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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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12 squadron crest
26/27.04.1944 No. 12 Squadron Lancaster III ND873 PH-H P/O. George E. Nicholls

Operation: Essen

Date: 26/27th April 1944 (Tuesday/Wednesday)

Unit: No. 12 Squadron

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: ND873

Code: PH-H

Base: RAF Wickenby, Lincolnshire.

Location: Astense river, Asten, Holland

Pilot: P/O. George Edwin Nicholls 172425 RAFVR Age 32. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Roy William Laybourne 1695288 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Nav: F/O. Alfred Thompson McKay 138480 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air/Bmr: F/O. Lawrence Lindsay Smith J/25520 RCAF Age 21. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Alexander Strathern Mcjannett 1580154 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Alexander Kelso Shiels 1566808 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Harold Edward Dyerson 1504327 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Relatives of all the crew, in particular F/O. Lawrence L. Smith (who have been sought by the memorial instigators for years) are invited to contact us to provide any further information to this page.


Taking off at 22.54 hrs from RAF Wickenby, Lincolnshire to bomb Essen.

494 aircraft taking part with reports from Bomber Command that the raid was considered 'accurate'. Essen reported that 313 people were killed on the ground with 1,224 others injured.

The allies lost 8 aircraft, 47 aircrew being killed, 1 PoW with another evading capture.

Some of the crew: Rear left to right: F/O. Alfred Thompson McKay, Sgt. Bill Davis, Sgt. Tom Chidwick and Sgt. Harold Edward Dyerson - Front: Sgt. Alexander Kelso Shiels, Sgt. Gordon Pierce and Sgt. Roy William Laybourne

Above: F/O. Lawrence Lindsay Smith with his parents outside the United Church at Addison, Ontario, Canada. His father had been the minister of the church, previous to this during WW1 he had served with the Princess Pats (1) and taken PoW at the Battle of Sanctuary Wood on June 2nd 1916. He escaped twice, the last time he made his way through the south of Holland - maybe close to where his son lost his life in Lancaster ND873. Theo Van De Mortel (2) (instigator of the fine memorial) has been searching for his relatives for years to no avail - can you assist? (Information and photograph kindly supplied by Wayne Blanchard. Ontario, Canada)

Crash area of the two aircraft

Lancaster ND873 was intercepted at 6,500 mtrs and shot down at 01.58 hrs by Ofw. Rudolf Frank (3) of 3./NJG3 with the Lancaster coming down near Asten, Holland. Debris from ND873 also hit the Bf110 G-4 D5+CL and Ofw. Frank crashed to his death near Heeze, Eindoven.

Memorial erected to the crew in 2006 (courtesy Theo Van de Mortel)

(1) Princess Pats - Canadian Light Infantry also known as 'The Patricias'.

(2) Theo Van de Mortel has also researched this loss to a much greater extent and has published a book (currently only available in Dutch) 'Nachtvlucht over de peel' (Night flight over the peel). Contact us if you would like a copy. Click on book or direct from 'here'.

Right - the trenches at Sanctuary Wood.

(3) This was the 46th abschusse for Ofw. Rudolf Frank - his last.

(shown left) See Kracker Archive on this site.

Burial details:

P/O. George Edwin Nicholls. Jonkerbos War Cemetery Grave 24.F.4. Son of James Edwin and Evelyn Nicholls, of Heamoor, Penzance, Cornwall, husband of Madeline Nicholls, of Heamoor, England.

Sgt. Roy William Laybourne. Jonkerbos War Cemetery Grave 24.F.6. Son of William and Martha Laybourne, of Worsley, Lancashire, England.

F/O. Alfred Thompson McKay. Jonkerbos War Cemetery Grave 24.F.3. Son of Alfred and Margaret Thompson McKay, of Knockando, Morayshire, Scotland.

F/O. Lawrence Lindsay Smith. Jonkerbos War Cemetery Grave 24.F.7. Son of the Revd. Lawrence Bradway Smith, B.A., B.D., and of Lillian Frances Smith (nee Casselman), of Westmeath, Ontario, Canada.

Sgt. Alexander Strathern Mcjannett. Jonkerbos War Cemetery Grave 24.F.2. Son of Margaret May McJannett; husband of Freda Joyce McJannett, of Wigston Magna, Leicestershire, England.

Sgt. Alexander Kelso Shiels. Jonkerbos War Cemetery Grave 24.F.5. Son of James Lyle Shiels and Catherine Wilson Shiels, of Auchinloch, Lanarkshire, Scotland.

Sgt. Harold Edward Dyerson. Jonkerbos War Cemetery Grave 24.F.1. Son of Alfred Dyerson, and of Ada Bell Dyerson, of Plaistow, Essex, England.

Researched for relatives of the crew. With thanks to Wyne Blanchard, Theo Van de Mortel, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - "Nightfighter War Diaries Vol's. 1 and 2", Bill Chorley - "Bomber Command Losses Vol. 5", Les Allison and Harry Hayward - "They Shall Not Grow Old", Commonwealth Graves Commission.

Pages of Outstanding Interest
History Airborne Forces •  Soviet Night Witches •  Bomber Command Memories •  Abbreviations •  Gardening Codenames
CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
Concept of Colonial Discrimination  •  Unauthorised First Long Range Mustang Attack
RAAF Bomb Aimer Evades with Maquis •  SOE Heroine Nancy Wake •  Fane: Motor Racing PRU Legend
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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