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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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426 Squadron Crest
30/31.03.1944 No. 426 Squadron Lancaster II DS840 OW-C Fl/Lt. Cracknell

Operation: Nuremberg

Date: 30/31st. March 1944 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: No.426 Squadron RCAF ‘Thunderbirds’

Type: Lancaster II

Serial: DS840

Code: OW-C

Base: RAF Linton on Ouse, Yorkshire.

Location: Ermreuth, 4km west southwest of Gräfenberg, Germany.

Pilot: Fl/Lt. Walter Charles Cracknell J/8353 RCAF Age 22. Killed (1)

Flt/Eng: Sgt. Harold Wride 652571 RAF Age 24. Killed

Nav: P/O. Alexander Gordon Devoy J/85650 RCAF Age 23. Killed (2)

Air/Bmr: P/O. Hubert Francis Orr J/89072 RCAF Age 30. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: W/O. Milton Cecil Moosman NZ/415551 RNZAF Age 23 Killed

Air/Gnr: F/O. Leroy Edward Robinson J/22460 RCAF Age 27. Killed (3)

Air/Gnr: P/O. Roy Clifford Haycock J/86607 RCAF Age 25. Killed


This raid on the City of Nuremberg resulted in Bomber Commands heaviest loss of the war.

Despite the fact that it was a period of bright moonlight and an earlier meteorological flight had warned that there would be no cloud cover for the bomber stream, conditions that normally would have ordered a cancellation of the mission, no such order was made. Nuremberg was an important industrial target as well as a centrepiece of the Nazi Party that had not been attacked for seven months. Air Chief Marshall Harris was not to be deterred from his plan.

Nuremberg was a distant target and even though the route chosen was to be one of a direct nature it still represented a round trip of between 1300 and 1600 miles dependant upon the base airfield. Additionally, it was one that would lead the bomber stream between the Ida and Otto radio beacons located near Cologne and Frankfurt respectively which in hindsight turned out to be a fatal mistake. German intelligence had monitored the bomber force taking off in England and plotted their course by intercepting their H2S transmissions. Suspecting that the intended target was somewhere in southeastern Germany, the Luftwaffe commanders had ordered their fighters to assemble at the Ida and Otto beacons.

The leading Pathfinders were able to pass through the gap before the consolidated force of over 200 night fighters converging on the beacons hit the middle of the bomber stream.

At two minutes before ten o’clock on the night of March 30 Fl/Lt. Cracknell and the crew of Lancaster DS840, “C” for Charlie, left the runway at Linton on Ouse. The aircraft, with its seven crew members who were on their fifth operation together, was on its final approach to the target when it was attacked by an unknown night fighter (4) and crashed near the village of Ermreuth 15 miles to the north of Nuremberg. There were no survivors. One other Lancaster from the thirteen aircraft that were despatched from 426 Squadron failed to return two of the crew members being killed and five others taken as prisoners of war.

Of the 795 aircraft making up the attacking force 82 of their number would be lost due to enemy action en-route and near to the target. While some of these were brought down by flak by far the majority was as a result of night fighter action. Another nine bombers were brought down by the night fighters and flak on the return leg. Fourteen more were lost, eleven in crashes on take off or on their return to base, one due to friendly fire and two to mid-air collision.

Right: F/O. Alexander Gordon Devoy frame of memories.

In all 543 aircrew were killed and a further 157 captured as prisoners of war.

The operation was a total failure not only in terms of the loss of so many brave aircrew and aircraft but little damage was sustained by the City of Nuremberg.

Although the bombers flight path had been clear and moonlit, by the time the Pathfinders arrived in the vicinity of the target thick cloud cover and strong winds prevailed. The thick cloud made the target indicators all but invisible and, combined with the unexpected winds blowing the Pathfinders off course, caused much of the main force bombing to be cantered on the small town of Lauf and the surrounding villages to the north east of Nuremberg. In the confusion some crews dropped their bombs on Schweinfurt causing minor damage to the ball bearing factories but again many of the bombs fell in the outskirts. Damage in Nuremberg itself was relatively light. Several smaller fires were set in the city centre and a few buildings hit including the railway station, post office and some houses but the main objective of setting the city ablaze and bombing the M.A.N. and Siemens factories failed completely.

