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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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12 Squadron Crest
14/15.01.1944 12 Squadron Lancaster III JB542 PH-M Fg.Off. Yell

Operation: Braunschweig

Date: 14/15th January 1944 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit: 12 Squadron

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: JB542

Code: PH-M

Base: RAF Wickenby

Location: Immensen, Germany

Pilot: Fg.Off. Robert Spencer Yell DFC, 413471 RAAF Age 24. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. William John Charles MacDonald 1802341 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

Nav: Plt.Off. Kenneth Robert Middlemiss DFC, J/19034 RCAF Age 25. Killed

Air/Bmr: Sgt. Thomas Arthur Finch 1331869 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Joseph Henry Nutt 1210237 RAFVR Age? Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Kenneth Basil Reeves DFM, 1575770 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Sidney Bates 1816580 RAFVR Age 19. Killed


DFC citation for Plt.Off. Robert Spencer Yell

Pilot Officer YELL has shown a high degree of determination and fortitude during his operations. He has completed 8 sorties to Berlin and 4 to Hamburg,
On one occasion while attacking Berlin the whole of the electrical system of his aircraft failed causing the complete breakdown of wireless transmission and inter-communication apparatus in addition to the bomb release gear and engine instruments. Despite this serious obstacle, Pilot officer YELL continued to the target, released his bombs by hand and flew the aircraft safely to base.
On many other occasions he has displayed outstanding gallantry and determination.

Plt.Off. Middlemiss was awarded his DFC, whilst with 12 Squadron, on the 15th February 1994. Gazetted on the 11th February 1944.

Sgt. Reeves was awarded his DFM, whilst with 12 Squadron, on the 1st June 1945. Gazetted on the 29th May 1945.


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.

Burial details:

(left: Courtesy Kenny Reeves) Fg.Off. Robert Spencer Yell DFC. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 3.F.5. born 10 December 1919 in Carcoar NSW, Australia. Son of Frank and Margery Jean Yell, of Murga, New South Wales, Australia. Grave inscription reads: "Dearly Loved".

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".

Plt.Off. 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".


Sgt. Thomas Arthur Finch. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 3.F.2. Born on the 8th August 1920 in Halstead, Essex. Eldest son of George and Amy Stephanie (née Benham) Finch. Sgt. Finch was married in December 1943 in Wilton, Hampshire. No further details.

Flt.Sgt. Joseph Henry Nutt. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 3.F.1. Husband to Mary Nutt of Clay Cross, Derbyshire - no further details, are you able to add information?


(Above: Courtesy Kenny Reeves) Sgt. Kenneth Basil Reeves DFM. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 3.F.4. Born on 30th August, 1921. Son of Basil Augustus and Edith Reeves from Wainfleet All Saints, Lincolnshire, England.

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. With thanks to Kenny Reeves for updating the Next of Kin details for Sgt. Reeves, his image and for the grave marker images. Thanks to Janet Daw, a first cousin of Sgt. Finch for his Next of Kin details.

RS 26.04.2020 - Addition of image for Sgt. Reeve

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', 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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