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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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50 Squadron Crest
08/09.10.1943 No. 50 Squadron Lancaster I DV324 VN-N P/O. John Cecil Philip Taylor

Operation: Hanover

Date: 08/09th October 1943 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit: No. 50 Squadron - Motto: "Sic fidem servamus" ("Thus we keep faith").

Badge: A sword in bend severing a mantle palewise. This unit formed at Dover and adopted a mantle being severed by a sword to show its connection with that town, the arms of which include St. Martin and the beggar with whom he divided his cloak. The mantle is also indicative of the protection given to this country by the Royal Air Force. Authority of King George VI, March 1940.

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: DV324

Code: VN-N

Base: RAF Skellingthorpe, Lincolnshire.

Location: Wilkenburg, Germany.

Pilot: P/O. John Cecil Philip Taylor 149547 PoW No. 3014 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria - L3 (1)

Fl/Eng: Fl/Sgt. J. Handley 519566 PoW No. 259877 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria - L3 (2)

Nav: Sgt. Frank William Dock 1336361 RAFVR Age 20. Killed (3)

Air/Bmr: F/O. Stewart Dare Stubbs 80577 PoW No.3015 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria - L3 (4)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. H.J. Whitwell 1129137 PoW No.259922 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria - L3 (5)

MU/Air/Gnr: W/O. John Stewart Gray 776389 PoW No.259874 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria - L3 (6)

R/Air/Gnr: W/O2. William Melvin Beckthold R/77965 RCAF. Age 21. Killed (7)

In April 2017 Aircrew Remembered was contacted by Brian Stubbs, the son of the air bomber, Fl/Lt. Stewart Dare Stubbs who very kindly provided a photograph and other details of the incident as told to him by his father.

If you have any further information or photographs please contact our helpdesk


Took off from RAF Skellingthorpe at 23:04hrs to bomb Hanover. This aircraft was armed with 1 x 4000 HC, 1260 x 4lb. IB and 104 x 30lb. IB. Special Equipment: Gee and Monica - see abbreviations

Route as per the Bomber Command Night Operations Report: 5315N 0350E - North end of Texel Island - 5255N 0800E - 5240N 0948E - Target - 5156N 0918E - Egmond - 5235N 0330E - East Coast.

A force of 496 aircraft comprising 282 Lancasters, 26 Wellingtons and 188 Halifaxes was despatched on this mission whilst the largest diversionary raid of the war thus far, was carried out on Bremen by 95 Stirlings and 24 Pathfinder heavies. A second diversionary raid was carried out on Berlin by 7 Mosquitoes. The raid on Hanover was to be the last in which Wellingtons took part.

430 of the aircraft designated to attack Hanover delivered a most concentrated attack against the city whilst 7 reported attacking the alternative areas. For various reasons 32 aircraft aborted the sortie and 27 did not return.

Weather over the target was described as cloudless but hazy. The searchlights were hampered by the haze and flak was reported as being only moderate. Though initially deceived by the diversionary attacks a significant number of enemy fighters met the main bomber stream near Hoya about 60km north of Hanover and followed it. Thus, considerable fighter activity was reported during the latter stages of the route and over the target. Perhaps not surprisingly only one of the 27 losses was definitely attributable to flak and though only 8 of the rest were actually observed being shot down by fighters it is probable that most of the other losses were due to enemy fighters.

The pathfinder force commenced bombing at 01.26hrs, the H2S groundmarking being exceptionally accurate. The main force attacked from 01.34hrs until 01.50hrs devastating two square miles of the city centre and damaging 62 factories, much railway, commercial and residential property and numerous military installations.

The sequence of events relating to the loss of Lancaster DV324 is not altogether clear but in his report P/O. Taylor stated that they had bombed the target and at 21000ft had been attacked by an unseen night fighter. As a result of the attack the port wing had been set on fire. The Pilot had then heard the Bomb Aimer (F/O. Stubbs) say he was baling out and felt a rush of wind from the front hatch. The Bomb Aimer had been followed by the Navigator. The W/Op (Sgt. Whitwell) stated later that the Navigator had ‘lost his chute and had tried to do a double jump with him but had got shaken off when the chute opened’. The Mid Upper gunner (W/O. Gray) told the Pilot that the Rear Gunner (W/O. Beckthold) was at the rear escape hatch with his chute and that he had freed him out. The Mid Upper gunner’s chute had got ‘pulled in the aircraft' but he had baled out safely. The Pilot baled out and as he floated down saw the aircraft become a ball of flame and break up - ? had exploded. He thought the rear gunner may have been hit by part of the aircraft.

