar, to pick up the three airmen from the Clausthal-Zellerfeld police station and then to shoot them.

Wilhelm Pfeiffer was the Kreisleiter (Nazi District Leader) of Goslar. It appears possible that Pfeiffer was not put on trial by the British awaiting the outcome of his trial by the Americans in US case No.12-1077 in 1947. When he was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment it is also possible that the British didn't see sense in spending money on extradition procedures and a trial. Records show that Pfeiffer was one of the last prisoners to be paroled in April 1957.

US case No.12-1077 has yet to be researched by Aircrew Remembered but will be shortly.

They then got into Fricke’s car and tried out their pistols en route to Clausthal-Zellerfeld finding that Hartwig’s pistol did not work. At the police station, the officer on duty at first refused to hand over the prisoners, but after a call to the Bürgermeister (mayor), the latter gave the order to do so. They thereupon drove with the prisoners to the Bürgermeister’s office to borrow a pistol. They subsequently shot the prisoners near Polstertal.

The call was made to the deputy Bürgermeister named Mahn. It is not known if he was apprehended and questioned to determine any culpability in the shootings.

"Polstertal" is believed to refer to a wooded valley which is some 5¼ km from Clausthal-Zellerfeld and to the south of the Altenau road.

According to Hartwig’s own testimony he had planned to take the train to Clausthal-Zellerfeld on the morning of 16th March, but had been offered a ride by Fricke. He had been with Fricke at the police station when the prisoners were picked up. He denied, however, that he knew anything about the execution order and said that he had exited the car at the Clausthal-Zellerfeld railway station. At the end of the war, Fricke had asked him to testify on his behalf in a possible trial, to the effect he had received the order to shoot the prisoners from his superior in the presence of Hartwig, however, he had refused to do so.

The court found Hartwig not guilty of the charge. Fricke was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging and was executed at Hameln prison by Albert Pierrepoint, assisted by RSM Richard A. O'Neill and Edwin J. Roper on the 29th January 1948.

Burial details:

Above: Grave markers for Fg Off. Laing and Sgt. Morris (Courtesy of BobB - FindaGrave)

Fg Off. Leslie Norman Laing, MiD. Hanover War Cemetery 2.G.13. Grave Inscription: "HE DIED THAT OTHERS MIGHT LIVE. REMEMBERED BY HIS FAMILY". Born on the 25th September 1919 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Son of Frederick Stephen and Louisa (née Smith) Laing, of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.

His MiD was promulgated in the London Gazette 13th June 1946.

Sgt. Robert Morris. Hanover War Cemetery 2.G.10. Grave Inscription: "MEMORIES OF ONE SO DEAR, WE CHERISH STILL WITH LOVE SINCERE. MUM & FAMILY". Son of Martha Morris, of Bathgate, West Lothian, Scotland.

Above: Grave markers for Fg Off. Smith and Flt Sgt. Marsh (Courtesy of BobB - FindaGrave)

Fg Off. Donald George Smith, MiD. Hanover War Cemetery 2.G.11. Grave Inscription: "SON OF GEORGE R. AND IDA B. SMITH". Born on the 28th May 1922 in Saint John, New Brunswick. Son of George Richard and Ida Belle (née Pineo) Smith, of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

His MiD was promulgated in the London Gazette 13th June 1946.

Flt Sgt. Francis Joseph Marsh MiD. Hanover War Cemetery 2.G.12. Born on the 19th December 1917 in Creigton Mine, Ontario. Son of John Joseph and Margaret (née Tessier) Marsh (his mother predeceased him) of Western, Ontario, Canada.

His MiD was promulgated in the London Gazette 13th June 1946.

Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’. Update to loss information (Jun 2022).

Other sources list below:


1. No. 23 Section, No. 4 MREU - 1119/31/2P 3 - dated 30th December 1946.
2. Krone, Peter, "Hingerichtetengräber" auf dem Friedhof Wehl, Hameln, Hameln 1988, p 83

RS & TV 12.06.2022 – Update the German fighter claim

Pages of Outstanding Interest
History Airborne Forces •  Soviet Night Witches •  Bomber Command Memories •  Abbreviations •  Gardening Codenames
CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
Concept of Colonial Discrimination  •  Unauthorised First Long Range Mustang Attack
RAAF Bomb Aimer Evades with Maquis •  SOE Heroine Nancy Wake •  Fane: Motor Racing PRU Legend
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.
Click any image to enlarge it

Click to add your info via ticket on Helpdesk •Click to let us know via ticket on Helpdesk• Click to buy research books from Amazon •Click to explore the entire site
If you would like to comment on this page, please do so via our Helpdesk. Use the Submit a Ticket option to send your comments. After review, our Editors will publish your comment below with your first name, but not your email address.

A word from the Editor: your contribution is important. We welcome your comments and information. Thanks in advance.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember them. - Laurence Binyon
All site material (except as noted elsewhere) is owned or managed by Aircrew Remembered and should not be used without prior permission.
© Aircrew Remembered 2012 - 2023
Last Modified: 08 January 2023, 12:03

Monitor Additions/Changes?Click to be informed of changes to this page. Create account for first monitor only, thereafter very fast. Click to close without creating monitor