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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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141 (SD) Squadron
24.02.1944 141 (Special Duties) Squadron Mosquito NF.II HJ943, Plt Off. Desmon B. Snape

Operation: Serrate Patrol

Date: 24th February 1944 (Thursday)

Unit: 141 (Special Duties) Squadron

Type: Mosquito NF.II

Serial: HJ943

Code: TW:A

Base: RAF West Raynham, Norfolk, England

Location: Garrelsweer, Netherlands.

Pilot: Plt Off. Desmon 'Des' Byrne Snape 420071 RAAF Age 20. KiA

Nav/Radar Op: Fg Off. Ian 'Rusty’ Hamilton Fowler J20406 RCAF Age 22. PoW Number 3603 * (1)

* Stalag Luft 3 Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland.


Mosquito HJ943 took off with full operational equipment from RAF West Raynham at 17.58 hrs on the 24th February 1944 on a Serrate patrol to Kiel, Kattegat and Little Belt.

Serret was the code name for an airborne intercept (AI) receiver designed to detect radar emissions from German Lichtenstein AI-series radars fitted to German night fighters.

At 21:00 hours at a position about 16 km (10 mls) ENE of Den Helder in the Netherlands, this aircraft was heard by Plt Off. H.E. White DFC and Fg Off. M.S. Allen, DFC flying Mosquito NFII, HJ712, TW:R of 141 Sqn to give a "Mayday" to "Manlove" twice but no acknowledgment was heard. Except for this nothing further was heard from either the crew or aircraft.

The aircraft was reported to have crashed near to Garrelsweer, 16 km (10 mls) NE of Groningen at 21:48 hrs.

The following statement was made by Fg Off. Fowler through the International Red Cross Committee and describes the circumstances of the aircraft loss and the death of Plt Off. Snape:

"We noticed that the temperature of the Starboard engine was going up and about fifteen minutes later it began to seize up, and the airscrew was feathered. About an hour later the Port engine began to vibrate very badly. The pilot ordered me to abandon and whilst descending on my parachute I heard the aircraft crash and saw the flames. The following day the Germans took me to a place and showed me Plt Off. Snape’s body. His parachute was unopened."

German records originally reported that Maj. Sayn-Wittgenstein’s Ju-88 was shot down by Plt Off. Snape and Fg Off. Fowler on the 21st/22nd January 1944. However, modern day research has established that Maj. Sayn-Wittgenstein was in fact shot down by his fifth aircraft claim that night and was attributed to Flt Lt. T.R. Thompson, the rear gunner, aboard 156 Sqn Lancaster JA912. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (1 January - 15 March 1944) Part 1 - Theo Boiten).

Lancaster III JA192, GT:O from 156 Sqn was on a mission to bomb Magdeburg. Flt Lt. Leslie Kilvington DFC, RAAF and his crew survived and became PoWs.

The Sqn Operational Record Book (ORB) for the 21st January 1944 reported that whilst on patrol flying Mosquito NF.II DZ303 at 21:15 hrs, south of Brandenburg at 20,000ft an airborne intercept (AI) contact was received above and 20 degrees to the Port. A chase ensued lasting 3/4 mins on AI only resulting in a visual at about 200 yards closing. It appeared to be a Ju88 with navigation lights on. Combat ensued with Flt Sgt. Snape’s aircraft receiving damage to the aft of the cabin. He fired a 4/5 second burst at the enemy aircraft but made no claim pending examinations of gun camera film. The rest of the patrol was uneventful and they landed back at base at 01:20 hrs.

(1) Fg Off. Fowler was captured the next day near Groningen, some 17 km (10½ mls) SW of the crash location.

After the statuary processing at Dulag Luft Oberursel he was transferred to Stalag Luft 3 arriving there on the 26th March 1944.

Fg Off. Fowler was promoted to Flt Lt. whilst being held as a PoW.

Just before midnight on the 27th January 1945, because of advancing Russian forces, the PoW’s were marched out of the camp to Spremberg. Between the 31st January and 7th February, the PoW’s were sent to Stalag 13D at Nürnberg and Stalag 7A at Moosburg. During these transfers some 32 PoW’s but all were recaptured. With the approach of US forces on the 13th April, the PoW's at Stalag 13D were marched to Stalag 7A. On the 29th April 1945 the camp was liberated by elements of the US 14th Armoured Division.

He was interviewed on the 3rd May 1945.

Before he enlisted in the RCAF on the 9th January 1942 Ian was a student in Alberta, Canada.

Burial details:

(Credit: Laurinlaurin Espie and TWGPP)

Plt Off. Desmon Byrne Snape. Loppersum General Cemetery, Plot B, Row 11, Grave 10. Plt Off Snape is the only CWGC grave in Loppersum. Born on the 4th May 1923 in Abbotsford, NSW, Australia. Son of Claude Manning and Doris Mary (née Bermingham) Snape of Abbotsford, New South Wales, Australia.

Flt Sgt. Snape was posted to 141 Sqn on the 14th September 1943 and was appointed to a commission with effect from the 27th December 1943.

Researched by Ralph Snape for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this Pilot (Feb 2020). Thanks to The War Graves Photograph Project (TWGPP). Updated by Aircrew Remembered (Dec 2020). PoW information updated by Aircrew Remembered (Sept 2023).

Other sources listed below:

RS 14.09.2023 - Updated PoW information

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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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