In his report the Flight Engineer (Fl/Sgt. Handley) stated that strings holding the chute hooks to harness broke as I left the aircraft and I had to (haul down?) chute and pull rip cord, also lost a boot, but made a good landing in a garden, just missed a house. Hadn’t a chance to get away, policeman caught me straight away'.

Brain Stubbs recalled that his father Fl/Lt. Stewart Stubbs later told him that during the attempt to evacuate the plane his role as bomb aimer was to release the escape hatch.He released the hatch but instead of falling out it twisted. He started to kick the hatch but realised if he fell he was still attached to his R/T and oxygen mask so her removed those and continued to kick. He blacked out and fell out of the aircraft . He pulled the rip cord automatically and woke hanging from his parachute. He was captured and sent to Stalag Luft III where , as a fluent French speaker he gave French lessons to other PoWs.

DV324 crashed at Wilkenburg 5 miles south of Hanover. The only report of a Lancaster or other unidentified "4 mot" being shot down immediately south of Hanover on 9 October 1943 is a Lancaster claimed by Uffz. Otto Kutzner (8) from 5./NJG3 (south of Hannover at 3,000m, at 01:46 hrs.)

There is a note appended to this claim: Coned by 2./Res. Flakscheinw. Abt. 139 (Werfer 59), also claimed by Flak of 1./schw. Flak Abt. 418 (Eisb.), 6./schw. Flak Abt. 801 (o) and 2., 4. & 5./schw. Flak Abt. 521 ('Lancaster nr. Wilkenburg S. Hannover 01:50hrs') Flak and Flak searchlight claims confirmed by OKL on 10.5.1944, claim by Uffz Kutzner confirmed as Herausschuss on 18.5.1944.


(1) Fl/Lt. John Cecil Philip Taylor was born in 1919 at Hendon, Middlesex the son of John H Taylor and Florence Taylor nee Greasley.

He took his civil pilots licence on 30 August 1939 at London Air Park and enlisted on 10 September 939 in Uxbridge.

903569 Sgt. J.C.P. Taylor was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 16 July 1943 (London Gazette 14 September 1943); confirmed in this appointment and promoted to Flying Officer on 16 January 1944 (London Gazette 21 January 1944). He was further promoted to Flight Lieutenant (war subs) on 16 July 1945 (London Gazette 17 August 1945) and granted Substantive Rank of Flight Lieutenant on 1 November 1947 with seniority of 16 January 1947 (London Gazette 27 January 1948). He relinquished his commission on 14 December 1949 retaining the rank of Flight Lieutenant (London Gazette 20 December 1949)

John Cecil Philip (Johnny) Taylor died on 9 October 2012 aged 93. His funeral took place at Girton Parish Church, Cambridgeshire on Tuesday 23 October 2012.

(2) Fl/Sgt. J. Handley - nothing further known, are you able to assist?

(3) Sgt. Frank W. Dock was born at Greenwich in 1923, the son of Thomas Alfred Dock (an Electrician) and Grace Helena Dock nee Pollard later of Forest Hill, London, England. He had a sister, Elain G. Dock bor in 1937.

In 1939 the family lived at 27 Bovill Road, Lewisham, London

Photograph: Courtesy Brian Lord (Cousin of Frank Dock)

(4) Fl/Lt. Steward Dare Stubbs was born on 31 August 1912 at Steyning, Sussex the son of Charles Stewart Stubbs, a Bank Clerk and Clarice Evalyn Stubbs nee Billings of 7 Glebe Villas, Hove, Sussex.

LAC 753646 Stubbs was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation in the Administration and Special Duties Branch, RAFVR on 1 June 1940 (London Gazette 2 July 1940) confirmed in this appointment and promoted to Flying Officer (war subs) on 1 June 1941 (London Gazette 5 September 1941). On 31 October 1942 he relinquished his rank at his own request and transferred to the General Duties Branch as a Pilot Officer (London Gazette 15 December 1942). He was promoted to Flying Officer on 30 April 1943 (London Gazette 9 July 1943) and to Flight Lieutenant on 31 October 1944 (London Gazette 17 November 1944).
He married Jean Bathe Rawling in 1943 at Kensington, London.
Stewart Dale Stubbs died at Maidstone in 2000 aged 88.

