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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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61 Squadron Crest
09/10.08.1943 No. 61 Squadron Lancaster I W4236 QR-K Sgt. John C. Whitley

Operation: Mannheim

Date: 09/10th August 1943 (Monday/Tuesday)

Unit: No. 61 Squadron (motto: Per purum tonantes - 'Thundering through the clear air')

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: W4236

Code: QR-K

Base: RAF Syerston, Nottinghamshire

Location: Marbehan, Belgium

Pilot: Sgt. John Caswell Whitley 155499 RAFVR Survived - Evading capture (1)

Fl/Eng: Sgt. George William Sidney Spriggs 1193053 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Nav: Sgt. Peter Bellamy Smith 1333883 RAFVR Survived - Evading capture (2)

Air/Bmr: Sgt. Walter Walker 1458025 RAFVR Survived - Evading capture (3)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Ernest F. Gardiner 1322805 RAFVR Survived - Evading capture (4)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Nevil Temple Holmes 1335294 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. John Topham Kendall R/178673 RCAF Age 24. Killed

The Air Bomber on this aircraft Mr. Walter Walker is appealing for any relatives of any of the crew to contact him to share information/stories. Mr Walker (age 91) contacted Aircrew Remembered in March 2014 - please contact us in the first instance.

August 2014 - relatives of Sgt. Ernest F. Gardiner has now contacted us. August 2014, the pilot, Sgt. Whitley has now also contacted us.


Part of a large raid on the twin cities of Mannheim and Ludwigshafen on the banks of the Rhine, Lancaster W4236, together with 456 other aircraft including Halifaxes and Lancasters. W4236 took off from RAF Syerston, Nottinghamshire at 23:10 hours.

Reportedly, upon reaching the target area, it was cloud covered and not well marked by the Pathfinders which resulted in widely spread bombing of lesser important targets.

Although the flak and searchlight batteries surrounding Mannheim and Ludwigshafen were fairly ineffective, the night fighters managed to down nine aircraft including W4236 which crashed at Marbehan between 01:20 and 01:31hrs.

Lancaster W4236 took off from RAF Syerston on an earlier operation (courtesy IWM)

This Lancaster was shot down by Lt. Norbert Pietrek (5 - shown left) of 2./NJG4, with interception taking place at 4,200 Mts. (See Kracker Luftwaffe Archive on this site.) He had some problems with his guns and after he thought he had hit the engines the Lancaster continued and released its bombs. He attacked again, this time aiming for the rear gunner's position to hopefully explode the ammunition. Fl/Sgt. Kendal realised this and baled out - sadly he hit the wing of Pietreks port wing. Next, he aimed for the mid-upper gunner's position and finally, the Lancaster caught fire at the rear of the aircraft. He reported that he had seen four parachutes descending.

(1) Sgt. John Whitley - evaded capture through France on 30th August and escaped to Switzerland on the 20th September 1943. (With Walker). Sadly John Whitley passed away in June 2020.

(2) Sgt. Peter Smith - evaded capture escaping to Spain and then onto Gibraltar in October 1943.
(3) Sgt. Walter Walker - evaded capture through France on 30th August and escaped to Switzerland on the 20th September 1943.
(4) Sgt. Ernest F. Gardiner - evaded capture - returned to England via a Lysander in September 1943.

(5) This was the 3rd and final abschüsse for Lt. Norbert Pietrek. He was wounded on the 1st October 1944 in a crash during a transit flight, no further details are available.

61 Squadron - 1943 (Aircrew Remembered archives)

Left: The memorial to the crew who lost their lives - Erected 2002. Above: Florennes Communal Cemetery.

Burial details:

Sgt. George William Sidney Spriggs. Florennes Communal Cemetery. Row 5. Grave 59. Son of William Sydney and Ivy Spriggs, of Braunstone, Leicester, England. Grave inscription: 'As We Loved Him So We Miss Him. Good Night. Mother, Dad, Sisters, Brothers'.

Sgt. Nevil Temple Holmes. Florennes Communal Cemetery. Row 5. Grave 58. Born in 1923 in Lambeth, Greater London. Mother's maiden name was Smith. No further details are currently available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?

Fl/Sgt. John Topham Kendall. Florennes Communal Cemetery. Row 5. Grave 57. Son of Richard and Charlotte Annie Kendall, of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Grave inscription: 'Gone From Us But Leaving Memories Death Can Never Take Away'.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Mark Walker (son of Sgt. Walter Walker), Shaun Noble for an update for Sgt. N T Holmes, Oliver Clutton-Brock 'RAF Evaders’, Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol's. 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'. Aircrew Remembered own Archives.

RS - 12.07.2018

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'
Concept of Colonial Discrimination  •  Unauthorised First Long Range Mustang Attack
RAAF Bomb Aimer Evades with Maquis •  SOE Heroine Nancy Wake •  Fane: Motor Racing PRU Legend
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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