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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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103 Squadron Crest
04.01.1945 103 Squadron Lancaster III ND861 PM:H Plt Off. Christoper J. Weight

Operation: Training

Date: 4th January 1945 (Thursday)

Unit: 103 Squadron

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: ND861

Code: PM:H

Base: RAF Elsham Wolds, Lincolnshire.

Location: River Humber, Hull.

Pilot: Plt Off. Christopher Joseph Weight 184374 RAFVR Age 31. Missing - believed killed

Flt Eng: Plt Off. George Edward Widdicombe 188324 RAFVR Age 32. Missing - believed killed

Nav: Fg Off. Maurice Desmond Pickersgill 164197 RAFVR Age 21. Missing - believed killed

Bomb Aimer: Sgt. Henry George Backway 1586864 RAFVR Age 21. Missing - believed killed

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Clifford Frederick Hillier 160652820 RAFVR Age? Missing - believed killed

Air Gnr: Sgt. Cyril Lloyd 1832526 RAFVR Age 19. Missing - believed killed


Taking off at 14:24 hrs from RAF Elsham Wolds, Lincolnshire. The weather deteriorated during the flight with snowstorms the crew transmitted for a fix, but contact was lost with the Lancaster.

The pilot is believed to have flown into a blizzard, crashing at 14:40 hrs into the River Humber near Hull. An RAF aircraft together with a motor launch were sent to look for survivors, although wreckage and papers were found, no trace of the crew remained. A Court of enquiry concurred that the cause was likely to have been the bad weather conditions.

103 Squadron Lancaster III ND861 PM-H crew - Front Row L to R: Unknown, Plt Off. Weight, Fg Off. Pickersgill; Back Row L to R: Unknown, Unknown, Sgt. Backway. can you place names to the others?

Lancaster ND861 was first delivered to 635 Squadron in April 1944 and then loaned to 460 Squadron, before being transferred to 300 Squadron (P), joining 103 Squadron in August 1944. All of the crew are remembered on the Runnymede Memorial.

Burial details:

Plt Off. Christopher Joseph Weight. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 268. Son of Hannah Mary Weight (died shortly afterwards on August 3rd 1945, age 67) of Camberwell, London, England.

Also commemorated on the family gravestone in Camberwell, London, England.

Plt Off. George Edward Widdicombe. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 269. Son of James Henry Widdicombe M.A. and Violet Maud Widdicomb, husband of Iona Ruth Widdicombe of Manningtree, Essex, England.

Fg Off. Maurice Desmond Pickersgill. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 267. Son of John Clarence and Nora Winifred Pickersgill of Wakefield, Yorkshire, England.

Sgt. Henry George Backway. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 273. Further information: Born on the 7th January 1923, son of Henry Ernest and Violet Helena Backway of the Isles of Scilly.

Henry George Backway moved to Plymouth, England in the late 1930’s and after leaving school he joined the RAF Known as “Harry”, he was educated at Hoe Grammar school in Plymouth and always had a passion for flying. He joined the RAF at Plymouth in 1940, with his service commencing at Weston Super Mare on the 16th of December 1941, going to Canada for pilot training but then re-training as a bomb aimer A photograph of him appears in the Montreal Standard for the 22nd May 1943. By December 1944, he was flying on operations over Germany before coming home for leave and with his parents stayed in the Isles of Scilly with his only sister Violet and her husband at Christmas prior to his death.

Known Ops flown-

28.12.1944 Lancaster PD272 Munchen Railway yards
29.12.1944 Lancaster PD272 Scholven Buer
31.12.1944-Lancaster PD272 Osterfeld

Sgt. Clifford Frederick Hillier. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 275. Son of Melvin Alfred and Maud Hillier of Ashtead, Surrey, England.

Sgt. Cyril Lloyd. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 275. Son of John Rees and Elizabeth Lloyd of Bedminster, Somerset, England.

Researched by Aircrew Remembered volunteer, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew. With thanks to Colin Mumford for photographs of Sgt. Backway and the crew. Also to Dave Howells. Thanks to Colin Mumford, the uncle of Sgt. Backway, for the correction of his position in the crew photograph (May 2021).

RS 09.04.2021 - Correction to crew photograph names.

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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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