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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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115 Squadron Crest
22/23.11.1943 No. 115 Squadron Lancaster III DS764 KO-S Sgt. Hugh Smith

Operation: Berlin

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

Unit: No. 115 Squadron

Type: Lancaster II

Serial: DS764

Code: KO-S

Base: RAF Little Snoring, Norfolk

Location: Details not known - target area?

Pilot: Sgt. Hugh Smith 1550719 RAFVR Age 22. Killed (1)

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Ernest Miller 2206759 RAFVR PoW No: 263607 Camp: (4B/L3) Stalag Mühlberg-Elbe - Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria

Nav: Sgt. Frederick Charles Downs 1585496 RAFVR PoW No: 263668 Camp: (4B) Stalag Mühlberg-Elbe

Air/Bmr: Sgt. Robert Strong 1230157 RAFVR PoW No: 263711 Camp: (4B) Stalag Muhlberg-Elbe (2)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Colin Deakin 1069233 RAFVR PoW No: 1482 Camp: (L6/L4/L1) Injured Stalag Luft Heydekrug, Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria, Stalag Luft Barth Vogelsang (3)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. James Hennessy Ferguson R/176230 RCAF PoW No: 263581 Camp: (4B) Stalag Mühlberg-Elbe (4)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Thomas Harrison Scotchmer R/90034 RCAF PoW No: 263713 Camp: (4B) Stalag Mühlberg-Elbe (5)


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.

Bomb damage on Berlin 1943

The 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 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.

115 Squadron Lancaster (courtesy IWM)

Very little is known regarding the loss of Lancaster DS764 which after taking off from RAF Little Snoring in Norfolk at 17:40 hrs, nothing was heard from the crew.

A fairly new aircraft with only 89 hours flying time, taking part on two previous key operations, 18/19th October 1943 to Hannover, 18/19th November 1943 to Berlin - terminating with this operation.

Another 115 Squadron Lancaster II also lost this night, DS782 KO-K, again lost without trace, with all 7 crew remembered on the Runnymede Memorial. Flown by 22 year old Sgt. John Harris 1452502 RAFVR of Armthorpe, Yorkshire, England.

A poem was written by a crew member of another aircraft lost on this operation. Albert ‘Ack’ Ackland of 428 Squadron LK906 NA-D.

Photo taken at Torquay, January 1942. C Flight, 2 Squadron, No. 13 ITW - Initial Training Wing. Hugh Smith, from the front, 2nd row, 3rd from the right, also shown next to him on the right is Callander Wyse (also on our website and Edward Casey, front row 4th from left. From row, 3rd from left is Robert Hustwith - he went on to gain the OBE for operational planning and masterminding the RAF's strategy during the Suez crisis. He retired as Wing Commander , passed away in 2012, age 89. (courtesy Patrick Casey - see note 4)

No. 11 IARC - Intake Aircrew Receiving Centre, London - although maybe not connected with this page of remembrance it has been included in order that others may recognise some of the aircrew. Sgt. Edward Casey is shown, back row, 3rd from left (courtesy Patrick Casey)

(1) Sgt. Hugh Smith had been a close friend of Edward Casey who visited his parents after his loss. (See photo)

(2) Sgt. Robert Strong was captured near Krefeld shortly after the aircraft came down. (see map) Born 16 April, 1923, in Billesley, Warwickshire Sgt. Strong would stay in the RAF post-war. He was appointed to a short service Commission in the RAF Regiment as P/O. on probation on 25th September 1946 with new number 203610 and was confirmed as P/O on 7th June 1948 (but with seniority back dated to 25th September 1946). He rose to F/O. in the Regiment on 25th September 1948 but later transferred to the RAF, he was again promoted to Fl/Lt. on 4th January 1951. On 13 March 1951, he was navigator aboard Lancaster TX264 when it crashed at Beinn Eighe, Torridon, Scotland, killing all aboard.

(3) Sgt. Deakin broke both legs on landing. Strangely he also shares the same PoW number as a Sgt. T. Knowles of 76 Squadron, shot down on the 24th May on an operation to Dortmund. Serving as a navigator on Halifax V, DK172 MP-L, four crew killed with 4 taken PoW.

(4) Sgt. James Hennessy Ferguson was born in Moosomin, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1923, the son of William and Rose (née Hennessy) Ferguson of Moosomin. He married Frances Evelyn Donnelly at Moosomin on 24 August 1946. The couple then moved to Winnipeg where they would have two sons and five grandchildren. James passed away in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Canada on 17 June 2011.

(5) Sgt. Thomas Harrison Scotchmer was born in Huron County, Ontario, Canada 26 November 1920, the son of William and Dale Eva (née Harrison) Scotchmer. Following liberation he married the former Merle Beswetherick which would result in two children. Thomas passed away 22 June 1984.

(6) Patrick Casey is the son of Sgt. Edward Casey who is currently researching his fathers time in the RAF and would welcome any contact with other relatives who served with his father or are able to supply further information.

Burial details:

Left: Grave at Reichswald cemetery (also shown above) for Sgt Smith. The family had requested these words to be placed:

‘Death’s Crowning victory - His light and love - are now perfected’.

Any relative who would like a high resolution copy of his grave are invited to contact us. (courtesy Patrick Casey)

Sgt. Hugh Smith. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 25.G.18. Son of William and Jessie Smith, of Armadale, West Lothian, Scotland. Born in Bathgate, West Lothian, 1921.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Patrick Casey, Oliver Clutton-Brock - 'Footprints On The Sands Of Time’, Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol's. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vol's. 1 and 2', Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Aircrew Remembered own Archives. With thanks to Dave Champion for further crew details - November 2019.

Pages of Outstanding Interest
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CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
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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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