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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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61 Squadron Crest
26/27.11.1943 61 Squadron Lancaster I DV297 QR:O Plt Off. Andrew P. E. Strange

Operation: Berlin

Date: 26th/27th November 1943 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit No: 61 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: DV297

Code: QR:O

Base: RAF Skellingthorpe, Lincolnshire

Location: Vicinity of Berlin

Pilot: Plt Off. Andrew Paul Edmund Strange 155793 RAFVR Age 22. MiA

Flt Eng: Plt Off. Charles James Bertram Cogdell 159885 RAFVR Age 30. MiA

Nav: WO2. John Blackstock Toombs R130140 RCAF Age 21. KiA

Bomb Aimer: Fg Off. Denis Henry Calman 130287 RAFVR Age 23. MiA

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Eric Smith 1139609 RAFVR Age 23. MiA

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Sgt Edward Francis Johnson 10601041 USAAF Age 25. MiA

Air Gnr (Rear): Fg Off. James Anthony Stephens J20202 RCAF Age 25. MiA

Above left to right: WO2. Toombs, Fg Off. Stephens from their Service Records.


Took off at 17:20 hrs from RAF Skellingthorpe, Lincolnshire to bomb Berlin together with a further 442 aircraft.

Most of the Luftwaffe thought the main target had been Frankfurt and were diverted there. They intercepted the bomber stream as it passed with several losses to the allies, over the target itself they were bothered very little by fighters, the main threat were the intensive German radar controlled flak guns.

Extract from the after Mission report:

Since its departure no communications have been received from the aircraft, which together with all members of its crew have been reported missing as from 26.11.43. Pilots of other aircraft from this unit and on similar operations report clear visibility, no cloud, slight ground haze. Fighters were met en route also on the return journey. In the target area there was considerable searchlight activity, and heavy flak. Fires were well concentrated and seen a considerable distance away. No observations were made by anyone that could have reasonably connected return of Lancaster DV297.

The Luftwaffe were waiting to hit them on the return - a total of 28 aircraft lost with a further 14 crashing over England.

Berlin was hit again and although no accurate figures are available to this raid alone the damage attributed to these and the other 2 earlier raids stood at 104,613 apartments destroyed (417,665 people made homeless) and the death toll on the ground stood at 4,330 people.

Burial details:

The initial grave for WO2. Toombs was located in the Elsgrund Cemetery, Doberitz some 22½ km (14 mls) west of the centre of the city of Berlin. Graves of a large number of British aircrew who could not be identified or associated with any crews were found in this cemetery and were registered as Unknown airman.

It is probable that because the grave of WO2. Toombs was found in this cemetery that the other members of his crew are in this group of unknown airmen. All the British airmen who were buried at the Elsgrund Cemetery, Doberitz were moved to the Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Those who were not identified were interred in graves marked as 'AN AIRMAN OF THE 1939-1945 WAR - ROYAL AIR FORCE - KNOWN ONTO GOD'

Above: Runnymede Memorial

Plt Off. Andrew Paul Edmund Strange. Runnymede Memorial Panel 133. Born on the 9th November 1921 in Brentford, Middlesex. Son of Frederick Cornwall and Mary Anastasia (née Furlong) Strange of 12 Wilton Avenue, Chiswick, London, England.

Andrew was employed as a clerk working for a paper/wood pulp company before he enlisted in the RAFVR.

Plt Off. Charles James Bertram Cogdell. Runnymede Memorial Panel 131. Born on the 19th October 1913. Son of Charles Benjamin and Elizabeth (née King) Cogdell of Popular, London. Husband to Mary L. (née Hayden) Cogdell of Depford, London, England.

In 1939 he was living with his fiancee, Mary Louise Hayden, in Kerry Road, Deptford, he was working as an Accounts Clerk, he married Mary in 1940 in Deptford, Kent

Above: The initial Grave Marker for WO2. Toombs from his Service Record

WO2. John Blackstock Toombs. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Grave 7.B.15. Born on the 19th November 1922 in Saults St. Marie, Ontario. Son of Charles Tupper and Sarah James (née Blackstock) Toombs of Saults St. Marie, Ontario, Canada.

Fg Off. Denis Henry Calman. Runnymede Memorial Panel 123. Born on the 31st August 1920 in St Pancras. SSon of Frederick Henry and Lily Emily Elizabeth (née Kindell) Calman of Chalk Farm Road, Chalk Farm, Camden, St Pancras, London, England.

Denis was an Apprentice compositor before he enlisted in the RAFVR

Sgt. Eric Smith. Runnymede Memorial Panel 165. Next of Kin details currently not available.

Above: Tablets of the Missing at Netherlands American Cemetery with Sgt. Johnson insert.

Sgt. Edward Francis Johnson. Air Medal (3 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Tablets of the Missing at Netherlands American Cemetery. Born on the 27th January 1918 in Woburn, Middlesex, Massachusetts, USA. Son of Harold Poindexter (predeceased) and Marion Dillingham (née Luey) Johnson of Woburn, Middlesex, Massachusetts. Husband to Virginia Catherine (née Broder) Johnson of Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, USA.

He enlisted in the USAAF in 1941. His USAAF unit in the UK was the 12th Replacement Control Depot.

Fg Off. James Anthony Stephens. Runnymede Memorial Panel 174. Born on the 9th July 1917 in Hamilton, Ontario. Son of Anthony J. Distefano (Stephens) (predeceased) and Eva Gertrude (née Young) Distefano (Stephens)of Hamilton. Husband of Irene Olive (née King) Stephens Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Researched by Kelvin Youngs (Webmaster) for relatives of the crew. With thanks to Gold Star Heroes and Honour Roll for details and photograph of Sgt. Johnson. Map and further details added (Jan 2018). Reviewed and updated by Aircrew Remembered (Sep 2023). Thanks to Graham Wallace for the updates to some of the missing Next of Kin details (Apr 2024).

Other sources listed below:

RS 18.04.2024 - Update to Next of Kin details

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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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