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DS788 from 408 Squadron on the Leipzig raid

Texel & Den Helder




Leeuwarden Airfield


Harlingen & Harderwijk

Occupied Harlingen

German Radar




St. Jacobparochie

Rottum Island



DS788 was one of four No.408 Squadron Lancasters lost on this operation. See: LL632; LL719; LL720. 

Airborne 0003 20th Feb 1944 from Linton-on-Ouse on their operational debut. Shot down by a night-fighter from 20,000 feet, whose fire destroyed the rudders and caused the Lancaster to crash at Kropswolde (Groningen) in the SW outskirts of Sappemeer, Holland. Those killed are buried in the local Protestant churchyard.

Aged 19, Flying Officer Frampton was amongst the youngest pilots killed on Bomber Command operations. Wreckage from his aircraft was salvaged in October 1973. 

Pilot F/O J.A.Frampton RCAF KIA, Sgt F.W.C.Robertson Evd, Navigator F/S J.J.Astles RCAF KIA, F/O G.W.Reynolds RCAF PoW, Wireless Operator Sgt K.W.Tindall KIA, Air Gunner Sgt K.H.Bennett RCAF KIA, Air Gunner Sgt K. Smith RCAF KIA, F/O G.W.Reynolds was interned in Camp L3, PoW No.3537. "  Lost Bombers

In the early morning of the 20th February, 1944 the hamlet of Wolf Barge near Kropswolde was startled by the engine noise of a low-flying aircraft. It was clearly on fire and in trouble. There was then a huge explosion which violently shook the area.

The debris was thrown everywhere. The cockpit was located about 400 meters east of the Woldweg. One of the fuel tanks landed on the local bakery and coffee shop and set it on fire. The building burned to the ground and was never rebuilt.

Bomb Aimer George Reynolds Walker and Flight Engineer Frank Charles William Robertson parachuted to safety and were made prisoners of war. The other men were trapped in their burning plane and did not survive.












Since 1986 there is growing a "tree of hope" near the Allied graves on this churchyard. 



Donald Tansley from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada lost two school-mates on this raid, Johnny Frampton (19) the pilot and son of  Edward and Alma Leticia Frampton , (from the account above) and Thomas Orval Wilson, 21 year old son of Earl and Abbigail Wilson who was a bomb aimer and part of the crew of 640 Squadron's Halifax LM550 C8-U flying from Leconfield.

Born in Regina on May 19, 1925, Tansley joined the Canadian Army partway through the Second World War and eventually talked his way into his hometown unit, the Regina Rifle Regiment. Sixty years later, he wrote poignantly of his wartime experiences, which included killing a German who'd grabbed for Tansley's submachine gun; on the same day, he saved from a burning barn another wounded German -- who gently touched Tansley's hand in gratitude. All this before he was 20.




Donald Tansley (wartime member of the Regina Rifle Regiment; postwar very senior provincial and federal civil servant) sent us an e-mail: 

I write, on this 20th day of February, to remember and to honour two childhood friends who died 63 years ago today in the service of their country: John Albert Frampton and Thomas Orval Wilson, both of Regina. As I have only recently learned, they not only died the same day, they died on the same raid on Leipzig. Johnny was 19; Orval was 21.

Johnny lived on the 2200 block Cameron Street. His father was canon at St. Mary's Anglican Church on 15th Avenue. Like me, Johnny attended Davin School. Following high school graduation, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force.

We were good friends, playing various sports. I particularly remember our times as 'rink-rats' at the arena on Robinson Street. Our job was to put on roller skates for the customers, hardly an onerous chore since most customers were girls. For this, we received free skating, 25 cents a night, and a free Coke. Tall and good-looking, with a great head of bright red hair, Johnny attracted more than his share of the girls. I remember him as an average student and a superb athlete. He had, as I recall, a confidence few of us possessed at that age.

After completing his pilot's training, he joined 408 (Goose) Squadron, RCAF. His Lancaster bomber went missing during a night raid on Leipzig and crashed in northeastern Holland. It was, it is believed, his first mission. He and his crew are buried near Groningen, Netherlands.

Thanks to the Saskatchewan Government Geo-Memorial program, there is a lake on the border of the Northwest Territories named Frampton Lake. There is also a stained-glass window in St. Mary's Anglican Church, unveiled in Johnny's honour by our mutual friend Donald Flegg of Regina.  

Orval Wilson, the second-oldest in a family of eight boys, grew up on the 2200 block Retallack. Orval attended Davin School and, like me, went on to Central Collegiate. In 1942, he enlisted in the RCAF. He trained as a gunner/bombardier (air bomber) at Mossbank, graduating as such at Portage la Prairie and going overseas in May 1943, just as I joined the army.

