A short History of Lancaster LL959 and 626 Squadron.

          In early 1941 work began on building a new airfield near the village of Wickenby in Lincolnshire. This was to meet the demand for more heavy bomber airfields for the RAF. This became RAF Wickenby which is located 9 miles north east of Lincoln and 4 ½ miles south of Market Rasen in Lincolnshire. It consisted of three runways the main one being 09/27 and ran east west. Thirty-six aircraft dispersals were built around the perimeter track and two T2 hangers completed the station. Later in 1943 a B1 type hanger was added at the north of the station. The bomb storage area was at the southwest corner of the site in a small depression.

626 squadron was formed on the 7thNovember 1943 from 12 squadron C flight and the first operational sortie was flown on 10 November 1943 on the railway tunnel at Modane. Along with RAF personnel Canadian, Australian and New Zealand crew members and ground staff lived and worked on the airfield. The squadron disbanded on 14thOctober 1945 and although it only existed for 23 months made a contribution to the war effort. 2660 operational sorties were flown on 205 missions. Of these 65 aircraft were lost and 337 airmen lost their lives. The station came under the control of No. 1 Group Bomber Command.

          Lancaster LL959 was built by the Sir Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Ltd, being the 3rd part of contract 239/SAS/C4(C) and deliveries took place between Nov 1943 and Aug 1944. The aircraft flew first with 300 (Polish) Sqd, based at Faldingworth, and then transferred to 626 sqn as UM-A2 on 14th August 1944.   It flew its first mission againt Stettin on the 16th August 1944. 

          

The crew consisted of: -

Pilot,

 Flying Officer Donald Smith Nelson RCAF

He was blown clear of the aircraft and was taken prisoner of war. He was taken to Dulag-Luft on 19th Jan 1945.

Flight Engineer,

Sargent Oliver Old RAF

He is buried in grave 6.j.28 at the 1939-1945 Cemetry in Berlin. The son of Oliver and Clara Old of Hatfield Peverel Essex.

Navigator,

 Flying Officer Thomas Robertson Murray RCAF

-he is buried in grave 6.J.26-27 at the 1939-1945 Cemetery in Berlin.

Air Bomber,

 Pilot Officer Vernon Harvey Halsted RCAF

-he is buried in grave 6.J.26-27 at the 1939-1945 Cemetery in Berlin. The son of Carl Nelson and Jean Elizabeth Halstead of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Wireless Operator,

Pilot Officer Robert Joseph Lacey RAF

Is remembered on Panel 267 at the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey.

Air Gunner,

Sgt. Andrew Morrison Orr Walker RCAF

Is remembered on Panel 281 at the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey. The son of William and Mary Morrison Walker of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Air Gunner,

Sgt. Cyril Clinton Merriman RCAF

Is remembered on Panel 282 at the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey.

 

 

 

The aircraft was lost the night of 14- 15th Jan 1945.  It took off from RAF Wickenby in Lincolnshire on a bombing raid on the synthetic oil installation at Leuna to the south of Berlin. The attacks caused severe damage throughout the plant. Albert Speer, in his post-war interrogations, stated that this was one of the group's most damaging raids on the synthetic-oil industry carried out during this period. It was one of 573 Lancaster's and 14 Mosquitoes that carried out two attacks 3 hours apart and was one of ten Lancaster's lost on the raid.

This was the aircraft's 41st operational sortie. and its crew's 30thoperational sortie together. The crew joined the Squadron on 13thAugust 1944 the day before the aircraft was assigned to the squadron, and flew their first mission on the 25th August 1944 against Russelsheim in Lancaster ND864 (UM-M2).

 

This is, as I understand it, the circumstances of the crash of LL959. The aircraft was on its final bombing run when it was hit by flack and went down. According to German papers taken after the war the aircraft was hit a 00-45hr on 15th Jan 1945. It came down at Bedra 14km SW of Merseberg. It burst into flames on contact with the ground and exploded. Don Nelson was blown clear and survived, he was taken as a prisoner for duration of the war. Unfortunately the rest of the crew did not survive.

The casualties were buried in the local churchyard at Bedra. Later in 1945 Bedra and Braunsdorf amalgamated to form Braunsbedra.

During the war all allied airmen who lost their lives over Germany were buried in the local churchyards where the fell. After the end of the war all the casualties that were buried in those churchyards were exhumed and re buried in the centralised war cemeteries throughout Germany. The crew of LL959 was re-interned in the 1939-1945 War Cemetery in Berlin. The airmen who did not have known graves had their names engraved on the walls of the Runnymede Memorial in London.

                                                         

The crew LL959 (UM-A2) were the first of 4 Lancaster crews to be buried in that churchyard. The second, shot down on 14-15 Mar 1945, was RF153 (EK-K) of 49 Sqn based at RAF Fulbeck. It was captained by Joseph McPhee a Canadian from British Columbia. Six of the crew perished on that night, one survived.

Onthe night of 4-5 Apr 1945 a Lancaster of 12 Sqn based at RAF Wickenby was lost. RF152 (PH-P) was captained by another Canadian, Walter Kroeker. All the crew of 7 died.

The last Lancaster NG235 (WS-H) of 9 Sqn from RAF Bardney was flown by Bernard Woolstencroft an Australian from Victoria. He and 5 of his crew lost there lives.

 

Please be patient as the site is still under construction.

Last updated 12 Feb 2012