14/15.02.1945 640 Squadron Halifax III NP953 Fg Off. Keith Weber
Operation: Chemnitz, France
Date: 14th/15th February 1945 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit No: 640 Squadron
Type: Halifax III
Base: RAF Leconfield
Location: Pockau, Germany
Pilot: Fg Off. Keith Weber 424929 RAAF Age 28. Killed
Flt Eng: Flt Sgt. William Samuel Henry Strong DFM 527668 RAFVR Age? Killed
Nav: Flt Sgt. Benjamin Stanley Hall 996265 RAFVR Age? PoW Unknown camp
Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt. George Dennis Stean 1800692 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
WOp/Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. Robert Henry Lock 429235 RAAF Age 20. Killed
Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Flt Sgt. Norman Robert Lamphear R57869 RCAF Age 28. Killed
Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Stanley John Price 2209960 RAFVR Age 19. Survived/Murdered (1)
Above Left to right: Fg Off. Weber (Service File), Flt Sgt. Lock (Credit: Australian War Museum), Flt Sgt. Lamphear (Service File)
REASON FOR LOSS:
NP953 took of from RAF Leconfield at 17:02 hrs on the 14th February along with fourteen other Halifaxes from the squadron to attack Chemnitz, Germany.
NP953 was one out of two aircraft that failed to return from this mission. The second aircraft was Halifax III MZ856, C8:S, whose seven crew members were killed in action.
The loss of NP953 was described by Flt Sgt. Hall’s statement from his PoW Questionnaire:
“To the best of my knowledge the rest of my crew were killed when the aircraft crashed, after three fighter attacks the aircraft spun into the ground and I along (I suppose) with the others, all blacked out and must have been thrown through the emergency hatch. None of the crew left the aircraft before me to my knowledge. I do not think they would have had any time to do so, as the machine developed a spin immediately after the order to abandon aircraft. I very much doubt the possibility of other members being in a position to get out during the spin with the possible exception of the Tail Gunner as the aircraft crashed about fifty (50) yards away from where I landed and only a few seconds after”.
Two Lancasters were definitely shot down by night fighters to the south of Chemnitz, along the first part of the homebound route, although no Abschussmeldungen have been found to identify the Nachjäger. 640 Sqn Halifax NP953 was attacked three times by a night fighter before it crashed at Pockau, 24 km SE of Chemnitz, circa 21:00 hrs. (Nachtjagd War Diaries Volume 2 (April 1944 - May 1945) - Dr Theo E.W. Boiten & Roderick J. Mackenzie)
German documents record that seven airmen were buried in a collective grave at the Pockau Community Cemetery on Flöhatalstraße on the 18th February 1945.
The seventh airman was later identified as Sgt. Thomas Henry Hatton, 2223136 RAFVR, the Rear Gunner from 625 Sqn, Lancaster I NF966, which exploded in mid-air on the same mission.
(1) An investigation into the loss and recovery of the crew of NP953 was carried out by Flt Lt. C.F. Drysdale from the Berlin attachment of the Missing Research and Enquiry Unit (MREU).
In his report, dated the 22nd April 1948, he recorded that he had been informed by the local inhabitants of Pockau that one of the seven aircrew buried there had been alive after the crash and was captured. He had been literally beaten to death by his captors.
He was informed that the alleged perpetrators were:
Alfred Mauersberger who was a former Bürgermeister (Mayor) of, it is assumed, Pockau;
Alfred Franz who was a policeman;
Fritz Pilz who was a policeman and who was believed to have been later employed by the police in Lüneburg;
Georg & Gottfried Hunger who were brothers and were believed to be in the Hannover district.
He could find no information regarding the whereabouts of Mauersberger and Franz.
Flt Lt. Drysdale was of the opinion, given the condition of the bodies at exhumation carried out by Capt. Fitzgerald of 56 Graves Concentration Unit (GCU), that the airman beaten to death was Sgt. Price. A report had been sent to the War Crimes Group, Western Europe at Bad Oeynhausen.
An extract from Ref 1 provides some additional information regarding what transpired after Sgt. Price bailed out of the aircraft.
“He was taken into custody by policeman Fritz Pilz and by two brothers, Georg and Gottfried Hunger. Though these three may have ill-treated the prisoner, it was probably Polizeimeister Franz and his henchman, Istl, who killed Price”.
There is evidence that the war crime had been under investigation, however, the results of that investigation are not known at this time.
Above Grave markers (Credit Uwe - FindAGrave)
Fg Off. Keith Weber. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery 5.H.8. Inscription reads: "SLEEP WELL, AIRMAN, AND HAPPY DREAMS". Born on the 31st October 1916 in Toowoomba, Queensland. Son of Edwin Gilbert and Elsie Weber, of Walgett, New South Wales, Australia.
Flt Sgt. William Samuel Henry Strong DFM. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery 5.H.9. No Further information.
Sgt. Strong was awarded the DFM whilst with 158 Sqn. London Gazette 15th February 1944.
Flt Sgt. George Dennis Stean. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery 5.H.11. Possible birth record for a George D. Stean in the 1st Qtr 1922 in Lambeth, Greater London. Mother’s maiden name of Ware. Possible father and mother, George H. and Hannah C. (née Ware) Stean of Edmonton, Essex, England.
Above Grave markers (Credit Uwe - FindAGrave)
Flt Sgt. Robert Henry Lock. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery 5.H.12. Inscription reads: "A PRECIOUS LIFE, SO NOBLY GIVEN". Born on the 3rd July 1924 in Auburn, New South Wales. Son of Henry and Sarah Lock, of Auburn, New South Wales, Australia.
Plt Off. Norman Robert Lamphear. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery 5.H.10. Inscription Reads: "OUR BELOVED SON. GOD GIVE HIM PEACE". Born on the 28th January 1917 in Ephrata, Washington, USA. Son of Orsin Irving and Grace Maud (née Heath) Lamphear, of Seattle, Washington, USA.
Flt Sgt. Lamphear was posthumously promoted to Plt Off. (C93898) with effect 30th January 1945.
Sgt. Stanley John Price. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery 5.H.13. Inscription reads: "DARLING STANLEY. SADLY MISSED BY MUM, DAD, BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF WALLASEY". Born in the 2nd Qtr 1925 in Birkenhead, Merseyside. Son of William Stanley and Lena (née Mather) Price, of Wallasey, Cheshire, England.
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with additional thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.
1. Footprints on the Sands of Time - RAF Bomber Command Prisoners of War in Germany 1939-15 - Oliver Clutton-Brock - pp 212-213, & Photo Gallery ixv