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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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582 (PFF) Sqn
23.12.1944 582 Squadron Lancaster III PB371 Sqn Ldr. Robert A.M. Palmer VC, DFC and Bar

Operation: Cologne (Köln), Germany

Date: 23rd December 1944 (Saturday)

Unit No: 582 Squadron, Pathfinder Force (PFF), 8 Group

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: PB371

Code: 6O:V

Base: RAF Little Staughton, Huntingdonshire

Location: Near Friedhof Köln-Porz (railway station), 9 km (6 mls) SE of Cologne

Pilot: Sqn Ldr. Robert Anthony Maurice Palmer VC, DFC and Bar, 115772 RAFVR Age 24. KiA (1)

Flt Eng: Flt Lt. Owen Strachan Milne DFC, 132625 RAFVR Age? KiA

Nav I: Sqn Ldr. Albert Leslie Carter DFC, MiD, 44553 RAF Age 29. KiA

Nav II: Flt Lt. George Russell DFC, 129583 RAFVR Age 21. KiA (2)

Wireless Op/Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. Bert Nundy MiD, 671822 RAFVR Age 21. KiA

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Fg Off. William Dalgarno 161263 RAFVR Age? KiA

Air Gnr (Rear): Flt Sgt. Russell Kaye Yeulett DFM, 552477 RAFVR Age 23. PoW * (3)

* Stalag Luft 7A, Moosburg, Southern Bavaria, Germany

Note: Sqn Ldr. Palmer and Flt Lt. Russell were seconded from their normal duties with the Path Finder Force (PFF) flying Mosquitos with 109 Sqn.

Flt Lt. Palmer was the pilot aboard 109 Sqn, Mosquito FB.XVI, ML997, which crashed, when an engine failed after taking off from RAF Little Staughton on a target marking mission to Bottrop. Both Flt Lt. Palmer and his Navigator, Sqn Ldr. Raymond Alexander Esler DSO, DFC and Bar, MiD, 85012 RAFVR, sustained minor cuts and bruises.

At the time of this incident Flt Lt. Palmer DFC, had flown operationally with 75 Sqn and 149 Sqn, as well as serving for a protracted period as flying instructor in Scotland.


On the 23rd December 1944 27 Lancasters and 3 Mosquitoes of 8 Group were detailed to attack the Gremberg railway yards in Cologne (Köln), Germany of which 17 Lancasters were from the 582 Squadron.

The force was split into 3 formations, each lead by an Oboe equipped Lancaster with an Oboe Mosquito as a reserve leader. During the inbound flight, 2 Lancasters from 35 Sqn collided over the French coast and their crews were all killed.

On approaching the target, it was found that the cloud which had been forecast had cleared and it was decided to allow the bombers to break formation and bomb visually This move was made because the formation would have been very vulnerable to Cologne’s Flak defences during the long straight Oboe approach.

Unfortunately the order to abandon the Oboe run did not reach Sqn Ldr. Palmer, who was the Master Bomber, and he continued on with the designated role, even though the aircraft was already damaged by Flak.

Sqn Ldr. Palmer pressed on and dropped his bombs and hit the target. His Lancaster was seen to go down out of control and crash near Friedhof (railway station) Köln-Porz, 9 km (6 mls) SE Cologne. Only the rear gunner successfully baled out.

PB371 was one of five aircraft from the Squadron that failed to return from operations.

The other four were:

Lancaster III PB523 6O:J - Crashed at Opitter, 4 km SE of Bree in Belgium (3 KiA, 4 PoW);

Lancaster III PB120 6O:P - Hit by Flak and then shot up by Bf109s before crashing 7 km SE from the city centre of Cologne (Köln) (5 KiA, 2 PoW);

Lancaster III PB141 6O:F - Shot down by German fighters. Two of the crew became trapped in the spinning aircraft but both miraculously survived after the aircraft fell 20,000 ft and crashed onto the marshalling yard. (6 PoW, 1 Mur);

Lancaster III PB558 6O:A - Damaged by Flak and came under sustained fighter attacks. The entire crew baled out successfully over Allied held territory and returned to RAF Little Staughton on the 27th February 1945.

(1) Acting Sqn Ldr. Palmer was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) for this action. London Gazette 23rd March 1945.

