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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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9 Squadron Crest
01/02.01.1944 No. 9 Squadron Lancaster III JA711 WS-A F/O. Geoffrey Ward

Operation: Berlin

Date: 01/02nd January 1944 (Saturday/Sunday)

Unit: No. 9 Squadron

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: JA711

Code: WS-A

Base: RAF Bardney, Lincolnshire.

Location: Weyhausen, Germany.

Pilot: F/O. Geoffrey Ward 148184 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Jack Sutton 1140041 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Nav: Sgt. Eric Douglas Keene 1577631 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Air/Bmr: Sgt. George Lloyd James 658864 RAF Age ? Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. George Frederick Kenneth Bedwell 1250631 RAFVR Age 24. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Norman Frederick Dixon 1438149 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

Air/Gnr: W/O. Willard Lawrence Doran R/159101 RCAF Age 21. Killed


Take off from RAF Bardney at 23:58 hrs. Outbound and crashed at the small village of Weyhausen.

There are two locations in Germany with the name Weyhausen. It is believed the Weyhausen here referred to, 12 km NE of Eschede is the site where this Lancaster came down.

For Bomber Command, 1943 began with two consecutive Berlin operations, both failures. The first of the pair was scheduled for 1st January but postponements eventually saw most of the force taking off after midnight. The fighters found them on the way in, the marking was very poor in ten tenths cloud, and many of the bombs fell in the woods of the Grunewald. The tally of bomber aircrew killed was 177, which was more than twice the number of Berliners killed on the ground - seventy-nine.

Among those failing to return with all men killed was JA711 WS-A, Geoff Ward's kite for the night. His first op had been Hamburg, over five months before. Since then, he had been on six Berlins, thirteen other ops and now a final Berlin, with the same crew throughout except for one trip when veteran Flight Lieutenant Gilbert 'Dinger' Bell DFC., 9 Squadron Bombing Leader, had stood in for George James

Believed to have been shot down by Hptm.Heinrich Prinz zu Sayn-Wittgenstein of Stab NJG2 on approach to Berlin flying with his BF Fw. Fritz Ostheimer in Ju88 R4+AA at 03:10 hrs, who already had 72 Victories to his name, he himself, was to die on January 21st 1944 when he collided with a Lancaster (buried at Ljsselsetein, Netherlands)

From the left, back row: Geoffrey Ward, pilot; George James, bomb aimer; George Bedwell, w/op; Eric Keene, navigator; front row: Willard Doran, rear gunner; Norman Dixon, mid-upper; Jack Sutton, flight engineer. (courtesy Gordon Thorburn)

Burial details:

F/O. Geoffrey Ward. Hanover War Cemetery. Collective Grave 16.H.13-17. Further information: Son of Arthur A. Ward and Sarah (née Normington) of Westboro’, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, England. Geoffrey was the only and much cherished son born to parents who had waited twenty years for children. He attended Dewsbury Wheelwright Grammar School and was an accomplished pianist. Promoted to Flight Sergeant on the 24th June 1943, it is believed that he enlisted in 1939 at Padgate and also trained at 16 OTU at Upper Heyford. Geoffrey is commemorated on the Dewsbury Town War Memorial and also St. John’s Church War Memorial, Dewsbury. His cousin, Sergeant Jack Ward lost his life with 214 Squadron on 15/16th April 1942. Flying on an operation to Dortmund on Wellington IC Z8921 BU-X killed with Pilot P/O. Lawrence M. Leech all 6 crew losing their life) Grave inscription reads: "Thy Will Be Done".

Left: F/O. Geoffrey Ward as a Flight Engineer

Sgt. Jack Sutton. Hanover War Cemetery. Collective Grave 16.H.13-17. Next of kin details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?

Sgt. Eric Douglas Keene. Hanover War Cemetery. Collective Grave 16.H.13-17. The son of Frank D. and Sarah B. (née Trotter) Keene of Leicester. He was born in Leicester in the June 1921 Qtr. Younger brother David was born in Coventry in 1929. In 1939, the family was living at 16 Olive Avenue in Coventry where Frank was employed as a universal miller.

Sgt. George Lloyd James. Hanover War Cemetery. Collective Grave 16.H.13-17. Next of kin details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?

Sgt. George Frederick Kenneth Bedwell. Hanover War Cemetery. Collective Grave 16.H.13-17. Further information: Son of Walter Gordon and Mabel Sophia Bedwell and brother of Reggie and Neville Bedwell. Husband of Joan Louisa Bedwell of Saxmundham, Suffolk, England. He and his wife had two children, Anne and John working at the International Stores at Saxmundham, Suffolk as a deliveryman. He had planned a career in music after the war had ended, already being a member of an RAF band, writing his own music and playing the piano. He was well known as a kind and gentle man who would help anyone.

Right: Sgt. George Frederick Kenneth Bedwell

Sgt. Norman Frederick Dixon. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 16.H.12. Further information: Son of Frederick and Ivy Violet Dixon of Old Balderton, Nottinghamshire, England.

Left: W/O. Doran, taken during training. (Courtesy Michel Beckers via Franky Burton)

W/O. Willard Lawrence Doran. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 16.H.11. Further information: Son of Lawrence and Minnie Doran of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Enlisted 1942 RCAF -trained at Edmonton Manning pool, further training at Manitoba. Posted to England in 1943, when after OTU training remained with this crew. Grave inscription reads: "Greater Love Than This No Man Hath, That A Man Lay Down His Life For His Friends".

Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew.

With thanks to Gordon Thorburn for the photo of the crew and further details.

Gordon Thorburn is the legitimate child of Hrothgar Tørbjorn, Swedish air ace, whose Volvo night fighter was mistakenly shot down over Dewsbury. Hrothgar sold his parachute and married Ivy Milburn, a Geordie ice-cream girl. Gordon has written a number of books on Military aviation and an expert in the history of 9 Squadron RAF.

Photo credits and information of George Bedwell to Anne Mullin (née Bedwell) and John Fisher, daughter and son of Sergeant Bedwell. Photo credits and information of Geoffrey Ward to Linda Revis and Judith Ward. With thanks to Dave Champion for additional details - July 2018.

Also to the sources shown below:

Pages of Outstanding Interest
History Airborne Forces •  Soviet Night Witches •  Bomber Command Memories •  Abbreviations •  Gardening Codenames
CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
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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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