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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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61 Squadron Crest
19/20.09.1942 61 Squadron Lancaster I W4166 Sgt. Robert R.B. Owen

Operation: München

Date: 19th/20th September 1942 (Saturday/Sunday)

Unit No: 61 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: W4166

Code: QR:?

Base: RAF Syerston, Nottinghamshire

Location: West of Cochem, Germany

Pilot: Sgt. Robert Rupert Bisgrove Owen 403292 RAAF Age 25. KiA

Flt Eng: Sgt. Thomas Thompson 807161 RAuxAF Age 34. KiA

Nav: Plt Off. William Harry Donovan J9570 RCAF Age 22. KiA

Bom Aimer: Sgt. Donald Tennant McLean 403276 RAAF Age 24. KiA

WOp/Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. John Olmstead Tuller R77248 RCAF Age 22. KiA

Air Gnr(Mid Upp): Sgt. Arthur Gladstone Sale 1184510 RAFVR Age 20. KiA

Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Peter John Maxwell 1257889 RAFVR Age 20. KiA

Above left: Sgt. Owen on 19 Operational Training Unit (OTU), Pilots - Course 32, dated 30th November 1941. Right: Sgt. Thompson (Courtesy of Paul Markham and the IBCC Losses Database)

Above left: Plt Off. Donovan on 16 Operational Training Unit (OTU), Pilots and Observers - Course 35, dated 22nd April 1942. Right: Flt Sgt. Tuller, on 19 OTU, Wireless Operators and Air Gunners - Course 35, Dated 9th March 1942. (Courtesy of Paul Markham and the IBCC Losses Database)


Taking off from RAF Syerston in Nottinghamshire at 19:45 hrs - a force of 89 aircraft tasked to bomb München. Night fighters claiming 10 aircraft from both this and the raid to Saarbrücken and at least 3 others were claimed by flak.

A Casualty Enquiry and Investigation report from the No. 2 Missing Research and Enquiry Unit (MREU) determined that the aircraft crashed at Cochem. A visit by the unit to Cochem on the 31st January 1947 obtained the following information from the Bürgermeister:

The aircraft was shot down by a German night-fighter on the 20th September at 03:00 hrs. The bomber crashed on fire in a wood on the west side of the town. The German military took charge of the crash site and recovered five of the crew from the wreckage. Eight days later the two missing crew members were found about 500 metres from the scene of the crash.

No records have been found that document any German night-fighter claim for the shooting down W4166.

Above: photograph of the tail section of W4166 taken on the 20th September 1942 where it lay in what is now a camping ground at the top of the chair lift above Cochem Germany (Sourced from the Bunderarchive and provided to Aircrew Remembered by John Jones)

Burial details:

Above: Initial grave marker for the collective grave for five of the crew (Credit: National Archive of Australia)

Sgt. Robert Rupert Bisgrove Owen. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 9.H.18-22. Grave inscription: “CHERISHED MEMORIES OF OUR LOVING SON AND BROTHER”. Born on the 11th January 1917 in Sydney, the son of Charles Rupert Norman and Edith Margaret Francis Owen, of Sans Souci, New South Wales, Australia.

Sgt. Thomas Thompson. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Grave 9.H.17. Grave inscription: “TILL MEMORY FADES AND LIFE DEPARTS. REMEMBERED BY LOVING WIFE AND FAMILY”. Son of Thomas and Doris Thompson and husband of Doris Thompson, of Castletown, County Durham, England.

Plt Off. William Harry Donovan. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 9.H.18-22. Grave inscription: “GIVE PEACE IN OUR TIME, O LORD”. Born 17th May 1920 in Toronto, York County, Ontario. Son of William Henry and Dorothy (née Branson) Donovan, and nephew of Rose Harvey, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Sgt. Donald Tennant McLean. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 9.H.18-22. Grave inscription: “GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS…”. Born on the 29th November 1917 at Chatswood, the son of Edward Grierson McLean and Alice Isabella Florence McLean, of Chatswood, New South Wales, Australia and husband of Dorothy Ellen McLean, of Moree, New South Wales, Australia.

Flt Sgt. John Olmstead Tuller. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 9.H.18-22. Born on the 22nd July 1920 in Lethbridge, Alta. Son of Dr. Philo William M.D., and Annie Alice (née Connell) Tuller of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Sgt. Arthur Gladstone Sale. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 9.H.18-22. Grave inscription: “LOVE SO AMAZING, SO DIVINE, DEMANDS MY SOUL, MY LIFE, MY ALL”. Son of Walter and Elizabeth J. Sale, of Stechford, Birmingham, England.

Sgt. Peter John Maxwell. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Grave 9.H.16. Grave inscription: “SUNWARD HE CLIMBED AND SLIPPED THE SURLY BONDS OF EARTH”. Son of Major John E.H. Maxwell and C.R. Doreen Maxwell, of Henleyin-Arden, Warwickshire, England.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to John Jones for crash photograph. Updated by Aircrew Remembered (Oct 2021). Missing attribution for the crash photograph added with thanks to David Owen, a nephew of Sgt. Owen. (Dec 2022). Thanks to Paul Markham and the IBCC for the images of the crew (Jan 2024)

Other sources as shown below.

RS 09.01.2024 - Images of the crew added

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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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