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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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620
620 Squadron Stirling III EE942 QS-R Fl/Sgt. John Francis Nichols

Operation: Nürnberg

Date: 27/28th August 1943 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit: No. 620 Squadron (motto: Dona ferentes adsumus - 'We are coming bringing gifts') 3 Group

Type: Stirling III

Serial: EE942

Code: QS-R

Base: RAF Chedburgh, Suffolk

Location: Prölsdorf, Halbersdorf

Pilot: Fl/Sgt. John Francis Nichols 1318759 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Maurice Meakin 1583462 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Nav: Sgt. Stanley George Bond 1393302 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Air/Bmr: F/O. Neville Sladen Mitchell 131953 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. James Patrick Donnelly NZ/405262 RNZAF Age 23. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. George Charles Burton 1612869 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Stephen George Coyne 1494494 RAFVR Age 19. Killed


This page has been mostly researched by Paul Brooker - a relative of Sgt. Stanley Bond - he would very much like to hear from other relatives of any of the crew. Email via our help desk desk or this contact us page and we will forward messages accordingly.


REASON FOR LOSS:

Weather was reported as good with starlight and good visibility with no clouds.

674 aircraft on this operation to Nuremberg. Eight aircraft were sent from 620 squadron with one returning early with a rear turret fault. The allies suffered huge losses with 33 aircraft lost.

H2S marking was used and, given the difficulties experienced with Oboe equipment in recent raids, the crews were ordered to drop a 1000lb bomb on Heilbronn using the equipment to check its functionality. Nuremberg was clear and PFF marking was accurate but significant creep back set in and PFF were unable to correct it because, once again, they had difficulties with their H2S sets. Many of the bombs fell in the open countryside south-south-west of the city. 65 people were killed on the ground.

The squadron lost 3 crews, the others:

Stirling III EF451 QS-D flown by 26-year-old, Sgt. William Henry Duroe 658365 RAFVR from Derbyshire. 5 crew killed, 2 PoW.

Stirling III BF576 QS-F flown by 21-year-old, Sgt. Sgt. Frank Eeles 1531789 RAFVR from County Durham. 4 crew killed, 3 PoW.

Above L-R Rear: Sgt. Stephen Coyne, Sgt. Maurice Meakin, Fl/Sgt. John Nichols, F/O. Neville Sladen Mitchell and Sgt. Stanley Bond.

Front: Fl/Sgt. James Donnelly and Sgt. George Charles Burton (Courtesy Paul Brooker)


Paul Brooker sent us his research regarding his relative Sgt. Stanley George Bond:

My involvement with aircraft began with sixpenny gliders. It was heightened by growing up with the pictures of two of my Uncles. Stan and Dick, on my Grandmothers' mantle-piece. They looked smart in their RAF uniforms and to me, they looked so grown up. It is only recently that I have come to realise that they were in their early twenties when their lives were abruptly 'snuffed out. This then is the telling of their stories...Lest We Forget.

Stan Bond was an athletic, good-looking chap the kind of person that anyone would be pleased to have as a big brother. Growing up in London his life was soon to be overtaken by the advent of the Second World War. Seeing the damage inflicted on his home town by the Luftwaffe, seeing schools bombed and children killed he was keen to do his part in defending his country like his Father before him who had fought proudly in the Dardenelles and had scars as well as medals to attest to his courage.

The RAF was the place to be. Talented at most subjects, he excelled at Maths and Art and a position as a Navigator was a natural use for his talents. In 1942 he went to Florida to train with Pan American Airways, the forerunners of today’s modern Airline. Our family has a number of his photographs taken whilst in Florida, and it always gives me a feeling of comfort to know that this young man, who had known what it was like to live in a large family in London during the early war years, had at least known a brief spell of enjoyment in the Florida sun, away from the deprivations of war-torn London.

