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Aussie Pilot Officer Welham's crew in January 1944 - Left to right - F/Sgt Egan (mid-upper gunner), F/Sgt Atherston (rear gunner), F/O Knight (navigator), P/O Welham RAAF (pilot), P/O Moore (wireless operator), Sgt Lamb (bomb aimer), and Sgt Groom (flight engineer)


The Loss of F/Sgt Keith Margetts's crew in LM393 on the Berlin raid of March 24th/25th 1944.  Crew - F/Sgt K.H. Margetts, Sgt R.W. Chandler, F/O H.L. Shortliffe RCAF, Sgt D.F. Brooker, Sgt G.T. Probert, Sgt R.C. Waters, Sgt C.G.G. Bateman

LM393 was one of two 626 Sqdn Lancasters lost on this operation. (See: HK539) Airborne 1844 24th March 1944 from Wickenby. Homebound, shot down by a night-fighter crashing at Liebtz, 6 km NNE of Luckenwalde. Six are buried in the Berlin 1939-45 War Cemetery. Sgt Probert is commemorated on Panel 236 of the Runnymede Memorial. 

Both Keith Margetts and his 19 year old tail-gunner Geoffrey Bateman were from the shoe-making town of Rushden in Northamptonshire. 


This night became known in Bomber Command as 'the night of the strong winds'. A powerful wind from the north carried the bombers south at every stage of the flight. Not only was this wind not forecast accurately but it was so strong that the various methods available to warn crews of wind changes during the flight failed to detect the full strength of it.

The bomber stream became very scattered, particularly on the homeward flight and radar-predicted flak batteries at many places were able to score successes. Part of the bomber force even strayed over the Ruhr defences on the return flight. It is believed that approximately 50 of the 72 aircraft lost were destroyed by flak; most of the remainder were victims of night fighters. Needless to say, the strong winds severely affected the marking with, unusually, markers being carried beyond the target and well out to the south-west of the city.

This was the last major RAF raid on Berlin during the war, although the city would be bombed many times by small forces of Mosquitos

811 aircraft - 577 Lancasters, 216 Halifaxes, 18 Mosquitos - to Berlin. 72 aircraft - 44 Lancasters, 28 Halifaxes - lost, 8.9 per cent of the force. Extract From The Bomber Command War Diaries 24/25 March 1944.


The crew's navigator was Flying Officer Hance Logan Shortliffe (RCAF) aged 21 from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  He was the son of Delbert L. Shortliffe and Mayme A. Shortliffe

Their flight engineer was Sgt Ronald William Chandler, aged 21, the son of William Charles and Florence Chandler, of Staplehill, Bristol

The bomb aimer was Sgt Dennis Frank Brooker, aged 21, son of George Henry and Florence May Brooker, of Dartford, Kent.

The wireless operator was Sgt Geoffrey Thomas  Probert aged 25, son of Thomas Chesters Probert and Ann Jane Probert, of Walker, Newcastle-on-Tyne. 

The mid-upper gunner was Sgt Robert Charles Waters aged 23. He was the son of Henry Hayden Waters, and May Beatrice Waters, of North Harrow, Middlesex.  

The pilot, 21 year old Keith Harry Margetts, was the eldest son of William Harry Leonard Margetts, commercial clerk and leather sorter with Harris Bros Tannery and his wife May, of 1, Tennyson Road, Rushden, Northamptonshire.

Educated at Alfred Street Junior School and Intermediate School, Rushden and was afterwards employed by William Green & Son, Boot Manufacturers, Rushden as a Costing Clerk.

A keen swimmer, he gained his Royal Life Saving Society medal in October 1940.

A member of the Home Guard and the Air Training Corps. He attended Park Road Baptist Church and was a member of the Bible Class.

In a letter dated 25th, March, 1944 from Group Captain R. Haynes commanding 626 Squadron, RAF Station, Wickenby, Lincoln: The final paragraph reads - 'Although Sergeant Margetts had not been with us very long, he had made many friends and was very popular on the Squadron. Personally, I had the utmost confidence in him for he had proved himself to be courageous and able. All officers and men of the Squadron join me in offering you our heartfelt sympathies in your great anxiety'.


