07/08.02.1945 83 Squadron Lancaster III PB181 OL-C Fl/Lt. Anthony Peter Weber
Date: 07/08 February 1945 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: 83 Squadron - Motto: "Strike to Defend"
Squadron Badge: An attire, sable. The red deer's antler is in reference to the squadron's association with Scotland. The attire has six points commemorating an outstanding occasion in the First World War when six DFCs were awarded for one extremely valuable reconnaissance operation -successfully completed by six individuals in three aircraft during 14/15th June 1918. They were the only Allied aircraft in the air in weather which had grounded all others. The antler in black affords reference to night flying and the three top points stand for the crown of success met with by the squadron.
Type: Avro Lancaster III
Base: RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire
Location: Best, Noord Brabant, Netherlands
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Anthony Peter Weber 109535 RAFVR Age 27 - Injured returned to unit (1)
Fl/Eng: Fl/Sgt. Gordon Summers 1851198 RAFVR Age 28 - Killed (2)
Nav: Fl/Sgt. Ernest Stanley (Stan) Thorn 1801024 RAFVR Age 21 - Killed (3)
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Gilbert Hugh Lonsdale 1487790 RAFVR Age 21 - Killed (4)
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. John Dennis Lauther 1578136 RAFVR Age 21 - Killed (5)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Lionel Frank Frederick Scull 1602122 RAFVR Age 22 - Killed (6)
Air/Gnr (MU): Fl/Sgt. Reginald John Harris (Reggie) Jackson 1853612 RAFVR - Killed (7)
Air/Gnr (R): Fl/Sgt James William (Jimmy) Stazaker 1149349 RAFVR Age 23 - Killed (8)
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By the time he was 11 years old, Anthony Peter Weber had visited India with his parents as well as both South Africa and France with his grandfather Major William Valentine Weber the Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Essex. Born in 1918 at Wandsworth London, into an apparently affluent family with interests in the printing industry, he later lived with his parents at Westcliff on Sea. He learned to fly at Southend Flying Club, taking his certificate on an Avro Cadet - Genet Major 140 on 29 May 1938.
It seems likely that he joined the RAFVR about the time of outbreak of war and after completion of training would have been promoted to Sergeant. Commissioned as a Pilot Officer on 7 October 1941 his movements are unknown until, having risen to the rank of Flight Lieutenant, he was posted to 29 Operational Training Unit (OTU) at RAF North Luffenham, Rutland in February 1944 for night fighter training on Wellingtons.
It was here that his crew was formed by the usual process of self-selection somewhat imaginatively called 'crewing up'. Apart from Anthony Weber the crew were all NCOs and some five or six years his junior. The navigator was 20 year old Cockney, Stan Thorn, an erstwhile Junior Office Clerk born in Hackney but who had more recently lived at Brentwood, whilst air bomber John Lauther, also 20 was another Londoner from Hendon. Frank Scull, a Bristolian aged 21, was the wireless operator and completing the crew was rear gunner Jimmy Stazaker, also 21, from Stone in Staffordshire: he had worked on a Poultry Farm before enlisting and was the only child of Postman James Stazakar and his wife Esther.
The five crew members were to spend the next six weeks or so at North Luffenham, learning the rudiments of flying the Wellington bomber as well high level bombing, cross country and fighter affiliation etc., their training culminating in a Nickel Operation (leaflet dropping) to Lille in France on 22 March and finally concluding on 27 March.
Frank Scull is known to have married his fiancée Joyce Packer in the first quarter of 1944 and since a period of leave was usual after completing training at OTU it is possible that the nuptials were celebrated somewhere between 28 and 31 March.
Their next posting was to 1660 Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Swinderby in Nottinghamshire for training on four engine bombers and followed by a spell at No. 5 Lancaster Finishing School at RAF Syerston Lincolnshire.
The four engine heavy bombers flew with a seven man crew so at Swinderby the crew was necessarily enhanced by the addition of flight engineer Gordon Summers and air gunner Reggie Jackson. Gordon Summers, aged 28 was another Bristolian, who prior to enlisting had worked in the aircraft industry. However, little is known of Reggie Jackson except that he was possibly born in the London area and had later been adopted by John Frederick and Alice May Jackson.