Much of his Navigational training was carried out in seaplanes around the Florida Keys, carrying out both day and night-time flying. I have his Navigational Logs, showing courses plotted, tracks flown, star and sun fixes, and comments written by the instructor who remarked that he was "Exceptional in flight and theory". All too soon it was time to return to “Britain-in- in-the -Blitz”, bringing home a lemon with him. This was such a rarity that it made the local newspapers!

At the same time as Stan was growing up, the War Department, conscious of the gathering clouds of war, was looking for aircraft to update its aged Squadron, many of which were still flying aircraft reminiscent of battles fought in the skies of France and Germany 20 years earlier. Short Brothers were developing their Stirling-the first four-engined bomber that this country had ever seen. At last, the people of England had something with which they could now fight back.

Stan, having carried out his Air Observers and Advanced Navigation Course at Bobbington between 26-1-43 and 23-3-43 was destined to meet F/Sgt J Nicholls, the pilot with whom he would share the remainder of his short life, at No 12 Operational Training Unit at RAF Chipping Warden in April 1943. His log shows they first flew together for a three-and-a-half hour cross country on 24th April in Wellington BK1S7. By the time they had finished their training at 12 O.T.U. in June 1943, they had flown 34.35 hours daytime and 35.00 hours night-time together.

Their next flight was as part of the No 1651 Heavy Conversion Unit at Waterbeach on 17th June 1943. It could be said that Waterbeach was the “finishing school" before going onto an operational squadron. It was here that they first flew in the mighty Stirling. Few people realise that this was longer and higher than the Lancaster. The Stirling was renowned for being a handful to land, particularly in a cross-wind due to the extended undercarriage. Like most early fliers, the log is preoccupied with circuits and landings during this early period on a strange aircraft. Within a couple of weeks, they were flying further afield, with a couple of long cross-countries, both of five and a half hours each, one in daylight, the other in the darkness. It was during both of these final cross countries that they overflew Harwell, an airfield that was to play a fateful role in Dick's life, a year after his brothers' death. After just three weeks and 35 hours flying at 1651 HCU Waterbeach, it was time to move on to an operational Squadron.

620 Squadron was based at Chedburgh near Cambridge. At the time of the Squadron's formation in June 1943, the Bomber offensive was at its peak, not only in terms of operational effort but also as the only really direct and effective threat to the war effort inside Germany.

Most of the aircrew were in their early 20s, many were still in their teens. The new C.O. was aged just 24. The Squadron was formed on the 17th of June 1943 and carried out its first operational duty on the l9th/20th of June when 8 Stirlings from 620 joined with 282 other aircraft to bomb the Schneider Works at Le Creusot.

They lost their first aircraft just three days later with the loss of all crew. By the time Stan and his crew joined on 11th July 1943, less than a month after the formation of the Squadron, a further three aircraft had been lost together with 17 airmen and 5 ground crew, 29 dead already. Two weeks later, on a 705 aircraft raid to Essen, three more Squadron aircraft were to be lost with 21 crew, although 9 airmen were later found to be Pow's.

Seven Squadron aircraft were lost, 50 men were dead or missing, and my Uncle had yet to fly his first mission. I would regard just stepping into an aircraft under these conditions to be an act of bravery that far surpasses the worth of any medal. My Grandmother told me some years ago that Stan and his friends would occasionally come to see her when on leave. "They all had to walk around with their heads tipped back to stop the drink from spilling out!" One can understand the need for young men to "let off steam" under conditions such as these!


Their first operational mission was on the 28th of July 1943 when they went "Gardening" - a euphemism for laying mines off the coast of the Frisian Islands. Although regarded as a nursery run, it was not without its risks as a number of aircraft were lost to Flak ships. Although not part of the raids on the following night, the 29th/30th was the night of the terrible "Firestorm" on Hamburg when smoke was reported up to 17,000 feet, with the fires being seen 150 miles away. Some 100,000 people are reported to have lost their lives on this raid alone.

I have come across something of a puzzle three days later when pilot John Nichols was apparently trying to land Stirling BF466 on 3 engines following an air test. They ran off the end of the runway and the undercarriage collapsed.