Rushden Evening Telegraph April 4 1944

Flight Sergeant Geoffrey Gordon Bateman RAF, 19 years old, only son of Mr & Mrs Charles Bateman of 129 Irchester Road, Rushden, Northamptonshire, has recently been listed as 'missing from operations'. Sgt Bateman has been with the RAF since May 1943 and this was his ninth 'op' as a rear gunner of the plane. He joined the local squadron of the ATC at the commencement and after leaving Intermediate School worked at the Higham Road Branch of the Rushden Industrial Co-operative Society. He was a member of the Mission Church and Sunday School, belonged to the Mission Tennis Club and was a keen sportsman in general. Sgt Bateman has two sisters younger than himself.


Only nine days before - two of this crew had already experienced one memorable mission flying with New Zealand pilot F/Sgt Colin Marriott's crew. Combat Report 15th March 1944 - JB409 UM-P2    F/Sgt C R Marriott - Combat report No. 11.      23.18hrs.  22,000ft.  30 miles south of target.

The Lancaster was attacked by a JU88 from the starboard quarter down, which opened fire at 600 yards.  The rear gunner, Sgt J V Brewer, returned fire with a long burst.  The aircraft was extensively hit.  The enemy made a second attack from astern and up at 200 yards.  

The mid upper gunner, Sgt R Loughrey, returned fire but our aircraft was hit again by cannon and machine gun fire.  The pilot then corkscrewed shaking off the attacker. The damage included, intercom, R.T. and I.F.F out of action.  Mid upper and rear turrets U/S including oxygen supply to both turrets.  Tailplane, elevators and trim badly damaged and extensive damage to fuselage, astrodome and pilot’s cockpit  hood.  No. 2 starboard petrol tank holed and both starboard propellers damaged.  

Immediately after the attack a fire started below the mid upper turret. This was extinguished by the mid upper gunner who then returned to his turret.  The pilot decided to continue and bombed the target at 23.35hrs.  After bombing, the flight engineer, Sgt W A Willday, went back to the rear turret where the rear gunner stated he would carry on.  He remained in his turret throughout the homeward trip operating the turret manually, although without oxygen and wounded in the left foot and ankle.  

He was also found on landing to be suffering from severe facial frostbite. The flight engineer also found the mid upper gunner unconscious in his turret due to lack of oxygen and with the help of the wireless operator, Sgt G T Probert, succeeded in getting him on to the rest bed, where he remained unconscious during the return trip and for twelve hours after landing.  He was also found to be wounded by splinters in the right foot. On the homeward trip the bomb aimer, Sgt D F Brooker, alternated between his own position and the mid upper turret.  The aircraft made a safe landing at Ford.




LM137's Last Flight.  LM137 took off on a bombing raid to Frankfurt at 6.25 on the evening of September 12th 1944. It was piloted by F/O Denis Thorpe from Yorkshire on his 31st 'op' with 625 Squadron from RAF Wickenby. His crew consisted of 22 year old RCAF 2nd Pilot F/O George Thomas Bolderston from Vancouver, Wireless Operator Sgt Johny Peart, 23 year old Flight Engineer F/Sgt Francis Charles Foster from Wenesfield, Wolverhampton,  28 year old Air Bomber F/Sgt Stanley Edward Dunnett from Tiddington, Warwickshire, 19 year old Air Gunner F/Sgt Leonard Frank Beattie from Brighton, 33 year old Pilot Officer Arthur Cromwell Cox from Blackpool who had received his commission July, and F/Sgt R H Cross. 

The aircraft was apparently shot down by a night-fighter at 10.40 pm and crashed at Plittersdorf, 4 km NW of Rastatt, only a few miles east of the French border town of Seltz.

