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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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408 Squadron Crest
21/22.02.1945 408 (Goose) Squadron, RCAF Halifax VII NP711 EQ:O Flt Lt. Donald M. Sanderson

Operation: Worms, Germany

Date: 21st/22nd February 1945 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit No: 408 (Goose) Squadron, RCAF

Type: Halifax VII

Serial: NP711

Code: EQ:O

Base: RAF Linton-On-Ouse

Location: Forest hillside at Weilerkopf 3 km west of Leistadt

Pilot : Flt Lt. Donald McWilliam Sanderson J29724 RCAF Age 22. KiA

Flt Eng: Sgt. James Wilson 1822188 RAFVR Age 20. KiA

Nav: Fg Off. Reginald Bertram Smith J38711 RCAF Age 33. KiA

Air Bmr: Fg Off. William James Gilmore J37870 RCAF Age 33. KiA

WOp/Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. William Wallace Wagner R203097 RCAF Age 22. KiA

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Flt Sgt. Nels Peter Helin Anderson C95210 RCAF Age 21. KiA

Air Gnr (Rear): Flt Sgt. Donald Edison Sherman R205805 RCAF Age 20. KiA


Took off from Linton-On-Ouse at 17:14 hrs to attack the main railway station in Worms. A total of 334 heavy bombers were used including 288 Halifaxes, 3 Lancasters and 25 Mosquitoes.

Above: area of loss with insert of Flt Lt. Donald McWilliam Sanderson

The raid caused massive destruction to the town with 39% of the towns built up area totally destroyed. 1,116 tons of high explosive was dropped killing 239 people on the ground and 35,000 people were bombed out of their homes (Population: 58,000).

Above left photograph: Part of the crew of Halifax VII NP711. More than likely taken during training at 24 Operational Training Unit (OTU) as only six crew are shown. Based upon their service record photographs and heights their identities are believed to be: Standing left to right: Flt Lt. Sanderson, Flt Sgt. Anderson, Flt Sgt. Wagner, Sgt. Smith. Front left to right: Flt Sgt. Sherman, Fg Off. Gilmore. (courtesy of Kingsville Historical Park)

Above right photograph: Same group with a Hurricane - probably used for fighter affiliation. Note the chequered control van on left. Based upon their service record photographs and heights their identities are believed to be: Left to right: Flt Sgt. Sherman, Sgt. Smith, Fg Off. Gilmore, Flt Lt. Sanderson, Flt Sgt. Anderson, Flt Sgt. Wagner.

Above photo with names as placed - sadly Richard passed away in 2015 age 96 - missed his brother until the day he died.

Above: The Rheinpfalz (Die Rheinpfalz) dated 17th October 2017 - awaiting translation. courtesy Anthony who sent this into us in October 2017)

A total of 11 aircraft were lost together with 33 aircrew deaths and a further 16 being made PoW.

Most were shot down by German night fighters and such was the ferocity of the air battles on this and other raids taking place this night.

It has not been possible to determine a German claim for NP711 because of the number, a total of 42 aircraft lost this night.

Pierre Lorang has provide Aircrew Remembered with a link to a report concerning the discovery of the crash site of Halifax VII NP711

Rob Wagner has contacted Aircrew Remembered regarding a documentary film project "Searching for Halifax NP711". The film focuses on the last days of the ill-fated crew and the excavation of the aircraft. The project is currently in pre-production with filming scheduled in June through August in England and Germany.

Erik Wieman has contacted Aircrew Remembered informing us that on the 6th August 2022 a memorial was unveilled for the crew of Halifax NP711. IG Heimatforschung discovered the crash site in 2017 and after excavating over several years the project had culminated in with a memorial.

Below is a translation of the above German news article.


BAD DÜRKHEIM. With a solemn ceremony a memorial stone and an information board were unveiled on Saturday in the forest above Leistadt. The memorial commemorates the crew of a Halifax NP711 of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), which crashed at this site on the night of 22nd February 1945, after being fired upon by the Wehrmacht.

