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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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467 Squadron Lancaster III ED539 P/O. Cecil O'Brien

Operation: Berlin

Date: 27/28th January 1944 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: No. 467 Squadron (RAAF) (motto: Recidite Adversarius Atque Ferociter - 'Your opponents will retreat because of your courageous attack'). 5 Group

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: ED539

Code: PO-P (Kookaburra)

Base: RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire

Location: Wendenschloßstraße, Köpenick, Berlin

Pilot: P/O. Cecil O'Brien Aus/420250 RAAF Age 27. Missing - believed killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Douglas James Coombe 1582983 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

Nav: Sgt. Harold Boardley 1549458 RAFVR Age 22. Missing - believed killed

Air/Bmr: F/O. Gerald Henry Sudds 136393 RAFVR Age 27. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. William John Simpson Aus/421693 RAAF Age 23. Missing - believed killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Joseph James Melling 1017778 RAFVR Age 27. Missing - believed killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Francis Herbert Doncaster 1013809 RAFVR Age 23. Missing - believed killed


Took off at 17.40 hrs. from Waddington, Lincolnshire to join a total of 515 Lancaster's and 15 Mosquitoes on the first night of 3 continuous night bombing on the German capital, Berlin.

The city was covered in cloud and sky marking had to be used. No assessment of the raid was possible by Bomber Command except that the bombing was widely spread. Local reports confirmed that some 61 small towns and villages outside the city were hit with 18 being people killed. In the city itself a further 567 people were killed including 132 foreign workers. 20,000 people were bombed out of their homes.

Lancaster ED539 was hit by flak of 1. Flak Div., exploded over Berlin-Köpenick and crashed into housing in the Wendenschloßstraße at 20:38 hrs.

Another 467 Squadron Lancaster, ME575 PO-G flown by 22 year old, P/O. Stephen Charles Grugeon Aus/413855 RAAF was also lost with all crew on the same raid.

The raid cost the allies with 33 aircraft were lost with 183 aircrew killed, a further 52 being made PoW.

Above LR Rear: Sgt. Joseph Melling, Sgt. Douglas Coombe, Sgt. Harold Boardley and Sgt. Francis Doncaster. Front: Fl/Sgt. William Simpson, F/O. Gerald Sudds and P/O. Cecil O'Brien.

Report from Fl/Lt. E.A Rowlinson from 24 Section, No. 4 Missing Research Enquiry Unit on the 23rd January 1947:

'As instructed I visited Wendenschloßstraße, Berlin, to make enquiries regarding the aircraft and crew concerned in the Casualty Enquiry.

I interviewed a certain Paul Schulz (a shoe-maker of 247 Wendenschloßstraße, whose house is adjacent to the block of houses No. 233 to 246 where the aircraft concerned in this enquiry crashed.

Schulz stated that on the night of the 27th January 1944 during a very fierce raid at between 21:00 and 22:00 hours he observed from a cellar window of house 245 a terrific explosion and fire in the garden immediately behind the aforementioned block of houses, the cellars of which were used as an air raid shelter for the local inhabitants.

Owing to the confusion and noise of the raid Schulz at first thought the explosion and fire to be that of a heavy phosphorous bomb, the fire continued for a long time.

It was not until 04:00 hrs. on the following morning when leaving the cellar that he observed a burned out wreck of an aircraft in the garden accounting for the explosion and fire,

I accompanied Schulz to the scene of the crash and found several pieces of aircraft metal still there, but unfortunately the pieces found, contained no data from which the aircraft could be positively identified.

The aircraft was heading dus East and it was obvious that before impact it must have dived very steeply as the aircraft before hitting the ground carried away the rear half of house 239, the front half of the house still remained intact.

It was Shulz opinion that the aircraft was still carrying a load of incendiaries at the time of the crash. He and several others witnesses agreed that this was the only aircraft that crashed in that vicinity around the early part of the year 1944.

As regards the crew, at daybreak the following morning a detachment of Police and Luftwaffe arrived to remove any members of the crew found and the remains of the aircraft. Schulz saw in all three bodies and the leg and boot of a fourth.

The first body he found in the garden of Herr Gohl. This body had been blown out of the aircraft as the garden is roughly 80 yards. from the place of the crash.

Except for being smashed, the body was more or less complete and not burned.

Unfortunately neither Schulz nor Herr Gohl could give any identifying point about the body other than the deceased was rather a small man. The two other bodies, Schulz saw them lying in the wreckage in the garden of 239 Wendenschloßstraße.

They, added Schulz were badly smashed, burned and charred beyond recognition, he had the impression that they had shrivelled.

In fact more than being able to tell they were two bodies, nothing more could be said of them.

The leg and boot also charred were lying close by.

On asking Schulz and several other witnesses if they thought or had heard of any other bodies having been found, they had the impression that if any more had been in the aircraft they must have been either burned or blown to pieces.

None could state however if the Police or Luftwaffe had found any more bodies in the wreckage, but they believed it very unlikely.

Therefore three bodies and the leg of a fourth were definitely seen. Several other witnesses including Herr Gohl, living in the vicinity, confirmed Schulz's statement but they could not add anything more.

At the Police station, further than knowing that an aircraft had crashed in the garden of no.239 Wendenschloßstraße, on the 28th January 1944 at 04:00 hrs. they knew nothing.

The police stationed there who also were there in January 1944 did not witness the crash'.

Burial details:

P/O. Cecil O'Brien. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 258. Born on the 20th July 1916 at Renwick, New South Wales. Son of John Francis (died 11th June 1987, age 104) and Mary Julia O'Brien (née Mann - died 31st May 1939, age 52) of 4 Willis Crescent Daceyville NSW; husband of Norma Ellen O'Brien, of 543 Malabar Road, Maroubra, New South Wales, Australia.

Sgt. Douglas James Coombe. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Grave 5.K.37. Son of D. Coombe, and of Laura Lily Coombe, of Leicester, England. Epitaph: 'He Left Us A Memory We Are Proud To Own. His Loving Mother, Sister And Brother'.

Sgt. Harold Boardley. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 225. Son of Harold and Edith Alice Boardley, of Lancaster, England.

F/O. Gerald Henry Sudds. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Grave 5.K.36. Born in 1922 in 1922, Malling, Kent. Son of Hubert Harold Sudds and Agnes Pearce Sudds, of Applegarth, Hartley, Longfield, Kent, England.

Fl/Sgt. William John Simpson. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 261.,Born on the 19th July 1920 at Black Mountain New South Wales. Enlisted on the 28th February 1942 . Son of William Henry (died 31st December 1953, age 59) and Mary Ellen Simpson (née Turner - did 18th December 1977, age 82), of Guyra, New South Wales, Australia.

Sgt. Joseph James Melling. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 234. Son of James William and Mary Jane Melling, of Preston, Lancashire, England.

Sgt. Francis Herbert Doncaster. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 228. Son of Herbert and Jane Ann Doncaster, of Beacon Hill, Nottinghamshire, England.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to NAA National Archives Australia, National Archives Kew, Nachtjagd Combat Archive 1944 Part one. Theo Boiten

Other sources as quoted below:

KTY 06-02-2023

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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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