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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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115 Squadron crest
13/14.07.1943 115 Squadron Lancaster III DS660 KO:P Fg Off. Rodney B. Larson

Operation: Aachen, Germany

Date: 13/14th July 1943 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit No: 115 Squadron, Bomber Command

Type: Lancaster II

Serial: DS660

Code: KO:P

Base: RAF East Wretham, Norfolk

Location: Near Metz-en-Couture, France

Pilot: Fg Off. Rodney Boyd 'Rod' Larson J5829 RCAF Age 23. PoW No: 1778 * (1)

Flt Eng: Sgt. Mervyn Jones 1653104 RAFVR Age 20. KiA

Nav: Plt Off. Chester Armstrong 138396 RAFVR Age 21. KiA

Bomb Aimer: Fg Off. Frederick Leonard Yates 131977 RAFVR Age 28. KiA

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Peter Williams 1077619 RAFVR Age 21. KiA

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Sgt. Derick Murphy 1044231 RAFVR Age? KiA

Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. John Albert Thomas Newton 1601296 RAFVR Age 19. KiA

* Stalag Luft 3 (Belaria), Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland.

Above the navigator. Plt Off. Chester Armstrong (courtesy of Chester Armstrong)


Took off at 00.24 hrs from RAF East Wretham, Norfolk to attack the German town of Aachen with devastating results.

Over 1000 people on the ground were either killed or injured and many cultural buildings destroyed including the cathedral and the town theatre. Over 16,000 flats or apartments were destroyed - following this raid over 18,000 people fled the town.

The German night fighter force were extremely active enjoying very good visibility, the result being 20 aircraft shot down (15 Halifax's, 2 Lancasters, 2 Wellingtons and 1 Stirling). The number of casualties from the Allied losses was 93 killed, 8 known injured, 39 PoWs and 8 evading capture.

DS660 was claimed by Hptm. Paul-Hubert Rauh, his 6th Abschuss, from 3./NJG4 engaged this Lancaster at 5,400 mtrs. over Metz-en-Couture, 18 km. SW of Cambrai at 02:35 hrs.

Above: Hptm. Paul-Hubert Rauh (Kracker Luftwaffe Archive)

Maj. Paul-Hubert Rauh survived the war. He flew 152 sorties and was credited with 31 Abschüsse.. He joined the Austrian Air Force where he reached the rank of Oberst (Grp Capt). He died on the 30th August 2005. (Luftwaffe ACES - Biographies and Victory Claims (Mathews and Foreman) - Volume 3)

Eye witness reports state that two of the crew had baled out and their bodies were found the following morning, one in a tree and another found by three girls in a field - photographs were taken by them of the boy. A local, Msr. Lecap tried to remove the bodies of four of the crew before they were destroyed in the fire.

(1) The circumstances leading to the capture of Fg Off. Larson are unknown. However, records show that he was held at Stalag Luft 3 (Belaria) and Stalag 3A and therefore the story of his evacuation and ending with his liberation would have commenced on the night of the 27th January 1945.

The Belaria compound was opened in January 1944. Around the 1st January some 500 British prisoners from the east and centre compounds of Stalag Luft 3 were sent to Belaria. Belaria was situated about 3 miles west of Stalag Luft 3 on a grassy hill overlooking Sagan.

With Soviet troops only 26 km (16 mls) away, orders were received to evacuate Stalag Luft 3 to Spremberg which is to the West in Germany. The PoW’s were informed of the evacuation, which was on foot, at about 22:00 hrs the same night and were given 30 mins to pack and prepare everything for the March. The weather conditions were very difficult, with freezing temperatures, and it was snowing accompanied by strong winds. There was 15 cm (6 in) of snow and 2000 PoWs were assigned to clear the road ahead of the main groups

After a 55 km (34 mls) march, the PoWs arrived in Bad Muskau where they rested for 30 hours. The PoWs were then marched the remaining 26 km (16 mls) to Spremberg where they were housed in empty garages, storerooms and in military barracks. There they were provided with warm soup and bread.

