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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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9 Squadron crest
22/23.09.1943 No. 9 Squadron Lancaster I R5700 WS-N P/O. Edward J. Crabtree

Operation: Hanover

Date: 22/23rd September 1943 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit: No. 9 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: R5700

Code: WS-N

Base: RAF Bardney, Lincolnshire

Location: Bad Münder-am-Deister

Pilot: P/O. Edward Jeptha Crabtree AUS/409385 RAAF Age 21. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Malcolm John MacRitchie 1560316 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Nav/Air/Bmr: Sgt. George Alistair Sales 1803655 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Nav/Air/Bmr: W/O. II Nelson Albert Noble R/119448 RCAF Age 25. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Vincent Hirst-Gee 1451452 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Dennis Everest R/173859 RCAF Age 21. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Victor James Lander 611578 RAF Age 23. Killed

REASON FOR LOSS:

Took off at 18:56 hrs. Bardney, Lincolnshire to attack the German city of Hanover. The first major air raid on Hanover for 2 years. 711 aircraft took part but the strong winds caused the markers and bombing to be concentrated up to 5 miles away from the main target.

L-R: Sgt. Dennis Everest, Sgt. Victor James Lander, Sgt. Malcolm John Macritchie, W/O. II Nelson Albert Noble

26 aircraft were lost during this raid and 9 Squadron Lancaster R5700 was amongst the many to be claimed by the German night fighters.

It is though that Fw. Hermann Wischnewski 3./JG300 shot R5700 down at a height of 2,500 mtrs. at 22:37 hrs. over the target area.

Fw. Wischnewski (later Ofw) became a night fighter ace with 19 kills and a further 8/9 day time kills. He survived the war after being wounded on the 29th July 1944 in an air combat with P-51 and baled out.

Fw. Hermann Wischnewski

No 9 Squadron:

On 4 September 1939, the squadron’s Wellington aircraft and crews were the first to hit the enemy, the first to get into a dogfight, possibly the first to shoot down an enemy aircraft, the first to be shot down by one and, towards the end of the war, the first to hit the German battleship Tirpitz with the Tallboy 12,000 pound bomb, an achievement by the crew of a Lancaster on her 102nd operation with the squadron.

Extract of an interview that Mel Rolfe (1) had with a friend of Nelson Noble, Mr. Bob Dack in November 2000. Bob's memory about his part in the war and of the men who served with him was sharp and clear. He had a particularly clear recall for Nelson and I remember him throwing back his head and laughing when he spoke about the scrapes Nelson unwittingly got himself into:

Fl/Sgt Nelson Noble:- Nelson was a very self-contained young man, didn’t say much, didn’t speak much and went his own way. (He was, perhaps, preoccupied with his own thoughts. Vague and unable to concentrate on matters which his contemporaries were more able to focus on).

He would come into a meeting with an intelligence officer five minutes after the meeting had started. We had a very smooth intelligence officer. He would stop talking, Nelson would come plodding in. There was a deadly silence. Nelson would shuffle along until he found us and he’d sit down beside us. And then the intelligence officer would say: ‘Are you comfortably seated, sergeant?’ ‘Yes, Sir.’ ‘Now you’re sure that you’re comfortable? You wouldn’t like to sit, perhaps, over there? Or would you prefer to sit – ’ Nelson would go red in the face and say: ‘No, I’m all right, Sir.’

The officer said: ‘Don’t come into my meetings late any more. If so, you’re really in trouble.’ Nelson didn’t turn a hair.

(1) Mel Rolfe is a leading researcher who has written many publications on the subject of Bomber Command. Highly recommended reading.

I must tell you a little story. He (Nelson) had a habit, once we were up and flying when everything had settled down, we were on the course and off we were going. Nelson would go back to the Elsen. He always did it, every flight, for some reason, he’d go and sit on the Elsen. That liquid sloshing about in there.

Ted, the skipper, called me up: ‘Bob, has Nelson gone back yet?’ I said: ‘Yes, he’s just gone back.’ Bob said: ‘Tell me when he’s got settled, will you?’ So I looked back down there and said: ‘Yes, he’s nice and comfortable on the seat.’ ‘Ah!,’ said Ted, (in delight), ‘Hang on, everybody.’ So up and down we’d go. Ted (twisted and turned, switch backed) tried to splash him with that horrible (dark) liquid, a strong disinfectant.

MR: Did anyone hear Nelson yelling from his perch? Bob: That was the idea of it. But Nelson didn’t, he kept stumm. He just got up and hung on until Ted stopped dancing about and then he hitched his trousers up and went back and never spoke to anybody.

