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Five members of the crew of NE163 : Left to right: Sgt Vernon Sheppard, F/Lt Reginald Major Aldus, F/O Thurston Culshaw, F/O John Mervyn MacMillan, F/O Ronald Ernest Blake. Photo kindly supplied by Chris Grande from Canada. 


The Duisburg Raids 14/15th October 1944 - Wickenby's five losses

On this day, 14th of October, the RAF had mounted the highest number of sorties in a 24 hour period, during WW2.

Operation Hurricane was a joint RAF and USAAF operation during October 1944 to "demonstrate to the enemy in Germany generally the overwhelming superiority of the Allied Air Forces in this theatre"

On 14 October 1944 in a daylight operation RAF Bomber Command sent 1,013 aircraft, with RAF fighters providing an escort, to bomb Duisburg. 957 bombers dropped 3,574 tonnes of high explosive and 820 tonnes of incendiaries on the city for a loss of 14 aircraft.

Later the same day, during the night of 14 October/15 October, 1,005 RAF bombers returned to Duisburg in 2 waves about 2 hours apart, and dropped a further 4,040 tonnes of high explosive and 500 tonnes of incendiaries for the loss of 7 aircraft.






Lancaster I NG128 coded "SR-B" of 101 Sqn out of Ludford Magna and flown by F/O  R. B. Tibbs as part of a thousand-bomber raid, dropping its load over Duisburg on Oct 14/15, 1944.

Left image: the Lancaster releases its load of 1,170, 4lb stick incendiaries.

Right image: a fraction of a second later, the aircraft releases the main part of its load, a 4000lb HC "cookie" and 108, 30lb "J" incendiaries.



By this time RAF Bomber command was not only able to launch thousand-bomber raids, but was able to launch secondary raids of considerable size at the same time. During the same night No. 5 Group attacked Brunswick with 240 bombers and a further 319 aircraft flew on various diversionary and support missions for the main raids. Over the 24 hour period, the RAF had flown 2,589 sorties dropping a total of approximately 10,050 tonnes of ordnance – the largest total of the war – for a loss of 24 aircraft, which was 0.9 per cent of deployed force.

To aid the effort during the daytime of the 14th, The USAAF VIII Bomber Command sent 1,251 heavy bombers escorted by 749 fighters to bomb Cologne area. The 8th Air Force lost 5 bombers and 1 fighter during the attack.

Nearly 10,500 tonnes of bombs fell on Duisburg in less than 24 hours,a record total that would never be exceeded in the war. The city had essentially been reduced to rubble, producing substantial damage to the Thyssen and Duisburg-Hamborn mines and coke ovens.

Many of the Lancaster aircrews were on both the daytime and night missions.  Five of Wickenby's Lancasters did not return.

The popular BBC correspondent Richard Dimbleby flew from Wickenby as an observer with 12 Squadron's W/Cdr Stockdale's crew on this raid.


* Read a war-time journalist's account of the raid

* And this one from the history books

Richard Dimbleby CBE (25 May 1913 – 22 December 1965) was an English journalist and broadcaster widely acknowledged as one of the greatest figures in British broadcasting history. 


During the war, he flew on some 20 raids as an observer with RAF Bomber Command, including one to Berlin, recording commentary for broadcast the following day. 


In 1945, he broadcast the first reports from Belsen concentration camp. He also was one of the first journalists to experiment with unconventional outside broadcasts, such as when flying in a de Havilland Mosquito accompanying a fighter aircraft raid on France, or being submerged in a diving suit, and also describing the wrecked interior of Hitler's Reich Chancellery at the war's end.


On October 14th 1944 he was at RAF Wickenby. That night he flew as an observer with 12 Squadron on W/Cdr Stockdale's crew when the Thyssen Steel Works at Duisburg was bombed.



