Date: 22/23rd March 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: No. 35 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Graveley, Huntingdon
Location: Schiffenberg near Giessen, Germany
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Thomas Rowe DFC. 124836 RAFVR Age 30. Pow No: No details. Camp: Stalag Luft Barth Vogelsang (1)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Abel Simpson 1031549 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Nav: P/O. Edmund Howard Williams 171772 RAFVR Age 27. Killed
Air/Bmr: Fl/Lt. Fred Haigh 101522 RAFVR Age 24. Missing - believed killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Lt. Alexander Grant DFC 129612 RAFVR PoW No 4141. Camp: L1 Stalag Luft Barth Vogelsang (2)
Air/Gnr: P/O. Malcolm Ross Hunter AUS/421982 RAAF Age 21. Killed
Air/Gnr: P/O. Harry Gray AUS/420662 RAAF Age 22. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 18:46 hrs from RAF Graveley near Huntingdon to bomb Frankfurt (The third attack on this City in a week). A very large raid was planned for this night as a combined force of 816 Lancasters, Halifaxes and Mosquitos set out for Frankfurt. The route chosen was to fly in an easterly direction crossing into main land Europe over northern Holland. From there the formation was to fly due south to Frankfurt. This circuitous route, as well as several diversionary attacks on other cities, confused the German defences as to which city had been selected as the primary target. This delay in the appearance of the night fighters allowed the majority of the bomber stream to reach the target.
Flying at altitudes of 20,000 to 25,000 feet a staggering 54,000 lbs. of high explosive and 408,000 lbs. of incendiaries were unleashed on the city. It was a devastating blow destroying much of the old city as well as disrupting the core services of water, gas and electricity for an extensive period of time. Much of the industrial areas to the west were particularly hard hit and over 1000 inhabitants lost their lives.
Although some of the bombers were lost en-route to the target, most were intercepted over the target area or, having dropped their bomb load, were shot down while homeward bound.
It is reported that the aircraft exploded in the air, probably as a result of anti-aircraft fire. The Missing Research and Enquiry Unit visited the crash location on the 07th December 1946. Four bodies were recovered from the crash site - all were identified at the time by their ID discs and buried in the church at Giessen. Searchers were made for the remainder of the crew with units sent from Hausen and Watzenborn-Steinberg.
The sequence of events were reported as vague, some stated they saw three prisoners, others say they saw two other bodies near the crash site. It was hoped that statements from the two PoW’s would have been able to show some light as to the fate of Fl/Lt. Fred Haigh and if a war crime had been committed. They stated later that they were informed by the Germans all the crew were killed in the crash.
In all 33 aircraft failed to return.
35 Squadron lost another crew on this operation:
Lancaster III ND649 TL-C Flown by 20 year old, Fl/Sgt. John Cameron Keith Webb 1498781 RAFVR from Belfast, Northern Ireland - killed with all 6 other crew members.
(1) Fl/Lt. Thomas Rowe awarded his DFC whilst with 77 Squadron - 12th November 1943. Prior to service played for Portsmouth Football Club - winning the FA Cup in 1939. Retired from the RAF as a Squadron Leader, passed away on the 09 May 2006, aged 92.
(2) Fl/Lt. Alexander Grant awarded his DFC whilst with 77 Squadron - 12th November 1943.
Sgt. Abel Simpson. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 4.C.9. Believed to be from Rolleston, Nottinghamshire, England. No further details - are you able to assist?
P/O. Edmund Howard Williams. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 4.C.8. Son of the Revd. Edmund Williams and Jeannie Williams, of Lympstone, Devon, England.
Fl/Lt. Fred Haigh. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 202. Son of Seba and Mahala Haigh, of Gildersome, Yorkshire, England.
P/O. Malcolm Ross Hunter. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 4.C.7. Born on the 22nd July at Grenfell, New South Wales, Australia the son of Francis George and Effie Oliver May Hunter, of Grenfell, New South Wales, Australia.
P/O. Harry Gray. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 4.C.10. Born on th 04th September 1921 in Yorkshire, England the son of Claude Harry and Gladys Mary Gray, of Hunters Hill, New South Wales, Australia.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks Ken Ogilvie and to sources as shown below.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember
them. - Laurence
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