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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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57 Squadron Crest
22/23-05-1944 57 Squadron Lancaster III ND879 DX:H Plt.Off. Marland

Operation: Braunschweig (Brunswick), Germany.

Date: 22/23rd May 1944 (Monday/Tuesday)

Unit: 57 Squadron

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: ND879

Code: DX:H

Base: RAF East Kirkby, Lincolnshire.

Location: Osnabrück area, Germany

Pilot: Fg.Off. John Colin Marland 170960 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Flt.Eng: Sgt. Denis Charles Gallagher 1555986 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

Nav: Sgt. William Low 965562 RAFVR Age 26. Killed

Air Bmr: Fg.Off. Leonard Eric Mason J23153 RCAF Age 35. Killed

WOp/Air Gnr: Flt.Sgt. William Thomas Nichol Norris 1316674 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Air Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Harold Roy Bailey R196067 RCAF Age 21. Killed

Air Gnr: Sgt. John Wilson 901726 RAFVR Age 27. Killed

Above: Pilot of ND879 Fg.Off. John Colin Marland (courtesy David Marland)

Above: Flt.Sgt. Harold Roy Bailey (courtesy Dale E. Wright)

Above Flt.Sgt. Harold Roy Bailey from his service record file


Took off at 22.12 hrs from RAF East Kirkby, Lincolnshire

Part of a 225 Lancaster and 10 Mosquitoes to attack Braunschweig (Brunswick), Germany. The raid was considered a failure as although the weather forecast was for clear skies - the marker aircraft found a complete covering of cloud - there was also interference on the master bombers radio communications.

Most of the bombing fell in the country areas around the city. Records show that only a few bombs fell on the city and no ground casualties. A reconnaissance aircraft flying through the target area an hour later found that the cloud had completely cleared.

Above John Marland - on right, thought to be during training and right, his handwritten notes on his operations (courtesy David Marland)

14 Lancasters were lost on this raid. 81 crew members being killed and a further 18 being made PoW.

57 Squadron lost three aircraft on this night:

Lancaster III ND878 DX:B Flown by Plt.Off. Leslie H. Winneke, RAAF killed along with all other 6 crew members.
Lancaster III NE127 DX:J Flown by Plt.Off. Francis N. Henley, RAFVR killed with 4 other crew members, with the other 2 being made PoW.

ND879 was claimed by Fw Hans Meissner 2./NJG3 - Engter near Bramsche i.Zus.Arb (GR 4): 6,000m at 00:36. The aircraft was also coned by 4./Flakscheinw Abt 588 (o) Werfer 2410 (“Lancaster Schleptruper Egge 00:43”). Flak and 2/NJG3 claims both confirmed by OKL on 18 August 1944. (Nachtjagd Combat Archives 1944 Part 3 - Theo Boiten)

Original grave marker for some of the crew, Sgt J. Wilson, was buried in a separate grave (courtesy David Marland)

Extract from the report by Fg.Off, M Abbott from 24 Section No 4 MREU dated 22 October 1946:

"As directed I proceeded to Schlepturper Egge near Schleptrup Krs Berenbruck to make investigations regarding the circumstances of the crash of Lancaster ND879. After extensive enquires I located the exact place of the crash and found some wreckage in the middle of a forest about 1/2 mile from the road. Most of the wreckage had been removed by the Luftwaffe from Achmer, but pieces of the wreckage showed the aircraft had been a British four engine plane as a petrol cock was found stamped starboard inner, starboard outer etc. It was not possible to identify the wreckage beyond this as no serial numbers were found. Herr Hatke who was an eye witness of the crash was able to provide me with a full description of the incident.

The aircraft approached from the direction of Achmer airfield (Westerly) and was attacked by a nightfighter it passed over his house at 2,000ft height on fire with one wing burnt off, dropped some bombs and then crashed into the forest. Herr Hatke states that he has heard that the pilot of the fighter was Oberstlt Garlant of the Luftwaffe stationed at Achmer. Herr Hatke’s statements are born out by that of Heinrich Lechte Chief of Police at Engter who also witnessed the crash. He states that he was on duty at 00:40 on 23 May 1944 and that the plane came from a Westerly direction flying at about 2,000ft when two searchlights caught it in their beams and then a nightfighter flew behind it giving one burst and then the Lancaster burst into flames and nose dived into the ground shortly afterwards.