626 Squadron's Losses


NE163  UM-T2      Airborne 6.34 am 14th of October 1944

F/Lt Reginald M. Aldus (Pilot), Sgt Vernon Sheppard (Flight Engineer), F/O Thurston Culshaw RCAF (Navigator), F/O John Mervyn Macmillan RCAF (Bomb Aimer), F/O Ronald Ernest Blake (Wireless Operator), Sgt H. Jefferies (Mid Upper Gunner), Sgt Joseph Marks (Rear Gunner)    Crash site - Reichswald Forest.

All the crew lost their lives and were buried in the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. 

 Our photo shows the navigator 22 year old RCAF Flying Officer Thurston Culshaw son of  Ralph & Jessie Culshaw of Sedgewick, Alberta, Canada.


The pilot, 29 year old Flt/Lt Reginald M Aldus, was a career RAF officer who started as an apprentice at RAF Halton.He was the son of George & Mabel Aldus of Woodbridge, Suffolk.

The flight engineer was 29 year old Sgt Vernon Sheppard the son of Robert and Mary Sheppard, of Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire and  husband of Edith Sheppard, of Ashton-under-Lyne.

The bomb-aimer was 20 year old Canadian Flying Officer John Mervyn MacMillan, the son of Archibald Kenneth MacMillan, and of Muriel MacMillan, of Russell, Ontario.

Flying Officer Ronald Ernest Blake was the wireless operator and  the mid-upper gunner, 30 year old Sgt Henry Jefferies, son of Frederick Francis and Kate Jefferies, of Malmesbury, Wiltshire. The tail-gunner was  Sgt Joseph Marks.




LM596  UM-V2    Airborne 10.27 pm 14th of October 1944

The aircraft exploded in the air over Grunwald, Germany. The crew are buried at Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.

Pilot - F/O James Commodore Campbell  RCAF   age 28.  Son of William Glen & Margaret Ross Campbell; husband of Elizabeth Campbell, of Thorold, Ontario, Canada.

2nd Pilot - F/O Robert Albert Charland   RCAF  age 21. from Falconbridge, Ontario

Bomb Aimer - P/O William Frederick Palmer RCAF age 21. Son of John F. and Flora Bramley Palmer, of Magrath, Alberta, Canada.

W/operator - P/O Roland Marcel Joseph Champagne RCAF age 24. Son of Alphonse Champagne, of St. Norbert, Manitoba, Canada.

Navigator - F/O Ross Cuthbert Clouston RCAF age 22. Son of Charles R. and Esther Clouston, of Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada.

Air Gunner - F/O  John Allan Orr  DFC  RAF age 20. Son of John and Augusta Berthe Orr, of Edinburgh.

Flight Eng. - Sgt Sidney John Akhurst  RAF age 28. Son of Percy and Ethel Maud Akhurst, of Faversham, Kent

Air Gunner - Sgt Thomas George Reynolds  RAF age 39. Son of Frederick & Ada Reynolds  of Northenden, Lancashire.

F/O John Allan Orr


Allan Orr, D.F.C., Flying Officer, Royal Air Force, son of Tasmanian Rhodes Scholar, Professor John Orr, of 27 Queen's Crescent, Edinburgh, was born at Stockport, Cheshire, on 28th February 1924. Entering George Watson's Boys College in 1940 he achieved some distinction as a quarter-miler.

He joined the R.A.F. in August 1942. After training in Great Britain as a rear-gunner he was commissioned in July 1943. Flying a Lancaster, he completed his first round of operations with 100 Squadron over France, Italy and Germany, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in April 1944.

In January 1943, 100 squadron received the first of its new complement of Avro Lancasters; the first operation of the squadron was on March 4, 1943 against a U-Boat base at St Nazaire. A few days later they were involved in a raid against Nuremberg in Germany and from then on, in support of Bomber Command's strategic role against Germany, took part in every major raid.

At the end of 1943, the squadron had completed the second largest number of successful operations of units within No. 1 Bomber Command and had the lowest 'loss' rate.