On the 31st January the PoWs were sent by train to either Stalag 7A at Moosburg; Stalag 8D at Nürnberg, Marlag und Milag Nord at Westertimke or Stalag 3A at Luckenwalde where the recently promoted Flt Lt. Larson was sent.

They were led to railway sidings and loaded into tightly packed carriages.The train journey took about 2-3 days with trains the stopping every 12 hours beyond railway stations. PoWs could leave carriages for physical needs and were provided with fresh water.

On the 8th February they reached Stalag 3A located about 52 km (32 mls) south of Berlin near Luckenwalde, which already held 20,000 prisoners, consisting mainly of soldiers from Britain, Canada, the US and Russia.

During January and February 1945 PoWs from numerous other camps arrived and the camp eventually housed 45,942 PoWs, including 24,996 French, 12,517 Soviet, 4,093 Serbian, 1,499 American, 1,433 British, 1,310 Italian, 86 Polish and 8 Romanian.

On the 22nd April 1945 the guards fled the camp in the face of the advancing Russians leaving the prisoners to be liberated by the Red Army.

Stalag 3A was turned over to the Americans on the 6th May at which time the Senior American Officers (SAO) took over the running of the camp until all the PoWs were evacuated.

Rodney Boyd Larson was born on the 29th December 1919 in Penzance, Saskatchewan and passed away on the 3rd February 1988 in Ventura, California, USA. He left a wife, Miriam, sons, Rodney and Timothy and several Grandchildren. All of whom visited the site of the crash between 1991 and 2007.

Burial details:

German troops arrived in the early morning to guard the area and the bodies were removed during the afternoon. During transportation, locals threw flowers onto the bodies unhindered by the Germans.

The Germans provided the crew members killed a full military funeral with a firing party with a guard of honour. The coffins were lowered into the graves with respect from the German soldiers, who also laid wreaths on the graves.

Above: Grevillers British Cemetery (courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC))

Sgt. Mervyn Jones. Grevillers British Cemetery. Grave 18.E.25. Grave inscription: ‘TO A GOOD LIFE CAME A SUDDEN END HE DIED AS HE LIVED EVERYONE'S FRIEND. FATHER’.’ Son of John and Harriet E. Jones, of Morfa, Llamlelly, Carmarthenshire, Wales.

Plt Off. Chester Armstrong. Grevillers British Cemetery. Grave 18.E.26. Born during the 1st Qtr of 1922. Son of William and Jane Dunn (née Horn) Armstrong of Ashington. His brother Colin, a year younger, was the Father of Wg Cdr (Ret) Chester Armstrong.

Fg Off. Frederick Leonard Yates. Grevillers British Cemetery. Grave 18.E.24. Grave inscription: ‘DEATH DIVIDES BUT CANNOT TAKE AWAY LOVE'S GREATEST GIFT, REMEMBRANCE’. Son of Thomas Frederick and Ada Yates, of Hampstead, London; husband of Enid Yates, of Hampstead, England.

Sgt. Peter Williams. Grevillers British Cemetery. Joint grave 18.E.21-22. Grave inscription: ‘RESTING, WHERE NO SHADOWS FALL, IN PERFECT PEACE HE AWAITS US ALL’.’ Son of Arthur and Margaret Williams, of Bolton, Lancashire, husband of Nellie Williams, of Bolton, England.

Sgt. Derick Murphy. Grevillers British Cemetery. Joint grave 18.E.21-22. No further details

Sgt. John Albert Thomas Newton. Grevillers British Cemetery. Grave 18.E.23. Son of George James Newton and Mabel Frances Newton, of Beckenham, Kent, England.

Research by the nephew of the same name as the navigator Plt Off. Armstrong, Chester Armstrong (Sqn Ldr. (Ret)) . Further information supplied by Michel Bacquet and the Mayor of Cambrai. Thanks to Paul Markham for the Next of Kin details for Plt Off. Armstrong. (Feb 2024). Other updates by Aircrew Remembered (Feb 2024). Thanks to Chester Armstrong for the correction for the crash location and other updates - new map added (Mar 2024). Inclusion of the PoW story by Aircrew Remembered (Mar 2024)

Other sources listed below:

RS 08.02.2024 - Next of Kin details for Plt Off. Armstrong added along with new information.

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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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