The skipper, with Flt Sergeants Peart and Cross, was taken prisoner. Pilot Officer Bolderston, F/Sgt Foster and F/Sgt  Dunnett are recorded on the Lost Bombers site as being 'murdered by civilians'. (see letter below)


A Lancaster Bomber's Last Flight Over Frankfurt. This story was submitted to the People's War site  on behalf of Denis R.B. Thorpe

It must have been 11.15am on the morning of September 12th 1944, when I was awakened by Rosie, our bat-woman. "You're to report to Flight Office by 12.15 hrs." "Impossible," I thought - we had been laying mines in the Keil area only the previous night and the day before that we'd been over Le Havre on a daylight raid. I suppose it didn't really count, our normal sequence of `Ops' was two nights on and one night off. Having breakfasted with Pilot Officer Cox, my navigator, we went over to the Flight Office to find out the score. Sure enough, in bold letters on the blackboard - MAXIMUM EFFORT TONIGHT. Collecting the rest of my crew, we made our way to dispersal to see how the lads were making out with `G2' our own home which we'd flown in together since just before our fourth Op., apart from some time out when she'd had to have extensive repairs when we'd lost an engine over Stuttgart. 

Dan, the rigger, was polishing up the Astro-dome when we arrived, and John, the fitter, reported that he thought he'd fixed 'George' the automatic pilot, which had been giving a bit of trouble. 

We took her up for half an hour, checked George and confirmed that all the gun turrets were operating satisfactorily, and then we returned to base. 'Briefing' took place at 16.30 hrs; presided over by the Group Captain and Wing. Commanders Nelson (12 Squadron) and Rodney (626 Squadron). 

We learned straight away that there were to be twin targets that night - Frankfurt and Stuttgart - our two Squadrons being on the Frankfurt target, but that all the main force aircraft were to follow the same initial route, diverging only when they reached Karlsruhe - due south of Frankfurt. 

The `Met' man gave us little comfort - hardly any cloud-cover, but to watch out for icing above 30,000 ft! We then learned that, as an experienced crew of some 30 operations, we were to take a young Canadian pilot as 2nd Dicky and show him the ropes - a usual practice with all new pilots joining a squadron. 

Briefing over, we adjourned for the traditional pre-0ps `bacon and egg' and eventually wandered over to the locker rooms, donned flying kit, picked up our escape packs, parachutes etc. and were driven out to dispersal bays. 

The inevitable inane banter took place - cigarettes smoked at a furious rate - all signs of 'pre-Op' twitch. The time came to board our aircraft, each man doing his own take-off check. The green 'Very' lights went up indicating that the Op was `on' and that it could not now be scrubbed. We then took our place behind C2 in the queue up to take-off. 

Getting the green light from `The Hut', we swung into line, locked on the brakes, stick well forward, opened up the throttles, released the brakes - we were off on operation 31. We gained height steadily between base and the east coast and back, keeping a sharp lookout all the time to avoid other Lanc's and Halifaxs that were milling around doing the same thing. 

On a word from the navigator we set a course of 200 degrees, our base at about 8,000 ft., still climbing, as well as our load of cookie incendiaries and 2,000 gallons of aviation fuel would allow. In the gathering dusk, we flew south, eventually pin-pointing Portland Bill, our departure point from the British Isles. We were bang on route and time. 

When I pointed out to our young Canadian co-pilot that that would be the last he saw of friendly shores for a few hours, I little realised what fate had in store! Altering course, we headed for the French coast and flew on, climbing all the time. Guns were given a quick burst to make sure they were ready for action and shortly afterwards we started throwing out `window'- thin metal strips of foil to confuse the enemy radar. 

Searchlights popped up here and there probing the sky, hoping to latch on to some unfortunate `bod' - odd bits of flak floated up, but we droned steadily on unmolested. By this time we had altered course again and were approaching the diverging point of the two bomber streams. In the distance we could see the flak batteries round Karlsruhe, looking as though they were having a real birthday. 

On a word from the navigator, we turned north on our appointed course towards Frankfurt, and, almost immediately, it happened. A fighter flare burst literally almost on our port wing, and I instinctively turned away to starboard to avoid the dripping magnesium. "Dive port, skip!" an urgent yell from Len, the rear gunner. We were now at about 22,000 ft. and old G2 was a bit sloppy on the controls but, nevertheless, I turned and shoved the stick forward to start a corkscrew evading action. 