(1) Cracknell Lake in northern Ontario is named after Fl/Lt. Cracknell

(2) Mount Devoy east of Laidlaw, British Columbia is named after P/O. Devoy.

(3)Robinson Peaks north west of Golden, British Columbia are named after F/O. Robinson and his brother Private Everett Carl Robinson of the 2nd Battalion Highland Light Infantry, City of Glasgow Regiment
Pte. Everett Carl Robinson was killed in action on 27 June 1944 near Caen, France. He is buried at St.Manvieu War Cemetery, Cheux, France.

Right: Robinson Peaks certificate (courtesy Wendy Robinson)

With thanks to Jim Robertson (the son of the late brother - Robert Earl Robinson) the moving story of F/O. Robinson is on this website.

(4) It is thought that the claim made by Uffz. Heinz Krause of 3./NJG3 probably claimed this aircraft, with combat taking place at 5,600 mtrs at 01:18 hrs. Although another Lancaster also matched this time and area, that of 101 Squadron DV275. Such was the fierce combats taking place during this raid it is very difficult to pinpoint exactly.

He made two confirmed claims during this raid, one at 01:14 hrs and another at 01:18 hrs. same height and same area so it is probable that he did shoot both of these aircraft down, we are just not able to pinpoint at what time the combat took place.

He made a total of 5 confirmed kills during the war and it is thought that he survived - no further details are available.

Durnbach War Cemetery - The quality of these photographs shown here can not be fully appreciated when the size is reduced for the web page. (courtesy David Franklin - David has kindly provided us with permission to release high definition copies to relatives)

Burial Details:

Initially buried at Furth with full military honours on the 06th April 1944 but reinterred in July 1948.

Fl/Lt. Walter Charles Cracknell. Durnbach War Cemetery Grave 11 A 8. Born on the 05th May 1922 at Fort William, Ontario. Enlisted on the 12th October 1940 at Fort William. Son of Frederick Cass and Eva Helena Cracknell (nee Blakeman) brother of Eva, Ellen, Josephine and Betty of Fort William, Ontario, Canada. Two brothers Gordon and Stan predeceased him.
A motor mechanic by trade, Walter originally applied to the RCAF for ground duties as a mechanic. However, the high demand for aircrew led him down a different path. After his initial training at Regina, he was posted to No.2 Elementary Flying Training School at Fort William (now Thunder Bay) on 21 June 1941. It became clear to his instructors that he had a natural ability for piloting aircraft and soon progressed to the Service Flying Training School at Uplands, Ontario where he graduated with his Pilot's Flying badge and the rank of Pilot Officer on 24 October 1941. Noted as being considerably above average as a pilot he was streamed into the Flying Instructors Course at Trenton, Ontario. Awarded a Category 'C' Instructor rating he was posted to No.12 Service Flying Training School at Brandon, Manitoba on 5 February 1942. Walter served at Brandon training pilots for twelve months when in all likelihood he requested to be transferred to operations and thus he was posted to No.34 OTU at Pennfield Ridge, New Brunswick to train on the Lockheed Ventura light bomber. Upon graduation, at the end of April 1943, the comments on his report read: "Above average pilot, ex Cessna Crane instructor with plenty of flying experience. Good crew leader and should do well on operations".
Posted to the UK he commenced a training course on the Wellington bomber at No.23 OTU at RAF Pershore on 31 August 1943 where he crewed up with his navigator, bomber, wireless operator and gunner until November when Walter and his crew were posted to No.1666 Heavy Conversion Unit at Dalton. Here they would be joined by engineer Wride and gunner Robinson to round out the seven-man crew completing their six-week course on 13 February 1944. The next day Captain Cracknell and crew reported for duty with No.426 Squadron at Linton.

As was the normal practice Walter Cracknell's first taste of operations against the enemy would be as a 2nd. pilot before captaining his own crew on a sortie. His first opportunity was with P/O R.H. Jarman and crew on 19 February 1944 to Leipzig. Unfortunately, due to the port inner engine failing on their Lancaster, the mission was aborted before they reached the target. The next night he successfully flew with W/C W.H. Swetman to Stuttgart.

Fl/Lt. Walter Cracknell and this crew completed five sorties with No.426 Squadron before they were lost on the Nuremberg raid.

