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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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432 Squadron Crest
21/22.01.1944 No. 432 Squadron Lancaster II DS843 QO-O Fl/Sgt. J.S. Poole

Operation: Magdeburg

Date: 21/22nd January 1944 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit: No. 432 Squadron (Leaside (1) No. 6 Group

Type: Lancaster II

Serial: DS843

Code: QO-O

Base: RAF East Moor, North Yorkshire

Location: River Elbe, Breitenhagen, Germany

Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Jack Sealy Poole 1334787 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Jack Herbert Williams 1604309 RAFVR Pow No: 1030 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus (357)

Nav: Fl/Sgt. William Mills Thomson 1348369 RAFVR Pow No: 1179 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria (L4)

Air/Bmr: P/O. Mark Proctor Bailhache 1322954 RAFVR Pow No: 1169 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria (L3)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Edward Michael Myer 1382834 RAFVR Age 24. Killed

Air/Gnr-M/U: Sgt. Douglas Layne Pocock R/163007 RCAF Age 19. Killed

Air/Gnr-R: P/O. William John O’Donnell AUS/420906 RAAF Age 28. Killed


Taking off from RAF East Moor in North Yorkshire at 20:23 hrs to make the first major attack of the war on the Magdeburg/Rothensee plant that produced synthetic oil from lignite coal. Part of a force of 648 aircraft, made up from 421 Lancasters 224 Halifaxes and 3 Mosquitoes.

The German night fighters were ready as the bomber stream had been followed by the German controllers. They were very slow though to identify the target but anyway the night fighters were in the area with the bomber stream. During the raid a huge amount of losses were experienced by the attacking group with 35 Halifaxes and 22 Lancasters lost which were mainly due to the attacking night fighters. It has not been possible for individual claims to be placed against a German pilot - such was the fury of the combat and confusion this night.

This huge loss was not even rewarded with a successful attack as the strong winds brought some of the force into the target area before the pathfinders and as a result 27 bombers bombed before the pathfinders had marked the area. Most of the bombing fell outside the city.

Lancaster DS843 was due to return by 02:43 hrs - having not returned it was then classed as missing and the Air Ministry, RCAF HQ, informed on the 22nd January 1944.

The Berlin attachment of the No. 4 MREU (Missing Research and Enquiry Unit) investigated the graves of the dead crew on the 19th November 1947 led by Fl/Lt. John R. Hughes. With permission of the Russian occupation forces they proceeded to the cemetery to exhume and identify the 4 bodies. This was possible due to some of the ID discs still in place, and other personal items / uniform markings within the grave. The local Burgermeister Herr. Knopf recalled that the aircraft came down on fire into the River Elbe which at the time was in flood. He went on to explain that it was not until a month later that the wreckage was salvaged and the bodies of the dead crew removed. They were then buried at the Breitenhagen cemetery in two coffins in late February. The cemetery did not hold records and the grave was marked with a simple cross inscribed: “Four unknown British Airman, killed in action 22.01.1944.”

Tragically the families of some of the dead crew had been written a letter by a Father Laplante stating that the crew were all safe but interned in Sweden. He later wrote an apology for causing additional suffering as he was unable to provide foundation for his statement.

Also lost from the Squadron on this operation:

Lancaster II LL724 QO-N Flown by 23 year old F/O. Lawrence Firge Legace J/22893 RCAF from Fort William, Ontario, Canada - killed with all other 6 crew.

Experience of crew: Fl/Sgt. Jack Sealy Poole: 14.5 operational trips, 93.02 hrs logged. Sgt. Jack Herbert Williams: 2 operational trips, 17.10 hrs logged. Fl/Sgt. William Mills Thomson: 13.5 operational trips, 83.00 hrs logged. P/O. Mark Proctor Bailhache: 14.0 operational trips, 90.03 hrs logged. Fl/Sgt. Edward Michael Myer: 13.5 operational trips, 87.32 hrs logged. Sgt. Douglas Layne Pocock: 15 operational trips - understood to have been standing in for an RAF crew member for this flight. P/O. William John O’Donnell: 14.5 operational trips, 86.32 hrs logged.

(1) As part of a Royal Canadian Air Force public relations plan, the town of Leaside officially “adopted” No. 432 Squadron RCAF. Formed and adopted on 1 May 1943 the squadron took the town's name as its nickname, becoming 432 "Leaside" squadron RCAF. The sponsorship lasted the duration of the war.

Burial details:

Fl/Sgt. Jack Sealy Poole. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Grave IX.C.7. Son of John Sealy Poole and Mary Katherine Poole, of Reading, Berkshire, England.

Fl/Sgt. Edward Michael Myer. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Grave 2.M.9. Son of Moss and Sara Myer; husband of Phyllis Myer, of Wormley, Hertfordshire, England.

Sgt. Douglas Layne Pocock. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Grave 2.M.7. Son of Douglas Stephen and D'Arcy Mary Pocock, of Highbourne Road, Swansea, Ontario, Canada.

P/O. William John O’Donnell. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Grave 2.M.8. Born on the 11th April 1915 in Darlinghurst NSW, the son of Robert Owen O'Donnell and Lillian Trevar O'Donnell and husband of Patricia Lillian Rosaline O'Donnell, of 15 Joseph Street, Ashfield, New South Wales, Australia. At the time of the loss he was a Fl/Sgt. but commission retrospectively with effect from the 11th January 1944.

Researched for Roger Bailhache, son of P/O. Mark Proctor Bailhache and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to sources as shown.

KTY - 08.03.2017

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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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