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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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51 Squadron crest
24/25.07.1943 No. 51 Squadron Halifax II HR940 Sgt. William J. Murray

Operation: Hamburg

Date: 24/25th July 1943

Unit: No. 51 Squadron

Type: Halifax II

Serial: HR940

Code: MH-?

Base: RAF Snaith, Yorkshire

Location: North of Sonderborg, Denmark

Pilot: Sgt. William John Murray 657378 RAF Age 24. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Douglas Courtney Ford 1218711 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Nav: Sgt. Thomas McLaughlin 657589 RAF Age 21. Killed (1)

Air/Bmr: Sgt. Ronald Arthur Fleming 1335053 RAFVR Age ? Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Reginald Ernest Livermore RAFVR Age 31. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Harry Cousin 1352306 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Bernard Thomas Walsh RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Any relative or people who know anyone who served with 51 Squadron are encouraged to contact us so we can assist them this history group further.


Took off at 22.56 hrs from RAF Snaith, Yorkshire to join 790 aircraft to bomb the city of Hamburg. Window (2) was used for the first time during the war. The dropping of this new device totally confused the German Night fighters resulting in a very low loss rate for the bombers.

Crew of Halifax HR940

A total of 2,284 tons of bombs were dropped during the 50 minute raid. Severe damage caused with 1,500 people killed on the ground - the highest number so far. The main police station, the main telephone exchange was hit as well as the Hagenbeck zoo where 140 animals were killed.

The losses to the allied bombers amounted to 12 (Plus another 2 lost on take off and landing) with 78 aircrew killed and a further 7 made PoW.

Halifax HR940 was shot down by Oblt. Gunther Koberich of 11./NJG3 at 01.24 hrs 3 km. North of Sonderborg, Denmark. Oblt. Koberich became an ace with over 14 kills before he lost his life on the 8th August 1944 at Quakenbruck airfield during a raid by American B-17's of the 38D, 8th USAAF.

Above left to right: Sgt. William John Murray, Sgt. Douglas Courtney Ford, Sgt. Bernard Thomas Walsh

5 of the crew were killed in the crash but the other 2, Sgt McLaughlin and Sgt Livermore survived, only to succumb to their wounds later. The crew were given a proper burial by the German authorities on the 29th July 1943.

(1) The usual navigator on this crew was P/O. Francis Richard Rohrer (5) - he was hospitalised at the time with Impetigo (4)
(2) Window - Tinfoil strips dropped by bombers to disrupt enemy radar system - on this raid it is known that 92 million strips of foil were dropped!
(3). P/O. Rohrer (4) was later killed on another operation with 51 Squadron on the 24th February 1944 on Halifax LV778 C6-B.
(4) Impetigo - Bacterial skin infection.
(5) P/O. Francis Richard Rohrer. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 9.E.25. Son of Francis and Florence Rohrer, of Burnt Oak, Edgware, Middlesex, England

The father of Sgt. Douglas Courtney Ford, Mr. Bernard Ford thanks the Danish people for the memorial on the 25th July 1949. (courtesy Stuart Ford)

Crew graves at Aabenraa Cemetery (courtesy Mogens Jensen) Any relative who would like high resolution copies of the graves we would be delighted to supply them.

Burial details:

Sgt. William John Murray. Aabenraa Cemetery Allied Military Plot. Row 3. Joint grave 13. Son of William and Olive Murray; husband of Gwendoline Murray, of Alcombe, Minehead, Somerset, England. Brother of Sgt. Alan Mitchell Murray killed earlier on the 04th April 1941. Hampden AD748 OL-M.

Sgt. Douglas Courtney Ford. Aabenraa Cemetery Allied Military Plot. Row 3.15. Son of Bernard and Edith Kate Ford, of Woking, Surrey, England.

Right: Crew memorial in Denmark

Sgt. Thomas McLaughlin. Aabenraa Cemetery Allied Military Plot. Row 3.12. Son of Charles and Eleanor McLaughlin, of Carluke, Lanarkshire, England.

Sgt. Ronald Arthur Fleming. Aabenraa Cemetery Allied Military Plot. Row 3.14. Son of Mr and Mrs W.H. Fleming of 18 Alders Road. Farnham, England.

Sgt. Reginald Ernest Livermore. Aabenraa Cemetery Allied Military Plot. Row 3.11. Son of Frederick F. and Phyllis M. Livermore; husband of Olive Grace Livermore, of Dollis Hill, Middlesex, England.

Sgt. Harry Cousin. Aabenraa Cemetery Allied Military Plot. Row 3. Joint grave 13. Next of Kin details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?

Sgt. Bernard Thomas Walsh. Aabenraa Cemetery Allied Military Plot. Row 3.16. Son of Joseph Micheal Walsh, and of Elizabeth Alice Walsh, of Barkisland, Yorkshire, England.

Left: Sgt. William John Murray on his wedding day to Gwendoline

Researched by Sandra Colley and the 51 Squadron History Association, further information added by the webmaster, for relatives of the crew. With thanks to the following: Pam Bossick - niece of P/O. Rohrer for photographs. Sandra Colley and the 51 Squadron History Association, Stuart Ford - relative of Flight Engineer, Sgt. Douglas Ford. Mogens Jensen from Denmark, for use of grave photographs. Mr Steve Shaw for information on Sgt. Fleming and photographs of Douglas Ford. Jennifer Kinnear - relative of Sgt. Murray.

Also to Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol's. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vol's. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook "Bomber Command War Diaries". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Further information on this raid can be found in Martin Middlebrook's publication: "The Hamburg raids."

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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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