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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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617 Squadron Crest
07.10.1944 No. 617 Squadron Lancaster I NG180 KC-S Sq/Ldr. Wyness DFC

Operation: Kembs Dam

Date: 07th October 1944 (Saturday)

Unit: No. 617 Squadron (5 Group)

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: NG180

Code: KC-S

Base: RAF Woodhall Spa

Location: Rhine, 3 km South of Bad Bellingen, Germany

Pilot: Sq/Ldr. Drew Rothwell Cullen Wyness DFC. 103028 RAFVR Age 24. Survived (1)

Fl/Eng: Fl/Sgt. Thomas James Hurdiss 1239780 RAFVR Age 23. Missing - believed killed

Nav: Fl/Lt. Ronald Henry Williams DFC. 126045 RAFVR Age 22. Survived (1)

Air/Bmr: F/O. Herbert Walter Honig 151110 RAFVR Age 22. Survived (1)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: F/O. Bruce James Hosie NZ/412882 RNZAF Age 21. Survived (1)

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Thomas Horrocks 650027 RAFVR Age ? Missing - believed killed

Air/Gnr: F/O. George Edward Cansell 173273 RAFVR Age 21. Missing - believed killed


Taking off at 13:10 hrs to bomb the Krembs Dam on the Rhine with 12 other Lancasters. Important target as it was thought that with the approaching Allied armies the Germans would release the water to flood the Rhine Valley near Mulhouse to slow them down.

7 Lancasters from the squadron were to fly in at 8000 ft to draw the flak fire the remains 6 would use the 12,000 lb. Tallboy bombs to enable them to make the breach from around 1.000 ft. with delayed fuses - A large portion of the Power Plant was destroyed along with the gate of the dam.

Lancaster LM482 flown by 22 year old, Fl/Lt. Christopher John Geoffrey Howard 104406 RAFVR was hit when it came round for a second run as their Tallboy failed to release. All 8 crew were killed when they crashed at Efringen-Kirchen in Germany. Buried at Durnbach War Cemetery.

Flying at 600 ft Lancaster NG180 was hit by flak and managed to continue a short distance before hitting power cables and coming down in the Rhine at around 16:52 hrs. 3 of the crew are thought to have been lost in the crash and went down with the aircraft. The remains 4 crew managed to climb into the dingy and floated downstream before landing near the German village of Rheinweiler. They were soon picked up by the German forces.

(1) Later on the same day, the captured airman were taken to the edge of the Rhine when each of them was murdered by German forces, their bodies being thrown into the Rhine. Recovered at various locations and buried at later dates. (After the war the ones responsible were sent on trial accused of the crimes)

Traugott Vitz (see Vitz archive on this website) advised us that the two people accused were Rudolf Birlin and Hugo Grüner. The main culprit and instigator 51 year old, Kreisleiter Grüner was accused of murdering four Allied airmen after a forced landing in Alsatian territory in October, 1944. He was sentenced to death but won his appeal on the grounds that he had committed his crime in Germany against English soldiers, and that over this the French Court had no jurisdiction (decision of the Court of Appeal). He was then extradited to the British zone. Its seems that Grüner succeeded to escape on the eve of his British trial which was to open at Recklinghausen on the 20th February 1947. No further information regarding the outcome of the trial for Rudolf Birlin or that of Hugo Grüner. (Some of this information courtesy of a German researcher Mr. Egon Baßler who wrote an article on Grüner)

Note: In the previous month on the 11/12th September the pilot with some of this crew, took off from RAF Woodhall Spa at 19:01 hrs in Lancaster ME559 KC-Y on a transit flight to Yagodnik near Archangel in North West Russia. They never made it, they were forced (reasons unknown) to crash land at Keg Ostrov some 5 km west of intended airfield. The aircraft skidded on landing and crashed through a boundary fence - all the crew escaped injured. The aircraft was repaired by the Russians and returned to service with the Soviet Air Force. (Sadly all the crew, including the members not on this Lancaster NG180 all lost their lives during the war - see below burial details)

Burial details:

Sq/Ldr. Drew Rothwell Cullen Wyness DFC. Choloy War Cemetery. Grave 4.B.6. Son of Andrew Cullen Wyness and Helen Wyness; husband of Ruth Wyness, of Altrincham, Cheshire, England. Grave inscription reads: 'Dearly Loved and Always Remembered'.

Fl/Sgt. Thomas James Hurdiss. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 219. Son of William and Alice Hurdiss, of Wollescote, Worcestershire, England.

Fl/Lt. Ronald Henry Williams DFC. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 5.C.9. Son of Vernon and Dorothy May Williams, of Walthamstow, Essex, England. Grave inscription reads: 'At The Going Down Of The Sun And In The Morning We Will Remember Them'.

F/O. Herbert Walter Honig. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 5.C.10. Son of Herbert George Honig, and of Mabel Honig, of Wimbledon, Surrey, England. Grave inscription reads: 'God Be With You, With His Arms Securely Hold You. Till We Meet Again. Mother'.

F/O. Bruce James Hosie. Choloy War Cemetery. Grave 4.B.8. Son of Walter and Rachel Hosie, of Manaia, Taranaki, New Zealand. A very experienced crew member with 749 flying hours logged, completed some 76 operations - this was his 77th.

Fl/Sgt. Thomas Horrocks. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 218. No further details - are you able to assist ?

F/O. George Edward Cansell. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 205. Son of George William and Clara Ada Cansell, of Devonport, Plymouth, England.

Original crew members also lost: Transit flight, Lancaster III PB416 SC-Y taking off from the same airfield at Yagodnik shown above, 5 days later - all the crew of 9 were killed when they hit high ground near Nesbyen in Norway:

25 year old Air Gunner, F/O. James Fraser Naylor 54372 RAFVR - also with 617 Squadron lost on the 17th September 1944. Buried at Nesbyen Churchyard Grave XII.G.5. Son of George Henry and Elizabeth Bruce Naylor, of Innerleithen, Peeblesshire, Scotland. Grave inscription reads: 'At The Going Down Of The Sun And In The Morning We Will Remember Him'.

22 year old Air Gunner, F/O. Denis Charles Shea DFC. 146633 RAF - also with 617 Squadron lost on the 17th September 1944. Buried at Nesbyen Churchyard Grave XII.H.1. Son of John Henry Kilian and Mary Elizabeth Shea, of Ilford, Essex, England. Grave inscription reads: 'He Died That We Might Live. In Loving Memory. Mum, Dad And Family'.

Researched for Brett Lewis - relative of F/O. George Edward Cansell and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Errol Martyn author of ‘For Your Tomorrow’ Vol’s 1-3 and sources quoted below. Our thanks also to Traugott Vitz for his research into war crimes and German researcher Mr. Egon Baßler.

KTY 08.02.2017

Acknowledgements: 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', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', 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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