15/16 March 1944 Stuttgart - moderate success due to adverse winds. 37 aircraft lost, 27 Lancasters, 10 Halifaxes
18/19 March 1944 Frankfurt - successful raid, extensive damage to the city. 22 aircraft lost, 12 Halifaxes, 10 Lancasters
22/23 March 1944 Frankfurt - accurate marking, more severe damage. 33 aircraft lost, 23 Lancasters, 7 Halifaxes
24/25 March 1944 Berlin - strong winds scattered bomber stream, heavy losses. 72 aircraft lost, 44 Lancasters, 28 Halifaxes
26/27 March 1944 Essen - successful attack, industrial targets and houses destroyed. 9 aircraft lost 6 Lancasters, 3 Halifaxes

Sgt. Harold Wride. Durnbach War Cemetery Grave 11 A 12. Son of Henry and Lucy Wride of Hull, England.

F/O. Alexander Gordon Devoy. Durnbach War Cemetery Grave 11 A 9. Further information: Brother of Mrs. Alan Minter and Miss Betty Devoy of Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada. Brother of Mrs. Alan Minter and Miss Betty Devoy, Chilliwack, B.C. Although Gordon was born and resided in Cumberland, B.C., his sisters, Mrs. Alan Minter and Miss Betty Devoy lived in Chilliwack. Gordon lived in Chilliwack, off and on, and became friends with Alan and Glen Minter.
Born on 20 April 1920 in Cumberland, B.C. Of Scots' parentage, his Mother having died in 1929. He was the youngest son of William and a brother to William Jr., and sisters Rita, Elizabeth and Agnes as well as a half-sister Pamela. Alexander graduated from Cumberland High School in 1937 and found a position as an apprentice at a local printing company. After three years there he was laid off due to a lack of work. Having previously gained a St John's Ambulance Service First Aid Certificate he was able to get a job as a first aid attendant with a logging company until he enlisted in May 1941.
Alexander originally enlisted for ground crew duties as a medical clerk and was posted to RCAF Uplands. In August of 1942, he re-mustered for aircrew duties and was posted for initial training at Belleville, Ontario. Selected for training as a navigator he attended No.1 Air Observers School at Malton from 11 October 1942 where he graduated with his Air Observers Badge in February 1943. Posted overseas he embarked at Halifax on 16 May 1943 arriving at No.3 PRC nine days later. For the month of August, he was posted to No.6 (O) Advanced Flying Unit and then to No.23 OTU where he crewed up with Walter Cracknell

P/O Hubert Francis Orr, Durnbach War Cemetery Grave 11 A 11. Son of Edward Elliott Orr and Etta Mae Orr husband of Alice Jeanne (nee Beainer) Orr of Peace River, Alberta, Canada.
Hubert was born in Oak Lake, Manitoba on 18 December 1912. The family moved to Alberta when he was five years of age where his Father worked as a jeweler. He was the second youngest child having an older brother, three older sisters and one younger. He graduated from Peace River High School and after several odd jobs worked for nine years as a clerk and shipper for a wholesale grocer when he enlisted in the RCAF. Hubert, who was quite mechanically minded working on cars and doing carpentry, also enjoyed skiing, skating and swimming.
Upon enlisting for flying duties in March 1942, he was posted to No.5 Elementary Flying School at High River after completing his basic training in Edmonton that October. Hubert struggled with mastering the aircraft controls at EFS and his training as a pilot was curtailed before he completed the course of instruction. Sent to Trenton, Ontario for reclassification in December 1942, he was posted to No.5 Bombing and Gunnery School at Dafoe, Saskatchewan on 9 January 1943 for training as an air bomber. Hubert completed his Canadian training at No.2 Air Observers School in Edmonton where he graduated with his Air Bombers Badge on 14 May 1943. The previous day he married his fiance, the former Alice Jeanne Beainer.
Posted overseas he arrived at No.3 PRC on 2 July 1943 and was sent to No.10 Observers Advance Flying Unit at Dumfries, Scotland, to No.23 OTU Pershore on 17 August before joining No.426 Squadron on 14 February 1944.

