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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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149 Squadron Crest
23/24.09.1943 No. Squadron Stirling III EH883 OJ-A W/O. Leedham

Operation: Mannhelm

Date: 23/24th September 1943 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: No. 149 Squadron

Type: Stirling III

Serial: EH883

Code: OJ-A

Base: RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk

Location: Herxheim bei Landau

Pilot: W/O. William John Leedham 157410 RAFVR Age 30. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Edmund Magson 1581919 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Air/Bmr: W/O II. 'Nat' William Ness R/104261 RCAF Age 20. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. William Arthur Beales 1322230 RAFVR Age ? Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Leslie Tomlinson 1430802 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. 'Shorty' Kenneth Frank Lear AUS/414943 RAAF Age 33. Evaded capture. (1)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Nathan Edwin Nathanson R/225323 RCAF PoW No: 565 Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug/ Stalag Kopernikus (2)


New photographs supplied by relatives - anyone can name the other people or know who they are or where they were taken please use the 'add info' button on the top of the page. All photographs have been at high resolution and so we are able to show you them at a larger size to assist identification.

Took off at 19:19 hrs. from RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk as part of a force of 628 aircraft (312 Lancasters, 193 Halifaxes, 7 Wellingtons, 8 Mosquitoes and 5 B-17's from the 8th USAAF) to destroy the northern part of Mannheim.

A total of 927 houses, 20 industrial premises, 11 schools, 6 public buildings and a church were destroyed in this raid. 25,000 people were bombed out of their homes, 102 people on the ground were killed and a further 418 injured.

Thought to be the crew of Stirling EH 883. We know Fl/Sgt. Leedham is on extreme right and the daughter of William thinks that Sgt. Nathanson is the chap second from the left.

Would be great to positively identify the others with W/O, Leedham in the centre - signatures on rear: J. Lloyd-Williams, R.S. Flight and W.J. Leedham. Are you able to identify the other two?

There were more than 2,000 fires started. It is also reported by local records that during the later part of the bombing stage the bombers hit the northern part of Ludwigshafen where the I.G. factory was severely damaged with smaller outlying towns of Oppau and Frankenthal also hit with 47 people killed and 260 injured. A total of 8,000 people were bombed out of their homes of which, 4,289 were foreign workers.

The centre of Frankenthal was completely burnt out and a further 38 people were also killed.

149 Squadron Stirlings

During this raid 32 aircraft were lost. (18 Lancasters, 7 Halifaxes and 7 Wellingtons) A german nightfighter force of 153 x Bf110's, 17 x Ju88's and 16 x Do217's were scrambled to intercept them. 7 of the bomber force were shot down before they reached the target zone and another 20 were shot down over the target area by this force.

During the many engagements 7 German night-fighters were shot down. No claims have been identified for the loss of Stirling EH883.

(1) (1) Fl/Sgt. Kenneth Frank Lear born in Porthcorno, Cornwall, England 16th June 1910. Son of Cecil Vincent and Eveline Ermyntrude Lear. A fruit farmer prior to service.

His evasion report:

'Shot down by Me109 when leaving the target. Aircraft caught fire after inner starboard was hit. Starboard tanks ablaze as well as fuselage. I left the plane by rear hatch due to the fire.
Landed in a field near a house and two main roads. Mannheim could be seen burning north east of my position. I headed west after burying my chute. The following day I rested in a small patch of maize, then headed south that evening using my escape map and compass.
Kept going day and night for about 3 days till I came to the Rhine. Followed the Rhine for about another 24 hours. Feet badly blistered due to my flying boots. Decided to steal a ride in a freight train so headed due west of the Rhine. Caught a workers train at a village about 17 km. north of Strasburg. Stopped the day at Strasburg leaving that evening on express to Mulhausen. Brought a ticket at Mulhausen on workers train to St. Louis. Crossed the Swiss border at approx 21:30 hrs. at a point just opposite Neuallschwil which is a suburb of Basil.
I cannot give names of any towns other than I have already given as they were not marked on the map. I do not know exactly where I landed'.

Note: Repatriated 04th October 1944 via Annecy, France.

(2) Recorded incorrectly as Sgt. N.E. Mathanson in some publications. Son of Mr. and Mrs. Israel Nathanson, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

We are not sure where and when this was taken. W/O. Leedham is seated third from the right.

Crew graves at Rheinberg War Cemetery (courtesy Claus Moser, see notes)

Burial details:

W/O. William John Leedham. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective Grave 8.B. 23-25. Born on the 13th September 1913. Son of William Richard and Rose Amelia Leedham, husband of Sylvia Gladys Leedham, of Morden, Surrey, England. Grave inscription: 'Ever Loving, Ever Loved" Darling Husband Of Sylvia, Daddy Of Dianne And John'.

Sgt. Edmund Magson. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective Grave 8.B. 23-25. No further information currently available - are you able to assist?

W/O II. William 'Nat' Ness. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective Grave 8.B. 23-25. Mrs. Major Ramsdale (mother) from Florence, Nova Scotia, Cape Bretom, Canada.

 (Shown Right)

Sgt. William Arthur Beales. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective Grave 8.B. 23-25. No further information currently available - are you able to assist?

Sgt. Leslie Tomlinson. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective Grave 8.B. 23-25. Son of Mrs. C. Tomlinson, of Goole, Yorkshire, England.

Researched for Dianne Sylvia Kemsley (Nee Leedham) and dedicated to relatives of all the crew. Further information supplied by Colin Bamford, our Canadian researcher. With thanks to Bill Chorley - "Bomber Command Losses Vol. 4", Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - "Bomber Command War Diaries", Les Allison and Harry Hayward - "They Shall Not Grow Old", Commonwealth Graves Commission. I.W.M. and Claus Moser for the grave photograph (available full size to relatives free of charge if they wish to contact us)

KTY 18.11.2019 Evader report placed

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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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