Left: Original Grave marker for Sgt. Victor James Lander (courtesy Bruce Lander)

He did the most amazing things. Nelson came out when we were going on a five-hour trip one night. We’d just got in (the aircraft) and had just started the engines up and Nelson came on over the intercom: ‘Hang on a minute Ted, I’ve forgotten my parachute.’ It was a court-martial offence to fly without your parachute.

Ted said: ‘Where is it?’ Nelson: ‘I don’t know, I think I must have left it in the crew room. or somewhere.’ He didn’t give a damn about anything.

We had a hurried half-a-minute conference and Ted said: ‘My engines are running, I’m not stopping for anybody. Nelson, you’ll just have to hope you don’t have to bloody bale out. If you do you’ll have to walk home.’

I liked Nelson, I got on awfully well with him. Told he couldn’t find his parachute Nelson just grunted. That was all. It didn’t bother him in the slightest.

MR: What would have happened if you all had to bale out? Would he have hung on to someone else’s parachute? BD: I don’t know, that was a fictional thing to do to hang on – it did happen on one or two cases, but very rare though. You would have to be strapped on to somebody.

No. 9 fought with RAF Bomber Command in Europe all the way through World War Two, took part in all the major raids and big battles, pioneered and proved new tactics and equipment, produced several of the leading figures in The Great Escape, as well as Colditz inmates - including the legendary 'Medium Sized Man' Flight Lieutenant Dominic Bruce OBE MC AFM originator of the famous 'tea chest' escape; they became one of the two specialised squadrons attacking precision targets with the Tallboy bomb, and led the final main force raid, on Berchtesgaden, 25 April 1945. (Wikepedia)

Left: Newspaper report on W/O. Noble (courtesy Lisa T.)

Biographical and Burial details:

P/O. Edward Jeptha Crabtree. Hanover War Cemetery 4.E.14. Son of Abraham Booth Crabtree and Mabel Eunice Crabtree, of Surrey Hills, Victoria, Australia.

Edward, the only son of Abraham and Mabel, enlisted at the age of 19 on 15 August 1941. He had been schooled at Mt. Albert Central School and Wesley College after which he secured a position as a clerk at Goldsborough Mort Ltd., Melbourne. Posted to No.1 Initial Training School at Somers, Victoria he was selected as suitable for pilot training and posted to No.11 Elementary Flying Training School, Benalla, Victoria on 13 November 1941. On completion of his training at Benalla Edward was posted to No.3 Service Flying Training School at RAAF Station Amberly on 8 March 1942 after a month spent at No.2 Embarkation Depot, Bradley Park. As the school at Amberly was about to be disbanded at the end of March, Edward was moved to No.6 SFTS at RAAF Station Mallala, South Australia on 4 April where he completed his training and gained his Pilots badge on 28. May 1942 and was promoted to Sergeant a month later. Transferred to No.1 Embarkation Depot at Acton Vale on 17 July to await his embarkation from Sydney on 24 August. Arriving in the UK on 18 November, he was posted to No.3 (P) Advanced Flying Unit at RAF South Cerney near Cirencester on 19 January 1943, where potential bomber pilots and crews were trained on the twin-engine Oxford Airspeed.
Edward's next posting was to No.14 Operational Training Unit at RAF Cottesmore, Rutland. Here pilots would train as night bomber pilots on the outdated but much larger and complicated Handley Page Hampden aircraft. In addition to the pilot's conversion to an operational type, at the OTU a "crewing-up" process took place to form the basis of a team to fly together as a cohesive unit. The Hampden crew consisted of the pilot, the captain of the crew, a navigator, air bomber, wireless operator and gunner. It was by no means a formal process and could just as easily been the luck of the draw that Edward met up with the other members of his crew except for the Flight Engineer, MacRitchie, who would join them at their next posting, No.1661 Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Winthorpe, near Newark, a satellite station of RAF Swinderby on 29 July 1943. At Winthorpe the crew were trained on the Lancaster bomber and then posted to No.9 Squadron at RAF Bardney in Lincolnshire on 5 September 1943.
P/O Crabtree participated in a raid on Munich flying as a second pilot or "dickie" to gain actual operational experience. He was lost on the raid on Hanover with the rest of his crew, his first operation as captain.

Sgt. Malcolm John MacRitchie. Hanover War Cemetery 4.E.9. Son of Peter and Christina MacRitchie, 4 Ardroil, Uig, Isle of Lewis, Western Isles, Scotland.

