The Final Sortie

At 18.31 on 4th February 1945, AE Johnson and his crew set off for Bonn, in Avro Lancaster ME334 (TL-Q). It is known that they had a “last one back buys the beers” bet with “Kiwi” Lawson’s crew.

Their role was Blind Secondary Marker with a bomb load of:

  • 1 x Cluster Projectile (CP) No1 R/G
  • 1 x 4000lb HC (N Inst)
  • 5 x 1000lb AM-N65
  • 5 x 500lb MC.

Their navigational route took them out through Reading, Eastbourne and across France and Belgium

Outbound co-ordinates: Base, Reading, 5000N/0200E, 5000N/0400E, 5014N/0540E, Target

The aircraft was lost as it approached the target area in Bonn.

Events in the UK

On 5th February 1945, the adjutant at RAF Graveley entered the following into the 35 squadron Operations Record Book for the 4th February 1945:

The adjutant’s thoughts would have turned to clearing the crew lockers and packing up their possessions ready for sending to the RAF Central Repository at Colnbrook, Slough.

The officer in command at RAF Graveley sent a telegram to the next of kin. The following is a copy of the telegram sent to the family of G B Thomas (Navigator ME334)

[Courtesy of Sue Dobson]

On the 6th February 1945, a communication centre in the UK intercepted and decrypted the following Luftwaffe communiqué:

On 9th February 1945, the Air Ministry sent a letter to Cecil’s wife, Ethel, worded as follows:

Events in Germany

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS SECTION CONTAINS DETAIL REGARDING THE CREW’S BURIAL

Information contained in the Missing Research and Enquiry Service (MRES) report explains how the German Authorities dealt with the aftermath of the crash.

The Beuel New Cemetery supervisor reported that on 7th February 1945, seven bodies were brought to the New Cemetery by the Leichenbergungskommando (salvage team) from German Air Force (GAF) based at Hangelar. He stated that the personnel that brought the bodies refused to give any information about them.

He reported that the bodies were fully dressed but the cemetery authorities were unable to identify them; meagre notes about the physical appearance of the bodies had been made, but these were very sketchy.

Owing to the chaotic state of affairs that prevailed at the time in Germany, with shortages of materials etc, the cemetery authorities were unable to obtain coffins and so they laid boards at the bottom of the grave and the bodies of the crew were laid on top of these and covered with paper.

The grave, Plot 1/7, was subsequently marked with the names of some of the deceased airmen (believed to be AE Johnson, RM Jenkins and R Neale, as these are named in letters sent out by the Air Ministry).

Subsequent Reporting

On 14th June 1945, Flight Global reported that the crew were “missing”.

On 26th September 1945, the adjutant at RAF Graveley entered the following into the 35 squadron Operations Record Book.

During October and November 1945, the Air Ministry sent a series of letters to the next of kin, keeping them informed of latest findings:

On 6th June 1946, Flight Global reported that the crew were “missing, now presumed killed in action”.

On 6th September 1946, the Air Ministry sent a letter, worded as follows:


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