After completing training at Syerston the crew were posted to 57 Squadron at RAF East Kirby Lincolnshire on 13 July 1944 for operational flying.
A week after arriving at East Kirby and in order to gain operational experience, Anthony Weber was detailed to fly as second pilot, colloquially referred to as 2nd dickey, with Fl/Lt. O. Thomas and his crew on a night raid to bomb the Courtrai Marshalling Yards in Belgium. All went well and four nights later, 24/25 July, Anthony Weber had the privilege of leading his crew into battle, a raid on the oil storage tanks at Donges near St. Nazaire in Western France. All 8 aircraft despatched by 57 Squadron returned safely.
The following night the crew was one of 12 detailed for an eight and a half hour round trip to bomb Stuttgart. They were part of a mixed force of 550 bombers despatched and although 12 failed to return none of the casualties were 57 Squadron aircraft.
On the night of 28/29 they were off to Stuttgart again, one of 15 ordered from 57 Squadron as part of a force of 494 Lancasters and 2. Mosquitoes. 39 Lancasters failed to return and 57 Squadron did not get off lightly this time as two of their aircraft were among the losses.
Day raids on 30 July to Aunay sur Odon in support of military operations and 31 July to Rilly-la-Montage against a railway tunnel being used as a flying bomb store brought the month to an end.
The first week of August was occupied with 5 operations over France, mainly against flying bomb storage and installation. The crew flew no further operations until the night of 20/21 August, a night gardening operation (mine laying) at Brest from which, for reasons unknown they aborted the operation, and returned early with their mines.
Having accepted an offer to join the Pathfinder Force (PFF) the aborted mining operation proved to be their last with 57 Squadron and on 25 August the crew was posted to the PFF Navigation Training Unit (NTU) at RAF Warboys in Huntingdonshire.
The crew probably joined 83 Squadron at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire on 6 September 1944 when the 83 Squadron ORB records that:
'The Squadron is graced by the presence of several new crews, which have started training in earnest, so we should soon be filling in those ugly gaps.'
The crew undertook their first training exercise, a cross country, on 8 September and in the days that followed further exercises in fighter affiliation, special radar tests, high level bombing and standard beam approach air tests etc.
Gordon Summers is recorded as being ill from 13 September and not returning to duty until 25 September during which period the crew flew two operations with spare bod flight engineers: 19/20 September to Mönchengladbach and 23/24 September a raid on the Dortmund Ems Canal at Munster.
Operations resumed with Gordon in the flight engineer's seat, and by the end of December the crew had undertaken a further 11 operations although one, on 10 December to the Urt Dam, had been recalled due to bad weather over the target. Frank Scull had missed an operation to Brunswick on 14/15 October for reasons unknown, his place being taken by spare bod, Fl/Sgt. W. S. Wilson.
It was during this period that the Weber crew first flew Lancaster PB181 - on 4/5 December to Heilbronn and again two days later to Giessen.
The crew had successfully negotiated all operations so far and as 1944 gave way to 1945 the seven were both hoping their luck would hold and perhaps daring to contemplate a possible end to the war.
New Year's Day brought a raid on the Gravenhorst Canal which they completed despite an unserviceable D/R Compass and starboard generator. Flying PB478, they were part of Flare Force III which on this occasion was not required so they duly returned with their load intact plus a flak hole in the port wing to show for their trouble.
On 6 January Anthony Weber captained a scratch crew to bomb Houffalize in Belgian Luxembourg. The following day it was almost back to normal but with Fl/Sgt. H. Ellis in the flight engineer's seat for Gordon Summers and a 21 year old Mancunian, Gilbert Lonsdale, in as second air bomber for a raid on Munich.
Snow prevented further operations until 13 January but the Weber crew were not required again until 16 January when they were detailed for a raid on the synthetic oil plant at Brüx in Western Czechoslovakia for which they were once more allocated Lancaster PB181. John Lauther did not fly on this operation, the two air bombers being Gilbert Lonsdale and Sqn Ldr. Brewer. All aircraft returned safely.
Anthony Weber had now flown 30 operation, other members of the crew, a few less.
There were no further operations in January as snow once again hampered activities, although limited exercises were possible and the ORB records that on 19 January 'F/L. Weber passed out as a blind marker'.
