25/26.05.1943 12 Squadron Lancaster III ED967 PH:F Flt Sgt. Robert J. Steele,
Date: 25th/26th May 1943 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
Unit No: 12 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Wickenby, Lincolnshire.
Location: Ratingen, Germany.
Pilot: Flt Sgt. Robert James Steele 655242 RAF Age 24. KiA
Flt Eng: Sgt. Alexander Alwyn Prowse 21144 RAAF Age 26. KiA
Nav: Fg Off. ‘Bob’ Cecil Bertie Hooper 129598 RAFVR Age 21. KiA
Bomb Aimer: Sgt. Douglas William Creevy 1330741 RAFVR Age 22. KiA
WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Edward Temple Powell 1082026 RAFVR Age 23. KiA
Air Gnr (Mid Upp) Sgt. Sydney Arthur James Bailey 1332267 RAFVR Age 21. KiA
Air Gnr (Rear): Flt Sgt. Leslie Charles Schroeder 1339266 RAFVR Age 20. KiA
12 Squadron RAF Wickenby 1943 (courtesy Jo Lewis and family)
The family of Flt Sgt. Schroeder would very much like to be contacted by other crew relatives. In 2013 they placed the ‘special poppies’ by each of the graves of the crew, together with a note (see photographs) These poppies were taken from the ones dropped during the flypast of the Lancaster at the opening of the Bomber Command Memorial at Green Park, London, England in June 2012. A very special remembrance!
Update: September 2015 - a further relative contacted us - now placed in contact with other relatives!
REASON FOR LOSS
Taking off at 00.37 hrs from RAF Wickenby - 22 Lancasters from 12 Squadron taking part in this operation. In total 323 Lancasters, 169 Halifaxes, 142 Wellingtons, 113 Stirlings with 12 Mosquitos were to bomb Dusseldorf - 759 aircraft in total.
The weather on leaving England was fine with showers, over the Dutch coast broken cloud, which increased as the target was approached. Dusseldorf was covered in 10/10 cloud at various heights.
Bomb load has been described in the Squadron Operation record book as 1 × 4000 lb, 600 × 4 lb incendiary, 48 x 30 lb incendiary.
Despite the huge bomber force the raid was classed as a failure with bombing scattered over a wide area. Between 50 - 100 buildings were destroyed with some 50 people killed on the ground. It is understood that the Germans lit various fires and also placed decoy markers to fool the allies.
The allies lost some 29 aircraft - one on return, Halifax I HR747 from 51 Squadron, crashing at Highfield Farm near Doncaster, all crew survived uninjured. Another, Halifax I HR806 crashing immediately after take off, all 7 crew injured but survived. 27 others were lost either on route or returning from the operation. 27 were taken pow with a shocking 170 other crew killed or missing!
The night fighters were hampered by the cloud cover plus the half moon rose at about 03.00 hrs. when the crews were on their way home.
However 21 were confirmed to have been shot down, mainly on the very slow return trip, when the allies suffered 40-60 mph head winds. 2 other aircraft were lost when 77 Squadron JB837 was shot down by Maj. Walter Ehle of Stab II./NJG1 over Eisdorf at 01:51 hrs. The full bomb load exploded bringing down two Stirlings. Maj. Ehle was credited with 5 Abschuss on this night - not including the 2 Stirlings.
ED967 was hit by 3./schw. Flak Abt. 383, 6./schw. Flak Abt. 401, 1./schw. Flak Abt. 407 and 1./schw. Flak Abt. 474. The aircraft crashed at the railway station of Ratingen at 02:43 hrs. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (1 January - 22 June) 1943 Part 1 - Theo Boiten)
Although the radar operated searchlights were being used, due to the cloud base they were not very effective. One crew member from 12 Squadron died on return from anoxia. 29 year old Flt Sgt. Thomas A. Routledge 1178835 RAFVR. He was interred at the Pershore Cemetery. Plot S.R. Grave 29. Son of Thomas and Elizabeth Routledge, of Pershore, Worcestershire.