The crash is not in my Uncle's log book nor can I find it in the Squadron ORB.

The aircraft was Struck off Charge on August 20th with just 100 flying hours against it.

Now you don't just write off a Stirling without anybody noticing!

Stan's next Operational Mission was on l7th/l8th August when a total of 596 aircraft were detailed to attack the Rocket Research Establishment on the Baltic coast. "A maximum effort" was called for on this famous raid on Peenemunde. The target was described as a "Radar Research Establishment" (it made the V1 and V2 rockets) and the C in C's order of the day was to the effect that if the place was not knocked out first time they would have to go back and do it again! Twelve Chedburgh Stirlings took part, aiming at the green markers put down by the Pathfinders. For the first time, a "Master of Ceremonies" was used who, as a skilled member of the Pathfinder Force, stayed in the area as long as necessary to control the bomber stream-an unenviable role. The trip home was made at low level and over the coastal waters, the Stirlings were hammered by flak ships. A total of 41 aircraft failed to return, including one from the Squadron, and among the casualties, 131 airmen disappeared without a trace into watery graves. It is estimated that the destruction caused by the raid on Peenemunde delayed the introduction of the "Flying Bombs" by 6 months - no doubt saving many British lives in London and the Home Counties.

The entry in Stan's log for 22nd August is something of a mystery-it just states-Flew to Tangmere to collect aircraft "P". At first, I thought that perhaps another crew had landed "P" there, maybe with injured on board, or low on fuel and Stan and his crew had been detailed to bring it back. Looking at the Squadron records "P" crashed in Germany three weeks earlier so this must be its replacement, but why was it coming from Tangmere which was renowned as a fighter base? Stirlings certainly weren't built there! A conundrum for another day, but a question that always crosses my mind when I fly past Tangmere. Why was Stan collecting a Stirling from a fighter base?

Prior to operations on 23 August, their sister Squadron, 214, took part in a Group Bombing Competition. When the curtain was later drawn back in the briefing room, the red ribbon stretched across to "Big B" -Berlin. Few crews of the Main Force had been to Berlin before. It was the target every aircrew member wanted in his log book for the prestige that name gave it, but it also caused the greatest surge of fear. Despite recent high losses, the morale at Chedburgh was high, there was a great roar of joy at having a crack at the Big City. The target was attacked mainly with incendiaries in good weather with the help of the "Master of Ceremonies" - the first time a “Master Bomber” had been used to direct the bomber stream, but the attack was amidst intense fighter and searchlight activity. In his last letter home to his “mum” on the next day, Stan reports "Had a night out over Berlin, not a bad little dump-WAS it? Typical cockney humour without a trace of the frightening experiences they must have had.

It wasn’t until 12 years after I started my research that I discovered that a certain Werne Baake, a German Night Fighter pilot who went on to record 36 kills, was busy on this night, bringing down a Lancaster which would be his 11th victim.

Four days later on 27 August, Nuremberg was the target. The operations record book shows that Stan and his crew took off in Stirling EE942 (QS-R) at 21.36 as the last of the 620 Sqn aircraft. Their route took them down to Beachy Head, across much of France before turning East towards Germany. Their next turning point was some 50 miles South of Nuremberg where they then turned on a Northerly course to commence their bombing run, aiming as usual at the green markers laid down by the Pathfinders.

Left: Werner Baake (courtesy Kracker Archive)

Their Northerly course continued for a further 50 miles past the target before turning West towards home. 620 Squadron were tragically unlucky, losing three of their seven aircraft with the surviving crews reporting many enemy aircraft and a starlit night - a deadly combination. A total of 33 aircraft were lost that night. My uncle and his crew were in one of these aircraft. They were shot down by a night fighter, crashing at Halbersdorf 50 miles North of Nuremberg-bombing run completed and on the way home. Werne Baake had recorded his 12th kill. He went on to survive the war, flying with Lufthansa until he was killed in an air accident in 1964.

