In January 1944, 102 (Ceylon) Squadron, flying out of RAF Pocklington in the space of two nights running, lost 11 aircraft. After losing 7 Halifaxes whilst targeting Berlin on the 20 January the Squadron Diary records, “This was an exceptional night of misfortune and unlikely to be repeated”. But, the following night, 21 January, out of 15 aircraft sent to Magdeburg, 4 did not return, causing the same Diarist to record, “it was not so disastrous a night” compared to the one before. Nevertheless, in those two nights, 102 Squadron had lost half its strength, forcing the Commanding Officer, Wg/Cmdr S Marchbanks to request Group HQ in York that the squadron be taken off the Order of Battle. It is a tribute to the squadron that, having re-equipped with aircraft and crews, they were again flying over Berlin on the 28 January, although the following month all Halifax II’s were taken off deep penetration of Germany until such time as the squadrons were re-equipped with the more powerful Hercules-engined Halifax IIIs.
Halifax LW337 DY-FF/O G A Griffiths DFM – Captain – Survived POW Sgt K F Stanbridge – 2nd Pilot -KIA P/O E A Church – W/Op – KIA Sgt J Bremner – Flt/Eng – KIA W/O C G Dupueis – A/G – KIA F/Sgt R C Wilson – Nav – Survived POW Sgt H L Bushell – A/G – Survived POW Flt/Lt L A Underwood – Air/B – Survived POW
One of the aircraft missing on the night of 20 January was Halifax LW337 which took off from Pocklington at 1630 hours and after being hit by a Schrage Musik fighter crashed at 1945 hours at Hirschgarten Friedrichshagen in the outer suburbs of Berlin. Of the eight crew members, there was an extra pilot on board undergoing experience, four crew members baled out and became Prisoners of War, two bodies were recovered from the wreckage, Sgt K F Stanbridge and P/O E A Church, and were buried in Berlin, whilst the other two crew members were reported as “missing” as their bodies were not recovered, later presumed Killed in Action.
And there the story rested for over 62 years until July 2005 when Reg Wilson, one of the survivors, enquired of a Museum in SE Berlin for information on the crash site. This was taken up by a German journalist who advertised in the German Press. After many emails and telephone calls, Reg made two visits to Berlin to question surviving German witnesses and researchers and eventually the crash site was located. It was then that human remains were discovered in November 2006.
So now Reg had to start a new search to find relatives of the two “missing” airmen, Sgt J Bremner, Flt/Engineer and F/Sgt C G Dupueis, RCAF, Air Gunner. Reg, with the help of the RAF Casualty Branch, eventually traced them in Newcastle and Canada. With DNA testing it was established in March of this year that the remains were those of Sgt Bremner.
As a result of all these efforts a Funeral with full military honours will take place at Berlin War Cemetery on 16 October after a service in St George’s Church, Berlin. It is expected that the three surviving POWs will attend as well as the widow of F/O Griffiths, the pilot, with a contingent from the Berlin Branch of the British Legion and the Secretary of the 102 Squadron Association.
Author of this document: Tom Wingham (Secretary of 102 Squadron Association)