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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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12 Squadron crest
30/31.05.1942 12 Squadron Wellington II Z8643 Fg.Off. Shearer

Operation: Koln, Germany

Date: 30th/31st May 1942

Unit: 12 Squadron

Type: Wellington II

Serial No: Z8643

Coded: PH:?

Base: RAF Binbrook, Lincolnshire

Location: Dusseldorf, Germany

Pilot: Fg.Off. William Bruce Shearer 404994 RAAF Age 20. Killed

Obs: Sgt. Edward Drake Ansford 41529 RNZAF PoW No: 389 *

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Conal Francis McKenna 403763 RNZAF PoW No: 434 *

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Geoffrey Arnold Gane 402993 RNZAF PoW No: 409 *

Air Gnr: Sgt. Bruce Oliver Brown 403496 RAAF PoW No: 396 *

* Stalag Luft 6, Heydekrug, Memelland (now Šilutė in Lithuania).

Officers Mess, RAF Binbrook circa 1942. It is believed that Fg.Off. William B. Shearer is in the back row 4th from the left. (Courtesy Bruce Shearer)

Reason for Loss:

Wellington Z8643 took off at 23:36 hours from RAF Binbrook to bomb Cologne, Germany. Whilst flying over the coast of Holland the aircraft developed engine trouble, which caused it to crash in Germany.

Statement 1: Made by Warrant Officer 403496 Bruce Oliver Brown, the Bomb Aimer:

'Soon after crossing the coast of Holland the starboard engine began smoking badly. I was instructed by the Pilot to pump oil, which I did. Shortly afterwards the whole engine nacelle got red hot then burst into flames. The Pilot used the fire extinguisher to no effect. The flames spread to wing and fuselage, the Pilot gave order to bale out. Pilot was still in the aircraft when I baled out. Aircraft, still under control. Believe the aircraft crashed in the region of Dusseldorf. Except the Pilot all the crew baled out and were subsequently taken prisoner. The Pilot was the last to leave the aircraft and was picked up dead by the Germans. I am unable to say how he met his death. I received slight facial wounds. Mouth and eyes. I landed on woods near Dorsten and was captured the next day by a German sentry of a flak battery. The rest of the crew all prisoners of war.'

Statement 2: By the navigator, Sergeant 403496, Bruce O. Brown:

'I was standing at the astro hatch when the order was given to bale out, (approx. 1.30 a.m.0n 31.05.42) and left by the rear escape hatch.The plane was still under control. I neither saw or heard anything of Pilot, Pilot Officer Shearer from that time until arrival at Dulag when I was informed of his death by Sergeant Gane.'

Statement 3: By Sergeant 402993, Geoffrey A. Gane:

'At approximately 1.30 a.m. on 31.05.42, I was given the order to bale out and immediately left via the rear turret, the plane still being under control. I was picked up by the Germans on Sunday afternoon and spent the night at a village (name unknown) At about two p.m. on Monday 1st June I was transported to Dusseldorf on a truck which also contained a number of coffins. On the outskirts of Dusseldorf the truck stopped at a cemetery and another coffin was put on containing the body of Pilot Officer Shearer. I was invited by the Germans to inspect the body, which I positively identified as the skipper of our plane.The only apparent visible injuries were a severe gash on the left chin bone and injured left ankle. On arrival at Dusseldorf I was taken off the truck and saw nothing more of the coffins.'


Burial Details:

Above, left: Fg.Off. Shearer, probably as an LAC (Courtesy Bruce Shearer); right: initial grave marker from his service record. Fg.Off. Shearer was initially buried in Dusseldorf, in Field IIIB. Grave No: 36. Later to be reinterred in the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery after war end.

Fg.Off. William Bruce Shearer. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany. Grave 9.A. 12. Born on 2nd May 1922 at Townsville, Queensland, Australia. Son of John and Dora Jane Shearer.

William Bruce Shearer enlisted in the RAAF Reserve in Brisbane on the 4th July 1940.
He was then posted to No 3 Initial Training School (ITS) at RAAF Station Sandgate, NSW on the 5th January 1941 and promoted to LAC on the same day.
Then onto No 6 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) at RAAF Station Tamworth, NSW on the 6th March 1941.
Following completion of EFTS he was posted to No 3. Service Flying Training School (SFTS) at RAAF Station Amberley, QLD on the 5th May 1941.
Prior to embarking aboard ship to the UK via Canada he was Commissioned and promoted to Plt.Off. on the 26th August 1941. He arrived in the UK on the 3rd November 1941 and two weeks later on the 11th November 1941 joined 23 Operational Training Unit (OTU) at RAF Pershore in Worcestershire for training on the Wellington.
He was promoted to Fg.Off. on the 26th February 1942 and posted to 12 Squadron on the 9th April 1942 on completion of his conversion training.

Researched by Bob Wilton for Aircrew Remembered. With thanks to the following: Australian National Archive, Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses', the CWGC. Thanks to Bruce Shearer, the nephew of Fg.Off. Shearer, for the corrections to the narrative and additional images. Original image of Fg.Off Shearer was incorrect. Additional research for the narrative and images carried out by Aircrew Remembered.

RS 30.08.2020 - Correction to narrative and addition of two new images

Acknowledgements: 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', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', 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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