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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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408 Squadron Crest
29/30.12.1943 No. 408 Squadron Lancaster III DS718 EQ-R Fl/Lt. Walter T. Wilton

Operation: Berlin

Date: 29/30th December 1943 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit: No. 408 RCAF Squadron

Type: Lancaster II

Serial: DS718

Code: EQ-R

Base: Linton on Ouse, Yorkshire

Location: Wietmarschen, Germany

Pilot: Fl/Lt. Walter Torrance Wilton J/20218 RCAF Age 24. Killed (1)

Flt/Engr: Sgt. Bert Henry Fearn 1292205 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Nav: P/O. Dennis Albert McCabe J/19414 RCAF Age 20. Killed

Air/Bmr: W/O. Class II William Edward Raban R/100441 RCAF Age 23. Killed (2)

W/Op/Air Gnr: Sgt. Harold Landing 1098418 RAFVR Age 32. Killed

Air/Gnr: F/O. Robert Alexander Pildrem J/17738 RCAF Age 30. Killed (3)

Air/Gnr: P/O. Frank Henry Hoyle 162611 RAFVR Age ? Killed


With Flight Lieutenant Walter Wilton at the controls, DS718 took off at 17:22 hours on the afternoon of December 29th 1943 from its base at Linton-on-Ouse in North Yorkshire. It was one of 457 Lancaster’s, which, together with 252 Halifaxes and 2 Mosquitoes, made up a bomber stream of 712 aircraft destined for the German capital city of Berlin.

The route chosen by the planners of the raid took the crews south of the Ruhr Valley to within 20 miles of Liepzig then swinging north to the target area. This tactic, together with diversionary raids on Dusseldorf, Leipzig and Magdeburg by Mosquito fighter bombers, caused confusion for the Luftwaffe controllers which resulted in the bombers encountering only a few night fighters over Berlin. In addition, poor weather conditions on the outward leg of the journey helped to reduce the number of enemy aircraft finding the attack force before the target was reached.

This raid was one of many to comprise of what became known as the Battle of Berlin intended by C in C Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris to break the morale of the German population. On this night, heavy cloud cover prevented the crews from accurately pinpointing their intended targets within the city. The heaviest bombing was reported in the southern and south eastern regions as well as many bombs falling on the eastern outskirts. Although 182 people were killed and a further 600 injured, little damage was done to any strategic areas.

Lancaster DS718 became the 42nd. victory for the top German nightfighter ace Major Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer, known as the ‘Night Ghost of St.Trond’ by the Allied airmen. Piloting a Messerschmidt Bf110 of 12./NJG1 with his crew of radar operator Lt. Fritz Rumpelhardt and air gunner Obfw. Wilhelm Gansler, he had, by the end of the war, claimed a total of 121 allied aircraft destroyed. Major Schnaufer survived the war but lost his life in a car accident in 1950.

Right: Major Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer (Tom Kracker collection)

The aircraft crashed at Wietmarschen near the Dutch border 300 miles due west of Berlin. This location would suggest that the crew had completed their mission and were on the homeward leg of their journey back to base.

(1) Wilton Lake, Manitoba, Canada was named after Fl/Lt. Walter Torrance Wilton in 1974

(2) Raban Lake in Manitoba, Canada was named after W/O. Class II William Edward Raban in 1974

(3) Pildrem Lake in Manitoba Canada was named after F/O. Robert Alexander Pildrem in 1975.

Burial Details:

Initially the remains of all the crew members were interred at the Neuer Friedhof, Lingen (Ems) after which, in 1945, they were taken to the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.

Fl/Lt. Walter Torrance Wilton. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Collective Grave Ref. 27 C. 1-12. Son of Leonard George and Euphemia Wilkie Wilton, of Wawanesa, Manitoba, Canada. Grave inscription reads: 'Greater Love Hath No Man Than This, That A Man Lay Down His Life For His Friends".

Sgt. Bert Henry Fearn. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Collective Grave Ref. 27 C. 1-12. Son of Bert Henry and Edith Fearn (née Williams) father to Valerie, Margaret and Terry of Northolt, Middlesex, England.

P/O. Dennis Albert McCabe. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Collective Grave Ref. 27 C. 1-12. Son of Dr. Albert Wilfred McCabe and Mabel Agnes McCabe of Richmond, Province of Quebec, Canada. Grave inscription reads: "Dearly Beloved Son Of Dr. Albert And Mabel Mccabe, Richmond, Quebec, Canada".

W/O. Class II William Edward Raban. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Collective Grave Ref. 27 C. 1-12. Son of Alfred Raban, and Charlotte Raban of East Kildonan, Manitoba, Canada. Grave inscription reads: "Sweet Are The Memories Silently Kept Of Him We Loved And Will Never Forget".

Sgt. Harold Landing. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Collective Grave Ref. 27 C. 1-12. Son of Robert and Violet Landing, husband of Florence Landing, of Manchester, England.

F/O. Robert Alexander Pildrem. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Collective Grave Ref. 27 C. 1-12. Son of William James Everest and Louise Everest of St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada. Grave inscription reads: "May He Rest In Peace".

P/O. Frank Henry Hoyle. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Collective Grave Ref. 27 C. 1-12. Next of kin details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?

Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and RCAF specialist Colin Bamford for relatives of this crew. For further details our thanks to Carol Brown, her late mother was the daughter of Sgt. Bert Henry Fearn.

CHB 05.03.2010
CHB 10.10.2019 Links to place names added.

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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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