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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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50 Squadron Crest
22/23.11.1943 No. 50 Squadron Lancaster I DV366 VN-R W/O. Saxton

Operation: Berlin

Date: 22/23rd November 1943 (Monday/Tuesday)

Unit: No. 50 Squadron (motto: Sic fidem servamus - 'Thus we keep faith')

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: DV366

Code: VN-R

Base: RAF Skellingthorpe, Lincolnshire

Location: Not known - target area?

Pilot: W/O. John Harold Saxton 1233720 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Peter Henry Fryer 1442302 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Nav: Fl/Sgt. John Hall Jowett 1481271 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. John Charles Eynon Rees 1317602 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Christopher Watson 1112190 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt.. James Joseph Zunti R/107172 RCAF Age 23. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. William Edward Coates 1251081 RAFVR Age ? Killed


Taking off from RAF Skellingthorpe in Lincolnshire to bomb Berlin.

64 aircraft, the largest force of the war so far sent to the German capital - made up from 469 Lancasters, 234 Halifaxes. 50 Stirlings (the last time Stirlings sent to Germany) and 11 Mosquitoes.

The flak defences were again very effective accounting for 17 bombers over Berlin, a further 7 over the Hannover area. Night fighters claimed 4, although lack of positive identification, none can be identified.

Although the city was covered in cloud and returning bomber crews estimated that the bombing had been accurate due to accurate markers placed, it is now known that this was probably the most effective operation on Berlin of the war.

Above - some of the crew L-R: Sgt. Christopher Watson, Fl/Sgt. James Zunti, Fl/Sgt. John Rees, W/O. John Saxton, Sgt. Peter Fryer, F. Baker, Fl/Sgt. William Coates. (courtesy François Dutil - shows a different navigator, F. Baker rather than Fl/Sgt. John Jowett)

Reports from the city state that during this night’s bombing, 3,000 houses were destroyed with another 23 industrial premises. Several thousand other building damaged. 2,000 people were thought to have been killed, including 500 in a large shelter which received a direct hit. Another 150 in another shelter. Due to the weather, several ‘firestorms’ were reported and the Luftwaffe measured the smoke at 6,000 metres.

The AOC of Bomber Command, Arthur Harris predicted ‘It will cost us between 400 - 500 aircraft, but it will cost Germany the war’. The RAF lost over 490 heavy bombers on Berlin operations alone with over 2,500 aircrew killed, still the war dragged on.

However, arguably, it did prevent German resources to be utilised elsewhere. The civilian population suffered terrible losses with a reported 10,000 killed with a similar number of injuries. Nearly 500,000 were made homeless.

Lancaster DV366 was listed as lost without trace. Although as the crew do have graves, somewhere there must be a record of where they went down.

Burial details:

W/O. John Harold Saxton. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Collective grave 1. C. 10-15. No further details - are you able to assist?

Sgt. Peter Henry Fryer. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Collective grave 1. C. 10-15. Son of William Nathaniel and Florence Annie Fryer, of Strete, Devon. Grave inscription reads: "He Was As The Morning Star In The Midst Of A Cloud, And As The Moon At The Full".

Fl/Sgt. John Hall Jowett. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Grave 1. D. 6. Son of Edwin and Alice Jowett, of Christchurch, Hampshire, England. Grave inscription reads: "Until The Day Break, And The Shadows Flee Away".

Fl/Sgt. John Charles Eynon Rees. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Collective grave 1. C. 10-15. Son of Henry Stephen and Alice Martha Rees, of Cathays, Cardiff, Wales. Grave inscription reads: "Dearly Loved Elder Son Of Alice And Harry Rees. "In Heavenly Love Abiding".

Sgt. Christopher Watson. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Collective grave 1. C. 10-15. No further details - are you able to assist?

Fl/Sgt. James Joseph Zunti. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Collective grave 1. C. 10-15. Son of Jacob Zunti, and of Mary Zunti (née Brundler), of Luseland, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Fl/Sgt. William Edward Coates. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Collective grave 1. C. 10-15. No further details - are you able to assist?

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to François Dutil for crew photograph, other sources as quoted below:

KTY 08.08.2019

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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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