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FlyingScot

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  1. I received this additional information yesterday, thanks to Rod Muller, Melville Max Victor Lewis Müller [better known as Max] was indeed my father and the pilot of Lancaster NG440 - C, which was shot down on 8 April 1945 at Rotenburg, near Hamburg. I read with interest the ‘fascinating’ account, which Bernhard Holst posted on the Internet. Spooky! An eyewitness who was looking at my father sitting in his cockpit seat. Bernhard must be 83 by now. Thank you for the link. My father and his crew are buried at Becklingen War Cemetery, Soltau and no doubt you found Robert at grave 11.B.13. Sad, sorry. I have also visited the cemetery. From my earlier research I discovered that the plane was hit by flak, caught fire and crashed. A confidential notice, which my mother received [1945] from the Air Ministry, shows F/O R. C. Webster (173076) as mid gunner and F/S Wilce as the tail gunner. I met Charles Wilce [now deceased] some years ago and he confirmed that he was the rear gunner [tail end Charlie]. He said that he was able to parachute to safety when the rear turret broke away from the plane. He had a seat parachute! So it appears that Robert was the mid upper gunner. Ranalow survived the crash but later died in hospital. [interestingly he was a previous evader/escapee and used the cover name Douglas Fyrgasser]. A MOD letter [dated 1985] to me indicated the plane crashed 5 miles NW of Rotenburg and crew were originally buried in a local village/town cemetery. Local German records provided the evidence of NG 440, plus recovery of identifiable items from the wreckage. The final proof came in the exhumation of the bodies of the crew by MRES. I have not seen MRES records. I was never able to identify the church where they were originally buried; maybe you will have better luck. Let me know if you do please. Perhaps Bernhard Holst will be able to find more detailed information. I have .pdf copies of 35 Squadron’s Operations Record Book for the period Jan 1945 to April 1945. Robert is recorded on 16 missions with my father. I do not know how many he actually flew in total but you are welcome to have all the copies of these missions. They were obtained from The National Archives [TNA]. I will attach one for information. You may be interested to know that in All Saints’ Church [Offord Darcy] has a corner of the chapel dedicated to those who gave their lives [35 & 635 Squadrons]. There is a Book of remembrance and also an impressive stained glass memorial window. There is a commemorative stone at the entrance to [what was] RAF Graveley. My wife and I used to go to the 35 Squadron Reunion meetings held locally there. The association was wound down about 1999 [declining numbers]. I regret that I have little useful information about your uncle and no photographs of him. Let me know if you want anything I’ve mentioned. I’ll try to help. Kind regards. Rod Müller
  2. Bernhard, Sorry for the long delay, but I have been travelling and now I am still away. Yes, I drove down to Becklingen on Monday on a dull, grey rainy day. The cemetery was very easy to find, serene and beautifully kept. I found Robert and the rest of the crew almost at the top of the hill, all buried alongside each other. I took some photos and will upload these when I can. I then drove back to Hamburg going via Rotenburg, but of course I had no idea in which area the plane came down. Since my return I have also managed to find online the son of our pilot, Melville Muller. He has given me some more information which I hope to post later with his permission.
  3. Yes, it has been interesting to talk with my other family members who have added things that I did not know. Wilce got in touch with my Grandmother (Robert's mother) at some point later and told her what had happened and that he had switched places with Robert. I also now know that at some point my Grandmother did visit the grave but whether it was the military cemetery or the previous one I do not know. Just a little more of the back story - you can read more about the pilot's earlier missions here: http://www.swannington-norfolk.co.uk/index-page5.html Also, Ranalow was the newphew of a minor figure in British history, Captain Oates, who reached the South Pole with Capt. Scott and when he (Oates) knew he was dying and might hold the others back, made the famous remark as he went outside to die "I may be gone some time". Capt Oates had no children himself but Ranalow was his sister's son.
  4. Bernhard, just FYI I have further discovered from my cousin that Uncle Robert's usual place was as the rear gunner but on this occasion he switched places with Wilce who ended up as the sole survivor. So the empty rear turret explains that. Robert would have been in the mid-upper turret and whether or not he was still there, or was the body you saw thrown clear I guess we shall never know.
  5. Yes, thanks all. My typo. BECKLINGEN is indeed the correct place.
  6. Thanks, Bernhard. I have everything booked now and will drive to the region on Monday morning but I have to be back in Hamburg by early afternoon. As far as I know I am likely to be the only member of our family to have ever visited the area. regards, Iain
  7. Thanks, Bernhard. Full details of the crash can be found here, so you can figure out if it is the same one. I have also established that my uncle was one of the two gunners onboard and I do recall my Dad saying he was a rear gunner. http://www.fliegerschicksale.de/fliegerschicksale/absturzorte/r/rotenburg/080445ro_en.php My plan is to visit the cemetery on Monday morning. May or may not swing by Rotenburg on the way back to Hamburg but as I do not know the crash site location that would just be passing interest. I only asked about the necktie as I do know my uncle was a bit 'dapper' as we say and was known as a snappy dresser so I was speculating he might have worn his own choice of neckwear. Not important! Thanks for all your help.
  8. Good to hear from you. I have some more details to hand now. My Uncles's flight was a Lancaster bomber from No 35 Squadron based at a small base, Graveley in Cambridgeshire UK. The aircraft was one of 8 on the raid that night and took off at 7:42pm local time on April 8th. It was the only aircraft not to return, after bombing Hamburg. The last of the others was back at base around 0100 on the 9th. The only record I have puts the time of crash at 11pm which sounds about right. There were 7 crew members onboard, under the command of a very experienced pilot, the gloriously named 31 year old Melville Max Victor Lewis Muller (sounds like some German family in there somewhere!) who was famous for other exploits earlier in the war. At least 4 of the others on board, including my uncle Robert, were aged just 23. Five were killed on impact, one survived the war in a POW camp and one survived the crash but died within 48 hours. I believe, but am not certain, that my uncle was the rear gunner, hence your account of finding the empty turret and the body is extremely poignant. If indeed we have the correct crash, then you could very well have been looking at my uncle, assuming that the two survivors were already making tracks and you say two bodies inside the fuselage with mention of a possible third, that would make a deal of sense. What was it about the necktie that struck you as odd? Was it perhaps not the regulation uniform? I never knew my uncle as I was not born until 1952. He was one of three brothers, the other two now long dead. I do have a cousin now in her 80s who remembers him well and fondly but otherwise there are no other links with him. My father was in Asia during the war and never really spoke much at all of his lost brother. I do not know where he was initially buried but by the early 50s his remains ended up in Berlingen war cemetery where Allied casualties were brought from many other graves in the region. See here: http://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/2009051/BECKLINGEN%20WAR%20CEMETERY As I mentioned before, by coincidence I have a couple of days business in Hamburg next week so it is my plan to hire a car and drive down to the cemetery. If I had enough time I would take in Rotenburg too, but I have no idea what or where I would be looking for. regards, Iain Webster
  9. Hi, I am absolutely stunned to read this account just a few days after you posted it and at the very time I was thinking about I am 95% certain your account refers to the crash involving my uncle, Robert Webster who was a crew member on this flight which came down on 8th April 1945 in the very early hours of the morning as they were making their way home after a bombing raid on Hamburg. Does that sound about right? Let me know if you think so. I have full details of this mission, the crew members and their fates. In fact by pure coincidence I am visiting Hamburg next week and planning to visit the cemetery where my uncle lies along with other crew members.
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