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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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405 (Vancouver) Squadron
18/19.03.1945 405 (Vancouver) Squadron RCAF Lancaster III PB451 Fg Off. George E. Peaker

Operation: Witten, Germany

Date: 18th/19th March 1945 (Sunday/Monday)

Unit No: 405 (Vancouver) Squadron, RCAF, 8 (Pathfinder) Group, Bomber Command

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: PB451

Code: LQ:G

Base: RAF Gransden Lodge, Cambridgeshire

Location: Merklinde near Dortmund, Germany

Pilot: Fg Off. George Ernest Peaker RCAF J35687 Age 33. KiA

Flt Eng: Sgt. Alexander Kirkcaldy 1001793 RAFVR Age 36. KiA

Nav: Fg Off. Ernest Hayes RCAF J40061 Age 21. KiA

Bomb Aimer: Fg Off. Robert Stuart Butterworth RCAF J38675 Age 26. KiA

Visual Bomb Aimer: Sgt. Roy Peter Smith RAFVR 1395145 Age. 21. KiA

WOp/Air Gnr: WO2 Ralph Murray Baker RCAF R198093 Age 22. KiA

Air Gnr (MU): Flt Sgt. Ernest Francis Perrault RCAF R215508 Age 20. KiA

Air Gnr (Rear): Flt Sgt. Joseph Paul Hector Adam RCAF R187844 Age 21. KiA

Above: Left to Right: Fg Off. Peaker, Fg Off Hayes, Fg Off. Butterworth from their service records.

Above: Left to Right: WO2 Baker, Flt Sgt. Perrault, Flt Sgt. Adam from their service records


Lancaster III PB451 took off from RAF Gransden Lodge at 01:32 hrs and was one of 16 aircraft detailed to mark the target at Witten in Germany. The aircraft failed to return and nothing had been heard from the crew since take off.

A claim for a 4-Mot was made by Hptm. Fritz Lau, his 24th Abschuss from 4./NJG1, 10 km NE of Witten at 5.200 m at 04:20 hrs.

The combat report by Hptm. Lau to the 18th/19th March 1945 reads as follows:

"At 03:39 hrs [sic - actually 03:49 hrs, according to Lau’s Flugbuch, or 03:50 hrs according to the Kriegstagebuch of II./NJG1. Author’s Note] on 19th March 1945, I took off from Werl airfield in Bf110 G9+MM for a dark and unguided Tame Boar night fighting sortie. I received orders to proceed to box "Ratte". I had only just arrived in the area when enemy activity started to the south of me. I headed in that direction and in the next instant I spotted a four-engined enemy aircraft ahead of me, flying at a height of about 5.200 m. At 04:15 hrs I attacked it from behind at a distance of some 80-100 m, aiming my first burst of gun-fire into the rear turret and the next into the left-hand wing, which immediately burst into bright flames near the outer engine, and trailed a long banner of smoke. The bomber started a wide left-hand turn, whilst rapidly losing height. When it had descended to a height of 2.000 m, it plunged down vertically and crashed at 04:20 hrs, about 10 km NE of the target. I never lost sight of the enemy aircraft from the moment of my first attack until it crashed ".

This claim was for either 77 Sqn Halifax VI RG529 or PB451. Both of the aircraft crashed at the same time within a very short distance of each other at Merklinde, some 4 km SSE of Castrop-Rauxel. (Nachtjagd War Diaries Volume 2 (April 1944 - May 1945) - Dr Theo E.W. Boiten & Roderick J. Mackenzie).

An Investigation report from No. 20 Missing Research & Enquiry Unit (MREU) reported that two aircraft crashed in the Merklinde area of Castrop-Rauxel with both aircraft falling within a hundred yards of each other in circumstances which indicated a mid-air collision. Fifteen bodies were recovered, seven from Halifax VI RG529 and eight from Lancaster III PB451, and transferred to the mortuary of the military hospital at Lütgendortmund, some 3 km SE of Merklinde.