I could hear our own guns chattering away and instinctively lifted my foot from the rudder bar as I felt the cannon shells thumping into us with one of them nicking my flying boot. Almost as soon as it started, the firing ceased, the flare had expended itself and there was an exultant cry from the rear gunner, "I think I got him Skip, a 210!" 

Hardly were the words out of his mouth - I had just started checking on various members of the crew, when there were two terrific bangs, one somewhere back in the tail end of the aircraft and the other on the starboard wing where I could see the inboard engine blazing. Immediately I gave the order to the engineer to press the fire extinguisher button and feather the engine. At the same time I pushed G2 into a dive to try to blow out the fire. 

I asked Johnny Peart the wireless op to check on Len in the rear turret, as there was no reply from him on the intercom. At 11,000 ft. I pulled out of the dive, as it was obvious that the fire was not going out. The wireless operator reported that poor Len, the rear gunner, had `bought it', and that there was much smoke and a smell of burning oil in the fuselage. 

Looking out at the burning wing, I realised that G2 was on its last legs. I turned to port to try and get over friendly territory and gave the order to abandon aircraft. What followed is all somewhat confused. I certainly remember seeing three of the crew going past me to the forward escape hatch. I also remember thinking I must jettison the bomb load and cut off the petrol to the starboard engines but, before any of these things could be done, there was a vivid flash. 

My watch strap (an elastic type) stretched from my wrist and broke, and the next thing I remember was being aware that I was falling. Instinctively I felt for my parachute ripcord, pulled hard and then saw tree trunks flying past me as I swung through them. Later, I worked out that the aircraft had blown up, shooting me out unconscious. 

I must have `come to' sufficiently at about 1,500 ft; pulled the ripcord, and the parachute had opened in time to catch the trees and break my fall. I came to rest, bent my toes, and and my feet touched terra firma. Still dazed, I then tried to take stock of the situation. I seemed reasonably mobile, although without flying boots. As they were the old loose-fitting type, they must have come off in my unusual exit from G2. 

My battle dress looked like one of Cinderella's cast-offs, and I noticed that blood was coming down my left arm from one or two peculiar cuts. Remembering a snatch of often repeated intelligence briefing, I tried to pull down my parachute to hide it. Unfortunately, it was inextricably caught in the trees , so I decided to abandon further attempts and try to get away from the locality. 

Taking out my escape kit I looked at the small compass and could not remember - in my still befuddled state - whether it was `two dots north' or vice-versa! A quick look at the Great Bear, however, soon started me hobbling westwards. I must have walked on through the woods for about an hour - all the time cursing my misfortune, but at the same time trying to work out if I was anywhere near Alsace where I might chance upon somebody 'pro-British'. 

Eventually I came to a minor road which I followed in a NW direction, skirting a village, which I had decided was still not far enough to the west. After about another three hours, after which time I was feeling decidedly weak and dizzy, I came to another, bigger, village. "This is it," I thought, "with a bit of luck I might get some help." I walked right through; there was not a soul about, and went to the last house and knocked gently on the door. 

After a few minutes, a small squat fellow came to the door. "Je suis aviateur Anglais, pouvez vous?" "Huh, Englander, Terreur, Fleiger!" he interrupted. Quick as a flash, he caught hold of my right arm and whipped a half-Nelson on me. As I could hardly stand with loss of blood and fatigue, I was in no position to offer any resistance. He then walked me what seemed to be only about 100 yards down his garden, straight into an army post! 

There was a rapid exchange of words while several Schmeisers, Lugers etc. were trained on me. A quick search took away my escape kit and the next thing I remember it was daylight, and I was lying on a paliasse on the floor of the army hut with two guards standing over me! 

After about an hour, during which time I was given a cup of ersatz coffee and a cigarette, a truck with three guards and myself inside took us all to what turned out to be Rastatt Hospital. As we drew up and I was ushered out, another truck was disgorging a stretcher - I looked in horror - it was Paddy, my mid-upper gunner, his face covered in blood, showing no signs of life. 