Citation reads:

"This officer has completed 110 bombing missions. Most of them involved deep penetration of heavily-defended territory many were low-level ‘marking’ operations against vital targets; all were executed with tenacity, high courage and great accuracy. He first went on operations in January, 1941. He took part in the first 1,000 bomber raid against Cologne in 1942. He was one of the first pilots to drop a 4,000 lb. bomb on the Reich. It was known that he could be relied upon to press home his attack whatever the opposition and to bomb with great accuracy. He was always selected, therefore, to take part in special operations against vital targets. The finest example of his courage and determination was on 23rd December, 1944, when he led a formation of Lancasters to attack the marshalling yards at Cologne in daylight. He had the task of marking the target, and his formation had been ordered to bomb as soon as the bombs had gone from his, the leading aircraft. The leader’s duties during the final bombing run were exacting and demanded coolness and resolution. To achieve accuracy he would have to fly at an exact height and air speed on a steady course, regardless of opposition. Some minutes before the target was reached, his aircraft came under heavy anti-aircraft fire, shells burst all around, two engines were set on fire and there were flames and smoke in the nose and in the bomb bay. Enemy fighters now attacked in force. Squadron Leader Palmer disdained the possibility of taking avoiding action. He knew that if he diverged the least bit from his course, he would be unable to utilise the special equipment to the best advantage. He was determined to complete the run and provide an accurate and easily seen aiming-point for the other bombers. He ignored the double risk of fire and explosion in his aircraft and kept on. With his engines developing unequal power, an immense effort was needed to keep the damaged aircraft on a straight course . Nevertheless, he made a perfect approach and his bombs hit the target. His aircraft was last seen spiralling to earth in flames. Such was the strength of the opposition that more than half of his formation failed to return. Squadron Leader Palmer was an outstanding pilot. He displayed conspicuous bravery. His record of prolonged and heroic endeavour is beyond praise”.

(2) During the recovery of the remains of the crew from the aircraft wreckage a number of personal items of documentation were found that belonged to Flt Lt. Russell. These were stored and recorded by the Germans and later found after the war. Amongst these items were a page from his log book whilst serving with 102 Sqn, a newspaper cutting reporting the award of his DFC and also his Royal Air Force Flying Clothing Card issued at RAF Bournemouth on the 12th October 1942.

Above: A page from Flt Lt. Russell’s Log Book for his missions whilst serving with 102 Sqn.

Above: Newspaper cutting report his award of the DFC.

(3) Russell Kaye Yeulett was born on the 23rd May 1921. He enlisted in the RAF as a regular airman on the 23rd May 1938.

After baling out he was taken to the Kriegsgefange-nenlazarett Hoffnungsthal (PoW Hospital at Hoffnungsthal) for treatment for his injuries. He was then transferred to Stalag 6G, Duisdorf in Bonn where he remained until the 3rd February 1945 when he was transferred to Dulag Luft Wetzlar, Frankfurt arriving there on the 6th February.

On the 17th February he was transferred to Stalag 8D at Nuremberg arriving there on the 20th February 1945.

Flt Sgt. Yeulett awarded the DFM whilst with 582 Sqn, London Gazette 27th March 1945.

On the 4th April, he was transferred to Stalag 7A arriving there on the 19th April 1945. The camp held some 130,000 PoW’s which was ten times its designed capacity. On the 29th April 1945 the camp was liberated by elements of the US 14th Armoured Division.

He remained at the camp until the 6th May 1945 before he was returned to England and interviewed on the 12th May 1945.

On the 3rd September 1945 Flt Sgt. Yeulett was a passenger aboard Trans World Airlines KP208 out of Dorval, Quebec Canada arriving at LaGuardia Airport, New York, USA . Aboard were 19 RAF and RCAF Officers and SNCOs under Military Orders for an indefinite period.

After leaving the service he moved to Australia to work and then Emigrated to New Zealand.

Russell Kaye Yeulett passed away in Cairns in Australia on the 24th October 2003.

Burial Details:

The crew were initially interred at the Hoffnungsthal cemetery and were recovered and interred at the Rheinberg War Cemetery on the 23rd June 1947.

