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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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156 Squadron badge
24/25.02.1944 156 Squadron Lancaster III JB479 GT-K Wg.Cdr. Porter

Operation: Schweinfurt

Date: 24/25th February 1944 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: No. 156 Squadron

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: JB479

Code: GT-K

Base: RAF Warboys, Cambridgeshire

Location: Herzenbach, near Schapbach, Germany.

Pilot: W/Cdr. Eric Frederick Porter 26243 RAF Age 35. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Howard William Jones 619144 RAF Age ? Killed

Nav: F/O. Christopher Gibson 134061 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air/Bmr: Sgt. Leslie Wilfred Whitefield 1253817 RAFVR Age 27. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Frederick Albert Goodwin 1336800 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. James Walter Gilbert 1178418 RAFVR Age 32. Killed

Air/Gnr: P/O. Alfred Colvin DFC 54235 RAF Age 25. Killed

Page kindly sponsored by Jillian M. Cox - December 2020 - relative of the pilot

The son of the mid-upper gunner, Sgt. James Gilbert, would like to be in contact with other crew member relatives. Please contact us and your details will be forwarded. (June 2014)


Taking off at 18.35 hrs from RAF Warboys, Cambridgeshire (then Huntingdonshire).

A total of 734 aircraft taking part on this first Bomber Command raid on this city. The USAAF had attacked the ball bearing factories in the city during the daylight hours of the 24th.

Left: Commanding Officer of 156 Squadron (since November 1943), W/Cdr. Eric Porter who decided to go on this operation. Right: Sgt. James Walter Gilbert (see credits)

A new method was introduced by Bomber Command in that the operation was split into two halves, separated by a two hour interval. The purpose was to reduce losses to allied aircrews. The first raid cost a total of 22 aircraft, with the second raid losing half this amount.

No direct results from this operation, but it is understood that the damage to the factories in the combined operation is described as "nominal" with 362 people killed on the ground.

A total of 167 RAF crew were killed, 69 taken PoW and 3 evading capture.

156 Squadron lost 3 aircraft on this first part of the operation:

Lancaster III ND454 GT-L flown by P/O. Stanley Neighbour killed along with 6 other crew members.
Lancaster III JB721 GT-F flown by Fl/Lt. J.A. Day DFC taken pow along with his flight engineer with the remaining 5 crew killed.

On the return trip, Lancaster JB479 was attacked and shot down by a German night fighter and crashed at Herzenbach, near Schapbach, 15 miles south east of Offenberg, Germany.

Claim by Oblt Paul Zorner 8/NJG3 - WSW Stuttgart: 5,800m at 22:22 hrs. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (1 January - 15 March 1944) Part 1 - Theo Boiten)
In July 2014, Peter gilbert sent Aircrew Remembered copies of his fathers logbook. It confirms that he has served with W/Cdr. Porter since his training days at 1660 HCU. He had also served with 14 OTU, 1660 HCU, 619, 83 and 156 Squadrons as a mid-upper gunner. Awarded the Pathfinder badge on the 8th March 1944.

Right, the telegram all relatives feared (courtesy Peter Gilbert)

List of operations carried out:
Bochum - 30.09.1943 Pilot - F/O. Arden 619 Squadron
Hagen - 01.10.1943 Pilot - Sgt. Hughes 619 Squadron
Berlin 28.11.1943 Pilot - W/Cdr. Porter - returned early
Berlin 01.12.1943 Pilot - W/Cdr. Porter
Leipzig 03.12.1943 Pilot - W/Cdr. Porter
Frankfurt 20.12.1943 Pilot - W/Cdr. Porter
Berlin 29.12.1943 Pilot - W/Cdr. Porter
Berlin 03.01.1944 Pilot - W/Cdr. Porter
Stettin 05.01.1944 Pilot - W/Cdr. Porter
Brunswick14.01.1944 Pilot - W/Cdr. Porter
Berlin 20.01.1944 Pilot - W/Cdr. Porter
Leipzig 19.02.1944 Pilot - W/Cdr. Porter
Schweinfurt 24.02.1944 Pilot - W/Cdr. Porter - final operation.

Durnbach War Cemetery and crew graves (courtesy of David Franklin for Aircrew Remembered)

Above - Monument erected close to the crash site in the midst of the Herzenbach forest. (Courtesy of Joerg Mezger)

Translation: "Found here on February 24, 1944. seven British soldiers were killed in air raids"

Left: Durnbach War Cemetery

Burial details:

W/Cdr. Eric Frederick Porter. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 4.K.2-7. Son of William Porter and of Jane Porter (née Coysh), husband of Nancy Porter.

Sgt. Howard William Jones. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 4.K.2-7.NoK details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?

F/O. Christopher Gibson. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 4.K.2-7. Son of Frederick James Gibson and Alice Lucy Gibson, of Rugby, Warwickshire, England.

Sgt. Leslie Wilfred Whitefield. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 4.K.1. Son of John Whitefield, and of Mary Anne Selina Whitefield (née Smith), of Hayes, Middlesex, England.

Sgt. Frederick Albert Goodwin. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 4.K.2-7. Son of William Frederick and Laura Lillian Goodwin, of Dover, England.

Sgt. James Walter Gilbert. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 4.K.2-7. Son of George and Elsie E. Gilbert, husband of Marjorie Vera Gilbert, Father to Peter, of 43 Scotland Road, Market Harborough, Leicestershire, England. Born 22nd February 1912. In 2009 his son advised the CWGC that his age was inscribed incorrectly as 38 on the headstone, in 2011 they advised that it has now been changed.

P/O. Alfred Colvin DFC. Durnbach War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 4.K.2-7. Son of Alfred and Mary Colvin, husband of Enid Colvin, of Anfield, Liverpool, England.

Researched for Gail Baker, daughter of W/Cdr. Eric Porter - also for Peter Gilbert, son of Sgt. James Gilbert and all the relatives of the crew with thanks to the following for additional information, David Franklin, Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses' Vol. 5, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vol's. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Tom Kracker - 'Kracker Luftwaffe Archives'. The boys at the 156 Squadron website. Thanks to Joerg Mezger for the images of the monument. Thanks to John Jones for the German night fighter details. Also to Jill Cox who kindly supported this page with a donation.

RS 20.01.2020 - Update for German fighter claim

Pages of Outstanding Interest
History Airborne Forces •  Soviet Night Witches •  Bomber Command Memories •  Abbreviations •  Gardening Codenames
CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
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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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