W/O. Milton Cecil Moosman, Durnbach War Cemetery Grave 11 A 10. Born on the 06th June 1920 at Wangaroo. Worked as a plumber in his father's business, Moosman and Son prior to service. Enlisted at Levin in the RNZAF on the 4th October 1941. Embarked for Canada on the 17th November 1941. Awarded his W/Op/Air/Gnr badge and promoted to Sergeant on the 20th June 1942. Embarked for England on the 28th May 19943. Joined 426 Squadron from 1666 Heavy Conversion Unit on the 15th February 1943. Son of Ernest Ameil and Kathleen Moosman (nee Currin) of Wanganui, Wellington, New Zealand. A total of 655 flying hours logged and on his 6th operational sortie when lost.

F/O. Leroy Edward Robinson. Durnbach War Cemetery Grave 11 A 13. Born on the 13th May 1919. Enlisted on the 09th October 1941 at Vancouver. Son of Edward Clark and Effie May (nee Bailey) Robinson of Golden, British Columbia, Canada. His brother 38 year old Pte. Evert Carl Robinson 3328165 was killed in France on the 27th June 1944 whilst serving with the 2nd Bn. The Glasgow Highlanders.

1917 – 1944
By Robert Earl Robinson

We called him Roy and he was the sixth child born to Edward and Effie. Roy and I literally grew up together even though he was a year and one half older than me. There was a not unhealthy sibling rivalry between us which continued into our teen years. We both learned to swim the same year and to skate the same winter. He was always just a little bit better at doing these things but that encouraged me to work harder at them. We shared the same room and bed for a number of years, we both had measles and chicken pox at the same time. We both had our first sex experience on the same night and with the same girl.

Roy finished high school a year ahead of me and he got to spend a summer on our dad’s placer claims, a privilege I never got to enjoy. He was a year ahead of me on our trap line and had a session trapping beaver and muskrats.

We both joined the Canadian Army on the same day (July 3rd. /40) and spent the first year in artillery forts on Vancouver Island. We eventually transferred to the Air Force on the same day.

An interesting thing happened to us while on Vancouver Island. We were in different forts but still in what was known as the Fifth B.C. Coast Brigade. At one time or another everyone was required to visit a rifle range (Heels Range) for the purpose of learning and assessing our marksmanship ability with the Lee-Enfield rifle. In due course, the results were posted and upon returning to my fort after a weekend leave one of my fellow soldiers congratulated me on receiving the second-highest score in the Brigade. He then posed the question as to who was this other Robinson that beat me out for first place. I took a look at the list and yes, it was my brother Roy. A strange tale? We were still competing without even knowing it.

Since our lives were so closely knit it would seem appropriate and expedient to combine our stories for a while. When we first joined the service we were posted to the Bay Street Armories in Victoria. From there we went to "boot camp" at Mary Hill near Williams Head. Mary Hill training camp was not much more than a bunch of tents in an abandoned orchard.

We spent six weeks there learning the fine art of becoming a foot soldier after which we were posted out to area forts. I went to Fort McCaully and Roy to Fort Mary Hill. After a time we learned that with mutual consent the older of two brothers could claim the other and in due course I was posted to Roy's Fort at Mary Hill, overlooking Race Rocks.

A pleasant place but boredom set in. We had applied for several overseas drafts but it soon became apparent that they were only releasing troublemakers. To fight boredom we signed up for a carpenters course at a trade school where we learned by doing and at the end of the course they bestowed a "C" class carpenters rating on us.

Coincidentally with the end of the course we were advised that we would all be going to Hamilton, Ontario for an advanced course. Kit and caboodle we were loaded on a boat for Vancouver but instead of getting on a train as we had anticipated we were deposited in the old Hotel Vancouver which had been converted for military use. Only then did we smell a rat, all thirty of us. The next day we were assembled before a smooth-talking Army Engineer Captain who informed us that the school in Hamilton had been canceled but if we volunteered to join his outfit we would soon become tradesmen.

As volunteers rather than draftees we were supposed to be able to join any outfit we wanted to. After a day to think about the offer we turned it down en masse and the spokesman for our group requested that we be sent back to our original units. We were told that our units no longer wanted us.

Well, we lost that battle but not the war. Leroy had learned that if we were accepted by the Air Force for aircrew rating we could get discharged from the Army and this is the route we chose. While our carpenter school buddies were being railroaded into the Engineers, Roy and I were busy getting our discharge from the Army.

