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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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582 Squadron
23.12.1944 582 Squadron Lancaster III PB120 Flt Lt. Amdt W. Reif

Operation: Cologne (Köln), Germany

Date: 23rd December 1944 (Saturday)

Unit No: 582 Squadron, Pathfinder Force (PFF), 8 Group

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: PB120

Code: 6O:P

Base: RAF Little Staughton, Huntingdonshire

Location: Köln-Rodenkirchen, about 5½ km (3½ mls) SSE of the city centre.

Pilot: Flt Lt. Amdt Walther Reif J86455 RCAF Age 29. KiA

Flight Engineer: Sgt. John Paterson 1682300 RAFVR Age? KiA

Navigator I: Plt Off. Kenneth Harry Austin J90857 RCAF Age 29. KiA

Navigator II: WO2. Peter Uzelman R147573 RCAF Age 27. KiA

Wireless Op/ Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. George Owen 1622728 RAFVR Age? KiA

Air Gnr (Mid Upper): Flt Sgt. J. MacLennan R223070 RCAF Age? PoW (1)

Air Gnr (Rear): Flt Sgt. Robert Edward Pearce R217626 RCAF Age 19. PoW (2)


On the 23rd December 1944 27 Lancasters and 3 Mosquitoes of 8 Group were detailed to attack the Gremberg railway yards in Cologne (Köln), Germany of which 17 Lancasters were from the 582 Squadron.

The force was split into 3 formations, each lead by an Oboe equipped Lancaster with an Oboe Mosquito as a reserve leader. During the inbound flight, 2 Lancasters from 35 Sqn collided over the French coast and their crews were all killed.

On approaching the target, it was found that the cloud which had been forecast had cleared and it was decided to allow the bombers to break formation and bomb visually This move was made because the formation would have been very vulnerable to Cologne’s Flak defences during the long straight Oboe approach.

Unfortunately the order to abandon the Oboe run did not reach Sqn Ldr. Palmer, who was the Master Bomber, and he continued on with the designated role, even though the aircraft was already damaged by Flak.

PB120 was one of five aircraft from the Squadron that failed to return from operations.

The other four were:

Lancaster III PB523 6O:J - Crashed at Opitter, 4 km SE of Bree in Belgium (3 KiA, 4 PoW);

Lancaster III PB558 6O:A - Damaged by Flak and came under sustained fighter attacks. The entire crew baled out successfully over Allied held territory and returned to RAF Little Staughton on the 27th February 1945;

Lancaster III PB371 6O:V - Master Bomber. Shot down by Flak in the target area. Sqn Ldr. R. A. M. Palmer DFC and Bar was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) for his outstanding valour (6 KiA, 1 PoW);

Lancaster III PB141 6O:F - Shot down by German fighters. Two of the crew became trapped in the spinning aircraft but both miraculously survived after the aircraft fell 20,000 ft and crashed onto the marshalling yard. (6 PoW, 1 Mur).

PB120 was hit by Flak and then shot up by Bf109s before crashing onto Haupstraße 73 in Köln-Rodenkirchen, about 5½ km (3½ mls) SSE of the city centre. The aircraft was 99% destroyed and because of the level of destruction the aircraft was initially recorded by the Germans as a possible Halifax.

Note: It is frequently reported that the house number was 77, however, a No. 20 Missing Research and Enquiry Section (MRES) report dated the 22nd August 1949 records the house number as 73.

Only the mid-upper and tail gunners managed to bale out of the stricken aircraft. No records have been found about any injuries they may have sustained nor at which PoW camps they were held.

(1) Whilst being held as a PoW Flt Sgt. MacLennan was appointed to a commission and promoted to J95108 Plt Off.

(2) Whilst being held as a PoW Flt Sgt. Pearce was appointed to a commission and promoted to J95109 Plt Off.

Burial details:

Germans records documented that at the time of recovery it was not possible to make any precise statements about the initial burial of the crew. Some of the dead were buried by a local army unit and the grave location could no longer be determined. The five crew members that perished were recovered from multiple graves in the Rodenkirchen cemetery and laid to rest at the Reinberg War Cemetery on the 30th December 1948.

Above: Initial combined grave marker for the five crew Reinberg War Cemetery.

Above: Flt Lt. Arndt W. Reif and grave marker (Courtesy of Des Philippet - FindAGrave)

Flt Lt. Arndt Walther Reif. Reinberg War Cemetery, Coll. Grave 7.C. 22-25. Grave Inscription: '"NEARER, MY GOD, TO THEE, NEARER TO THEE"'. Born on the 20th May 1915 in Edmonton, Alberta. Son of Arndt Johannes and Margot (née Walther) Reif and stepson of Emilie Margarete Reif of Baker City, Oregon, USA.

Above: Grave marker for Sgt. John Peterson (Courtesy of Des Philippet - FindAGrave)

Sgt. John Paterson. Reinberg War Cemetery, Coll. Grave 7.C. 22-25. No further information available.

Above: Plt Off. Kenneth H. Austin and grave marker (Courtesy of Des Philippet - FindAGrave)

Plt Off. Kenneth Harry Austin. Reinberg War Cemetery, Coll. Grave 7.C. 22-25. Born on the 22nd October 1915 in St. Johns, Washington, USA. Son of Scha and Harris (née Fraser) Austin of Delburne, Alberta. Husband to Lila Ruth (née Cameron) Austin of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Above: Plt Off. Peter Uzelman and grave marker (Courtesy of Des Philippet - FindAGrave)

Plt Off. Peter Uzelman. Reinberg War Cemetery, Coll. Grave 7.C. 22-25. Born on the 10th March 1917 in Revenue, Saskatchewan. Son of Anton and Magdalena (née Keller) Uzelman of Revenue, Saskatchewan, Canada.

WO2. Uzelman was posthumously appointed to a commission and promoted to J93105 Plt Off. with effect 26th October 1944.

Above: Grave marker for Flt Sgt. George Owen (Courtesy of Des Philippet - FindAGrave)

Flt Sgt. George Owen. Reinberg War Cemetery, Coll. Grave 7.C. 22-25. Son of F. and Hannah Owen, of Lower Kersall, Salford, Lancashire, England.

Researched by Ralph Snape for aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew.

Other sources listed below:

RS 29.11.2023 - Initial upload

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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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