I remember Orval as a warm, cheerful, fun-loving guy, with a devil-may-care attitude always open to a new adventure or experience. On his leaves, I was his comrade of choice, apart from a very special young lady. With Orval around, life was never dull.

After he went overseas he wrote to me regularly, mostly accounts of leaves to various

cities, his reunion with his older brother, Mel, who was in the Army and never a word about his training or air force activities, probably because all letters home were read and censored. I received his last letter, dated 17 November, 1943, 'waiting somewhere in England,' which suggested he had yet to undertake a mission. I detected a certain lack of exuberance which was evident in his earlier letters. He was also concerned he had not heard from a certain young lady and asked me to visit her. I tried several times to reach her, but with no success. Probably just as well.

In March of 1944 my mother sent me a clipping from the Leader-Post, reporting Flt. Sgt. Orval Wilson was 'Missing ... following aerial operations over enemy territory.' A later clipping reported him as 'Believed Killed.' Official records state that his Halifax bomber, with 640 Squadron, RAF, went missing during a raid on Leipzig on 20 February, 1944.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists Orval as buried in Berlin's 1939-45 War Cemetery.

Under the Geo-Memorial program, Orval is honoured by the naming of Wilson Island on Sandfly Lake, some 50 miles northwest of Lac La Ronge. He would have liked that.  Photo of Orval Wilson left.

Writes Donald: "On February 20th, 1944, two prairie boys who lived two blocks from one another ended their short lives thousands of miles from home. I and many others will always remember them and the great sacrifice they made for all of us."




Orval Wilson's crew, from Bill Norman's book - 'Halifax Squadron'
(The wartime bombing operations of No.640 Squadron, Leconfield) 




Re. your webpage about the loss of F/O John Frampton (408 Sqdn RCAF) and F/Sgt Thomas Orval Wilson, RCAF (640 Sqdn RAF) on the Leipzig raid, 19/20 Feb. 1944.

There is a crew member's account of the loss of the 640 Halifax in my book Halifax Squadron (extract attached).    

Regards,  Bill Norman





19-20 February. Leipzig.

The Squadron lost two more aircraft three days later, when they provided seventeen for an attack on Leipzig, the home of four Messerschmitt aircraft factories and a ball-bearing plant. It was the start of the 'Big Week' campaign, the last concerted effort to be made by the Allied Strategic Bomber Force against the German fighter aircraft industry before the major diversions that would be required in the preparations for D-Day. For one crew, the trip to eastern Germany was the first and the last operational sortie they flew.

823 aircraft took off on the long flight that took those who survived it almost to Czechoslovakia. It was a difficult trip during which the attackers incurred losses on a scale that would have been unsustainable for any length of time. A minelaying operation to Kiel was planned to divert night-fighters, but the latter were distracted from that diversion by Mosquitoes attacking Dutch airfields. By an unlucky chance, the fighters met the bomber stream just after it crossed the Dutch coast. From then on the combined force of Halifaxes and Lancasters was subjected to constant harassment all the way to Leipzig. Twenty bombers were seen to go down in combats between Bremen and the target; three more went down over Leipzig; a further four on the return route. Five fighters were shot down.

The situation was not helped by errors in the Met wind forecast. The tail wind was stronger than expected and a number of aircraft arrived at the target early and were forced to orbit while they awaited the arrival of the Pathfinders—a necessary measure because 10/10 cloud (with tops to 5,000 feet) obscured the target. Four aircraft were lost in collisions, with flak accounting for some twenty others losses.11 Five of the latter went down over Liepzig, the rest fell en route to or from the target. Active ground opposition was encountered on the way out at Emden, Bremen, Hanover, Frankfurt and Rotterdam. 

Twenty aircraft were seen shot down from the ground, including the five over Leipzig.1

No.640 were over Leipzig at around 0415 hours and they bombed the sky markers from 23,000 feet. Cloud cover prevented crews seeing the results on the ground but ' orange/reddish glow—which became more noticeable as the raid progressed—suggested that fires were gaining hold..' The fighter opposition, which was described by returning crews as 'fierce', joined with anti-aircraft defences to exact a toll of 78(9.5%) bombers lost, three-quarters of which were attributed to airborne defenders. An estimated twenty bombers were lost to anti-aircraft fire. No.640 Squadron lost two aircraft: LW422/R13 (Flying Officer W. Waugh) and LW544/U14 (Sergeant B.S. Woodham). Sergeant Ray Goldsborough was mid-upper gunner in Woodham's crew. They had joined No.640s 'B' Flight at Leconfield on 7 February 1944 after completing their training at No.1658 Heavy Heavy Conversion Unit, Riccall. After their arrival, they managed fourteen hours of flying and attended two briefings for Berlin—both operations being subsequently cancelled—before they set out for Leipzig on their first bombing operation. It was destined to be their only operational sortie. Ray Goldsborough still remembers the events of that night:

'It was a Saturday night, our first trip—and everything seemed to go wrong. We took off at about midnight. As we were circling and gaining height we could see aircraft taking off from other airfields. One of them went up in just blew up in mid-air. I found that a bit unnerving—to start off on the first trip and to see someone else go down straight away, and over friendly territory.

