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Canadian Don Nelson and the crew of LL959


LL959    Lost on Leuna raid - 16th January 1945


At 1905 on the night of 14th Jan 1945 Lancaster LL959 took off from RAF Wickenby in Lincolnshire on a bombing raid of the synthetic oil installation at Leuna south of Berlin. 

It was the aircraft's 41st operational sortie and its crew's 30th operational sortie together. They joined 626 Squadron on the 13th of August 1944 and had flown their first mission on the 25th of August 1944 to Russelsheim in Lancaster ND864 (UM-M2).  



The crew were :

Pilot, Flying Officer Donald Smith Nelson RCAF - was blown clear of the aircraft ,injured and then  captured. He was taken to Dulag-Luft, a POW interrogation and transit unit, on the 19th of January and confined in hospital until the Liberation.  

Navigator, Flying Officer Thomas Robertson Murray RCAF—Buried at the 1939-1945 Cemetery in Berlin.  

Flight Engineer, Sgt Oliver Old RAF— Buried at the 1939-1945 Cemetery in Berlin. He was the son of Oliver and Clara Old of Hatfield Peverel, Essex.

Wireless Operator, Pilot Officer Robert Joseph Lacey RAF. Commemorated  on Panel 267 at the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey.  

Air Bomber, Pilot Officer Vernon Harvey Halstead RCAF—Buried at the 1939-1945 Cemetery in Berlin. He was the son of Carl Nelson and Jean Elizabeth Halstead of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Mid-Upper Gunner, Sgt. Andrew Morrison Orr Walker RCAF. Commemorated on Panel 281 at the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey. He was the son of William and Mary Morrison Walker of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Rear Gunner, Sgt. Cyril Clinton Merriman RCAF. Commemorated on Panel 282 at the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey. He was the son of Harold C. Merriman and his wife Pearl Ann Hartman.





Top Left to Right Don Nelson – Pilot, Tom Murray – Navigator, Vernon Halstead Bomb/Aimer, Cyril Merriman – Rear Gunner

Bottom Left to Right Oliver Old – Flight Engineer, Robert Lacey – Wireless Operator, Andrew (Scotty) Walker – Mid Upper Gunner

Picture from Wickenby Register






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ND964  21st/22nd  May 1944


P/O R.R. Brant (Pilot) age 22, Sgt R.W. Kemp (Flight Engineer) age 22, P/O F.L. Peck (Navigator) age 22, Sgt K.L.D. McCoy RCAF (Bomb Aimer), Sgt G.A. McEwan (Wireless Operator) age 21, Sgt A.A. Short (Mid Upper Gunner) age 18, Sgt E.R. Read (Rear Gunner) age 20.


ND964 was delivered to 626 Sqdn Apr44. No other operational history. No record of total hours. Airborne 22.37 21st May 1944 from Wickenby . Crashed at Tongerlo (Antwerpen), 8 km SW of Geel. Those killed were buried 23rd May at Antwerpen-Deurne. They have been subsequently re-interred in the Schoonselhof Cemetery.


Sgt McCoy made a successful evasion and returned to flying duties only to lose his life at the very end of the war. (See LM750). 

P/O R.R. Brant KIA, Sgt R.W. Kemp KIA, P/O F.L. Peck KIA, Sgt K.L.D. McCoy RCAF Evd, Sgt G.A. McEwan KIA, Sgt A.A. Short KIA, Sgt E.R. Read KIA.



The only survivor, Sgt. K. L. D. McCoy, the bomb aimer,  an American national, evaded capture and safely returned to England  thanks to the help of the Belgian resistance.  However he did not survive the war. W/O McCoy was killed during a mine-laying mission with another squadron on the 3rd of  March 1945.




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The Stuttgart raid of the 27th/28th July 1944


Ten Lancasters of 626 squadron Lancaster took off from RAF Wickenby on the night of the 27th of July 1944 to bomb Stuttgart on a 494 boimber raid. On the way to the target, under bright moon-lit conditions, the bomber stream came under attack by German night-fighters over France. In all 39 Lancasters from the total force were shot down - 7.9 per cent.

Three of 626 Squadron aircraft were intercepted, LM895 UM- Y2, LM105 UM-P2, and ME830 UM-K2.


LM895 UM-Y2 was  piloted by F/Sgt George T Ryan on the crew's first operational sortie. It was shot down by a night-fighter and crashed at 02.30am on 29th July at Vaihingen, 8 km SW of Stuttgart. Only one of the crew, the navigator Sgt J E Palmer, survived and was interned in Camp L7. 

Those killed are buried in Durnbach War Cemetery. F/S G.T. Ryan Pilot, Sgt J.A. Stone Flight Engineer, Sgt G.E. Ross Bomb Aimer, Sgt L.A. Pointer Wireless Op., Sgt J. Purves Mid Upper Gunner, and Sgt K.S. Eddie Rear Gunner.


ME830 UM-K2 piloted by Flying Officer Lone was attacked by two Junkers 88's just 20 minutes short of the target and was  forced to drop his bomb load over of the south-west German city of Karlsruhe. He returned the aircraft and crew safely back to Wickenby touching down at 05.47am.

LM105 UM-P2 was piloted by Canadian F/Lt William Leroy Foote. The aircraft took off at 21.24 from Wickenby. Its crew were Pilot F/Lt W J Foote, Navigator P/O W A Telling, Wireless Op. Sgt S R J Humphreys, Bomb Aimer Sgt W E Price, Flight Engineer Sgt J W Ruddick, Mid Upper Gunner Sgt R A Smith RCAF, and Rear Gunner Sgt H I Ferguson. LM105 was also attacked by night-fighters en-route to the target and sustained damage causing the death of the rear gunner,20 year old Sgt Harold Ferguson and blowing the mid upper gunner, Sgt R A Smith out of his turret. Fortunately Sgt Smith was uninjured and returned to his position.