Operations recommenced on 1 February but the Weber crew was not called upon until 7 February when the target was the Dortmund Ems Canal at Ladbergen in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany - it was also Anthony Weber's 27th birthday!
57 Squadron ORB recorded that:
'Knowledge of pending operations came early today, and most of the day was spent in getting the Squadron fighting fit, ready for the operation, which took place to the Dortmund Ems Canal: and from this operation F/L. Weber and crew failed to return.'
83 Squadron were to provide 2 crews as Primary Blind Markers, 4 crew as Flare Force 1, 3 crews as Flare Force 2 and 2 crews as Flare Force 3. The Weber crew was detailed as one of the Flare Force 3 crews.
REASON FOR LOSS
Take off commenced at 2051 hours with PB181 third in line and away at 20.58. By 21.26 all were airborne and heading south towards Reading before turning slightly east to cross the south coast at Beachy Head.
As the bomber force, comprising 177 Lancasters and 11 Mosquitoes, made its way over France, Belgium and the Netherlands , cloud gradually thickened and by the time they reached the target area, was 9-9/10ths with tops 9-10000 feet.
The purpose of the attack was to nullify repair work being carried out damage inflicted by previous bombing raids. H hour was planned for 2349 and the first of the Primary Blind Markers of 83 Squadron bombed 1 minute early at 23.48.
However, the heavy cloud over the target hampered the marking and the later Bomber Command Night Raid Report records that:
'The master bomber assessed the markers as fairly accurate. Most crew bombed through cloud gaps, the rest attacking the glow. Results could not be observed owing to the presence of delay fusings.
No damage was caused to the canal the craters being concentrated in the adjacent fields.'
It seems that Anthony Weber and his crew in PB181 duly bombed the target and turned for home about midnight.
At about 0030 hours Lancaster PB181 is thought to have collided with Lancaster ND961 of 97 Squadron, captained by Lt. Charles William McGregor 31794V SAAF, near Best (Noord-Brabant) in the Netherlands.
As a result of the collision the cockpit roof of PB181 was ripped off, Anthony Weber thrown out, and briefly rendered unconscious. Coming to, he managed to deploy his parachute and landed about 4 miles North West of Eindhoven. He was the only member of either crew to survive, the other fifteen crew members perished in the ensuing crashes, PB181 at Het Lisseven in Best and ND961 at Zandstraat in Son with wreckage being scattered over a wide area. Anthony Weber subsequently returned to RAF Coningsby.
Following investigations at the crash site by members of the RCAF and RAF the remains of all the crews were recovered and those of ND961 were all interred at Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery.
With regard to the remains of the Weber crew, Gordon Summers, Stan Thorn and Gilbert Lonsdale were buried at Nederweert War Cemetery, Limburg whilst those of John Lauther, Frank Scull, Reggie Jackson and Jimmy Stazaker were buried at Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands. However, it proved impossible for the remains of Frank Scull and Jimmy Stazaker to be individually identified so they were necessarily laid to rest in a joint grave.
On 8 February 2020, the 75th Anniversary of the crash, a monument in memory of the 15 airmen who lost their lives was unveiled in the grounds of the Wings of Liberation Museum situated between Best and Son at Sonseweg 39, 5681 BH Best, Netherlands.
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW
(1) Fl/Lt. Anthony Peter Weber
was born on 7 February 1918 at Wandsworth, London the son of Gustavus Ernest Weber (a Company Director) and Freda Elise Weber nee Carle. He had two siblings, Patricia V. Weber born 1925 and William G. Weber born 1928
In 1939 he married Ivy Kathleen Lintott at Southend on Sea and afterwards lived at 82 Burnham Road, Leigh on Sea. At that time Anthony Weber was the Manager of a Printing Works. The couple went on to have three children together, Nanette L. Weber born Newton Abbot Devon 1940, Peter V. Weber born Hammersmith, London 1942 and Anthony A. Weber born Southend 1946.