‘As we were flying out over the sea, the intercom started to go wrong; it came on in fits and starts. You'd hear someone talking then it would cut off in mid-sentence, and then it would come on again. As we got near to the enemy coast we had trouble with the oxygen: the bomb-aimer and the rear gunner suffered from oxygen starvation. It took some time to sort that out.

‘When we went into our bombing run over the target, where there was a lot of searchlights and flak, the intercom was still going in fits and starts. I heard someone say '...the bombs haven't gone...' and so we started to go round again. Shortly after that someone shouted '.. Jettison the bombs..' and then all went quiet on the intercom. We must have been hit then. The photoflash went off in the flare chute and the whole of the inside fuselage lit up...a brilliant light, it was.

‘I dropped down from my turret to investigate—and when I looked around there was no-one there. I went forward to the flight engineer's position—nobody; then to the cockpit— nobody there; and then down to the forward escape hatch. The flight engineer was just leaving: his legs were already out of the hatch. I asked him where everybody was and he said that they had all gone. So I followed him out.

‘It was a marvellous sensation, once the 'chute had opened. Suddenly it was peaceful and quiet, after all that aggravation (flak and searchlights). I landed near a colliery, alongside an electrified railway line (which I just missed!). I hid in a copse that night and the following day (Sunday). I moved out of hiding on Sunday night with the intention of making for Switzerland, though that would have been difficult in view of the fact that I was in Germany and the currency in my escape pack was French Francs. I passed through the colliery yard without difficulty but I was very cold and when I saw some locomotives in the yard, I climbed in one. It was warm there and I fell asleep. The engine driver found me there. I was handed over to the authorities and taken to Dulag Luft Interrogation Centre at Frankfurt before being despatched to POW camp.'

Some time later, Ray Goldsborough was reunited with his pilot (Sergeant Woodham), his wireless operator (Sergeant H.G.W. Coker) and his flight engineer (Sergeant W.R. Anderson)—in POW camp No.357 Kopernikus! 

It was there that he learned that the rear gunner (Sergeant M.F. Godfrey) and the air bomber (Flight Sergeant T.O. Wilson) had not survived. The navigator (Flying Officer W.W. Hodgkins) was also taken prisoner: he spent the rest of the war in L3 Sagan.

When the returning aircraft reached England, two Leconfield Halifaxes (LW446/C and LW556/Q) put down at Hardwick. Shortage of fuel was a factor in both instances, but Flying Officer L.D. Jones's Q-Queenie was also damaged before it crashed on landing. The aircraft was in combat with a fighter over Leipzig and suffered damage to the port aileron and the port wing outboard of the engines, all of which rendered the Halifax difficult to control. Queenie was intercepted again over the Ruhr, but Jones finally managed to shake off his pursuer and make landfall on the English coast with an extreme shortage of petrol. 

Hardwick was the first aerodrome to be sighted and, having mistaken the 'lead out' lights for the 'lead in' lights, Jones landed downwind—and too fast. His attempts to spin the aircraft first to port and then to starboard in an attempt to bring it to a standstill before hitting the boundary caused the Halifax to first hit a tree and then collide with a parked B-24 before coming to rest on its own nose. It was Jones's first operation, and he and his crew, like Queenie, lived to fight another day.




Willem's Introduction


Ameland in war-time


Wartime Texel  & Den Helder 


Friesland War-time Crashes


Ameland,166 & 75 Squadron




Friesland Cemeteries


Ameland Graves


Destroy the Scharnhorst!


Leeuwarden area




Destroy the Scharnhorst! 2


Wirdum Remembers


Terschelling 2


Destroy the Scharnhorst! 3




Sage War Cemetery


12 Squadron in World War 2


Schiermonnikoog  part 2


RAF Topcliffe & 424 Squadron


The Runnymede Memorial




Vlieland Cemetery


Vuren at war


Kallenkote Cemetery




Makkum Cemetery


Wartime Occupied Harlingen


Hampden AE 428, & Koudum


A Fatal collision?


RCAF 428 Ghost Squadron


Willem's War-time photos


Hudson & Ventura losses


Zwolle's ' De Groene ' group


Shipdham Airfield & the 44th


101 Squadron


408 Squadron's Leipzig raid


68th Squadron's Casualties


Friesland radar


Rottum Island


Lancasters DS776  & JA921


Bergen General Cemetery





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