Sgt. George Alistair Sales. Hanover War Cemetery 4.E.17. Son of Eustace Clarence and Agnes Barnes Sales, of Wadhurst, Sussex, England.

W/O. II Nelson Albert Noble. Hanover War Cemetery 4.E.5. Son of Sidney H. and Mary Ellen (nee Power) Noble, of 38 Bloomfield Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The eldest son of Sidney and Mary, Nelson completed his schooling in Toronto at the Malvern Collegiate after which he was employed as a clerk for the Ontario Hydro-Electric Commission. Enlisting on 30 July 1941, he was posted to No. 3 Initial Training School, Victoriaville on 10 October that same year. Selected for pilot training he was posted to No.21 Elementary Flying Training School, Chatham, New Brunswick on 22 November 1941. Unfortunately for Nelson, his piloting skills were not up to par and he was washed out in January 1942 and posted to Composite Training School (KTS), Trenton, where he was recommended for re-training as an Observer. Posted to No.4 Air Observers School, London, Ontario 15 February 1942. Taken on strength at No.4 Bombing and Gunnery School, Fingal, Ontario attending Course No. 44 for bombing and gunnery training, 25 May - 4 July 1942. Passed to No. 1 Air Navigation School at Rivers, Manitoba, where he graduated with his Observers badge on 21 August 1942. Posted to Y Depot, Halifax, Nova Scotia to await embarkation on 27 October arriving at No.3 PRC, Bournemouth, 5 November. On the 8th March 1943, Nelson was posted to No.4 Air Observers School at RAF West Freugh, near Stranraer, Scotland for further training in bombing and gunnery until 20 April when he was posted to No.14 OTU at RAF Cottesmore, Rutland. Taken on strength at 1661 Conversion Unit at RAF Winthorpe, Nottinghamshire, for training on the Lancaster heavy bomber 29 July 1943, joining No.9 Squadron on 5 September. W/O II Noble was on his first operation over enemy territory when lost.

Sgt. Vincent Hirst-Gee. Hanover War Cemetery 4.E.16. Son of William and Alice Hirst-Gee, of Laisterdyke, Bradford, Yorkshire, England.

Sgt. Denis Everest. Hanover War Cemetery 4.E.7. Son of William James Everest and Louise Everest, of St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.
Dennis was born at Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire in 1922 and emigrated to Canada with his mother and father and two older sisters in 1929. Dennis completed his Grade 8 education in St.Catherines in 1936 and returned to England where he worked as a light machinist for a company located in Coventry. Returning to Canada in 1938, he worked as a salesman and stockkeeper when he applied for enlistment as an Air Gunner in May 1942. Passed as fit for aircrew, he was posted to No.9 Bombing and Gunnery School, Mount Joli, Quebec on 11 October 1942 gaining his Air Gunner badge in April 1943. Sent to Y Depot, Halifax, Nova Scotia, he embarked at New York on 4 May arriving at 3 PRC, Bournemouth on 12 May 1943. Posted to No.14 OTU at RAF Cottesmore, Rutland he trained as a Mid-Upper Gunner on Wellingtons completing his training course on 20 July 1943. Taken on strength at 1661 Conversion Unit at RAF Winthorpe, Nottinghamshire, for training on the Lancaster heavy bomber 29 July 1943, joining No.9 Squadron on 5 September. Sgt. Everest was on his first operation over enemy territory when lost.


Sgt. Victor James Lander. Hanover War Cemetery 4.E.4. Further information: Son of Percy James Lander and Edith Lander, husband of Lilian Lander, of Oldham, Lancashire, England. Born in January 1920, on leaving school aged 14 joined the Merchant Navy ( the Union Castle Line), serving on the SS Dunotter Castle on the South Atlantic run. On leaving the Sea in 1938 aged 18 he joined the RAF, he married Edith in May 1940. In December 1940 he was trapped in the Manchester Blitz and so was delayed returning to camp at Blackpool, as a result he was reduced to Corporal for a while. He served as a Sergeant PTI at Blackpool and Morecambe and eventually volunteered for Bomber Command in early 1943.

Researched for relatives of the crew. For further details our thanks to the following, Lisa T. for newspaper report on W/O. Noble, Lisa is a relative. Mel Rolfe, Bruce Lander, Patricia MacDonald for additional information on Sgt. Macritchie. Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol's. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vol's. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries (Updated 2014 version), Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Tom Kracker - 'Kracker Luftwaffe Archives'. Fred Paradie - 'Paradie Archive'.

CHB 16.02.2010
CHB  24.10.2021 Added biographical notes and photo

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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', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), 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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