A fire had broken out in the rear of the aircraft. This attracted attention from more night-fighters and the Lancaster was attacked a further four times. Sgt Smith engaged with the fighter and it was seen to fall away in flames. During the attack Flt Lt Foote was forced to drop part of their bomb-load, the 500 pounders, but carried on to bomb Stuttgart at 1.41am. His damaged Lancaster returned safely to Wickenby at 5.42am.

For their bravery under fire both the pilot and remaining gunner were decorated. 


F/Lt William Leroy FOOTE (RCAF) - Distinguished Service Order - No.626 Squadron - Award effective 22 September 1944 as per London Gazette of that date and AFRO 2274/44 dated 20 October 1944.   Born Edmonton 1915; home Halifax Nova Scotia.  Ex-Army.  Enlisted Winnipeg 23 June 1942.  Commissioned June 1943.  Trained at No.7 ITS (graduated 18 December 1942), No.6 EFTS (graduated 5 March 1943, and No.4 SFTS (graduated 25 June 1943).  Cited with F/Sgt Robert A. Smith RCAF, who was awarded the DFM.


This officer and airman were captain and mid-upper gunner respectively of an aircraft detailed to attack Stuttgart.  En route the aircraft was attacked by a fighter and sustained much damage.  The rear gunner was killed and Flight Sergeant Smith was blown out of his turret into the fuselage.  He was, however, uninjured and fortunately returned to his turret.  A fire started in the rear of the fuselage which betrayed the position of the bomber to the enemy and the aircraft was subjected to five successive attacks.  Nevertheless, Flight Lieutenant Foote skillfully manoeuvred the aircraft and enabled Flight Sergeant Smith to engage the fighter which was seen to fall away in flames.  Flight Lieutenant Foote then continued to the target and completed his mission.  This officer and airman have taken part in many sorties and have displayed a high standard of courage and devotion to duty.


Sgt Harold Ian Ferguson is buried at his home town of Spennymoor and commemorated on the town's Cenotaph


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The Crew of PB687 shot down on 31st December 1944

F/O R.O. Beattie RCAF, F/O F.J. Benolt (2nd Pilot), Sgt H. Harrison, F/O A.L. Warren RCAF, F/O K.A. McWilliam RCAF, Sgt K.H. Auston KIA, Sgt T.A. Casey RCAF, F/O W.H. Pogson RCAF. 


PB687 UM - Q2 was a Mk.1 and delivered to 626 Sqdn in October 1944.  It was one of two 626 Squadron Lancasters lost on this operation. ( See: PB561.) Airborne at 1451 on 31st December 1944 from Wickenby on a mission to Osterfeld in Germany.

During the flight home the aircraft was attacked by a night fighter; within seconds it was on fire. The pilot gave the order for the crew to bale out. Air gunner Sgt Terrance Anthony Casey, RCAF, from Windsor, Ontario was the only member of the crew who did not respond. The other air gunner F/O William Henry Pogson RCAF from Orangeville, Ontario and Sgt. K H Austin RAF were also killed: Their burned bodies, still harnessed to fully deployed parachutes, were later found. F/O F J Benoit RCAF, F/O A L Warren, RAF, Sgt. H Harrison RAF, F/O Beattie and F/O K McWilliam survived.

Kenneth's son Harry McWilliam relates - It was the late evening of December 31, 1944. The sortie to Osterfeld, Germany was low level and against railroad yards. The intent was to deny the Germans reinforcements and supplies for their Panzer divisions. PB 687 was thus low and vulnerable.

It was normal for the Lancaster’s to go low after the attack to gain speed to get out of the hot zone. F/O Kenneth McWilliam remembered going up and over houses, probably to be out of the way of radar. He first became aware of the attack when he observed tracer fire passing through the right wing. He signaled the pilot and leapt to the nose guns to fire on the fighter if it came back nose on. The enemy did not come back and he never saw the fighter.

The pilot ordered him to abandon the plane as it was now burning. He raced to the mid-section of the plane, the intercom wires and flight helmet ripped from his head. As the parachutes were in the mid-section and not the front, he had to climb over the spar towards the rear of the plane, grab his chute and then back to his position in the nose over the escape hatch.

As he continued with the story, he said how difficult it was getting to the front of the plane because of the steep angle of ascent. This maneuver was necessary to gain altitude so it would be safe to bale out.
The right side of the plane was already cherry red from the heat. With great force he pushed himself out of the hatch, then he pulled the ripcord immediately rather than doing so after a 10 second count. Fortunately the parachute did not catch on anything. He believes he passed out but quickly came to with the sensation of going up. The jolt of hitting the ground destroyed this illusion. The landing was hard mainly because the plane was so low. The pilot, blown from the airplane before having a chance to escape, was badly burned but survived.

Kenneth McWilliam's landing was near Pepinster, Belgium, in the midst of a major battle zone. (No-mans land as he expressed it). Shortly, he made contact with the 49th A-A-A brigade, an American unit.

The enemy in some instances were wearing Allied uniforms and the Americans wanted to make sure he was with the RCAF. German SS soldiers were being dropped into the zone, disguised as Canadians. Their situation was such that they were not taking the chance he could be a German. He was questioned and identified as Canadian by General Timberlake and driven to Brussels for the flight home. General Timberlake gave my dad his scarf (which our family has to this day) to help him fend off the cold.








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