I spent about five days in hospital having lumps of metal and perspex taken out of various parts of my body and a finger-nail removed. During that time I managed to find out from the very considerate French-speaking doctor that Paddy had lost an eye, but that he would eventually be all right. 

While I was in bed, an orderly had taken my battle dress, had it all stitched up and returned it with a packet of cigarettes and a lighter in the pocket! 

Now more or less as good as new I was given a pair of Wehrmacht boots and sent to a small staging post where I was delighted to meet up with Johnny, my wireless operator. Unfortunately he had been caught when trying to swim a canal! 

It was while we were there that an amusing incident took place. We were put into a small bare room with two more RAF types - presumably to await further transport. We had been given a communal bowl of soup which had lasted us for about three hours, when one of the lads remembered that he had a small tin of sardines that he'd picked up from a Polish prisoner on his travels. I borrowed Johnny's `flying boot knife' (in the newer type boot, a knife was secreted in the fleecy lining, specifically for cutting away the tops and turning them into shoes), which strangely enough the Germans had not found. I opened the tin and we enjoyed the sardines. 

Unfortunately, we were unable to hide the empty tin from the Germans and a quick-witted guard wanted to know how we opened it! After vainly trying to persuade him that we had done it with our teeth and a soup spoon we were all put against a wall outside with our hands on our heads, covered by two more guards with Schmeisers at the ready and searched. 

We had previously hidden the knife on top of the door lintel. Finding nothing on us or in the room, the Sergeant in charge exchanged some heated words with the other guards, which ended in the ominous sound of safety catches going off and the two in front of us grasping their Schmeisers more firmly! It might have been a bluff-who knows? 

After all we were at war, but a quick debate among ourselves decided that we would at least give our lives more dearly than for a mere half dozen sardines! We told them where the knife was to be found. 

The next day found us at the infamous Dulag Luft where we were sent our separate ways. I remained there for a week, during which time I was told the sad news of the death of the other three members of my crew. From there I was sent to Stalag Luft 1, where I remained until released by the forces of the USSR about 8 months later. D.R.B.Thorpe

 Text from BBC People's War site




I made some enquiries about 10 years ago into the fate of some of my uncle's crew members. At the time I was contacted by someone from Rastatt who was interested in finding out more about the crash and its circumstances. He in turn put me in touch with his pen-friend in Holland, Mr de Haan. I attach a scanned copy of his letter to me dated 01 December 2002. From my other e-mails at the time, it appears that the perpetrators of the crime were tried and executed for war crimes in or around 1948 and are buried at Hamelin. Alastair


From the crew of eight from LM137, five lost their lives.  The three buried at Durnbach War Cemetery are -

J26382 Flying Officer GEORGE THOMAS BOLDERSTON, 2nd  Pilot, age  22.  Son of Alfred Rampley Bolderston and Rose Bolderston, of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

1414503  Sergeant FRANCIS CHARLES FOSTER, Flight Engineer, age 23Son of Francis and Ellen Elizabeth Foster, of Wednesfield, Wolverhampton.

1395778 Flight Sergeant  STANLEY EDWARD DUNNETT, Bomb Aimer  age 28.  Son of Samuel and Annie Dunnett; husband of Alice Mary Batsford of  5 Brewery Street, Stratford on Avon.  Married Stratford on Avon in 1942. He is also commemorated on the Grundisburgh, Suffolk, War Memorial.

Two crew members have no known grave and are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial a few miles from Windsor Castle. They were -

182638     Pilot Officer ARTHUR CROMWELL LLEWELLYN COX, Pilot, age  33.  Son of Walter George and Sarah Ann Cox and husband of Emily Winstanley Cox, of South Shore, Blackpool, Lancashire. Married 1934, Fylde district, Lancashire to Emily Winstanley Jones, of South Shore, Blackpool, Lancashire;  (one daughter?).