Above: Sqn Ldr. Robert Anthony Maurice Palmer VC, DFC and Bar.

Sqn Ldr. Robert Anthony Maurice Palmer VC, DFC and Bar. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Joint Grave 14. C. 13-14. Grave inscription; ‘A LONELY IMPULSE OF DELIGHT DROVE TO THIS TUMULT IN THE CLOUDS’. Born on the 7th July 1920 in Gillingham, Kent. Son of Arthur Robert Farley and Lillian Alexander Winifred (née Skuse) Palmer and brother of Douglas Palmer of Gravesend, Kent, England.

Flt Lt. Palmer was awarded the DFC whilst with 109 Sqn, London Gazette 30th June 1944;

He was awarded the Bar to his DFC whilst with 109 Sqn, London Gazette 8th December 1944;

His name is also on the RAF Memorial, St. Clement Dane's Church, Aldwych, Central London.

Above: Grave marker for Flt Lt. Owen S Milne DFC (Courtesy of Des Philippet - FindAGrave)

Flt Lt. Owen Strachan Milne DFC. Rheinberg War Cemetery 14.C.12. Hailed from Montrose, Angus, Scotland. No further details found.

Flt Lt. Milne was posthumously awarded the DFC whilst with 582 Sqn, London Gazette 16th January 1945;

He is also remembered on the Roll of Honour at the Scottish National War Memorial.

Above: Grave marker for Sqn Ldr. Albert L. Carter DFC, MiD (Courtesy of Des Philippet - FindAGrave)

Sqn Ldr. Albert Leslie Carter DFC, MiD. Rheinberg War Cemetery 14.C.10. Grave Inscription: ‘ALWAYS IN THE THOUGHTS OF HIS LOVING WIFE RUBY. MAM, DAD, AND FAMILIES. R.I.P.’. Born on the 24th April 1915 in Purton, Cricklade, Wiltshire. Son of Thomas Pontin and Alice Emma (née Ball) Carter. Husband of Ruby Eileen (née Moody) Carter, of Wroughton, Wiltshire, England.

565234 Sgt. Albert Leslie Carter was Mentioned in Despatches (MiD) and promulgated in the London Gazette on the 4th October 1940;

Sqn Ldr. Carter MiD, was posthumously awarded the DFC whilst with 582 Sqn, London Gazette 12th February 1946.

Above: Grave marker for Flt Lt. George Russell DFC (Courtesy of Des Philippet - FindAGrave)

Flt Lt. George Russell DFC. Rheinberg War Cemetery Joint Grave 14.C.13-14.

Grave inscription: BELOVED SON OF JAMES AND SUSAN RUSSELL, LINKS ROAD, LEVEN, FIFE. "TILL WE MEET"’. Son of James and Susan Wilson Russell, of Leven, Fife, Scotland.

Flt Lt. Russell was awarded the DFC whilst with 102 Sqn, London Gazette 10th December 1943;

He is also remembered on the Roll of Honour at the Scottish National War Memorial.

Above: Grave marker for Flt Sgt. Bert Nundy MiD (Courtesy of Des Philippet - FindAGrave)

Flt Sgt. Bert Nundy MiD. Rheinberg War Cemetery 14.C.9. Born in the 1st Qtr of 1923 in Hull, Yorkshire North Riding. Grave Inscription: ‘AT THE GOING DOWN OF THE SUN AND IN THE MORNING WE WILL REMEMBER HIM’. Son of Herbert Stanley and Florence Alice (née Sewell) Nundy of Hull, England.

Flt Sgt. Nundy was posthumously Mentioned in Despatches (MiD) which was promulgated in the London Gazette on the 1st January 1946.

Above: Grave marker for Fg Off. William Dalgarno (Courtesy of Des Philippet - FindAGrave)

Fg Off. William Dalgarno. Rheinberg War Cemetery 14.C.11. Born in Aberdeen, Scotland. Husband to Jemima (née Gowans) Delgarno of Dundee, Scotland.

Fg Off. Dalgarno is also remembered on the Roll of Honour at the Scottish National War Memorial.

Researched by Ralph Snape and dedicated to the relatives of this crew.

Other sources listed below:

RS 28.11.2023 - Correction to crash location and addition of Flt Lt. Russell information

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