Stan's total service life lasted but one year. His Squadron life only 6 weeks. He flew on four Operational Missions and had a total flying time of 116 hours Daylight and 137 hours Night. He was only 20 at the time of his death. His Mother had bought his 21st birthday present which sadly, he would not live to receive.

The crew were originally buried in the local cemetery by the Catholic Priest, being moved to the Durnbach Military cemetery after the war ended.

Postscript:

In August 1995, 52 years after Stan's death, I visited Germany. After so much loss of life on both sides, I found the Germans to be very friendly people - even the older generation who would have been so affected by the war. The local Burgomaster (Mayor) went out of his way to be helpful. He took my family to the site where the aircraft crashed, deep in peaceful pine woods. Even today there are many broken and twisted pieces of metal lying just under the surface. Also, the ground about 6 inches down is clearly blackened by the fire that burned throughout that fateful night of 27/28 August 1943. Exploded ammunition cases bear testimony to the heat of the blaze. Spent cartridge cases show that they went down fighting.

By an amazing piece of luck, the Burgomaster knew of a man. Herr Dumler, who had seen the aircraft crashing in flames that fateful night in 1943. He had researched the crash and published a booklet. I was very moved to learn that despite the crew being his former enemies, he had erected at his own expense, a memorial to the fallen airmen.

A brief translation of the booklet is as follows:

'On a summer night of 27~8 August 1943, there was the largest air raid over Nuremberg. The inhabitants of Prolsdorf were awakened by heavy explosions and the droning of aircraft overhead. No one would find any rest that night. The night sky over Nuremberg was lit up with a red glow of the fire. Then suddenly a fire in the sky. An aircraft was burning and diving out of control, most likely it was hit by one of the German night fighters. The bomber was heading straight towards Prolsdorf. Everyone took cover-Isidor Schunders even crept into a large drain pipe!

Seconds later the bomber crashed burning into the nearby wood. Our village was unharmed. The bomber was burning fiercely and the ammunition was exploding in all directions. Nobody dared go near. The following morning everyone made their way to the burnt-out bomber. Pine trees for a length of 140 metres and width of 20 metres had been cleanly shaved off. The aircraft was a total wreck. Undercarriage, wheels, engines and aircraft parts lay strewn all over the crash site. The crew were all dead. They were placed into coffins and carried to the nearby village of Schonbrunn where Pastor Endres laid them to rest in his Cemetery. After the war, the crew were moved to the Military cemetery at Durnbach'.

Above original grave marker (courtesy Paul Brooker)

Burial and personal details:

Fl/Sgt. John Francis Nichols. Durnbach War Cemetery. Collective grave 11.K.18-21. Niece now traced, see the following:

His niece supplied these details: 'A little history for you of Johnny, he was No. 3 son of 4. My dad Alfie being the eldest No.2 Son Ted was a conscientious objector that is until Johnny was killed and then he joined the Australian Army, Victor was too young to join up but as soon as he was able he went into the Navy. My Dad desperately wanted to fight for his country but was unable to owing to the nature of his work.

Johnny was born to 'middle-class' parents who owned a sweet and tobacconist shop that also sold Newspapers and small toys. The shop was in Blackwood Street, just off East Lane, Walworth, South London.

By 1943 Johnny had just 3 nieces Jean (Lynne is Jeans eldest daughter, the eldest of 7) Joan and I Vera, he was my Godfather, but he never got to meet me, I think my brother John has a letter from Johnny commiserating with dad. On having a third daughter calling me (forgive the terminology). They later had another girl Jacqueline and two boys. I was named Vera by my grandfather Frederick in 1942, he said there will be a Victory and the allies at the time were Russia and America so hence my name V for Victory E for England R for Russia and A for America.

When I was 23, in 1965, I went to the cemetery in Germany to pay my respects to Johnny his crew and all those who were remembered there, and I also signed the book of remembrance.