Seven men - six Canadians and one Scot - were in the plane. The rear turret gunner, Donald Edison Sherman, had tried to bail out and his body was found near Weisenheim am Sand. The other airmen burned to death at the crash site. This was researched by the Interessengemeinschaft (IG) Heimatforschung Rheinland-Pfalz, a private group founded by former Dutch soldier Erik Wieman to preserve the memory of the past.

During their volunteer work, the group had learned about the crash of the bomber in 2017 and, with the help of Rheinland-Pfalz, had sought eyewitnesses. As a result, he got in touch with Wieman and Rainer Hanewald from Leistadt. He knew that Klaus Hanewald had memories of the night of the crash and arranged the contact. The memorial statue should be a tribute to the survivors of the fallen and a reminder for the future, said Rainer Hanewald. Klaus Hanewald has since passed away.

The IG organized the inauguration of the memorial in a dignified manner and with a military ceremonial. Vehicles from the time of the World War II were presented and wreaths were laid. The priest Norbert Hanewald and Pastor Norbert Leiner asked for God's blessing, Pipe Major MacKenzie and Cornet player Jan Rudolph provided suitable music.

After the "Last Post" Wieman read out the names of the dead airmen. In addition to Sherman, they were pilot Donald McWilliam Sanderson, navigator Reginald Bertram Smith, radio operator William Wallace Wagner, bomb aimer William James Gilmore, mid-upper gunner Nels Peter Helin Andersen from the RCAF and flight engineer James Wilson from the RAF. The flyover of a C130 Hercules and a DC3 Dakota, built in 1943, paid the highest tribute to the airmen who were killed.

The memorial honours the men who fought for freedom and democracy against the "criminal National Socialist regime" said Bad Dürkheim Mayor Christoph Glogger (SPD). The crashed Halifax NP711 had belonged to the 408th Squadron of the RCAF and was part of a bomber stream of 334 aircraft on its way back from Worms, reported Dany Poitras, commanding officer of the Canadian Forces in Germany. "For freedom" had been the squadron's motto.

Captain Mark Heffron, RAF Attache at the British Embassy in Berlin, reported that the men's remains were first buried in Leistadt and then moved to the Allied cemetery in Rheinberg after the war. He said it was "right to remember the victims, to honour them and to recognize their courage", but the people from Leistadt and the surrounding area who suffered during the war should also be remembered. He also said that the "arch enemies" of World War II have long been friends and allies. Col. Michael Trautermann, deputy chief of staff of the German Air Force, told relatives who came to Germany especially for the ceremony that the fallen airmen "deserve our respect for their courage and commitment and will not be forgotten".

Jennifer Mallory and Rob Wagner said "It's an important and big day for us and for the families, it is very important to now know where their loved ones once died”. Mallory, who lives in Scotland, said that her great-uncle James Wilson came from a poor family with many children.

Rob Wagner a cousin of William Wallace Wagner, thanked the IG for ensuring that through the memorial, the dead are not forgotten.

Above: C-130 Flyover during the ceremony (Courtesy of Erik Wieman)

Above: Patch designed for the memorial flight (Courtesy of Erik Wieman)

Above: Plaque commemorating the crew of Halifax VII NP711 (Courtesy of Erik Wieman)

The website Das IG-Heimatforschung Rheinland-Pfalz provides details of the memorial project and is regularly updated with new information and images.

Above: Rob L. Wagner from the Flying Goose Productions, LLC has informed us that they have recently completed a documentary on the crew of Halifax VII NP711 and the recovery of the aircraft wreckage by a Dutch-German battlefield excavation team.

Burial details:

Flt Lt. Donald McWilliam Sanderson. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 18. G.2-5. Born on the 07th February 1921 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Son of Albert Watson Sanderson (died 15th February 1960, age 77) and Mary Clare Sanderson (née McWilliam - died 11th September 1981, age 95) of Haileybury, Ontario, Canada.

13 Operations - with 72 operational flying hours logged.

Sgt. James Wilson. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 18. G. Son of Thomas Wilson, and of Janet K. Wilson, of Douglas, Lanarkshire, England.