F/O Orr's official citation said that he had "taken part in many successful sorties against some of the most heavily defended targets in Germany". "A courageous and efficient rear-gunner ", it was added, " he has shown initiative and determination of a high order, and by skilful co-operation with his pilot has succeeded in extricating his aircraft from many perilous situations ".

In October 1944, now with 626 Squadron at RAF Wickenby he volunteered for Pathfinder service with Bomber Command.

He lost his life over Duisburg on the 15th of the same month.


12 Squadron's Losses on the same raids

LL909 - PH-Y  Airborne 6.45 am 14th of October 1944

Pilot - F/O Theodore Sorenson , F/Eng - Sgt Crawford Fernie, B/Aimer - F/O Robert William Randall , Mid Upper Gunner - Sgt D R Smith , Navigator - F/O H S Gartrell RCAF, W/Operator - Sgt R Allen (POW) , Rear Gunner - Sgt S R Smith

Three of the crew  F/O Robert William Randall, Sgt R Allen, and Sgt S R Smith were taken prisoner. Of those who died, three are buried in Nederweert War Cemetery, possibly brought there from the US Military Cemetery at Margraten, while Sgt D R Smith lies in Venray War Cemetery.

NF928 - PH-S  Airborne 6.37 am 14th of October 1944

Pilot - F/Lt Ray Lloyd Clearwater , Flt Eng - Sgt William Arthur Berry , Navigator - F/O Henry James Watts , Bomb Aimer - F/Sgt Robert Clark , W/Op - F/Sgt Allan Selwyn Price , Mid Upper Gunner - Sgt Richard Wolsey, Rear Gunner - Sgt George Fearnley Walton.

Shot down by flack. All are buried in the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. At 36. Sgt Walton was over the average age of Bomber Command aircrew. 
Photos of this crew on Wickenby Register web-site.

ME788 PH-Q   Airborne 6.40 am 14th of October 1944

F/O C H Henry, Sgt F H Hesketh, Sgt G C Haywood, F/O N L V Chesson, F/Sgt J K Penrose, F/Sgt E O Martin, Sgt E W Kendall

Ditched 7.10 am due to an engine fire off the Lincolnshire coast between Mablethorpe and Grimsby. All were picked up relatively unharmed.


Squadron Leader R O Lane's crew - Two hazardous trips to Duisburg on the same day. JB661 & NF907.


Squadron Leader R O Lane - Pilot, F/Sgt D McLean - Navigator, F/Sgt  A Bray - Wireless Operator, Sgt F N J Till - Bomb Aimer, Sgt F Thompson - Flight Engineer, Sgt E P  Bone - Mid-upper Gunner,

Sgt E Broome - Rear Gunner

 The crew's first 'op' in October 1944 was really a baptism of fire. That was Operation Hurricane when they had to carry out two missions to Duisburg on the same day.

Operation Hurricane was a 24 hour bombing operation to "demonstrate to the enemy in Germany generally the overwhelming superiority of the Allied Air Forces in this theatre" and "cause mass panic and disorganisation  in the Ruhr, disrupt frontline communications and demonstrate the futility of resistance" 

During the day of 14th October 1944, 957 RAF Bomber Command aircraft dropped 3,574 tonnes of high explosive and 820 tonnes of incendiaries on Duisburg, also that day, the USAAF VIII Bomber Command Mission 677 dispatched 1,251 heavy bombers escorted by 749 fighters with attacks on the Cologne marshalling yards at Gereon, Gremberg, and Eifelter; as well as Euskirchen. 

A second raid on Duisburg during the night of 14/15th October in two waves about two hours apart dropped a further 4,040 tonnes of high explosive and 500 tonnes of incendiaries. In some cases RAF crews flew both the daylight and night-time raids, a total of nearly 11 hours flying time in 24 hours.

During the same night the RAF also bombed Brunswick. Twenty-one of our aircraft were lost over that 24 hour period.