1852569 Flight Sergeant LEONARD FRANK BEATTIE,  age 19   Son of Reginald George and Elizabeth Harriett Beattie, of Brighton, Sussex.

Sergeant J. Peart , F/Sergeant R.H. Cross , and F/Lt Dennis Thorpe were all made prisoners of war.

The morning after our arrival (at Wickenby) we reported to the Flight Office and both Bolderston and myself were somewhat taken aback to find that we were on the battle order for operations that night as second pilots to F/O Thorpe and F/O Winder's crews respectively . I remember Bolderstone's reaction: 'Bloody hell, I thought we would get at least a few days to settle in!'    Royan Yule - from his book 'On a Wing and a Prayer'



Denis Thorpe's visit to Durnbach War Cemetery and wreckage from his aircraft?



My gratitude to Alastair, Denis's nephew, for the photographs







Pilot Officer Colin Marriott and the crew of  JB409  UM-P2. New Zealander Colin Marriott and JB409 were involved in two incidents.


15 March 1944 JB409 UM-P2.  F/ Sgt C R Marriott Combat Report.  

23.18hrs. 22.000 ft. 30 miles south of target the Lancaster was attacked by a JU88 from the starboard quarter down, which opened fire at 600 yards. The rear gunner, Sgt J V Brewer, returned fire with a long burst. The aircraft was extensively hit. The enemy made ​​a second attack from astern and ate up 200 yards. The mid upper gunner, Sgt R Loughrey, returned fire but our aircraft was hit again by cannon and machine gun fire. The pilot then corkscrewed shaking off the attacker. The damage included, intercom, and IFF RT out of action. Mid upper and rear turrets u/s including oxygen supply to both turrets. Tail plane, elevators and trim badly damaged and extensive damage to fuselage, and astrodome pilot's cockpit hood. No. 2 star board petrol tank holed and both rigid board. Damaged propellers. Immediately after the attack  a fire started below the upper middle turret. The mid upper gunner extinguished this and then returned to his turret. 

The pilot decided to continue and bombed the target at 23.35hrs. After the bombing, the flight engineer, Sgt W A Willday, went back to the rear where the Sgt Brewer, rear turret gunner, stated he would remain in his turret throughout the home ward journey operating it manually, although without oxygen and wounded in the left foot and ankle. After landing he was also found to be suffering from severe facial frostbite. The flight engineer also found the mid upper gunner, Sgt R Loughrey, unconscious in his turret due to lack of oxygen. With the help of the wireless operator, Sgt GT Probert, he succeeded in getting him on to the rest bed, where he remained unconscious during the return trip and for twelve hours after landing. He was also found to be suffering from splinter wounds in his right foot. On the home ward journey the bomb aimer, Sgt Brooker, alternated between his own position and the mid upper turret. The aircraft made ​​a safe landing at Ford.

P/O Marriott won an an immediate DFM for showing outstanding devotion to duty. The citation was gazetted 11 April 1944, jointly with that for his Rear Gunner on that occasion, Sgt J.V.Brewer.




JB409 UM-P2   11/12 May 1944   Crew - P/O C.R. Marriott DFM RNZAF, Sgt R.S. Hollingum, F/Sgt J.H. Barton RNZAF, Sgt C.R. Todd, Sgt W.A. Palmer, P/O A.J. Muir RCAF, WO2 C.W. Smith RCAF 

JB409 was delivered to 12 Sqdn 7Oct43, joining 626 Sqdn, formed from 12 Sqdn 'C'Flight, Dec 1943. Took part in the following Key Operations: With No.12 Sqdn as PH-P, Hannover 18/19 Oct43; Berlin 18/19Nov43; Berlin 26/27 Nov43; Berlin 2/3Dec43; Berlin 16/17 Dec43. To No.626 Sqdn. No Key Operations until Hasselt 11/12 May44-Lost. No record of total hours. Airborne 21.56 11th May 1944 from Wickenby to bomb the railyards. Exploded and fell at the sea dike near Krabbendijke on Zuid Beveland. All are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. P/O Marriott had earlier won an immediate DFM for showing outstanding devotion to duty while on recent operations to Frankfurt. The citation was gazetted 11 Apr44, jointly with that for his Rear Gunner on that occasion, Sgt J.V.Brewer. 

