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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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12 squadron badge
30/01.05.1943 No 12 Squadron Lancaster I W4925 PH-N Fl/Lt. Potts

Operation: Essen

Date: 30/01st May 1943 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit: No. 12 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: W4925

Code: PH-N

Base: RAF Wickenby, Lincolnshire.

Location: Winterswijk, Holland

Pilot: Fl/Lt. James Wallace Potts 123653 RAFVR Age 29. Killed

Pilot 2: Fl/Sgt. Frank Bruce Gillan AUS/409042 RAAF Age 29. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Ronald Martin 1010657 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

Nav: Sgt. William Woodland 1318406 RAFVR Age 27. Killed

Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Derek Sheldon 745491 RAFVR Age ? Killed 

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Kenneth Hall DFM. 635059 RAF Age 23. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Leonard Gill 1351297 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Jack Sidney Harris 1312247 RAFVR Age ? Killed

We would like any other relatives to contact us regarding this loss as the nephew of Sgt. Martin would like to hear from you to exchange information / photographs.


Took off from RAF Wickenby, Lincolnshire, part of a force made up of 305 aircraft (190 Lancasters, 105 Halifaxes and 10 Mosquitoes) to attack the city of Essen.  The bombing commenced at 02.31 hrs and continued until 03.19 hrs. on the 1st May. 

The raid was considered a success despite the cloud cover this night. No bombing photographs were available but 238 crews reported that they had bombed Essen. 189 buildings were destroyed, 237 severely damaged. The Krupps factory was hit again and 53 people on the ground were killed and a further 218 injured. 

Above the flight engineer Sgt. Ronald Martin (courtesy Alan Hulme)

The raid cost the RAF 12 aircraft (6 Lancasters and 6 Halifaxes) 81 crewmen were killed, 2 injured, a further 17 made PoW.


Series of great photographs showing the crew with some ground crew all courtesy of Alan Hulme. Perhaps you recognise some of them?

It is known that W4925 had been shot down by Hptm. Wilhelm Dormann (1) of 9./NJG1 with combat taking place at 6,000 mtrs. 4 km south of Winterswijk at 02.36 hrs.


A 1946 report by a Missing Research and Enquiry Unit stated “The Chief Inspector of Police at Winterswijk stated that about 02.40 hours on 1 May 1943 a 4 engine English bomber was seen to be attacked by a German night fighter and burst into flames. A few minutes later the aircraft was seen to dive and crash on a farm belonging to J Prangen, Woold, K163, about 3 miles east of Winterswijk. At the time I was in a German concentration camp for anti German activities, but one of my aides stated that the Germans had recovered 7 bodies on the day of the crash.”

The M R and E Report went on to say “It may be assumed that Flt Sgt Sheldon was killed by a direct hit by the attacking night fighter and that his body was destroyed when the aircraft disintegrated.”

(1) Hptm. Wilhelm Dormann survived the war with a total of 14 kills. He died in 1984 aged 78.             

Burial details:

Fl/Lt. James Wallace Potts. Winterswijk Cemetery Grave 17. Son of Andrew Alexander Potts and Mary Elizabeth Potts, of Auckland City, New Zealand. M.A. (Cantab.) Was a school prefect at King's College, Auckland. He moved to the United Kingdom and was an early secretary of KCOBA, London Branch. When he graduated with honours in Economics from Cambridge university, he was drafted into the wartime Ministry of Food and forbidden to enlist in the armed services. However he managed to join the RAF and was soon Captain of a Lancaster heavy bomber

Fl/Sgt. Frank Bruce Gillan. Winterswijk Cemetery Grave 20. Son of Bruce and Gladys Gillan, husband of Lorna Mary Gillan, of Preston, Victoria, Australia.

Sgt. Ronald Martin. Winterswijk Cemetery Grave 21. Son of George Henry and Mary Ellen Martin, of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England.

Sgt. William Woodland. Winterswijk Cemetery Grave 22. Son of Ernest William and Dorothy Woodland, of Bray, Berkshire, England.

Fl/Sgt. Derek Sheldon. Runnymede Memorial Panel 139. No further details as yet.

Fl/Sgt. Kenneth Hall DFM. Winterswijk Cemetery Grave 18. Husband of E. Hall, of Caverswall, Staffordshire, England.

Sgt. Leonard Gill. Winterswijk Cemetery Grave 23. Son of Ernest and Emily Gill, of York, England.

Sgt. Jack Sidney Harris. Winterswijk Cemetery Grave 19. No further details as yet.

Researched for Alan Hulme (nephew of Sgt. Ronald Martin) and other relatives of the crew. With thanks to the following: Bill Chorley - "Bomber Command Losses Vol 4", 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", the Commonwealth Graves Commission.

Pages of Outstanding Interest
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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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