I was with my parents and Johnny's mum Alice, a poignant yet satisfying thing to have done. After the war my grandmother was contacted by a young German girl, Martha I think, who had taken it upon herself to regularly put flowers on Johnny's grave, she and my Grandmother corresponded for years, I met Martha in Switzerland on that same trip, but my parents and grandmother had met her in London and then again in Germany when they stayed with Martha's parents, in a turret of a prison where they made bread for the inmates, there are some wonderful people in this world.'

Sgt. Maurice Meakin. Durnbach War Cemetery. Collective grave 11.K.18-21. Born on the 10th March 1923 in Derbyshire, England. Son of James Wilfrid and Lilian Meakin, of Ilkeston, Derbyshire. Husband of Ethel Meakin, of Ilkeston. Epitaph: 'Softly, Ye Winds, O'er His Dear Young Head" Loved And Remembered By His Wife'.



Sgt. Stanley George Bond. Durnbach War Cemetery. Collective grave 11.K.18-21. Son of John William and Ellen Maria Bond, of Tottenham, Middlesex, England. Epitaph: 'To Know Him Was To Love Him'.





F/O. Neville Sladen Mitchell. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 11.K.16. Son of Frank and Henrietta Mitchell, of Rawtenstall, Lancashire, England.





Fl/Sgt. James Patrick Donnelly. Durnbach War Cemetery. Collective grave 22.K.18-21. Born on the 20th January 1920 in Wellington. Moved to England around 1925. Educated at Bridlington College in Yorkshire. Returned to New Zealand in 1937. A hairdresser for Donnelly and son in Wellington. Enlisted in Levin as a pilot under training on the 22nd December 1940. With No. 2 Elementary Flying Training School on the 22nd March 1941. Embarked for Canada on the 26th May 1941 arriving on the 13th June 1941. With No. 10 Service Flying Training School on the 16th June 1941. Pilot trining terminated in August 1941. Re-mustered as an air observer under training on the 04th September 1941. With No. 5 Air Observer School on the 12th October 1941. Re-mustered as a wireless operator/air gunner on the 10th January 1942. With No. 3 Wireless School on the 15th February 1842. 8 Bomber Gunnery School 27th September 1942. Wireless operator/air gunner badge awarded on the 26th October 1942. With RAF and left by train to New York for embarkation to England on the 23rd November 1942. With Personnel Development Reception Centre on the 01st December 1942. 10 Observer Advanced Flying Unit 02nd January 1943. Training on the Wellington with 12 erational Training Unit on the 02nd March 1943. 1651 Heavy Conversion Unit flying on the Stirling 03rd July 1943. Joined 620 squadron on the 10th July 1943 and carried out 3 operational sorties. Uninjured in a landing accident on an air test on the 31st July 1943.

Son of James William Francis (died 10th January 1940, age 54) and Veronica (Vera) Donnelly (née McCormack, later Bryant, later Rean - died 09th June 1950. age 54), of Wellington City, New Zealand. Stepson of Irene Donnelly (née Cowlin), of Lower Hutt, Wellington.


Sgt. George Charles Burton. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 11.K.15. Son of George Edwin and Emeline E. Burton, of Harlow, Essex, England. Epitaph: 'In Loving Memory Of Our Dear Son. Sadly Missed By Mum And Dad, Doris, Fred, Jeanie'.






Sgt. Stephen George Coyne. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 11.K.17. Son of James Joseph and Gladys R. Coyne, of Ainsdale, Southport, Lancashire, England. Epitaph: 'Eternal Rest Give Unto Him, O Lord; And Let Perpetual Light Shine Upon Him. R.I.P'.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Paul Brooker, the extensive research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, New Zealand Cenotaph, Weekly News of New Zealand, Air Museum of New Zealand, Museum of Transport and Technology, Auckland, 12 Operational Training Unit, Chipping Warden, AIR 27/2134/5/6 National Archives, Stirling photographs courtesy IWM, Kracker Archives, other sources as quoted below:

KTY 26-10-2022

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Acknowledgements
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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