On 1944-08-31, Pilot, navigator or other duty? unknown name (unknown rank, RAF) with an unknown servicenumber, flew a Beaufighter VI with serial MM838 for this duty: unknown operation. His mission was not completed. Circumstances of the aircraft loss are unknown. This aircraft was a part of squadron no. 219. The location for the map is the English Channel. Circumstances at the end of this mission for this unknown person: he died, but circumstances of death are unknown. There is no commemoration location known.
Additional information by Chris Eley, 255 Squadron Association, London, UK
SANDERS, Cecil John, Flying Officer, RAFVR, Service Number 140887, age 32 (DoB 02.Aug.1912), peacetime occupation Civil Servant, killed 31.Aug.1944 when Bristol Beaufighter Mk.VI serial MM838 failed to return from an intruder patrol over the Danube Basin / Belgrade area. Death Registration: "War Deaths (RAF - All Ranks) 1939-1948, 1944 Vol 13 Page 19". A limited disclosure by Air Historical Branch, in advance of declassification of the entire record, states "In respect of Flying Officers Sanders and Summers there is some additional information recorded on the rear of their respective casualty cards. Both cards note that they were previously buried at Kovin, prior to being reburied at Belgrade. This information came from the Missing Research and Enquiry Service (MRES). Initially they were given a military funeral at Kovin by the Yugoslavs who found them. It was noted at the time that Kovin was on the north bank of the Danube opposite Smederevo, about 80 kilometres from Belgrade." Reburial was at Belgrade War Cemetery, Serbia, grave number 9A.A.10. Son of Frank Cecil SANDERS, Clerk, and Emily SANDERS of 49 Glenhouse Road, Eltham. Other fatalities in the same incident: SUMMERS.
The "limited disclosure" remarks in the above texts come about because the complete AIR81 CASREPs remain classified.
The breakthrough in this case came about in consequence of research done by Peter Kaššák in connection with his recently-published book 'Gardening by Moonlight', the account of No.205 Group's mining of the Danube waterway. That Bomber Group was supported by night fighters of No.255 Squadron flying out of Foggia Main in Italy, as detailed in Chapter 12 of 'Gardening'.
For years the loss of MM838 was a mystery; only the crew's final resting place in Belgrade was in the public domain along with a decidedly sketchy ORB entry. Problem: The ORB of 255 Squadron is very thin on aircraft serials; reliably tracing individual aircraft isn't easy.
In the course of his research Peter discovered an entry in the German Navy KTB relating to the shooting down of a 'Bomber' at the 1080km marker post on the Danube waterway - a lucky hit by the deck gunner of a small minesweeper. Yet no Allied bomber was lost in the Balkan theatre of operations that night, just MM838 operating a cannon-strafing harrassment sortie against river barges carrying crude oil from the Ploesti oilfield in Romania up river to the refinery at Bratislava. One twist of AHB's arm on my part and the story was complete. The 1080km marker post and Kovin are on the same stretch of the Danube.
¦ AIR27/1519 (relevant part of 255 Squadron ORB)
¦ Pers. Corr. with Air Historical Branch, RAF Northolt
¦ Kaššák, P, and Gunby, D, "Gardening by Moonlight', p.133-34. ISBN 9788097189136.
¦ http://www.255.org.uk/ww2-italy.html#move-to-foggia (awaiting update; case sensitive link)
I am in the process of planning a visit to Kovin as soon as the weather in Serbia settles down. The spring thaw there is very late this year. No point in going quite yet; one snowdrift looks much like another. There has also been some rioting in Belgrade in consequence of a disputed election result.
On a slightly different topic: You might care to read through the 255 Squadron record of radar use for GCI in both North Africa and Sicily. Note especially the activities of "The Sultan of Sopley" (74440 Squadron Leader John Laurence Brown MBE) and, for Operation Husky, the placing of a GCI station aboard a Landing Craft (Tanks). Lessons learned there were firmly embedded in the planning and execution of Operation Overlord. The vessel involved in Sicily was LST305. Detail at http://www.255.org.uk/ww2-nafrica.html and http://www.255.org.uk/ww2-sicily.html.
Quote: "The placing of nominally ground-based radar equipment on board a ship was a novelty, done experimentally in the Sicilian campaign. It was hugely successful in providing "instant" radar cover, the absence of which had plagued the Squadron back in November/December 1942 during the early days of Operation Torch. In consequence of the success of Adlux when afloat, the same trick was repeated on a much larger scale during Operation Overlord – the invasion of Normandy."
At the time of D-Day in June 1944, 255 Squadron was still in Italy. The radar-aboard-ship experiment in the Med in 1943 was their principal contribution to the success of the Normandy landings.
Again on the wider subject of radar, I'm struggling with the full ID/Service Number of "Donald Duck". Any help with that would be much appreciated. The name ROEBUCK is ambiguous in the Air Force List and I have not been able to rule out the possibility of him being from Canada/Aus/NZ etc.
There are several possibilities in investigating the flight records on Back to Normandy. All the flights are plotted on maps, sorted day by day, by squadron, by type aircraft, by year or month, by location and much more! Don't miss this!!!
If you have any information that you want to share, please add your comment at the bottom of this record. Or send your information to www.backtonormandy.org/support.html Your photos and your information are very welcome! The young do care and with your help we keep up the good work.