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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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218 Squadron Crest
23/24.05.1943 No. 218 Squadron Stirling III BK706 HA-Y F/O. John Phillips

Operation: Dortmund

Date: 23/24th May 1943 (Sunday/Monday)

Unit: No. 218 Squadron

Type: Stirling III

Serial: BK706

Code: HA-Y

Base: RAF Downham Market, Norfolk

Location: Saarbrüker Strasse, Dortmund, Germany

Pilot: F/O. John Phillips 124870 RAFVR Age 29. Missing - believed killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Maurice Louis Seth Drabble 975397 RAFVR Age 23. Missing - believed killed

Nav: Sgt. George Sinclair Wishart 1551786 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Air/Bmr: Sgt. Derek Arthur Frank Paveley 1320174 RAFVR Age 20. Missing - believed killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. William George Kirby 1385246 RAFVR Age ? Missing - believed killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Gordon Bruce Leadbeater R/155623 RCAF Age 22. Missing - believed killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Charles Edward Bryant 1451681 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Would Mr. J. Mitchell please email us as he has advised us by post that he has further information/photographs of Sgt. Maurice Drabble?

The researcher for this loss, Mr. John Williams, would very much like contact with any relatives - please contact us in the first instance.


Their initial pilot that the crew had been allowed to, 21 year old Sgt. Frank Norman Robertson 1094894 RAFVR from Darlington, County Durham, England was killed flying as a second ‘dickie’ on Stirling III BF505 HA-Z was killed on the 04th May 1943 again on an operation to Dortmund. (5 crew killed, 3 PoW)


Mining laying Frisian Islands. 13/14th May 1943. R9196 - Mining laying Frisian Islands. 16/17th May 1943. R9196 - Mining Laying Gironde River. 20/21st May 1943. BK706 - Dortmund. 23/24th May 1943. BK706. Failed to return.

Taking off at 23:29 hrs on an operation to Dortmund. After a 9 day break in major operations, Bomber Command dispatched 826 aircraft to Dortmund - a record number of aircraft in a "non 1,000" raid so far in the war and the largest raid of the Battle of the Ruhr. The force comprised of 343 Lancasters, 199 Halifaxes, 151 Wellingtons, 120 Stirlings and 13 Mosquitoes. 38 aircraft - 18 Halifaxes, 8 Lancasters, 6 Stirlings, 6 Wellingtons - were lost.

The Pathfinders marked the target accurately in clear weather conditions and the ensuing attack proceeded according to plan. It was a very successful raid. The operation caused devastation to the centre and outlying districts of the city. 2,000 buildings were destroyed, many of them industrial including the Hoesch steelworks. Casualties on the ground amounted to over 600 killed with a further 1,275 injured.

The force from Bomber Command was hit hard losing some 41 aircraft. 189 aircrew were killed, 68 being made PoW.

Understood that the aircraft was hit by flak and crashed on the Saarbrüker Strasse, Dortmund. Only the bodies of Charles Bryant and George Wishart were recovered - the remainder inscribed on the Runnymede Memorial.

Burial details:

F/O. John Phillips. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 128. Son of John Penrhyn Phillips and Leonora Amy Phillips.

Sgt. Maurice Louis Seth Drabble. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 148. Born on the 01st March 1920 in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England. Son of Frederick and Salome Drabble of Woodingdean, Brighton, Sussex.

Sgt. George Sinclair Wishart. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 3.D.4. Son of S. J. and Ina Wishart, of Eyemouth, Berwickshire, England.

Sgt. Derek Arthur Frank Paveley. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 161. Son of Arthur George and Ellen Paveley, of Chelmsford, Essex, England.

Sgt. William George Kirby. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 156. Son of Walter Henry and Emily Dorothy Kirby, of Stoke Newington, London, England.

Sgt. Gordon Bruce Leadbeater. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 186. Born on the 04th March 1921 at Pelly. Son of Wilbert Sylvester (died 1979, age 86) and Laura Milly Leadbeater (née Whestone - died 1987, age 94), of Pelly, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Sgt. Charles Edward Bryant. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 3.D.7. Son of Frederick Charles and Selina Bryant, of Altrincham, Cheshire.

Researched by John Williams for Aircrew Remembered - August 2016 and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Des Philippet for grave photographs. Others from the John Williams collection. Details on Sgt. Maurice Drabble added by Mr. J. Mitchell - his nephew, who wrote to us in October 2016, Also for Cindy Hildebrand, relative of Sgt. Leadbeater who contacted us in May 2022..

KTY Updated 17-05-2022

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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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