14/15.01.1944 No. 12 Squadron Lancaster III JB542 PH-M F/O. Yell
Date: 14/15th January 1944 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: No. 12 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Wickenby
Location: Immensen, Germany
Pilot: F/O. Robert Spencer Yell DFC. AUS/413471 RAAF Age 24. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. William John Charles MacDonald 1802341 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
Nav: P/O. Kenneth Robert Middlemiss DFC. J/19034 RCAF Age 25. Killed
Air/Bmr: Sgt. Thomas Arthur Finch 1331869 RAFVR Age ? Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Joseph Henry Nutt 1210237 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Kenneth Basil Reeves DFM. 1575770 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Sidney Bates 1816580 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Left RAF Wickenby, Lincolnshire at 16:21 hrs. Part of a force of 498 aircraft targeting the aircraft component and other armament manufacturing facilities in and around the city of Brunswick.
Being an important industrial area the target was heavily defended by flak installations and Luftwaffe night fighters.
Flying almost due east, the bomber stream crossed the North Sea and entered enemy held territory over North Holland. Turning south east toward Brunswick, in the region of Bremen, the bombers were met by many German night fighters infiltrating the stream. In all, 38 aircraft were lost during the raid which turned out to be very unsuccessful in terms of damage to the target and the loss of so many aircrews.
Of the many aircraft lost on this operation, very little information of claims can be identified from the Luftwaffe records. However it is reported that they were shot down by a combination of flak and a nightfighter. Crashing at Immensen south east of Burgdorf.
In May 1947 a team from 23 Section, Nr. 4 Missing Research and Enquiry Unit (one of many such units tasked with identifying graves scattered across Europe) investigated the graves at Burgdorf. They interviewed a Herr. Gehardi an ex policeman and the Rev. Boker the church superintendent of the village.
They were informed that at about 02:00 this aircraft crashed killing all the crew. It was seen travelling east to west and was diving steeply at the time and on fire. After the crash the aircraft continued to burn for some 10 hours. The bomb load had been jettisoned prior to the crash proven by the small size of the crater.
The 7 bodies were then collected by members of a flak battery about a week later and taken to Wietzenbruch Airfield. The crew were identified and then interred in the east corner of the cemetery - coffins provided by the local community.
The MREU found the graves in good condition but inscriptions were worn due to severe weather conditions. The team ordered them to repair the crosses and have them re-inscribed. In 1948 the bodies were then moved to the CWGC Hanover War Cemetery.
F/O. Robert Spencer Yell DFC. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 3.F.5. Son of Frank and Margery Jean Yell, of Murga, New South Wales, Australia. Grave inscription reads: "Dearly Loved".
Fl/Eng: Sgt. William John Charles MacDonald. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 3.F.3. Son of William Thomas Arthur and Florence Sybil MacDonald, of West Hampstead, London, England. Grave inscription reads: "He Never Failed In Honour, Kindness, Good Sense And Humour, And Many Loved Him".
Nav: P/O. Kenneth Robert Middlemiss DFC. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 3.F.6. Son of John F. and Gertrude May Middlemiss, of Hearne, Saskatchewan, Canada. (B.A.) Grave inscription reads: "Greater Love Hath No Man Than This, That A Man Lay Down His Life For His Friends".
Air/Bmr: Sgt. Thomas Arthur Finch. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 3.F.2. No further details, are you able to add information?
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Joseph Henry Nutt. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 3.F.1. From Clay Cross, Derbyshire, England - no further details, are you able to add information?
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Kenneth Basil Reeves DFM. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 3.F.4. From Wainfleet All Saints, Lincolnshire, England - no further details, are you able to add information?
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Sidney Bates. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 3.F.7. Son of Ernest E. and Florence Bates, of Leicester, England. Grave inscription reads: "We Who Loved You Will Never Forget. God Bless".
Researched for Kenny Reeves (nephew of Sgt. Kenneth Reeves) and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to sources shown below.