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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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425 Squadron
31.03.1945 425 (Alouette) Squadron, RCAF Halifax III MZ418 Flt Lt. Charles P. Lesesne

Operation: Hamburg, Germany

Date: 31st March 1945 (Saturday)

Unit No: 425 (Alouette) Squadron, RCAF

Type: Halifax III

Serial: MZ418

Code: KW:C

Base: RAF Tholthorpe, North Yorkshire, England

Location: Billwerder, Hamburg, Germany

Pilot: Flt Lt. Charles ‘Chuck’ Pritchard Lesesne C3879 RCAF Age 34. Survived/Killed

Flight Engineer: Sgt. John Deacon Alec Tame 1813857 RAFVR Age 20. PoW *

Navigator: Flt Sgt. Joseph Abel Robert Villiard R199989 RCAF Age 22. PoW *

Bomb Aimer: Fg Off. William Burton Cable J37869 RCAF Age 21. PoW *

WOp/Air Gnr: Plt Off. Joseph Hermes Lucien Pigeon J93860 RCAF Age 31. PoW *

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): WO2. Joseph Gerard Raymond Trudeau R194324 RCAF Age 33. PoW *

Air Gnr (Rear): Flt Sgt. Frederick Henry King R199375 RCAF Age 34. PoW * (1)

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


On the 31st March 1945 MZ418 took off from RAF Tholthorpe at 06:27 hrs to join a bombing mission on the Blohm & Voss shipyards in Hamburg.

Flt Lt. Lesesne and his crew had been on Easter leave until 11:00 hrs that day. However, he and five of his crew were assigned on this mission. The regular Navigator, William Tessier and Bomb Aimer, Alphonse Laliberté had gone to the local town. They were replaced by Sgt. Tame and Flt Sgt. Villard (Ref 1).

It looks as if the crew roles were rearranged because Sgt. Tame was a Flight Engineer who was on his first operational mission.

Over Lüneburg MZ418 was attacked head-on by three Me262 jet fighters which heavily damaged the aircraft and set it ablaze (Ref 1).

On the 31st March 1945 Me262s from I./JG 7 and II./JG 7 (Jagdgeschwader 7) combined to claim eight Lancasters and three Halifaxes over Hamburg in one mission in the morning (The Me262 Stormbird - Colin D. Heaton & Anne-Marie Lewis)

The aircraft crash site at Billwerder, Hamburg was determined by G Section of No. 4 Missing Research and Enquiry Unit (MREU), based at Blankenese in Hamburg, on the 13th August 1948.

Clarence Simonsen at Reference 1, described that the crew bailed out and three landed inside the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Flt Lt. Lesesne was the last to abandon the aircraft and landed near a Flak tower which was operated by German women. Flt Lt. Lesesne was exhausted and decided to lie down and rest before attempting to escape. However, the women from the flak tower attacked him with clubs, fists, boots and left him for dead. He was then dragged to the local Bergen-Belsen police station and thrown inside, joining his other captured crew. Their request for medical assistance for Flt Lt. Lesesne was denied and he died of injuries sustained in the arms of Plt Off. Pigeon. Flt Lt. Lesesne was the last airman from 425 (Alouette) Squadron, RCAF in WW2 to be killed in action.

Note: There were two Flak towers in Hamburg, Flakturm IV - Heiligengeistfeld and Flakturm VI - Wilhelmsburg. Flakturm VI is some 9½ km (6 mls) west of Billwerder where the aircraft crashed. Flakturm IV was some 12¾ km (8 mls) NW from Billwerder.

There are a number of inconsistencies with the above scenario. Firstly the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was some 80 km (50 mls) due south of where the aircraft crashed at Billwerder. It is probable that the concentration camp in question was the one at Neuengamme, which was about 9 km (6 mls) SE of the crash site. Secondly, it is likely that Flt Lt. Lesesne landed near an outlying flak position and not one of the two flak towers. Primarily because of their geographical locations in respect to the crash site and also because the flak guns were positioned on the top of the massive towers which would appear to preclude those individuals leaving their posts to attack Flt Lt. Lesesne.

It is not known if anyone was ever held responsible for the death of Flt Lt. Lesesne.

The Bergedorf Cemetery records recorded that Flt Lt. Lesesne and two unknown airmen were interred in Plot 38, Graves 511 and 512 at 08:00 hrs on the the 7th April 1945. Investigations carried out by G Section of No. 4 MREU believed that the two unknown airmen were:

Flt Sgt. Kevin George Clark 435185 RAAF, who was a War Crimes victim;

Fg Off. Gilbert Paul Haliburton J38360 RCAF, the pilot from 434 (Bluenose) Sqn, RCAF, Lancaster X KB911 shot down on the same mission to Hamburg.

However, no evidence has been found to support this premise. The Investigator at the crash site of KB911 believed that the remains found in the cockpit of the aircraft were probably those of both Fg Off. Haliburton and his navigator, Fg Off. Douglas Gordon Rathwell J40731, RCAF. Although the subsequent report recommended that both pilot and navigator be interred in a joint grave it appears that there was insufficient evidence to identify Fg Off. Haliburton as he is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial.

Flt Lt. Lesesne was finally laid to rest at the Hamburg (Ohlsdorf) Cemetery on the 22nd November 1946.

Burial details:

Above: Flt Lt. Lesesne (Credit “Young American Patriots, Sumpter County”) and marker (courtesy of Tracy Goodwin - FindAGrave)

Flt Lt. Charles ‘Chuck’ Lesesne. Hamburg (Ohlsdorf) Cemetery, Plot 6A, Row D, Grave 13. Inscription reads: 'NATIVE OF SUMTER STH. CAROLINA. U.S.A. SON OF CLAUDE P. AND ELIZABETH DANIEL LESESNE'. Born on the 4th March 1911 in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Son of Claude Pritchard and Elizabeth (née Daniel) Lesesne from Sumter, South Carolina, USA. His father predeceased him.

(1) Flt Sgt. King was commissioned and promoted to Plt Off. (J96481) on the 12th May 1945, the day he was liberated. He was discharged from the RCAF on the 22nd September 1945 and took up the profession of Sign Writer. On the 7th February 1946 for unknown reasons he took his own life.

He was interred at the Toronto (Prospect) Cemetery, Section 24, Grave 4126. Born on the 4th June 1910 in Hamilton, Wentworth, Ontario. Son of Henry Alfred and Lillian Rhea (née Conner) King, and husband to Ethel May (née Hammond) King of Toronto and father to Phillip Grant King.

Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz and dedicated to the relatives of this crew. Thanks also to Traugott Vitz for his work on the 'VitzArchive' database. Many thanks to Gina Heinbockel-Bolik of the Canadian Air Force Museum for the details of the PoW members of the crew.


1. RCAF 425 Alouette Nose Art - Clarence Simonsen

RS & TV 11.11.2021 - Initial upload

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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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