On that first raid, F/Lt Lane's crew flew in JB661, and on the second, in NF907, and probably to allow for fatigue from the earlier four and a half hour day-time raid, the experienced F/Lt A C Hicks DFC took the controls with Lane flying as 2nd Pilot for the four and a quarter hour night-time mission.

In all the crew flew on 26 raids. Ten of those were in Lancaster LL959, the last with that aircraft being the 7th of January 1945. It had a different crew aboard when it was lost on the Leuna raid of the 16th of January where only the skipper, Canadian Don Nelson, survived.

The photo on the right shows Peter Bone, Flt/Lt Lane's mid-upper gunner, cleaning the perspex of his gun-turret.

Squadron Leader Lane's crew had Wing Commander Dixon as pilot of RF256 on the Squadron's last mission to Berchtesgaden on the 25th of April. This raid was against Hitler's 'Eagle's Nest' chalet and the local SS guard barracks. Among the bomber force were 16 Lancasters of 617 Squadron (the Dambusters) dropping their last Tallboys.

The crew's last overseas  operations recorded were on April 27th and May 23rd taking part in operation 'Exodus' when bombers were flying to Brussels, and later to other airfields, to collect British prisoners of war recently liberated from their camps.

469 of those flights were made by aircraft of 1, 5, 6 and 8 Groups before the war ended and approximately 75,000 men were brought back to England by the fastest possible means.


In all, Squadron Leader Lane's crew were on 26 raids together. Bomb-aimer Sergeant Till's log book shows that by the time of his last entry on June 3rd 1945 they had spent a total of 440 hours in the air.

Sgt Freddy Till had qualified as a bomb-aimer in Canada on the 24th of December 1943. His first flight from Wickenby was with his crew in Lancaster PD314 on the evening of the 9th of October 1944 with four and a half hours of night-flying experience 'cross country'.


From information supplied by Freddy Till's grandson Stephen Couzens from London, Ontario, and Anne Law from the Wickenby Register.


My mother and father are in Bognor Regis, West Sussex, which is where Freddy lived all of his life. I now live in London, Ontario, Canada. I know that my Grandfather did some of his training at Picton Bombing and Gunnery school which is probably 3 hours away. My parents have pictures and letters of his time in Canada.
Sadly my Grandfather and Grandmother are now deceased. He never really spoke about the war which seems to be the case with a lot of veterans. Hopefully this might jog some memories for some one out there.
   Stephen Couzens  


* * *

The loss of LM136 20th July 1944

Lancaster LM 136 took off from Wickenby  at 2355 hours on 20 July 1944 to bomb Courtrai, West Belgium. LM136 was one of two 626 Sqdn Lancasters lost on this operation. The aircraft crashed in the North Sea, and all the crew were killed. 


RAF F/O William David Wilson,  (Pilot) - 33 years old.
Son of James and Elinor Wilson; husband of Dorothea M. Wilson, of Hampstead, London.

RAF Sgt Harold Leslie Stevens, (Navigator) 

RAAF F/O Keith Cedric Binnie, (Air Bomber) 23 years old. Son of Charles Stewart Binnie, and of Jessie May Binnie, of Burwood, NSW, Australia.

RAF Sgt John McBean Meaney, (Flight Engineer) 19 years old. Son of Francis and Elizabeth Meaney of Edinburgh.

RAF Sgt Derek John Stanley Clark, (Wireless Air Gunner)

RAAF 428608 Flt Sgt Frank Lorne Robertson, (Mid upper Gunner) Son of Walter Foxton Robertson and Jessie Sophia Harriet Robertson, of Forbes, NSW 

RAF Sgt William Thomas Woodhouse, (Rear Gunner) 
Son of John and Martha Woodhouse, of Fishponds, Bristol.



