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Lancaster shot down over Berlin

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I'm hoping some of you can give me info on a relation of mine who was shot down over Germany in April 1945?

He was 1896557 Sergeant Walter Alfred James Thurston of 433 RCAF Sqn. RAFVR who died 10.4.45 and is remembered at the 1939-1945 Berlin War Cemetery.

The only info I have at present is that he was stationed in Skipton-on-Swale, Lichfield, Staffs. and until Jan. 1945 the Squadron flew Halifax bombers, they then they switched to Lancasters. Walter was a rear gunner although CWGC says Flt. Eng.

Any information on his last mission is very much appreciated as well as why he was serving in the RCAF, none of the family made the move to Canada till the late 40s or early 50s.

Thanks in advance.


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I would suggest getting a copy of Martin Middlebrook's "The Berlin Raids", which details all the raids on Berlin and lists the lost crews. I have a copy but it is at home in the UK :(



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Glenn & Michael, thanks very much. I had known they mixed and matched crews in the RAF but didn't know the RCAF did too.

Since posting, my cousin has received the following details:

Flying in a Mk I Lancaster, Serial Number PB903, Squadron Identifier BM-F. The aircraft took off at 1317 hrs from Skipton-on-Swale for the Engelsdorf and Mockau railway yards and was hit by flack just short of the aiming point. A fire was seen to break out in the starboard inner engine and was soon extinguished. During this time height was lost, followed by a small explosion that turned the Lancaster onto its back. Diving steeply, the bomber hit the ground and exploded. All crew members are buried in the Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery.

Engelsdorf and Mockau are in Leipzig which is south of Berlin. This page http://www.raf.mod.uk/bombercommand/apr45.html shows details of ops for April/May 1945 and shows that Walter was on the only Lancaster to be shot down during the raid. One Halifax was also lost.


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The majority of Flight Engineers on RCAF squadrons were members of the RAF. I have added the crew positions to the names below from their CWGC records.

From Richard Koval's 6 Group (RCAF) pages:

"90 Halifaxes from 408, 415, 420, 425, 426, and 432 Squadrons were joined by 110 Lancasters from 419, 424, 427, 428, 429, 431, 433, and 434 Squadrons on an attack of the rail yards at Leipzig. The crews were over the target at between 15,500 and 19,000 feet, releasing 1,532,000 lbs of high explosives. According to reports, the weather was good and severe damage was caused.

F/O R. Grisdale (Pilot) RCAF and crew, flying Lancaster I PB-903 coded BM-F, failed to return from this operation.

Sgt R. Thurston RAF - Flight Engineer

F/O I. Zierler RCAF - Navigator

F/O W. McLeod RCAF - Air Bomber

P/O J. Hirak RCAF - Wireless Op./Air gunner

P/O F. Seeley RCAF - Air Gunner

P/O D. Roberts RCAF - Air Gunner

All were killed. According to witnesses, this Lancaster was hit by flak, the stbd inner was seen to be feathered. Then a small explosion was seen, the aircraft flipped onto its back and spiraled to the ground. No parachutes were seen."

See http://www.rcaf.com/6group/left.html

Click on 'Daily Operations'

Cheers, Ken

Edited by Ken MacLean
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