It took us just seven days after which we were sent home on leave for a month prior to reporting to Air Force Manning Depot in Edmonton just in time to enjoy 30 degrees below zero weather. "Boot Camp" in the Air Force was as different from that of the Army as daylight compared to darkness. To say the least, we even had sheets on our beds. I think perhaps what made it most enjoyable was the fact that we knew how the other half lived from actual experience.

It did have its downside, however. We had been nicely fitted and tailored in our new uniforms and went down to a local pub one evening to do some showing off. We began to see some familiar faces. They were difficult to place for a moment and then it dawned on us who these faces were. They belonged to our old Artillery unit at Fort Mary Hill.

Well, the faces hadn't changed but the uniforms had and so had the ranks. Many of our close friends had become top NCOs and some were even commissioned officers. The former 5th. B.C.Coast Brigade had overnight become the 96th Anti-Tank Regiment and had expanded from five hundred to five thousand soldiers. The truth came upon us slowly but in the end we realized that our wise old Colonel had been quietly gathering a nucleus of top men for his new Regiment by holding back their applications for overseas drafts. He had something better in mind for the ones that showed promise.

But back to Roy and I:

Our career aspirations differed. I wanted to try for a pilot's rating while Roy wanted to be a wireless air gunner or WAG as they were known as. So at the completion of our stay in Edmonton, our ways parted and we really never got together again except on the odd weekend leave.

Leroy was posted to WAG school in Calgary while I went to ground school in Edmonton and later to High River and then graduated as a pilot at Fort MacLeod. In the meantime, Roy was having trouble with Morse code and he eventually asked to be re-mustered as a straight air gunner. He was posted to Brandon, Manitoba for that course. As might be expected he excelled in gunnery and graduated with an Officer rank and was taken on staff as an instructor. He spent six months at that and then was posted overseas to a bomber squadron at Linton on Ouse.

It was a few weeks before I had an opportunity to contact Roy and finally when I did his flight commander told me he was missing in action. His plane had been shot down over Germany and he was buried in a military graveyard in Germany.

The story of Roy ends as abruptly as did his life, in the skies over Germany.

Reproduced courtesy and by permission of the late Robert Earl Robinson’s son Robert James (Jim) Robinson.

Left: Leroy and Robert together at the swimming pool. Right: Leroy Edward Robinson.
Courtesy Robinson Family Collection

P/O. Roy Clifford Haycock, Durnbach War Cemetery Grave 11 A 14. Born on the 15th November 1918 at Oxford County, Ontario. Enlisted on the 14th July 1941 at London, Ontario after serving with the Canadian Fusiliers. Son of Abram and Ethel Haycock and brother of Ross Mervin, Earl Leroy and Verna of Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada.
The youngest of two brothers and a sister, Roy was born in Ingersoll, Ontario in 1918. Having to leave school early upon the death of his Father, he worked on the family farm for eight years before taking a job as a packer at a candy factory. He served for a short period of time in the Canadian Fusiliers as a driver until he enlisted in the RCAF for ground duties in February 1941. Taken on strength at No.1 Manning Depot, Toronto that July, he was posted to No.16 Service Flying School at Hagersville, Ontario on 9 August 1941. At Hagersville, he was promoted to the rank of Corporal where his duties included maintenance of the control tower records. During his time there he applied to re-muster for aircrew as a gunner and was posted to No.6 Bombing and Gunnery School at Mount Joli on 6 December 1942. Gaining his Air Gunners Badge on 5 March 1943 he was next posted to No.34 OTU Pennfield Ridge for two months before embarking for the UK on 27 May 1943. Posted to No.23 OTU at Pershore on 17 August 1943 and then to 426 Squadron 14 February 1944.

Some of P/O Devoy’s biographical information researched by Paul Ferguson, Heritage Collections Manager, Chilliwack Museum and Archives and reproduced courtesy of The Chilliwack Museum and Archives, British Columbia, Canada. Further information courtesy John Eigi the assistant historian, Heritage Mississauga.

Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and RCAF specialist Colin Bamford for relatives of this crew. We would like to thank Wendy Robinson, niece of F/O Leroy Robinson, for her assistance in researching this article which is dedicated to her family and all of the relatives of the crew of Lancaster DS840. Also, many thanks to Linda Ibrom and Richard Swanson for further information and photographs. Heritage Mississauga. Bibliography: Martin Middlebrook - "The Nuremberg Raid" Allen Lane Publishing 1973.

CHB 26.01.2012

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