20/21.02.1945 432 (Leaside) Squadron, RCAF Halifax VII RG455 QO:X memorial placed to crew
Date: 20th/21st February 1945 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
Unit: 432 (Leaside) Squadron, RCAF
Type: Halifax VII
Base: RAF East Moor, North Yorkshire
Location: West of Cologne
Pilot: Fg Off. Edwin Frederick Patzer J87362 RCAF Age 21. Killed (1)
Flt Eng: Sgt. Christopher Ignatius Grant 1532005 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Nav: Fg Off. George Borden Henson J36831 RCAF Age? PoW - Unknown Camp
Bomb Aimer: Fg Off. Alexander Humphrey May J29390 RCAF Age 25. PoW - Unknown Camp
WOp/Air Gnr: Plt Off. Frank Shannon Daley J92535 RCAF Age? PoW - Unknown Camp
Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Flt Sgt. Joseph William Burke McIntosh R164615 RCAF Age? PoW - Unknown Camp
Air Gnr (Rear): Flt Sgt. Wells Gibb Mendenhall R202727 RCAF Age 22. Killed
A research special by Willi Weiss for Aircrew Remembered
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 10:13 p.m. from East Moor, Yorkshire joining 112 Halifaxes from 408, 415, 420, 425, 426, 427, 429, and 432 Squadrons. Ordered on an attack of the oil refinery at Rhenania Ossag Oil works, Monheim (Shell). The crews were over the target at between 14,000 and 16,000 feet, releasing 698,000 lbs. of high explosives. According to reports, bombing was accurate and severe damage was caused.
This was the 30th operation for Fg Off. Patzer the 28th for Sgt. Grant and the 29th for the remainder of the crew.
The long missions that Gibb spent in the upper gunner position must have been tense, and often terrifying. At any moment, there was the possibility of an attack or a collision with another bomber, especially as one approached the target. Over the target, blindingly bright searchlights, exploding flak, bursting bombs and perhaps incoming cannon fire cannot have made for pleasant scenery. If those searchlights "coned" a bomber in their glare, only violent evasive action by the pilot might save it.
Crew photo: left - right rear: Fg Off. Patzer, Fg Off. Henson, Sgt. Grant, and Plt Off. Daley. Left - right front: Fg Off. May, Flt Sgt. McIntosh and Flt Sgt. Mendenhall (courtesy Willi Weiss)
Four members of this crew, Fg Off. Henson, Fg Off. Daley and FltSgt. McIntosh were taken Prisoners of War and subsequently returned to UK Upon their return they made the following statements:
Fg Off. Henson (of Toronto) stated the A/C crashed at approx. 01:49 hrs. 21.2.45, approx. 15 miles SE of Dusseldorf. He further states the Rear Gunner saw Fg Off. Patzer’s Identity Card (burnt) and Identity Disc in German hands and was informed that Fg Off. Patzer was dead.
Flt Sgt. McIntosh (of Sydney, NS) stated that the aircraft crashed in the Ruhr area near Koln. He was told by the Germans that Fg Off. Patzer, Fg Off. Daley and FltSgt. Mendenhall had crashed and burnt in the aircraft (incorrectly, as Daley later returned to the UK)
Plt Off. Daley (of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada) stated the aircraft crashed near Dortmund and the Germans told him that Fg Off. Patzer had been killed. (Incorrect in that later information placed the crashed aircraft as near Koln).
Fg Off. May (of Palmerston, Ontario. Born Wainright, Alberta, 1920. Deceased 3 April, 1974 age just 54) stated the aircraft crashed 12 miles SW of Koln and that the aircraft was in a spin and it was unlikely that Fg Off. Patzer, Sgt. Grant or Flt Sgt. Mendenhall got out. He saw the aircraft burning on the ground. They had heard from the Wireless Operator and Air Gunner, who had been told by the Germans, that the Pilot was dead. The German report received through the IRGC in this case stated that Patzer B.P. Flt Lt. probably a Halifax shot down 21.2.45 near Oberaussen, 18 kilometers West of Koln, N. 21”, Oberaussen is at map ref K 51/2767. No particulars of burial given.
Two further witnesses of the attempted shooting incident are Frau Saballa, and Unteroffizier Hubert Von Der Stuck.
All the information regarding the alleged shooting incident has been forwarded to the War Crimes Commission for their necessary action. No. 2738 Squadron are not able to state conclusively that the number of bodies buried were two, but the grave digger was emphatic that the remains were those of two men. He mentions three legs as being buried. This Unit states that experts might be able to identify the aircraft as Halifax RG455.
L-R: Fg Off. Edwin Patzer (Yorkton, Saskatchewan), Fg Off. George Henson (Toronto, Ontario), Fg Off. Alexander May (Manitouliin Island, Ontario), Plt Off. Frank Daley (Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario), Flt Sgt. Wells Mendenhall (Raymond, Alberta), Flt Sgt. Joseph McIntosh (Sydney, Nova Scotia), Sgt. Christopher Grant (courtesy Paula Young - April 2017)
The information was given by Fg Off. Henson, Flt Sgt. McIntosh and Fg Off. May as to the location of the crash corresponds with that given in the German report received through the IRCC. From this information, and that supplied by 2738 Squadron, it appears fairly certain that the “two” unknown airmen buried at Oberuassen were members of the above mentioned aircraft. However, it is desired, if possible, to confirm that the two, and not three bodies were buried there. Alternatively, to review the possibility of the bodies being so broken up that in fact the remains of three airmen were removed from the crash and buried at Oberaussen.