Pilot Officer Colin Rupert Marriott DFM, of the Royal New Zealand Air Force and aged 20, was the son of Rupert Vance Marriott and Jessie Marriott, of Christchurch, New Zealand.  


An account translated  from Dutch.

On May 11, 1944 an attack was planned by RAF Bomber Command with 126 Avro 6 De Havilland Mosquitos and Lancasters on Hasselt, Belgium North East. These aircraft were partly derived from the military airfield Wickenby, an airfield in central England. The objective, a railway system, was "marked" by the "Pathfinders" and bombarded by 39 Lancasters. Because of a thick fog none of these bombers hit their intended target. The leader of this group decided to cancel the aircraft mission  and sent the remaining aircraft returned to the United Kingdom. During the return journey one of the Lancasters of 626 squadron, code-named UM P2 and serial number JB409 was hit by a night fighter above Krabbendijke. The Lancaster was probably downed by Hauptman Ernst Wilhelm Modrow, a night fighter specialist with more than 30 victories. He was with the 2/NJG 1.  


Eyewitnesses report that the plane just before the crash has made ​​a sharp turn, probably not on the village trap. Others indicated that the plane hit a house with a wing tip. It was burning fiercely when it crashed at Krabbendijke. The bomb load was still on board. The plane buried itself deeply and exploded in a dike. A crater formed by 50 x 20 meters and 7 meters deep. None of the seven crew has succeeded in leaving the plane . The age of the crew, which consisted of two Canadians, two New Zealanders and three Englishmen, ranged from 20 to 23 years. This mission was their thirteenth flight. Some limbs were later found near the accident and taken to burial site. Subsequently, efforts were made ​​to the bodies to recover the bodies and give them a proper burial, but without result. Various parts of the aircraft were by the Germans removed. Only the "emergency axe" on board the plane was found by a villager. Later this was passed to the family of the pilot. Krabbendijke was to commemorate a memorial stone in 1946, after being provided with the names of the dead crew. The site of the crash is still recognizable by the shape of the Noorddijk. 


Eyewitness of the accident, Mr. Westrate of Krabbendijke saw the Lancaster coming from the edge of Rilland around 1:00. This gentleman, then about 15 years old was on the Noorddijk watching the searchlights and flak from the Germans who fired at aircraft from Belgium flying back to England. Lancaster JB409 was attacked by a night fighter shot and was on fire. It came flying from the direction Rilland. Beyond Krabbendijke it turned towards Krabbendijke. It flew very low. The Lancaster was flown south of the Noorddijk.  The plane sharply left and then hit the dike. Mr. Westrate lived a little further down one of the four houses. It came very close to Mr. Westrate and hitting the houses. He was thrown into the dike. 

Many fragments were found in the surrounding area. Several boys brought them to the "peasant rags" where they got money. Mr. Traas said he recovered several pieces of rubber from the tires and took them with him. These were used as fuel for cooking or baking. It "smelled" awful, but was particularly valuable. He was also the next morning to witness the visit of the German pilot who had shot down the Lancaster. He remembered very well how cheerful the German  was at seeing the plane crash site and debris.


The Heinkel He 219A was flown by Luftwaffe night fighter ace  Hauptmann Ernst-Wilhelm Modrow from 2./NJG 1, who had shot down 25 aircraft with this plane in three months from 1st of April 1944. 


I have enjoyed reading your website on 626 Squadron.

My Great Uncle, James Barton, was the Navigator on JB409 UM-P2 KIA 11/12 May 1944.

On 24 March 2010, the New Zealand Ambassador to the Netherlands presented a local man with a letter of recognition from the New Zealand Government. Mr Johan Verhagen had tendered to the memorial to the crew of JB409 for most of his life. The citation is here and memorial details are at in this article .

Thank you for your work.   Ross Browne   28th April 2015





A 1946 Air Ministry report