Halifax LW500 - Missing in Action

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Halifax LW500

Halifax LW500, captained by Pilot Officer David Burke took part in the ill-fated raid on Nuremberg on the evening/morning of the 30/31 March 1944 and was one of 95 aircraft that failed to return.

Halifax LW500 and its crew were attached to 640 Squadron and the entire crew remain missing in action.

From Aviation Safety Net

Takeoff at 22:05 hrs for an operation to Nürnberg in Germany.
Homeward-bound, the aircraft was attacked by the night fighter crew of Hauptmann Modrow & Unteroffizier Schneider of the 2./NJG 1, who had taken off from Venlo airfield in the Netherlands at 02:07 hrs, in He 219 A-2 G9+CK. It was ditched off the coast, all seven crew members are missing in action.

W/O D. W. Burke

Pilot Officer David Warnock Burke (25 yrs) RCAF J/6415

The service record was accessed via Ancestry and recompiled into PDF format. It is a large file at nearly 29 MB.

"... he received his Pilot Wings on December 16, 1942. David went overseas in January 1943 and took his operational training in England and Scotland. He became a member of RCAF #640 Squadron, piloting Halifax bomber aircraft LW500 and making quite a number of trips over Germany." Source

Sgt. W. Crory

Air Gunner Sgt Weir Crory (20 yrs) RAFVR 1795076

From: Men from Northern Ireland Killed in World War Two

"Sgt Weir Crory belonged to 640 Squadron, a heavy bomber unit based at RAF Leconfield, north east England. Weir flew with his crew in Halifax LW500. On the night of 30th/31st March 1944 there was an enormous bombing raid over Nuremburg involving 779 bombers. Having delivered its load, LW500 turned to fly home only to be shot down and crashed near Abbeville, northern France. (St John’s, Newcastle)
A report tells how a Heinkel He 219 fired a burst of cannon into the bomber’s starboard wing which exploded. As the bomber went down Rear Gunner Weir Crory continued to fire at the Heinkel. None of the crew of seven survived. Weir was aged 20. The RAF lost 545 crewmen on this raid which was described as the blackest night in its history."

Sgt. R. A. Eastman

Air Bomber Sgt Reginald Arthur Eastman (U/K age) RAFVR 1251915

Sgt. W. Haden

WOp/AG Sgt William Haden (U/K age) RAFVR 1431390

The surname was also recorded as Hadden in the Orbs.

Sgt. A. J. N. Jamieson

Flight Engineer - Allan James Nolf Jamieson (20 yrs) RAFVR - 1823518

"Allan James Nolf Jamieson was a good swimmer and a keen Cadet. His vocational interest lay in mechanical and electrical engineering. Pending his call-up to the R.A.F. he volunteered for work at Prestwick Airport. Subsequently he became a Sergeant Engineer in the R.A.F.; he was posted missing after the grievous raid on Nuremburg, March 1944, when ninety-four of our aircraft were lost." Source

Sgt. M. M. Stillard

Air Gunner Sgt Michael Martin Stilliard (19 yrs) RAFVR 1588796

Michael M. Stilliard's birth was registered in the 3rd quarter of 1924 and his mother's maiden name was Emery. Recorded in the district of Woolwich.

There are so many factors that make the enormous task of identifying remains found of missing servicemen difficult - rotten coincidences being just one of them.

In the service record of David Burke is a report that indicated the remains of the crew of Halifax LW500 were found and identified. However, this identification was subsequently overturned but not before the next of kin were notified and were in possession of the item that was relied upon to identify the remains.

Halifax LW537 of 51 Squadron also took part in the bombing raid on Nuremberg on the same night. It took off at 2209 hrs on 30 Mar 1944 from Snaith RAF Airfield, Yorkshire. When outbound, it was shot down by a night-fighter crashing near the small town of Fladungen 30 km ESE of Fulda, 200 kms north-west of Nuremberg.

The investigation that followed some time later identified the aircraft and crew remains as being from LW500, "chiefly" through a ring found in the wreckage with the initials M.M.S. - then believed to be Michael Martin Stilliard but it was corrected to the crew of LW537 where the pilot had the very same initials, Malcolm Mason Stembridge. Stembridge and Air Gunner, Sergeant John Doherty Goskirk perished in the crash. The remainder of the crew - assuming they bailed out - were all taken prisoner.

To compound the tragedy for the family of Michael Stilliard was the fact that they were required to return the ring so it could be given to the family of Malcolm Stembridge. (Details of Crew of LW537)

F/O. F. W. Woods

Navigator F/O Frederick Walter Woods (28 yrs) RAFVR 136862

1939 English Census shows Frederick living with his parents, Charles and Maud, in Southend-on-Sea Essex, England. His occupation is given as police constable. (And his brother, Charles, is with the RAF(VR).

All crew were missing in action, believed killed. Memorialised at Runnymede Memorial.

Excerpt from Nuremberg: The Blackest Night in RAF History by Martin Bowman

A Heinkel He 219

Thirty-six year old Hauptmann Ernst-Wilhelm Modrow of 1./NJG1 had taken off from Venlo, north-east of Dűsseldorf in a Heinkel He 219 Uhu ('Owl') with orders to hunt down the dreaded 'Moskitos'. The experienced pre-war Lufthansa pilot had joined the ranks of the night-fighters in October 1943 and had yet to score a victory. He spent two hours vainly patrolling the Scheldt Estuary and the Zuider Zee without seeing any sign of the Mosquitoes or Viermots. Modrow landed back at Venlo to find that the the other night-fighters there had gone into action against strong bomber formations approaching southern Germany. It was too late for him to join them so he was ordered to intercept the bombers on their homeward flight. After taking off his bordschűtze he picked up an SN-2 contact over France. It was the Halifax III of 640 Squadron flown by Warrant Officer 2 David Warnock Burke RCAF who was heading home to Leconfield at the end of what was their fifth operation. The Canadian, who was from London, Ontario, never made it. Modrow hit the bomber in the starboard wing with a burst of his six wing and nose cannon and it exploded. Momentarily blinded by the glare he banked into a steep starboard turn and right into the sights of the rear gunner of the Halifax. Most of the return fire was deflected by the Owl's strong undercarriage and he watched as the bomber went down and crashed near Abbeville. Burke and the crew - one Scotsman, one Irishman and four Englishmen - perished. Sergeant Weir Crory the rear gunner was from Donaghclony, County Down; Sergeant Reginald Arthur Eastman the bomb aimer came from Tooting, London; Sergeant William Haden the wireless operator was from Sparkhill, Birmingham; Sergeant Allan James Nolf Jamieson the Scottish flight engineer came from Kilmarnock, Ayrshire; Sergeant Michael Martin Stilliard the mid-upper gunner was from Purley, Surrey and Flying Officer Frederick Walter Wood the navigator was from Westcliff, Essex. They are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

His footnote '137' states that other sources say that the aircraft was hit by flak at Dieppe or by a flak ship off the French coast.

So the final resting place of the aircraft and crew remains would seem to be still controversial.

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