905315 Sgt. Anthony Peter Weber was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 7 October 1941 (London Gazette 25 November 1941). He was promoted to Flying Officer on probation (war subs) on 1 October 1942 (London Gazette 6 November 1942 and further promoted to Flight Lieutenant (war subs) on 7 October 1943 (London Gazette 15 October 1943)
Anthony Peter Weber died on 20 July 2003 aged 85 in Queensland, Australia
(2) Fl/Sgt. Gordon (B) Summers was born on 19 October 1916 at Bristol, the son of Arthur Summers (an Aluminium Press Stamp Operator) and Estella Summers nee Bessant. He had one sibling Dennis A. Summers born 1932.
In 1939 the family lived at Pendennis Road Mangotsfield Bristol.
Prior to joining the air force Gordon Summers was employed as an Aircraft ... (further details illegible in record)
In 1941 he married Doris E. Brown at Bristol.
(3) Fl/Sgt. Ernest Stanley Thorn was born on 19 August 1923 at Hackney, London the son of Ernest Thomas Thorn (a Despatch Manager - Drapery Store) and Ellen Thorn nee Chapman of Harringay, Middlesex. He had one sibling: Edith May Thorn born 1915.
In 1939 Ernest Stanley Thorn was a Junior Office Clerk and lived at Belle Vue, Hanging Hill Lane, Brentwood, Essex.
(4) Fl/Sgt. Gilbert Hugh Lonsdale was born in 1923 at Chorlton, Lancashire the son of Henry Hugh Lonsdale (a Draughtsman) and Edith Lonsdale nee Jones. He had one sibling: Edith Dorothy Lonsdale born 1917.
In 1939 his parents lived at 61 Wellington Road Fallowfield, Manchester.
(5) Fl/Sgt. John Dennis Lauther was born in 1923 at Hendon, London the son of William Anderson Lauther (a Commercial Manager) and Irene Beatrice Lauther nee McDowell. He had two siblings: Muriel Grace Lauther born 1920 and William E. Lauther born 1924.
In 1939 the family lived at Church Street, Willingdon, Sussex and later at 5 Rush-out Avenue, Kenton, Harrow in Middlesex.
(6) Fl/Sgt. Lionel Frank Frederick Scull was born in 1922 at Bristol the son of Frank Scull (a Newsagent Salesman) and Evelyn R. Scull nee Bird. He had three siblings: Jean E. Scull born 1930, Brian J. Scull born 1931 and Robert S. Scull born 1939
In 1939 the family lived at 18 Hanover Street Bristol
He married Joyce Packer at Bristol in 1944 and they had a daughter, Lorraine Joyce Scull (1944-1999)
(7) Fl/Sgt. Reginald John Harris Jackson - if tyou have any information please contact our helpdesk
(8) Fl/Sgt James William Stazaker was born in 1922 at Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire the only child of James William (a Postman) Stazaker and Esther Stazaker nee Mason.
Prior to enlisting he was employed by Shell's Poultry Farm at Tittensor.
He enlisted in the RAFVR in 1941
In 1939 the family lived at Boat Yard Cottages, Stone and later at Barlaston, Staffordshire.
BURIAL DETAILS, MEMORIALS AND EPITAPHS
(2) Fl/Sgt. Gordon Summers was buried at Nederweert War Cemetery, Limburg, Netherlands - Grave ref: I.F.7.
(3) Fl/Sgt. Ernest Stanley Thorn was buried at Nederweert War Cemetery, Limburg, Netherlands - Grave ref: I.F.5.
His epitaph reads:
God has willed
We walk without you
For a little while,
(4) Fl/Sgt. Gilbert Hugh Lonsdale was buried at Nederweert War Cemetery, Limburg, Netherlands - Grave ref: I.F.6.
His epitaph reads:
We dreamed great things
And so our dream came true
(5) Fl/Sgt. John Dennis Lauther was buried at Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands - Grave ref: Plot RR. Grave 24
His epitaph reads:
And happy memories, John
(6) Fl/Sgt. Lionel Frank Frederick Scull was buried at Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands - Grave ref: Plot RR. Joint Grave 82
(7) Fl/Sgt. Reginald John Harris Jackson was buried at Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands - Grave ref: Plot RR. Grave 81
(8) Fl/Sgt. James William Stazaker was buried at Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands - Grave ref: Plot RR. Joint Grave 82
His epitaph reads
Of our dear son Jimmy
May we be worthy
Of his supreme sacrifice
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for Philip Hurd, cousin of Frank Scull and all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - July 2020
With thanks to the sources quoted below.