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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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20/21.12.1943 No. 166 Squadron Lancaster I R5552 AS-P2 Fl/Sgt. Renelt Crew loss

Operation: Frankfurt

Date: 20/21st December 1943 (Monday/Tuesday)

Unit: No: 166 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: R5552

Code: AS-P2

Base: RAF Kirmington, Lincolnshire.

Location: Middelharnis, Holland

Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Kenneth Bert Renelt 1387475 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Ernest Charles Toms 1396656 RAFVR Age? Killed

Nav: Fl/Sgt. James William Thompson 1365303 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Alexander Bernard Sheddan NZ/416210 RNZAF Age 27. Killed (1)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. John Francis Moore AUS/410689 RAAF Age 20. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Leslie Allan Henson 1563332 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. David Bernard R/151425 RCAF Age 20. Killed


Took off at 17:27 hrs to bomb Frankfurt, part of a raid involving 650 Bomber Command aircraft made up with 390 Lancasters, 257 Halifaxes and 3 Mosquitos, of which forty-one were lost.

It seems that this Lancaster R5552 crashed before it reached the target area. An eye witness to the incident (William Johannes Hanemaayer - Dutch Police) had seen the aircraft circle several times over the town of Sommeladijk then move in the direction of Middelharnis. Explosions were heard overhead and a few moments later we heard the sound of a heavy crash and whilst looking in the direction of Middelharnis we saw bright light rising from the ground and guessed that this aircraft had crashed and caught fire.

Thought to be the crew of R5552 - Can you help to positively identify them? We know that Fl/Sgt. Moore is second from left rear and Fl/Sgt. Sheddan is probably extreme right with Fl/Sgt. Renelt front left. We have also recently been contacted by the nephew of Sgt. Toms and he has positively identified the chap kneeling on front right as his Uncle. (courtesy Kate Roper)

The brother of Sgt Toms, Henry William Toms serving in the Royal Navy, requested leave to visit his older brother, it was denied, he never saw him again. Sadly Henry passed away in February 2009 and was the last of the four brothers.

The crash site was then visited by the Dutch police and that they found the aircraft crashed in a farm area occupied by a D. Zeedijk and owned by Marinus and Dirk Zeedijk, both of whom lived in Middelharnis. Part of the farm had caught fire during the crash. The aircraft crashed into a pond behind the farmhouse and was already partly burnt out on their arrival. The crew. all dead, were found in the immediate area of the aircraft in the water and behind the farmhouse.

R5552 - The photograph was taken in Leeds during the "Wings For Victory" week. This week started on June 26th 1943. It then flew with 97 Squadron as OF-P. After this "Wings For Victory" week the aircraft R5552 was transferred to 166 Squadron as AS-P2 and was consequently lost. (courtesy Kees Stoutjesdijk)

R5552 escape hatch found recently (courtesy Kees Stoutjesdijk)

An officer of the Wehrmacht gave instructions regarding putting out the fire at the farm. Instructions were also given that the crew are to be buried on Thursday 23rd December in the village.

Left: Fl/Sgt. John Francis Moore (courtesy Kate Roper), right: Fl/Sgt. Alexander Sheddan on right and James on left (courtesy Kees Stoutjesdijk)

(1) Fl/Sgt. Alexander Sheddan had a younger brother who also served in the R.A.F. with 486 (New Zealand) squadron. Cornelius James Sheddan D.F.C. flew Typhoons and later Tempests. He was to become an ace by the end of the war with 5 kills. Jim Sheddan, with co-author Norman Franks, wrote a book about his service titled "Tempest Pilot", sadly Jim died on the 9th December 2010 at Whangaparapa, New Zealand.

"Tempest Pilot" - written by the brother of Alex, C.J. Sheddan with Norman Franks.

The farm house now at Potterweg near Middelharnis and above: Middelharnis Cemetery and crew graves (Grave photos are available larger and pleased to supply them to relatives free of charge)

We understand that an information plaque is to be erected at the crash site. We hope to keep you informed on this when we hear further. We are in contact with some relatives of the crew - but we would like further relatives to contact us, as an information board is to be placed at the crash site by our friends of the WO2 Goeree-Overflakkee website in Holland (See acknowledgements).

Burial details:

Fl/Sgt. Kenneth Bert Renelt. Middelharnis Cemetery Grave 3. Son of Bert and Ethel Renelt, of Thornton Heath, Surrey, England.

Sgt. Ernest Charles Toms. Middelharnis Cemetery Grave 6. Son of Ernest and Gladys Toms, husband of D. N. Toms, of Woodford Bridge, Essex, England..

Fl/Sgt. James William Thompson. Middelharnis Cemetery Grave 5. No further details as yet.

Fl/Sgt. Alexander Bernard Sheddan. Middelharnis Cemetery Grave 7. Son of Angus James Sheddan and of Margaret Sheddan (nee McKee), of Waimate, Canterbury, New Zealand.

Fl/Sgt. John Francis Moore. Middelharnis Cemetery Grave 4. Son of Robert William and Margaret Mary Moore (nee Henery), of 76 Rathmines Street, Fairfield, Victoria, Australia.

Sgt. Leslie Allan Henson. Middelharnis Cemetery Grave 1. Son of Amos F. and Julia Henson, of Broughty Ferry, Angus, Scotland.

Fl/Sgt. David Bernard. Middelharnis Cemetery Grave 2. Born on the 26th August 1923 in Belleview, Manitoba. Enlisted on the 20th July 1942. Trained with 81 Operational Training Unit and 1662 Heavy Conversion Unit. Joined 166 squadron on the 21st December 1943. Promoted to Fl/Sgt. on the 14th November 1943. Son of Noah Joseph (died 1954, age 65) and Rose Bernard (née Phaneuf - died 1956, age 63) of 278 Peter Street, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.

Researched for Kate Roper - niece of Fl/Sgt. John Moore - also to Colin Toms - nephew of Sgt. Toms and dedicated to all relatives/friends of the crew. With thanks to the following: Kees Stoutjesdijk of the WO2 Goeree-Overflakkee website, 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", Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

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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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