Local opinion was that the bodies were then taken to the main cemetery in Dortmund but the cemetery lists did not record any entries that could be associated with them. Searches of the surrounding cemeteries revealed no trace. However, information from the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC), revealed that there was an unmarked part of plot 17 that was opened and revealed fifteen bodies. The bodies recovered were positively identified, with the exception of two, by comparison with medical records and physical descriptions. The two exceptions were Flt Sgt. Dyke and Plt Off. Edwards who were the air gunners from RG529.

Had they been identified in the Dortmund cemetery records they would have been buried in graves marked as 110 to 125 inclusive.

This was the last crew posted missing from the Squadron during its tenure as a Path Finder Force (PFF) Squadron. In late May 1945, the Squadron moved to RAF Linton-on-Ouse and converted to the Lancaster X, before leaving for Canada on the 16th June 1945.

Burial details:

Fg Off. George Ernest Peaker. Rheinburg War Cemetery, 13.F.4. Born on the 7th July 1911 in Hull, England. Son of Ernest Decent Peaker and Alice (née Cawood) Peaker of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. His mother predeceased him.

Sgt. Alexander Kirkcaldy. Rheinburg War Cemetery, 13.F.6. Inscription reads: "LOVED HUSBAND OF JESSIE, DEAR DADDY OF LISBETH, DONALD & SANDY "UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN"". Born during 1909. Son of Donald Stewart and Clara May (née Proctor) Kirkcaldy. Husband of Jessie Anne Robson (née Cowie) Kirkcaldy, of Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, England.

Fg Off. Ernest Hayes. Rheinburg War Cemetery, 13.F.3. Born on the 26th October 1923 in Lachine, Quebec. Son of Ernest and Nora (née Clarke) Hayes, of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Fg Off. Robert Stuart Butterworth. Rheinburg War Cemetery, 13.F.7. Inscription reads: "AS WE LOVED HIM, SO WE MISS HIM". Born on the 25th May 1918 in Ottawa, Ontario. Son of Ernest Albert Reynolds and Agnes Merle (née Bannerman) Butterworth; husband of Georgina Best Butterworth, of Richville, New York, USA. Member Phalanx Hon. Frat., Clarkson College, USA.

Sgt. Roy Peter Smith. Rheinburg War Cemetery, 13.F.1. Inscription reads: ""O VALIANT HEART" TILL WE MEET AGAIN".Born in 1924. Son of Ernest Henry and Winifred Smith. of Tooting, Surrey, England.

WO2 Ralph Murray Baker. Rheinburg War Cemetery, 13.F.8. Inscription reads: "SUNSHINE FADES AND SHADOWS FALL, BUT SWEET REMEMBRANCE OUTLASTS ALL". Born on the 25th November 1922 in Toronto, Ontario. Son of Thomas Arthur and Mary Ann (née Fisher) Baker, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Flt Sgt. Ernest Francis Perrault. Rheinburg War Cemetery, 13.F.2. Inscription reads: "THOUGH FAR AWAY, EVER REMEMBERED BY MOTHER, FATHER, SISTERS AND RELATIVES". Born on the 17th July 1924 in Fort Frances, Ontario. Son of Albert and Dona Perrault, of Fort Frances, Ontario, Canada.

Plt Off. Joseph Paul Hector Adam. Rheinburg War Cemetery, 13.F.5. Inscription reads: "FOND MEMORIES HOLD HIM NEAR. LOVE LINGERS IN OUR HEARTS EVERY DAY". Born on the 20th October 1923 in Tecumeh, Ontario. Son of Herve and Marie Anne (née Dumontier) Adam, of Tecumseh, Ontario, Canada.

Flt Sgt. Adam was commissioned and promoted to Plt Off. (J95443) with effect 17th March 1945.

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

Other sources listed below:

RS 04.08.2021 - Initial upload

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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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