LANCASTER W4988
460 SQUADRON RAAF

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Aircraft code: AR-Q

Date: 3/4 September 1943

Mission: Bombing, Berlin

Crash Site: Sweden, north of Hälsingborg

Crew:

F/O Francis A. Randall * Pilot ESC
F/O Lindsay G. Greenaway B/Aim POW
F/Sgt Allen John O´Brien W/Op POW
F/Sgt Harry K. Ward Rear/Gun POW
Sgt Arthur H. Johns Fl/Eng ESC
F/Sgt Norman J. Conway Nav MIA
Sgt Herbert Bell MU/Gun ESC

Remarks:
W4988 was caught in the searchlights over the target. The bombload was jettisoned and they tried to get out of the light. While doing that they were attacked by a Ju 88, and two engines were hit. F/O Randall ordered the crew to bail out and F/O Greenaway jumped out immediately. He was taken prisoner just outside Berlin. The pilot regained control and recalled the order to bail out. When crossing Zealand (Denmark) another engine gave up and Randall told them to bail out again. F/Sgt O´Brien went out first, and then F/Sgt Ward. They went down near Copenhagen and were captured the following day. Sgt Johns landed in a garden in Esrum (Denmark). He got in touch with a Danish resistance group, and they helped him to Sweden. On December 14 he returned to England. Randall, Conway and Bell all jumped out over the sea. Conway´s parachute did not open and he was killed. He has never been found. Randall and Bell were picked up by a Swedish navy vessel and after some weeks in Sweden they returned to England the 29th September 1943. Randall was awarded a DFC and Johns and Bell each a DFM. Randall was killed in an landing accident when returning from Berlin 17 December, in Lancaster JB657.

 

The following information is from "Strike and Return" by Peter Firkins:-

"Of the crews shot down, Flying Officer Randall gave a vivid account of his crew's experiences on this raid when he said: "Having dropped our bombs we were coned by searchlights, hit by flak, and attacked by three fighters. I gave orders to prepare to abandon the aircraft, and the bomb aimer either jumped or fell out.  I am certain that he had his parachute on.  I regained control and the crew resumed normal positions.  I made for Sweden with the aircraft very badly damaged.  This was at about midnight.  As I expected all engines to fail within a few minutes, I ordered three of the crew to bale out.  I ordered the next two to bale out a few minutes later so as to disperse the crew.  I had instructed them, if they should land in Sweden, to destroy their kit, make for the coast, and give themselves up as escapers from Denmark.  I jumped about one minute after the last two of my crew."

"I landed in the water east of Helsinborg, on the Danish side of the Sound, shortly after midnight 3rd-4th September.  I disengaged my parachute, inflated my mae west, and started to swim towards the lights of Helsingborg, but drifted southwards.  About half an hour later I  saw the lights of a boat and shouted.  About 15 minutes later I was picked up.  After a short time we picked up Sgt. Bell, my mid-upper gunner.  The boat was a small coastal vessel with a crew of about four, trading concrete between Denmark and the island of Hven.  We were landed at Hven and handed over to a Swedish Army escort at about 0700 hours on 4th September.  The escort took us across the island, and we were taken by naval cutter to Landskrona where we were interrogated by a Swedish naval officer about British planes flying over Sweden on the previous night.  They also asked us if we had laid mines in Swedish waters.  We denied this and said that we had definite orders not to fly over Sweden."

"Sgt. Bell was taken to hospital with an injured neck, and I was taken to the citadel.  Here I was given a bedroom, but kept under guard.  At about 1900 hours the British Consul from Helsinborg arrived with Lieutenant Jakobi, of the Swedish Air Force.  The Consul put me through a questionnaire, and then left me with Jakobi who stayed for a couple of hours.  He visited me again on the following two days, being very insistent on asking questions and I formed the impression that he was not entirely 'above board.' "

"On September 6th we were taken to the internment camp at Falum where I remained till 29th September, when I was brought back to Stockholm and flown back to England by the secret courier service."

A month after being shot down he was back on the squadron again, crewed up with a new crew, and fully operational once more.

 

The following is an excerpt from "Air War against Germany & Italy 1939 - 1943":-

"The third attack against Berlin on 3rd-4th September, although the smallest in numbers, was in some ways the most effective and caused heavy damage in the Siemenstadt, Charlottenburg and Mariendorf industrial suburbs.   Four mosquitos dropped decoy fighters flares well clear of the bomber stream and the usual diversionary attacks against towns and airfields were also mounted.  The defences of Berlin were still strong, however, and the Australian squadrons suffered relatively high losses.  No. 467, which had lost one commanding officer at Milan and his temporary relief three nights later at Peenemunde, now lost a newly-appointed flight commander, Flight Lieutenant Carmichael, and one other crew.  No. 460 also lost a flight commander (Squadron Leader Kelaher) and two other aircraft.  One of these, captained by Flying Officer Randall, was badly crippled by gun fire and then by fighter attack over Berlin, but the pilot managed to fly it to Sweden before ordering his crew to bale out.  Several other aircraft were badly damaged but the desperate battles with fighters had not brought any lowering of morale or determination.  Flying Officer Gardner continued his journey to bomb Berlin although his Lancaster had been badly damaged in a collision with another aircraft."

