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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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50 Squadron Crest
22/23.11.1943 50 Squadron Lancaster I DV366 VN:R WO. Saxton

Operation: Berlin, Germany

Date: 22nd/23rd November 1943 (Monday/Tuesday)

Unit No: 50 Squadron (motto: Sic fidem servamus - 'Thus we keep faith')

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: DV366

Code: VN:R

Base: RAF Skellingthorpe, Lincolnshire

Location: Berlin-Tiergarten, Germany

Pilot: WO. John Harold Saxton 1233720 RAFVR Age 22. KiA

Flt Eng: Sgt. Peter Henry Fryer 1442302 RAFVR Age 22. KiA

Nav: Flt Sgt. John Hall Jowett 1481271 RAFVR Age 22. KiA (1)

Bom Aimer: Flt Sgt. John Charles Eynon Rees 1317602 RAFVR Age 20. KiA

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Christopher Watson 1112190 RAFVR Age 28. KiA

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): WO2. James Joseph Zunti R107172 RCAF Age 23. KiA

Air Gnr (Rear): Flt Sgt. William Edward Coates 1251081 RAFVR Age 23. KiA

Above Left to Right some of the crew: Sgt. Christopher Watson, Flt Sgt. James Zunti, Flt Sgt. John Rees, WO. John Saxton, Sgt. Peter Fryer, Sgt. F. Baker, Flt Sgt. William Coates. (courtesy François Dutil )

The crew’s original Navigator had been a Sgt Baker, he was replaced by Flt Sgt Jowett who joined the Saxton crew on 18th/19th October 1943 Operation to Hannover.

The crew was posted in from 1660 CU on 7th April 1943, completed 12 operations and posted to 97 Sqn on 6th July 1943, they flew 9 operations with 97 Sqn before being posted back to 50 Sqn on 5th October 1943.


Taking off from RAF Skellingthorpe in Lincolnshire to bomb Berlin.

64 aircraft, the largest force of the war so far sent to the German capital - made up from 469 Lancasters, 234 Halifaxes. 50 Stirlings (the last time Stirlings sent to Germany) and 11 Mosquitoes.

The flak defences were again very effective accounting for 17 bombers over Berlin, a further 7 over the Hannover area. Night fighters claimed 4, although lack of positive identification, none can be identified.

Although the city was covered in cloud and returning bomber crews estimated that the bombing had been accurate due to accurate markers placed, it is now known that this was probably the most effective operation on Berlin of the war.

Reports from the city state that during this night’s bombing, 3,000 houses were destroyed with another 23 industrial premises. Several thousand other building damaged. 2,000 people were thought to have been killed, including 500 in a large shelter which received a direct hit. Another 150 in another shelter. Due to the weather, several ‘firestorms’ were reported and the Luftwaffe measured the smoke at 6,000 metres.

The Air Officer Commanding (AOC) of Bomber Command, Arthur Harris predicted ‘It will cost us between 400 - 500 aircraft, but it will cost Germany the war’. The RAF lost over 490 heavy bombers on Berlin operations alone with over 2,500 aircrew killed, still the war dragged on.

However, arguably, it did prevent German resources to be utilised elsewhere. The civilian population suffered terrible losses with a reported 10,000 killed with a similar number of injuries. Nearly 500,000 were made homeless.

The aircraft was hit by Flak from 2./schw. Flak Abt.662 over the target area and crashed at Berlin-Tiergarten, Siegessäule (Victory Column) at 20.28hrs. DV366 was also claimed destroyed as a possible by 1.-3./schw.Flak Abt.513 (Berlin Wilmerdorf at 20.27hrs). (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (23 September - 31 December) 1943 Part 3 - Theo Boiten)

(1) Flt Sgt. Jowet was posted onto 50 Sqn as part of Flt Sgt. E.A. Clark’s crew from 1660 CU on 13th July 1943, he survived the crash of ED468 on 29th July 1943, returning from SHQ Waddington on 14th August 1943, he flew several operations with Plt Off. E.S. Medley before joining the Saxton crew.

Burial details:

The crew were initially buried in Doberitz Standartfriedhof and finally laid to rest at the Berlin 1939-1845 War Cemetery on the 29th October 1946.

WO. John Harold Saxton. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Collective grave 1. C. 10-15. Born on the 2nd March 1921 in Atcham, Shropshire. Son of Joseph Charles & Elsie Mary (née Tipton) Saxton of Castle View, Ditherington, St Mary, Shrewsbury, England.

John had 2 brothers Joseph Born 1919 & Kenneth Born 1923, the 3 brothers lived with widowed Elsie at Judith Butts Gardens, Shrewsbury, John was working as an assistant to an Architect/surveyor.

Sgt. Peter Henry Fryer. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Collective grave 1. C. 10-15. Grave inscription: "HE WAS AS THE MORNING STAR IN THE MIDST OF A CLOUD, AND AS THE MOON AT THE FULL". Born 13th July 1921 in Hendon, Middlesex. Son of William Nathaniel and Florence Annie (née Fuller) Fryer of Mount Grove, Mill Hill, Hendon, England

William was a stoker and Peter was a Bank Clerk. Florence died in Chippenham as did William in 1986

Flt Sgt. John Hall Jowett. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Grave 1. D. 6. Grave inscription: "UNTIL THE DAY BREAK, AND THE SHADOWS FLEE AWAY". Born 15th March 1921 in Fylde, Lancashire. Son of Edwin and Alice Martha Louise (née Hall) Jowett of St Heliers Road, Blackpool, England.

His father was a master Printer, John was a confectioner of Super Toffee

Flt Sgt. John Charles Eynon Rees. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Collective grave 1. C. 10-15. Grave inscription: "DEARLY LOVED ELDER SON OF ALICE AND HARRY REES. "IN HEAVENLY LOVE ABIDING". Born one the 22nd July 1923. Sson of Henry Stephen and Alice Martha (née Tindal) Rees of Harriett Street, Cathays, Cardiff, Wales.

His father was a fireman on the GWR railway, John was a junior costing clerk.

Sgt. Christopher Watson. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Collective grave 1. C. 10-15. Born on the 11th August 1915 in Bentham, Yorkshire. Son of Richard James and Isabelle (née Nelson) Watson of Sunnyside Cottages, Bentham, England. Husband to Nellie (née Smith) Watson of Rochdale Road, Elland, Yorkshire, England.

Above: W02. James Joseph Zunti from his service record

WO2. James Joseph Zunti. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Collective grave 1. C. 10-15. Born on the 2nd February 1916 in Reward, Saskatchewan. Son of Jacob and Mary (deceased in April 1928) (née Brundler) Zunti of Luseland, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Flt Sgt. William Edward Coates. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Collective grave 1. C. 10-15. Born on the 14th July 1920. Son of William and Amelia Prudence (née Biles) of Rodney Street, Swansea, Wales.

His father was a serving member of the Royal Artillery (RA). William was working as a fitters mate.

His younger brother, 14414937 Fusilier Ronald Coates was KiA at Evrecy, Normandy on 17th July1944 serving with the 4th Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers.

Researched by Kelvin Youngs (Webmaster) and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to François Dutil for crew photograph (Aug 2019). Thanks to Graham Wallace for the updates to the narrative and Next of Kin details (Feb 2024) Other updates by Aircrew Remembered (Feb 2024)

Other sources listed below:

RS 23.02.2024 - Narrative and Next of Kin updates.

Pages of Outstanding Interest
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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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