Flt Sgt Robertson's body was washed ashore and he is buried in the Longuenesse (St Omer) Souvenir Cemetery, France. Sgt Clarke is buried in the Middlekerke Communal Cemetery, Belgium. The cemetery is 9kms south west of Ostend. LM136 is claimed to have been shot down by Obstlt. Helmut Lent (1) of Stab NJG3 between 02.19 hrs and 02.16 hours with combat taking place at around 2,000 mtrs over the sea mid way between Dover and Dunkirk. 



Another 626 Squadron Lancaster was also lost on this mission. LM633 flown by F/O Bowen.  He was captured and made a POW along with another crew member. Four of his crew evaded capture but the rear gunner, Flt/Sgt. John William Houseman, was killed.



The pilot of LM136, 33 year old William David Wilson's will, (©2011 National Archives of Scotland) written four weeks before his death.

"I don't want any grieving over me, for what better way can a man die, than fighting for the people and the things he loves."



Two German Night-fighter Aces at St Trond, Belgium in early summer of 1944. On the left is Oberleutnant Helmut Lent talking to Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer, the Gruppenkommandeur  of NJG1. Helmut Lent went on to claim 102 night fighter kills and a further 8 kills (including 626 Squadron's LM136 piloted by F/O  William Wilson on the 21st of July 1944) before he himself died on the 7th October 1944 after suffering injuries sustained during a crash landing in his Ju 88 G-6 at Paderborn Airfield following engine failure.

St. Trond's airfield in Belgium was the base of one of the most famous Luftwaffe Night Fighter squadrons, NJG1, with units II/NJG1 and IV/NJG1 operating Junkers Ju88 and Heinkel He219 aircraft from there in 1944. The Gruppenkommandeur and highest scoring German night fighter pilot, Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer (121 air victories, most of them at night) was referred to as "The ghost of St. Trond" by British Bomber crews who flew over Germany on night attacks raids.

On the 25th of March 1944 he shot down HK539 piloted by 626 Squadron's Wing Commander Quentin Ross returning from a bombing raid on Berlin. There were no survivors.

Schnaufer's greatest one-night success came on 21 February 1945, when he claimed nine Royal Air Force (RAF) heavy bombers in the course of one day: two in the early hours of the morning and a further seven, in just 19 minutes, in the evening.


Along with most other German nightfighters, Schnaufer's aircraft was fitted with a deadly weapon that had decimated RAF bombers for nearly two years without being fully understood by Bomber Command, this was "Schrage Musik".  

This comprised two upward-firing 20mm cannons installed at the rear of the cockpit, inclined at an angle of 70 or 80° which were aimed through a Revi gun-sight above the pilot's head. Having spotted his target, the pilot manoeuvred into position underneath the bomber, effectively in its blind-spot.  

A few cannon shells aimed between the inner and outer engines, the area of the fuel tanks on the Lancaster, invariably was enough to cause the destruction of the bomber as the wings erupted on fire. 

In a post-war interview, Heinz Schnaufer said that he had attacked 20 to 30 bombers at a range of 80 yards with his Schrage Musik guns and of those only about 10% saw him approaching at a distance of 150 to 200 metres and tried to evade him by "corkscrewing" before he could open fire.



Flight Sergeant Eric Grisdale and the crew of Lancaster NE118


The aircraft took off from RAF Wickenby at 10.37pm on May 22nd 1944 to bomb Dortmund. It crashed around 2am in Holland at Aasten (Noord-Brabant) 10 km south east from the centre of Helmond. The three crewmates killed were first buried at Venlo, and subsequently re-interred in the Jonkerbos War Cemetery.

Of the four who survived the crash, two were made prisoners of war, and two evaded capture, returning to the UK on September 13th 1944.


RCAF Warrant Officer George Pearce was their navigator until mid-April 1944 when he was posted to RCAF "R" Depot and replaced by RCAF Warrant Officer John Beswick Morritt.

The crew were -

Flight Sergeant E. Grisdale (Pilot) - evaded. Arrived back at Hendon 13-09-1944.