* Francis Archibald Randall, DFC, Service No. 413896
Francis Randall was a student from Wollongong, NSW, Australia before the war. He was born in Sydney, NSW, Australia on 15 June 1922.  He was killed in action on 16 December 1943.

Derek Dubery sent me the following info:-

"My Grandfather (Herbert Bell) was shot down over on the way back from Berlin in 1943. He and his pilot Francis Randall were plucked from the Baltic and taken to Sweden. Randall was later awarded the DFC but was killed several missions later. My Grandfather did not return to flying. He had hurt his neck when he bailed out- his parachute had bullet holes in the case and they had to open it in the aircraft to make sure that the canopy was OK. He then had to jump clutching the unpacked chute to his chest. I think some of the cords cut his neck as it opened. He and Randall were the last two out of the plane. Having been repatriated from a neutral country they were not supposed to go back onto combat duties. Anyway, my Nan has recently dug out some photos of Randall and my Grandfather taken whilst they were in Sweden. If you have anyway of contacting any of Randall's relatives they might like copies? I know there was a chap from Canada who had previously contacted your site on behalf of Randall's sister. Alas, his email address is no longer active. My Nan has also found a couple of Swedish paper cuttings from the time apparently showing the wreckage of R01 in Sweden. The article is in Swedish but I will send a scan if you are interested. According to my late Grandfather the plane was in the Rolls Royce record books for some years for the most distance covered by a Lancaster with one engine on full throttle. He always spoke very highly of Randall as a brave guy and a good pilot."

Derek Dubery sent me the following translations of the Swedish newspaper article concerning the fate of Lancaster RO1. A friend Weine in Sweden helped with the translation.

-----------------------------

1. Remnants of the British plane, that the night before yesterday crashed at Sofiero. In the foreground the burning straw-stack.

Två pilots rescued at Hven (an old spelling of Ven – an island between Sweden and Denmark)

The farmyard of Laröd (a place in Scania, Sweden) was washed by petrol cargo. Ammunition exploded when the plane caught fire.

Two of the crew on the British plane, that the night before yesterday crashed at Sofiero under fire of the Swedish anti-aircraft defence, have, as far as SDS (the newspaper I presume) has learned, being saved in Sundet (the Strait) beside Ven. One of them, an Englishmen, have been brought to the hospital in Landskrona (a Swedish city), while the other one, an Australian, unscathed have been taken into custody by the military authorities. The two pilots (aviators) have stated that they jumped out from the plane as number three and four. Two other from the crew, originally constituted of seven men, left the plane more south, possibly already above Germany. They who jumped later are supposed to be dead in Sundet (the Strait), been taken care of by a German ship or ended on the Danish side. 

The crashed plane blasted into pieces by several explosions during the flight into Swedish territory. There have been found pieces from the plane on the beach, in the forest and in the fields. The cow-house of Laröd was washed by petrol but only the nearby straw-stack was destroyed by fire. When the plane caught fire a part of the ammunition exploded. The plane crashed on a small area demarcated by three farms and the road Hälsingborg-Höganäs (two Swedish cities – the former nowadays spelled Helsingborg), and those farmyards escaped as by a miracle a catastrophe, as they all are laying……..(continue last page).

Text to the picture:

On a field of beet nearby the farmyard of Laröd the tail of the brought down plane is towering as a monument.

2. A picture of the nocturnal fires at the farmyard of Larröd. To the left can be seen the burning plane (plane body) and to the right the straw-stack in flames.

Expert investigation of the bombing-plane at Laröd.

No further traces of the crew, despite intensive search.

The plane remnants at Laröd were yesterday under expert investigation by a commission from Ljungbyhed (a place in Scania, Sweden, where the former military pilot education was sited). Any remarkable findings did not appear but the investigation was not finished, so it continues today. The examined remnants began to be removed through the military. The investigation has still not verified that any of the crew member would be on the plane when it hit the ground. Right from the dawn yesterday morning there was an intensive search for the air crew through the military. All the investigations though were negative, why, of the seven men strong crew, only two, found at Ven, have been found.

The fire in the straw-stack was smouldering the whole Saturday and blazed up now and then.

The fire-brigade of Allerum (a place in Scania, Sweden) manage the final extinction of the fire, and when they through the afternoon have rearranged the straw-bales (?) the fire could definitely be extinguished.

**********

Some of the plane remnants at Laröd began to be removed. In the afternoon there was a commission from Ljungbyhed arriving to the site for an expert investigation. They started in the fields in Northwest with their massive amounts of tattered and torn pieces of the aircraft. It was a very thorough investigation bit by bit, and gradually as the pieces was inspected, they were taken care of through the military. Yesterday they reached the fields and to the remnants of the tail of the plane that also was overturned and examined. Today they carry on with the examination of the engines and the heap of ruins in front of the farmyard of Laröd. Any information about the results of the examinations have of course not been given. Though, it is reliable, as far as HD (the newspaper I presume) in…….

                                                (continue at page 8)

The Swedish word gård (å is often pronounced as ou in thought) means several thing: it means a farm, a farmyard, yard or backyard etc. The Swedish word lagård means a cow-house.

The Swedish letter ö is often pronounced as the i in first. The Swedish letter ä is often pronounced as the e in best.

Sincerely

Weine

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Derek Dubery for his assistance with this home page. His Grandfather, Herbert Bell, was a crew member of Lancaster W4988

 

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This page first produced 10 January 1998

This page last updated 05 September 2015