(5) Sgt. H.J. Whitwell - Probably Henry J. Whitwell born in 2015 at York the son of Edwin G, Whitwell and Sarah Whitwell nee Pitts.

(6) W/O. John Stewart Gray was born on 10 October 1916 at Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia where his family lived in Duncan Road. He enlisted in the Rhodesian Air Force on 26 August 1938 and joined the RAF on 1 June 1940 . He arrived at Southampton from Durban on the Gloucester Castle on 14 May 1938 and his address in England was given as the Rhodesia House in the Strand, London.

(7) W/O2. William Melvin Beckthold was born on 19 January 1911 at Herbert, Sakatchewan, Canada the son of a Swiss born father Karl Beckthold and a Russian born mother Elisabeth Beckthold. He had six siblings Charles born in 1907, Hilda in 1913, Theresa and Gertrude in 1915, Aupelonia in 1920 and Leonard Henry in 1926. The family farmed at Scottsburgh, a tract of land some 34 km south of Herbert. William was educated at Walsh Valley School from 1920 until 1926 and later attended Balfour Technical College, Regina where he studied Motor Engineering. He later spent a short time at the American School in Chicago studying Civil Engineering. After a variety of jobs including Truck Driving and working on Road Construction he worked for the Eastern Irrigation District Co. as a Carpenter for two years prior to enlisting at Calgary on 30 January 1941. He boxed occasionally and played baseball. He was described as 5'6" tall weighing 132lbs with a fair complexion, blue eyes and fair hair.
After initial training at 2MD (Manning Depot) at RCAF Brandon, Manitoba 1MD at RCAF Toronto, Ontario and 4MD at RCAF Quebec he was posted to No. 8 Service Flying Training School at RCAF Moncton, New Brunswick on 4 May 1941, No. 4 Wireless School at RCAF Guelph, Ontario on 4 July 1941 and No. 5 Bombing and Gunnery School at RCAF Dafoe, Saskatchewan on 29 March 1942. He was awarded his Air Gunners Badge on 27 April 1942 and promoted to Sergeant. He embarked for the UK on 31 May 1942 and arrival on 11 June was posted to No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre, Bournemouth. He was posted to No. 7 Air Gunnery School at RAF Stormy Down, South Wales on 30 July and to No. 14 Operational Training Unit (OTU) at RAF Cottesmore, Sussex. He was promoted to Flight Sergeant on 27 October 1942 and on 30 January 1943 he was posted to No. 29 OTU at RAF North Luffenham, Rutland. A further promotion to Warrant Officer Class 2 on 27 April was followed by him being posted to No. 1660 Conversion Unit at RAF Swinderby, Lincolnshire on 16 May 1943 and on 29 July to No. 50 Squadron at RAF Swinderby for operational flying.

(8) Fw. Otto Kutzner was born at Magdeburg, Germany. Joined NJG-2 in October 1943 and moved later the same month to 5/NJG-3. He scored 12 victories but on 7 March 1945 he crashed whilst landing his Ju88 resulting in the loss of his left leg and in him being hospitalised until May 1947.


Photo: Courtesy Brian Lord

Sgt. Frank William Dock. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave No. 2.E.16 (3)

Photo: Courtesy Find a Grave

W/O2. William Melvin Beckthold. Hanover War Cemetery. Coll. Grave No. 2.D.1-4 (7)

Researched by Roy Wilcock for Aircrew Remembered - February 2015. Sources:- RAF Loss Card, RAF Bomber Command Report on Night Operations, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Bomber Command Database, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives. Saskatchewan Virtual War Memorial. With thanks to Michel Beckers for photo of W/O2. William Melvin Beckthold - March 2016.

KTY 14.03.2016 Photo added to page - courtesy Michel Beckers.

RW 16.10.2016 Biographical details added

RW 07.04.2017 Photograph and further details received from Brian Stubbs added

RW 22.05.2020 Photographs re Frank Dock courtesy Brian Lord added plus further details re German claim courtesy Ralph Snape.

RW 29.09.2023 Additional biographical details for John Stewart Gray and John Taylor added courtesy Graham Wallace

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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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