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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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61 Squadron Crest
16/17.04.1943 61 Squadron Lancaster I W4317 QR:J Plt Off. William Macfarlane

Operation: Plzen (Skoda works)

Date: 16th/17th April 1943 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit: 61 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: W4317

Code: QR:J

Base: RAF Syerston, Nottinghamshire

Location: Givry, Belgium

Pilot: Plt Off. William MacFarlane 142540 RAF Age 22. Killed

Flt Eng: Sgt. Peter John Keay 15302 RAAF Age 22. Killed

Obs: Flt Sgt. William Waller Dawson 1123166 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Nav: Fg Off. Cyril Frederick Williams 123048 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Nav (U/T): Sgt. Edward Reginald Davidson 1338539 RAFVR Age 26. Killed

WOp/Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. John Frederick Edwards DFM. 1354394 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

Air Gnr: Sgt. Jack Valentine Rees 1321234 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air Gnr: Sgt. Donald Alfred Holdsworth 144654 RAFVR Age 21. Killed


Took off at 21:13 hrs. to join 327 aircraft and set out to attack the Skoda works at Plzen, Czechoslovakia. Most of the bombs fell in the area of Dobrany. 38 aircraft were lost. No damage was done to the Skoda works, apart from some sky-lights being broken due to falling shell fragments from the anti-aircraft guns at the works.

W4317 was claimed by Oblt. Rudolph Altendorf, his 16th Abschuss, from 2./NJG4 flying a Bf110, 1km South East of Givry at 2,000 m at 04:02 hrs (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (1 January - 22 June) 1943 Part 1 - Theo Boiten)

Altendorf, was the Staffelkapitän of 2./NJG4. In October 1944 he was relieved of command and demoted for unknown reasons. He survived the war with a total of 24 victories, one being in the east.

Plt Off. MacFarlane, the pilot, had done 30 operations including his Second Dickey trip. Flt Sgt. Dawson had flown 28 operations and Flt Sgt. Edwards DFM. over 50 operations. As a result of this operation, there were 52 PoW's and 13 evaders. 199 aircrew were killed in action. This does not include the casualties from the Mannheim raid, taking place this same night.

Some of the crew: Left to right: Sgt. Holdsworth, Fg Off. Williams, Flt Sgt. Dawson, Sgt. Keay, Flt Sgt. Edwards DFM. Sgt. Rees and Plt.Off. MacFarlane? Please contact us if you are able to identify individuals and we will advise the author (see below).

Crash Site of Lancaster I W4317 QR:J guarded by Germans (courtesy Peter Cunliffe)

A comprehensive book is in print by the writer of this page of remembrance entitled “A Shaky Do – The Skoda works raid 16th/17th April 1943”.

The author, Peter Cunliffe, would like to hear from any relatives of the members of this crew. Or any other airmen or relatives thereof, who were involved in this raid. Please drop him a line via his website "Historical Talks."

Crew graves at Chievres Communal Cemetery (courtesy Peter Cunliffe)

Burial details:

Plt Off. William MacFarlane. Chievres Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 10A. Son of William and Hannah Macfarlane, of Hamilton, Lanarkshire. M.A., Hons. Glasgow, Scotland.

Sgt. Peter John Keay. Chievres Communal Cemetery. Grave 11. Born on the 6th February 1921 in Lane Cove, New South Wales. Son of John Arthur and Nancy Hilder Keay, of Rocky Glen, New South Wales, Australia.

Flt Sgt. William Waller Dawson. Chievres Communal Cemetery. Grave 12. Son of John Michael and Betsy Dawson, of Sedburgh, Yorkshire, England.

Fg Off. Cyril Frederick Williams. Chievres Communal Cemetery. Joint grave 9 -10. Son of Albert and Mary Williams, husband of Margaret Williams, of East Boldon, Co. Durham, England.

Left: Sgt. Edward Reginald Davidson (courtesy Paul Davidson). Sgt. Edward Reginald Davidson. Chievres Communal Cemetery. Joint grave 9 -10. Son of Reginald William and Violet Davidson, of Lewisham, London, England. B.Sc., A.R.Ae.S.

Sgt. Davidson was on detachment from 1654 OTU and a navigator under training, although being listed on the CWGC as a 61 Squadron member.

Plt Off. John Frederick Edwards DFM. Chievres Communal Cemetery. Grave 13. Son of Frederick and Charlotte Edwards, of Canning Town, Essex, England.

London Gazette entry dated 14th May 1943 records a DFM award for a Flt Sgt. John Frederick Edwards who was serving with 61 Sqn. Although the entry does not mention that he was deceased the DFM must have been awarded posthumously.

London Gazette entry dated 21st May 1943 records the Commissioning and promotion of a 1354394 Sgt. John Frederick Edwards to Plt Off. wef 5th March 1943 with a Service No. of 143652.

Sgt. Jack Valentine Rees. Chievres Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 10A. Son of Thomas John and Ethel Elizabeth Rees, of Brookwood, Surrey, England.

Sgt. Donald Alfred Holdsworth. Chievres Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 10A. Son of Alfred and Ada Holdsworth, of Shipley, Yorkshire, England.

Researched for relatives of the crew with thank for information supplied by the following: Peter Cunliffe ‘A Shaky Do’. Updated by Aircrew Remembered (May 2017). Thanks to James Webb who contacted us in March 2018 (relative of Fg.Off. Williams). Updated by Aircrew Remembered (Nov 2020). Thank to Ken Stone for the correction to the Squadron/Aircraft code (Dec 2021).

RS 04.12.2021 - Correction to Sqn/Aircraft code

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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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