Sergeant R A J. Sindall - (Flight Engineer) - captured -Luft 7, pow No.53

Flying Officer J B. Morritt RCAF (Navigator) - Killed in action.

Flight Sergeant R H. (Pop) Punter RCAF (Bomb Aimer) - evaded. Arrived back at Hendon 13-09-1944.

Sergeant I A. Pretswell (Wireless Operator) - Killed in action.

Flight Sergeant R J. Turtle - (Mid-Upper Gunner) - captured -  Luft 7, pow No. 65

Sergeant R W. Richardson - (Rear Gunner) - Killed in action.

Flight Sergeant Eric Grisdale.   After jumping and landing safely, Eric met up with a group of civilians and was taken to a local doctor (he had a broken hand and scratches to his face).

He was then sheltered at a farm near Someren, a small village south of Eindhoven, and joined there the next morning (May 24th) by his Canadian crewmate Robert Punter. Seven days later they were moved to a camp run by the Dutch Resistance in woods near Eindhoven and joined seven other Allied aircrew evaders.

Eric Grisdale and Robert Punter stayed at the camp,in the woods near the hamlet of Lierop, until July 7th when they were transported by train from Venraij to Sittard and sheltered in a private house for three weeks. After another move to  Roggel, eighteen days passed before they were taken over the border to a farm at Kinroy, Belgium for three nights.

Three weeks later, on September 12th, after some help from Belgian partisans, they came into contact with a jeep carrying a reconnaissance patrol of American Rangers.

Next day they were were flown back in a Dakota to London's Hendon airfield.



RCAF Flight Sergeant Robert (Pop) Punter also parachuted successfully from the doomed aircraft and joined up with Sergeant Turtle and Sergeant Sindall who were both injured.

Four young Dutch boys gave them food and milk and brought back a man who spoke English.

He advised them to spend the night in a nearby wood.

On the way there Sgt Turtle was too ill to proceed and was left outside a house. He was taken prisoner by the Germans next morning.

F/Sgt Punter and Sgt Sindall spent the night in the wood and early next morning the English-speaking man brought them some overalls. Unfortunately Robert Sindall was too ill to proceed any further and stayed at a nearby farmhouse from where he was later captured.

Pop Punter was taken to a farm near Scheren where he was given food and civilian clothing. Later that afternoon a priest arrived to take him to another farmhouse where he joined up with Eric Grisdale.


1385908 Sgt. Robert A J. Sindall, the Flight Engineer, was born at Kingston, Surrey in 1924. After being captured he was taken to Stalag Luft 7 where he was listed as 'camp editor' in one record. He survived the war and married Joan Francis in 1953.


1353039 Flight Sergeant R J. Turtle,the Mid-upper gunner. We know little about him except that he was Irish and also was taken as a pow to Stalag Luft 7 at Bankan, near Kreulberg, Upper Silesia, Poland.


1344599 Sergeant Ian Arrass Pretswell, the Wireless Operator, was the 23 year old son of David and Isabella Pretswell. He married Dalmellington girl Kate Gemmell Murdoch (1925–1968) at Peebles, Scotland, in 1944.


1874495 Sergeant  Robert William Richardson, the Air Gunner, was the 21 year old son of Rebecca Richardson, of Balsham, Cambridgeshire. Before enlisting he had been a a farm-worker at Balsham.


R157561 RCAF Warrant Officer John Beswick Morritt, the Navigator, was the 22 year old son of English parents, George Herbert and Ethel Morritt, of 4081 West 11th Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Before enlisting in April 1942 he had been a student at the University of British Columbia and a member of the Cadet Corps.

He received his navigator's badge and sergeant's stripes in February 1943 and was then posted to the UK, arriving 17th March 1943. After further aircrew training at 83 OTU and 1656 CU, he was posted to RAF Wickenby on April 13th to join Flight Sergeant Eric Grisdale's crew. He was promoted to Pilot Officer on 21st May 1944.