Memorial at crash site today (courtesy Willi Weiss)
Report by H. White:
"On arriving at Oberhaussen I questioned Herr Brugger in whose back garden the crash took place, and from him I obtained the following information. Between 01:00 hours and 02:00 hours on the 21st February 1945 an aircraft which he later recognised to be a Halifax, crashed in flames into his back garden, and remained burning for three days.
The wreckage has been removed from his garden into an adjoining field, and inspecting it clearly recognised it to be a Halifax, although it is burnt right out. One piece of metal, believed to be part of fuselage bore the following number: 5730 F2 ISU EEP36292, another piece believed to be part of the Accessory Drive and embossed No. 8 FB 79496 BA and stamped HER 205299. Amongst the wreckage 3 propellor blades were found and he listed the serial numbers. He interrogated Fuchs, the cemetery keeper, who was rather doubtful as to the number of bodies he buried. He recognised, however, the parts of two bodies, but does not deny the possibility of a third one. Herr. Brugger, the chief witness of the crash, later informed me that early this year (1946) whilst clearing the wreckage from his garden, he discovered parts of a human body, partly carbonised a silver ring bearing the initials G.M. was found on one of the fingers, this could refer to Fl/Sgt. Mendenhall W.G. (I have not been able to trace this ring as it was taken away by the former police.) The remains of the body were put in a wooden box and buried in the same grave as the other two airmen. This was confirmed by Fuchs, the Cemetery Keeper. He then concluded that the two bodies were removed from the aircraft when it crashed and the third buried under the wreckage, and discovered only this year (1946). "
Fg Off. George Borden Henson, Toronto, Canada. Fg Off. Alexander Humphrey May, Palmerston, Ontario, Canada. Born Wainright, Alberta, 1920. Deceased 3rd April, 1974. Plt Off. Frank Shannon Daley, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. Fl/Sgt. Joseph William Burke McIntosh, Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Flt Sgt. Joseph William Burke McIntosh obituary:
Born 17 January, 1921, Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. Son of Professor Bernie and Freda nee MacLellan McIntosh. Deceased 30th January 2010, Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada.
He joined the RCAF during the Second World War in 1941 and mustered out in 1945 as a flying officer. During the war his plane was shot down over Germany. He was captured and was a prisoner of war until the war ended. Burke had an interesting experience a few years ago. He was involved in correspondence with a family from the town in Germany where his plane crashed and three crew members were killed. This was the family that witnessed Burke parachute into their yard. The 15-year old daughter had kept a diary of that evening in February 1945. They watched where Burke had hidden his parachute and the next day they recovered it and made clothes for their family. The diary writer said the clothes were much needed and had lasted for years. This year of correspondence, through the nephew of one of the men who was killed on the plane, ended with an invitation to the town in Germany where this nephew and his family attended a memorial service. It was also attended by the family that started the research as well as the mayor and people of the village who became involved in this research of RCAF flight 408. A brass plaque was struck to remember the whole crew. The names of those who died and those who lived are inscribed on this memorial. Burke was a member of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 12.
Fg Off. Edwin Frederick Patzer. Rheinberg War Cemetery Joint Grave 17.D. 10-11. Son of Benjamin and Paulina (nee Hait) brother of Thadeus (Ted), Oscar, Lerif (Larry) and Eric of Yorkton, Also to Amy and Herta of Saskatchewan, Canada, wife of Elizabeth (neé webster) of Blackburn, West Lothian, Scotland, father of Paula Elizabeth. His parents originated from Poland prior to the first world war.
Right: original grave marker.
Sgt. Christopher Ignatius Grant. Rheinberg War Cemetery Joint Grave 17.D. 10-11. No further details
Plt Off. Wells Gibb Mendenhall. Rheinberg War Cemetery Joint Grave 17.D. 9. Son of Thomas T. Mendenhall and Hannah Gibb Mendenhall, of Raymond, Alberta, Canada.
Posthumously commissions and promoted to Plt Off. J93949
Researched by: Willi Weis / Kelvin T. Youngs. With thanks to the following: Willi Weiss with information from his Rhine Archives. Paula Patzer Young for pilot next of kin details. (Paula is his niece and daughter of Thadeus - Ted ), Bill Barry and the Saskatchewan Virtual War Memorial. Also to the family of Flt Sgt. Gibb Mendenhall for the photographs and obituary. Further detailed information submitted by Dave Champion (Mar 2016). Service numbers of crew updated by Aircrew Remembered (Feb 2022)
(1) Patzer Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada is named after F/O. Edwin Frederick Patzer
Willi Weiss has also written many articles and books on the world war two period. The majority are in his native German but some are available in English - contact us for further information.