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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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61 Squadron Crest
16/17.04.1943 No. 61 Squadron Lancaster I W4317 QR-R P/O. William Macfarlane

Operation: Plzen (Skoda works)

Date: 16/17th April 1943 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit: No. 61 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: W4317

Code: QR-R

Base: RAF Syerston, Nottinghamshire

Location: Givry, Belgium

Pilot: P/O. William MacFarlane 142540 RAF Age 22. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Peter John Keay AUS/15302 RAAF Age 22. Killed

Obs: Fl/Sgt. William Waller Dawson 1123166 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Nav: F/O. Cyril Frederick Williams 123048 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Nav (Under training): Sgt. Edward Reginald Davidson 1338539 RAFVR Age 26. Killed (1)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. John Frederick Edwards DFM. 143652 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Jack Valentine Rees 1321234 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Donald Alfred Holdsworth 144654 RAFVR Age 21. Killed


Took off at 21:13 hrs. to join 327 aircraft and set out to attack the Skoda works at Plzen, Czechoslovakia. Most of the bombs fell in the area of Dobrany. 38 aircraft were lost. No damage was done to the Skoda works, apart from some sky-lights being broken due to falling shell fragments from the anti-aircraft guns at the works.

Shot down by night fighter. Oblt. Rudolf Altendorf (2) 2./NJG4 near Givry, Belgium at 04:02 hrs. Combat took place at 2.400 mtrs - 1 km. south east of Givry. P/O. MacFarlane, the pilot, had done 30 operations including his Second Dickey trip. Fl/Sgt. Dawson had flown 28 operations and Fl/Sgt. Edwards DFM. over 50 operations. As a result of this operation, there were 52 PoW's and 13 evaders. 199 aircrew were killed in action. This does not include the casualties from the Mannheim raid, taking place this same night.

Some of the crew: Left to right: Sgt. Holdsworth, P/O. MacFarlane?, Fl/Sgt. Dawson, Sgt. Keay, Fl/Sgt. Edwards DFM. Sgt. Rees and F/O. Williams. Please contact us if you are able to identify individuals and we will advise the author (see below).

(1) Sgt. Edward Reginald Davidson on detachment from 1654 OTU - although listed on the CWGC as a 61 squadron member.

(2) Oblt. Rudolf Altendorf survived the war with a total of 21 night and 2 day claims to his credit. W4317 was his 13th victory.

Crash site of Lancaster I W4317 QR-R guarded by Germans (courtesy Peter Cunliffe)

A comprehensive book is in print by the writer of this page of remembrance entitled “A Shaky Do – The Skoda works raid 16/17th April 1943”.

The author, Peter Cunliffe, would like to hear from any relatives of the members of this crew. Or any other airmen or relatives thereof, who were involved in this raid. Please drop him a line via his website "Historical Talks."

Crew graves at Chievres Communal Cemetery (courtesy Peter Cunliffe)

Burial details:

P/O. William MacFarlane. Chievres Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 10A. Son of William and Hannah Macfarlane, of Hamilton, Lanarkshire. M.A., Hons. Glasgow, Scotland.

Sgt. Peter John Keay. Chievres Communal Cemetery. Grave 11. Son of John Arthur and Nancy Hilder Keay, of Rocky Glen, New South Wales, Australia.

Fl/Sgt. William Waller Dawson. Chievres Communal Cemetery. Grave 12. Son of John Michael and Betsy Dawson, of Sedburgh, Yorkshire, England.

F/O. Cyril Frederick Williams. Chievres Communal Cemetery. Joint grave 9 -10. Son of Albert and Mary Williams, husband of Margaret Williams, of East Boldon, Co. Durham, England.

Left: Sgt. Edward Reginald Davidson (courtesy Paul Davidson)

Sgt. Edward Reginald Davidson. Chievres Communal Cemetery. Joint grave 9 -10. Son of Reginald William and Violet Davidson, of Lewisham, London, England. B.Sc., A.R.Ae.S.

Fl/Sgt. John Frederick Edwards D.F.M. Chievres Communal Cemetery. Grave 13. Son of Frederick and Charlotte Edwards, of Canning Town, Essex, England.

Sgt. Jack Valentine Rees. Chievres Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 10A. Son of Thomas John and Ethel Elizabeth Rees, of Brookwood, Surrey, England.

Sgt. Donald Alfred Holdsworth. Chievres Communal Cemetery. Collective grave 10A. Son of Alfred and Ada Holdsworth, of Shipley, Yorkshire, England.

Researched for relatives of the crew with thank for information supplied by the following: Peter Cunliffe ‘A Shaky Do’, 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’, the Commonwealth Graves Commission.

KTY Page updated 16.05.2017

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 and Fred Paradie - Paradie Archive (both on this site), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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Last Modified: 16 May 2017, 20:16

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