Rudolf Hatke states he proceeded immediately to the scene of the crash but the aircraft was burning and he states there were 5 bodies lying near. These were badly burned. Heinrich Lechte Chief of Police at Engter states that he was on duty and proceeded to the scene of the crash but this took him half an hour because of the difficult terrain. The aircraft was burning fiercely when arrived there and ammunition was exploding so he could not get near. Six bodies were removed from the wreckage and all of these were badly burnt, next day another body was found about 300-400ft from the wreckage. This body had no parachute but was in fairly good condition. Nothing was found by Herr Lechte to identify any of the bodies. The seven bodies were all removed by the Luftwaffe from Achmer and Herr Lechte was not notified of any identification by them.

The graves have been exhumed by 39 Graves Registration Unit in March 1946 and the bodies reinterred in Achmer Temporary British Cemetery.

The bodies being interred at Achmer airfield in the Luftwaffe cemetery it is most probable the Luftwaffe kept the Cemetery records. On questioning the local Burgermeister at the time of the incident Herr Gausmann and the local Graves Superintendent Herr Brunow nothing definite could be found out about the identification by the Germans of the body in Grave 79. but since the wreckage is that of a 4 engined aircraft that crashed on the night of the 22/23 May 1944 and one of the bodies found was identified on exhumation as that of Sgt Wilson 901726 I am convinced that the bodies now interred at Achmer British Cemetery are those of the members of the crew. I found no evidence of foul play and am convinced these men were victims of the crash."

Burial details:

Fg.Off. John Colin Marland. Reichswald War Cemetery, Kleve, Germany. Coll. Grave 26.B.13-18. Son of Charles and Millicent B. Marland, of Ribbleton, Lancashire, England.

Sgt. Denis Charles Gallagher. Reichswald War Cemetery, Kleve, Germany. Coll. Grave 26.B.13-18. Son of John Patrick and Jane Frances Gallagher, of Glasgow, Scotland.

Sgt. William Low. Reichswald War Cemetery, Kleve, Germany. Coll. Grave 26.B.13-18. Son of Harold and Rebecca Low, of Lytham St. Anne's, Lancashire, England.

Mason Rapids in the Caribou River, Manitoba, Canada is named after Fg.Off. Mason

Fg.Off. Leonard Eric Mason. Reichswald War Cemetery, Kleve, Germany. Coll. Grave 26.B.13-18. Born on the 4th November 1908 in Edmonton, Middlesex, England. Son of John Thomas Mason and of Dorothy Elizabeth Mason (nee Wakerley) of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Leonard enlisted in the RCAF in December 1941 and was posted overseas in May 1943.

Flt.Sgt. William Thomas Nichol Norris. Reichswald War Cemetery, Kleve, Germany. Coll. Grave 26.B.13-18. Son of William and Rosline Norris, of Bordon, Hampshire, England.

Flt.Sgt. Harold Roy Bailey. Reichswald War Cemetery, Kleve, Germany. Coll. Grave 26.B.13-18. Born on the 20th December 1922 in Memphrémagog, Quebec. The youngest son of Edgar Wilbert and Bessie Laura (née Little) Bailey Virginia, Minnesota, USA. An elder brother, Douglas Alvin Bailey died in infancy.

Sgt. John Wilson. Reichswald War Cemetery, Kieve, Germany. Grave 26.C.1. Son of James and Mary Wilson, husband of Doris Alice Wilson, of Romford, Essex, England.

Researched for relatives of the crew. With thanks to David Marland via Steve Lister for the grave marker photo and for bringing this loss to our attention. David is a nephew of the pilot, Plt.Off. Marland. To Dale E. Wright, relative of Flt.Sgt. Harold Roy Bailey. Thanks also for further information from our Canadian researcher Colin Bamford. Les Allison and Harry Hayward - 'They Shall Grow Not Old’. Thanks to John Jones for the correction to the German night-fighter claim and for the MREU report (Oct 2020). Further updates by Aircrew Remembered (Oct 2020). For further details our thanks to the following:

RS 19.10.2020 Update to correct German fighter claim, addition of MREU report and new image of Sgt. Bailey

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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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