11 Operations - with 60.15 operational flying hours logged.

Fg Off. Reginald Bertram Smith. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 18. G.2-5. Born on the 18th August 1911 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Son of Thomas B. Smith and Catherine Monica Smith, of Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada. Epitaph: 'Most Sacred Heart Of Jesus, Have Mercy On Him'.

11 Operations - with 60.15 operational flying hours logged.

Fg Off. William James Gilmore. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 18. G.2-5. Born on the 10th November 1912 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Son of William James Gilmore (died 17th April 1959, age 74) and Faith Gilmore (née Clark - died 10th August 1976, age 85), husband of Helen Gilmore (née Neal, later Jewett - died 24th October 2008, age 94). Epitaph: 'In Loving Memory'.

11 Operations - with 60.15 operational flying hours logged.

Plt Off. William Wallace Wagner. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 18. G.2-5. Born on the 17th July 1922 in Salinas, California, USA. Son of Robert H. Wagner and Beryl Wagner, of Napanee, Ontario, Canada.

Flt Sgt. Wagner was posthumously granted a commission and promoted to Plt Off. with a Service No of J95503

His older brother, Richard, was two years older. The family lived in North Hollywood while their father, Bob, worked for Warner Bros. The entire family - Billy's uncles and cousins - were in the motion picture business. Richard joined the US Army in 1942, but Billy was living in Napanee by the end of the 1930’s when his parents moved back to their original home. He joined the Royal Bank of Canada, and, as you know, joined the RCAF on November 30th, 1942, against his parents wishes. 10 Operations - with 53.10 operational flying hours logged.

The only personal titbit about Billy in the RCAF told to Rob Wagner, (cousin of Plt Off. William Wagner) by his brother many years ago. Billy flew a total of 11 missions, but each mission was exceedingly difficult for him to fly. He admitted to his brother, while they were on leave in New York City in 1944, that he faked illness to get out of one mission. Apparently this was not uncommon among bomber crews. The last thing he told his brother before he parted was that he believed he was never coming back. It was the last time Richard saw his brother.

Billy was declared missing in action. His parents never knew of his fate, although they firmly believed he was alive, until he was officially declared killed in action in December 1945.

Plt Off. Nels Peter Helin Anderson. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 18. G.2-5. The youngest son of Hans Peter and Hulda Carolina Anderson, of Woodside, Manitoba, Canada. Born at Tyndall on the 20th March 1923, joined the RCAF on the 10th January 1942 . Epitaph: 'Here We Leave Our Youngest Son With Love. Ever In God's Care. Mother And Father'.

Joined the RCAF in 1943 - Commissioned on the 20th February 1945. 11 Operations - with 60.15 operational flying hours logged.

Anderson Lake was named after Plt Off. Nels Peter Helin Anderson on 16th December 1994.

Plt Off. Donald Edison Sherman. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 18. G.2-5.Born on the 27th September 1924 in Harrow, Ontario, Canada. Son of Gordon Sherman (died 1969, age 74) and Ina Mae Sherman (died 1952, age 55) From Kingsville, Ontario, Canada.The family lost another son Pte. Gordon Hillier Sherman, killed on the 09th September 1944, age 22.

Flt Sgt. Sherman was posthumously granted a commission and promoted to Plt Off. with a Service No of J95492

Researched by Kelvin Youngs (Webmaster). With thanks to Rob Wagner, (cousin of Plt Off. William Wagner) the Kingsville Historical Park of Canada for the use of some of these pictures. Crash location identified (Oct 2017). Thanks to Pierre Lorang for the link to crash site report (Dec 2020). Other updates by Aircrew Remembered (Dec 2020). Thanks to Rob Wagner for the information regarding the film project (Mar 2022). Other updates by Aircrew Remembered (Mar 2022). Thanks to Erik Wieman for the information and images relating to the unveiling of the memorial to the crew of NP711 (Aug 2022). Many thanks to Rob Wagner for the link to the completed documentary (Jan 2023).

Other sources as quoted below.

RS 28.01.2023 - Addition of link to completed documentary.

KTY 30-01-2023 - Video added plus further crew details

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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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