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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 203777
Last updated: 14 August 2019
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Type:Silhouette image of generic LANC model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Avro Lancaster Mk III
Owner/operator:61 Squadron Royal Air Force (61 Sqn RAF)
Registration: LM377
C/n / msn:
Fatalities:Fatalities: 7 / Occupants: 7
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:300 metres south of Buren, Niedersachsen -   Germany
Phase: Combat
Departure airport:RAF Skellingthorpe
Destination airport:
During the night of 1-2 January 1944, RAF Bomber Command despatched 421 Lancasters to Berlin. The take-off was planned for mid-evening but it was delayed due to doubts about the weather and it only began around midnight. The delay also caused a change to the route, planned as a wide northerly approach over Denmark and the Baltic. The bombers were now ordered to fly the much used direct route accross Holland.

The German controller was not deceived by a Mosquito 'spoof' raid on Hamburg, and German fighters were directed on to the bomber stream at an early stage and were particularly active en-route to Berlin. Sixteen bombers are believed to have been lost along that flight, including 8 of the 81 despatched Pathfinders. But then few losses were suffered over Berlin, only two bombers being shot down by fighters there, and the local Flak was probably restricted to the height at which it could fire and only shot down two bombers over Berlin. 29 Lancasters crashed in Europe or were lost without traces, and two more crashed on return in England. Aboard these 31 bombers 183 crew were killed, 33 captured and one evaded.

The target area was covered in cloud and the accuracy of the sky-marking soon deteriorated. The Berlin report says that there was scattered bombing, mainly in the southern parts of the city. A large number of bombs fell in the Grunewald, an extensive wooded area in the south-west of Berlin. Only 21 houses and 1 industrial building were destroyed, with 79 people being killed, including 25 in a panic rush at the entrance of a public air shelter in the Neukölln district. A high-explosive bomb hit a lock on an important canal and stopped shipping at that area for several days.

Minor Bomber Command operations this night included Mosquito raids to Hamburg (15 aircraft), to Witten (11), to Duisburg (7), to Bristillerie (4) and to Cologne (1), 6 RCM sorties, and 14 OTU sorties, all without loss.

German night fighters claimed 27 victories this night, including six by Major Heinrich Prinz zu Sayn-Wittgenstein (number 65 to 70) of Stab NJG 2. Known German losses are seven crew killed, four wounded and 6 aircraft lost: 3 Bf 110, 2 Ju 88 and 1 Bf 109, the latter and one Bf 110 falling to German Flak.

The Lancaster III LM377 QR-F of 61 Sqn RAF took off at 2356 hrs on the 1st from Skellingthorpe to take part to the raid on Berlin. It was hit by a night-fighter flown by Major Heinrich Prinz zu Sayn-Wittgenstein of Stab NJG 2, his first victory of the night and the 65th of the war. Following the attack the aircraft busrt into flames. A heavy explosion shook the aircraft over Bevensen and caused it to fall out of control. The bomber eventually crashed at 0200 hrs in a field about 300 metres south of Büren where it continued to burn for some hours. There was no explosion on impact and it is assumed that bombs were jettisoned during an earlier attack. A Salvage Unit from Wunstorf airfield arrived about an hour and a half after the incident took place. Four airmen were recovered from inside the cabin and front part of the fuselage. These men had been thrown together by the force of the impact and when found were badly burnt. One airman was lying approximately 3 metres in front of the nose of the aircraft. Another corpse was found lying outside between the main part of the fuselage and the rear turret. The rear turret was torn from the fuselage and was found some 100 metres away from the crash site. As it was investigated it was found that the dead rear gunner was still sitting behind his machine gun. All crew were buried in seven separate boxes in the south-east corner of the Büren Cemetery. On 27 September 1946 the crew were exhumed and transferred to Hannover War Cemetery.

Crew (all killed):
Flg Off George Edward Sharpe RCAF (pilot)
Sgt Basil George Imber (flight engineer)
Flg Off Ernest Arthur Chenery Willard (navigator)
Flg Off Alfred Vernon Shirley (air bomber)
Sgt Alexander Ross (wireless operator/air gunner)
Sgt William John Churcher (air gunner)
Sgt Henry Patrick (air gunner)

"The Bomber Command War Diaries", by Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt, ISBN 1-85780-033-8
"The Berlin Raids. RAF Bomber Command Winter 1943-1944", by Martin Middlebrook. ISBN 0-304-35347-7
"Royal Air Force Bomber Command losses, vol 5. Aircraft and Crews Losses 1944", by W R Chorley, ISBN 0-904597-91-1
"Lufwaffe Night Fighter Combat Claims 1939-1945", by John Foreman, Johannes Matthews and Simon Parry. ISBN 0-9538061-4-6
"Deutsche Nachtjagd Personalverluste in Ausbildung und Einsatz - fliegendes Personal -", by Michael Balss
"Deutsche Nachtjagd Materialverluste in Ausbildung und Einsatz", by Michael Balss. ISBN 3-925480-3-6

Revision history:

03-Jan-2018 23:15 Laurent Rizzotti Added

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