The crew were originally buried at the North Cemetery in Dusseldorf, prior to be moved to Reichswald Forest War Cemetery after the end of the war.
Crew graves (courtesy Lillian Edwards, nee Schroeder and family) - available to others at a high resolution - please contact us.
FIt Sgt. Robert James Steele. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 5. D. 12. Grave inscription: 'TIME PASSES BUT MEMORY REMAINS. AND STILL TO MEMORY THOU ART FOR EVER DEAR'. Son of Robert James Steele and Hannah Steele, of Wednesbury, Staffordshire, England.
Sgt. Alexander Alwyn Prowse. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 5.D.15. Grave inscription: 'GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS'. Born on the 27th April 1917 in Adelong, New South Wales. Son of Walter Clarence and Florence Maud Prowse, of Muswellbrook, New South Wales, Australia.
Fg Off. 'Bob' Cecil Bertie Hooper. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 5.D. 10. Grave inscription: 'FATHER, IN THY GRACIOUS KEEPING, LEAVE WE NOW, OUR LOVED ONE SLEEPING'. Son of Charles Ernest and Violet Emmeline Hooper, of Battersea, London, England.
Further crew graves (courtesy Lillian Edwards, nee Schroeder and family) - available to others at a high resolution - please contact us.
Sgt. Douglas William Creevy. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 5. D. 13. Grave inscription: 'FOR THE WAYS OF THE LORD ARE RIGHT, AND THE JUST SHALL WALK IN THEM'. Son of William and Katie Creevy, of 292 Dogsthorpe Road, Peterborough, Northamptonshire, England.
Above: Sgt. Edward Temple Powell (courtesy Ronald Powell)
Sgt. Edward Temple Powell. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 5. D.8. Grave inscription: 'AND HOW CAN MAN DIE BETTER THAN FEARFUL ODDS'. Son of Samuel Temple Powell and Phoebe Ellen Powell, of Walton, Liverpool, England.
Sgt. Sydney Arthur James Bailey. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 5.D.11. Grave inscription: 'AT THE DAWN AND AT THE SETTING OF THE SUN, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM'. Son of Albert Harry and Frances Jane Bailey, of Plaxtol, Sevenoaks, Kent, England.
Tragically the sister of Sgt. Bailey was killed during the same month the following year. LAC Dorothy F.J. Bailey 445195
WAAF serving with 692 Squadron was hit by a motor vehicle whilst cycling back to the camp. She died from her injuries at the 49th American Station Hospital, Diddington, Cambridgeshire, the second largest American hospital in England. She was interred at the Plaxtol Churchyard.
Above rear gunner: Flt Sgt. Leslie Charles Schroeder and grave (courtesy Lillian Edwards, nee Schroeder and family)
Flt Sgt. Leslie Charles Schroeder. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 5.D.9. Grave inscription: 'LOVING MEMORIES OF A BRAVE SON AND BROTHER RESTING IN A BEAUTIFUL GARDEN'. Son of Norman and Louisa Ada Maud Schroeder of Wrington, Somerset, England.
Note: despite requests, the CWGC have not placed his age at death on his grave marker
The note by each of the crew's grave reads: "Poppies from the Lancaster 'poppy drop' over the London Bomber Command Memorial on 26th June, 2012. A tribute from Flt Sgt. L.C. Schroeder's sister for Leslie's comrades. They made the ultimate sacrifice together."
Above: Image of 2002 Tribute to Flt Sgt. Schroeder (Courtesy of Richard Maddox)
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Lillian Edwards, nee Schroeder and family, relative of Flt Sgt. Leslie Schroeder, Ronald Powell, relative of Sgt. Edward Temple Powell. Thanks to Richard Morris for the 2022 remembrance tribute to Flt Sgt. Schroeder (Dec 2022). Other updates by aircrew Remembered (Dec 2022).
Other sources listed below: