The Last Operation
Stirling III serial number EE872 had been allocated to Andrew and his crew two days after his joining the Squadron at Lakenheath on the 27th May, 1943. His crew, (crew 6), consisted of Alex Holms (Nav), Adrian Douglas (W/OP/AG), David Badcock (Bomb Aimer) all from New Zealand. Doug Guest (Flt Eng) and Henry Saunders (AG) were both from London, and Harry Barnard (AG) was from Huntingdon. They had completed 49 trips in this aircraft, with 20 as confirmed Operational Sorties. These had included Wuppertal, Dusseldorf, Le Creusot, Krefeld, Mulheim, Elberfeld, Gelsenkirschen, Koln, Hamburg (4 times), Remscheid, Nurenburg, Berlin and Munchengladbach, amongst others. Andrew's flying log book shows a total of 555 Hrs and 54 Mins at this time.
The aircraft took off from Lakenheath at 19.36 on the night of the 5th Sept, 1943, en route for Mannheim in Germany via Beachy Head. 149 Sqdn was to lose three aircraft that night. Relatives of two of the crew of OJ-O, which was also lost that night, have been in touch with me during my research. The exact time OJ-N fell is unclear, but the claim by Leutnant Hoppner was timed at 00.20, and the Searchlight crew's report confirms this as the likely time. Since the start of this research a great deal of work has been done, both by myself and other Historians, notably by Jorg Helbig who has passed the following information:The bomber was hit by flak and claimed at 00.15 clock from (Flak Positions) 1.-4./491, 1./492, 1./278, 1.-3./908, 1.-4/300 as “Stirling, Rheingönheim in Ludwigshafen”. At least it is clearly EE 872. The words "Night Fighter" I can verify as incorrect because at 00.15 no comparable entry for a Stirling is recorded in the official documents of the night’s hunting. Possibly the 'Wild Boar' at 00.13 (Fw Urich Veh) from 3./JG 300 which claimed a 4 mot ( German Shorthand for '4 Motor Aircraft'-without explicit recognition, that is also possibly a Stirling). Lt Hoppner's Abschuss/ launch of the RLM was never fully recognized as EE872. The claim specified from time to time in literature for EE 872 by Lt. Heinz Hoeppner II. / NJG 1 is not true, because this was (at 00.20) a Stirling at Limburgerhof / 5 km SW of the aircraft claimed. That would make it Stirling EF129, which was claimed at the same time (00.20) by flak 3rd +4 ./300 as “Stirling at Limburgerhof. Höppner’s scenario was fully recognized by the RLM. The gathering and interpreting of German Flak claims has been a very difficult task, with Dr Theo Boiten being the author who seems to have suceeded the most. His 'Nachtjagd War Diaries' books (Vol 1 and 2) are essential reading for those interested in aircraft shot down at night by German pilots. Dr. Boiten's latest book, Nachtjagd Combat Archive, credits the loss to Hptm. Hans-Wolfgang Von Neibelschutz. He is investigating further. The sole survivor of the aircraft loss was the tail gunner, Harry Barnard, known to the rest of the crew as "Barney". He was to spend the rest of the war as a POW, and pass away in the 1970's.
The rest of the crew were dead, with only Doug Guest and Alex Holms being positively identified when the German police picked up the bodies the following day. It is presumed (by Richard Braun, an historian from Ludwigshafen-Mundenheim) that all six fatalities were originally buried at Ludwigshafen main cemetery, although the photograph I have of Andrew's (and David Badcock's) initial internment, does not list Doug and Alex with them. They all now lie in Durnbach War cemetery, Bayern, Germany, with Andrew, Alex, David, Henry and Doug together in Plot (Coll) 8 J. 1-18 and Adrian in plot 8 K3.
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