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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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RAF Crest
28.01.1945 5 LFS Lancaster III LM308 W/O. Richard B. Rathbone

Operation: Night Training

Date: 28th January 1945 (Sunday)

Unit: No. 5 LFS (Lancaster Finishing School). 5 Group

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: LM308

Code: - ?

Base: RAF Syerston, Nottinghamshire

Location: Hoveringham, Nottinghamshire

Pilot: W/O II Richard Barlow Rathbone R/168095 RCAF Age 28. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Albert Mercer 2218573 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

Nav: Fl/Sgt. Hugh Munro MacKenzie R/203166 RCAF Age 21. Killed

Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. John Alexander Emerson R/189328 RCAF Age 30. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. John Henry Reid R/190328 RCAF Age 20. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Jasper Martin 1595881 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Joseph Francis Fitzgibbon R/264756 RCAF Age 20. Killed


Took off at 00:01 hrs from Syerston, Nottinghamshire on a night cross country sortie.

Above L-R: W/O. Richard Rathbone, Sgt. Albert Mercer, Fl/Sgt. Hugh MacKenzie, Fl/Sgt. John Emerson, Fl/Sgt. John Reid, Sgt. Jasper Martin and Sgt. Joseph Francis Fitzgibbon.

Completed the operation and on returning to the base acknowledged the landing instructions from flying control. Then 2 minutes later at 02:16hrs LM308 crashed at high speed exploding on impact. Eyewitnesses claim that they saw it on fire in the air.

Above left: newspaper cutting reporting the death of Joe Fitzgibbon. Right: copy of letter (courtesy of Don Fagan)

The memorial placed to this crew, also to another crew lost on an earlier date, that of P/O. Guy Dunlop NZ/425241 RNZAF from the same LFS - lost on the 12th January: 1945 Lancaster III JB125.

Burial details:

W/O II Richard Barlow Rathbone. Harrogate Cemetery (Stonefall) Sec. G. Row F. Grave 8. Born on the 20th September 1916 in Massachusetts, USA. Worked as an office clerk prior to service.Son of Gerrard Jackson Rathbone and Susan Emeline Rathbone, of 48 Connaught Avenue, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Sgt. Albert Mercer. Southport Cemetery (Duke Street). Sec. 28. Grave 961. Son of John and Margaret Mercer, of Southport, England. Grave inscription: 'Be Thou Faithful Unto Death, And I Will Give Thee A Crown Of Life'.

Fl/Sgt. Hugh Munro MacKenzie. Harrogate Cemetery(Stonefall). Sec. G. Row F. Grave 9. Born on the 30th March 1923 in Scotland. Son of Farquhar MacKenzie, and of Catherine MacKenzie (née Munro), of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Grave inscription: 'When The Sun Goes Down And In The Morning We Will Remember Him'.

Fl/Sgt. John Alexander Emerson. Harrogate Cemetery (Stonefall) Sec. G. Row F. Grave 10. Born on the 22nd November 1914 at Vancouver. Son of John Eymundson Emerson (died 28th June 1965, age 84) and Jean Beatrice Emerson (née Black - died in 1939), of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, husband of Phyllis Emerson. Grave inscription: 'Though Far From Home He Is Ever In Our Hearts. Wife Phyllis, Father And Sisters'.

Fl/Sgt. John Henry Reid. Harrogate Cemetery (Stonefall) Sec. G. Row F. Grave 7. Born in 1923 at Montreal. Son of James Henry and Mary Wilma Reid (née Couture), husband of Glaidus Madelene Reid , of Marysville, New Brunswick, Canada. Grave inscription: 'Greater Love Hath No Man Than This, That A Man Lay Down His Life For His Friends'.

Sgt. Jasper Martin. Castleford Cemetery (Whitwood). Sec. N. Cons. Grave 923. Born in 1925 at Castleford. Son of Samuel and Emma Louisa Martin, of Cutsyke, Castleford, England. Grave inscription: 'Sleep On, Dear One You Did Your Best God Thought It Best To Give You Rest'.

Sgt. Joseph Francis Fitzgibbon. Harrogate Cemetery (Stonefall) Sec. G. Row F. Grave 11. Born on the 14th April 1924 at Newfoundland. Worked as a clerk prior to enlisting. Son of Joseph and Pauline (née Kemp) Fitzgibbon of 127 Hamilton Street, St. John's, Newfoundland.

Researched for Donna Johnson - niece of W/O. Richard Rathbone. Also to Lady Nail who did so much to remember this and the other crew lost in the area. For further details our thanks to sources quoted below.

KTY 04-12-2021 Map added

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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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