LOSS OF LANCASTER PB255 (AR-X)
ON 24 DECEMBER 1944
460 SQUADRON RAAF
Lancaster B.III. PB 255 AR-X (or was it AR-E?) of 460 Squadron RAAF took off from Binbrook on the evening of 24 December 1944 to take part in a raid on Cologne. At 1850 hours on 24 December 1944, their Lancaster crashed near Oostelbeers in Holland at Map Reference E 305225 about 9 miles north west of Eindhoven. The Lancaster exploded in mid air.
The Reverend J. M. Morgan, the Roman Catholic Chaplain, of the 10th Canadian Field Park Company, R.C.E. visited the crash site and discovered a cart full of half burned and frozen human body parts. All that he could identify were two right hands, one left hand and one finger. He obtained fingerprints from the remains and buried the remains in the Parish cemetery on 27 December 1944.
An Air Ministry watch 6E/50 A 5606 was found which was later reported to belong to F/Sgt. Russell Ian Stewart (434335) RAAF. A gold signet ring belonging to Sgt. Thomas Charles Newman RAF (VR) was also found. These helped to identify which aircraft crash this was.
The crew were as follows:-
F/O Michael Carleton Skarratt (420763) RAAF (Pilot)
F/O John Michael Ward (437237) RAAF
Sgt. Thomas Charles Newman RAF (VR)
F/Sgt. Robert John Dickie (430773) RAAF (Navigator)
F/Sgt. Russell Ian Stewart (434335) RAAF
F/Sgt. Graham Fowler Day (433717) RAAF (Mid Upper gunner)
F/Sgt. Cyril Keith Deed (30953) RAAF (Rear gunner) **
** Note the WWII Roll of Honour shows Cyril Keith Deed dying on 22 December 1944. All other crew members are shown dying on 24 December 1944. I assume it is a mistake.
Sue Macdonald contacted me on 31 October 1999, enquiring about locating a copy of the book "Strike & Return". Sue had tried bookshops in Melbourne and the Australian War Memorial without success. I was able to let her now she could buy a copy from Australian Military History Publications.
Sue advised that her uncle was a navigator in 460 Squadron RAAF and that his Lancaster was shot down and he was buried in Holland along with the rest of the crew. Sue went on to comment as follows:-
"From what I gather back then they were kids with so little experience raiding airspace that wouldn't be heard of today. I don't know many 18-21 year olds that would have the guts those blokes did back then. Do you? I have so much admiration for them."
Sue advised that her uncle's name was Robert J. Dickie and he was from Dunkeld, Victoria. The only son of 5 children. Sue's parents lived in Hamilton, Victoria which is about 3.5 hours drive from Melbourne (where Sue resides) and 30km's from Dunkeld. Sue's cousins were in Holland earlier in 1999 and visited the gravesite where Sue's uncle Robert J. Dickie and the rest of the crew are buried. Sue commented that M. C. Skarratt was another one of the crew members.
The crew were all killed in action on 24 December 1944 during a mission to Cologne and are buried in Oostelbeers Roman Catholic Churchyard, Netherlands. Oostelbeers is a small village about 13 kilometres north west of Eindhaven.
Sue contacted me again on 13 January 2000, and advised she had received copies of some letters from her mother which she had received from Dutch researcher Ad van Zantvoort in Holland (dated from '95-'99). In his spare time, he does research of wartime aircraft crashes and locating their crews. Although his research was fully concentrated on the south-east part of Holland, his records contains over 300 aircraft (all RAF Bomber Command). He had made many contacts in the UK, Canada, and Australia with ex-crew members or relatives of crewmembers.
Sue advised that he had done quite a lot of research into the aircraft crash of her late uncle Robert J. Dickie and had been in touch with most of the relatives of the crew in Australia and the UK. The aircraft was AVRO Lancaster B.III. Codes were PB 255 AR-X and the base was at Binbrook, Lincolnshire. Details of the crash supplied was that the aircraft was underway to its target in Germany when it was intercepted by German fighters or night fighters above the province of North-Limburg, the aircraft was badly damaged so the pilot decided to turn back to his base in England. Sadly above Oostelbeers the aircraft exploded and crashed in the woods. Of the 11 crews that went out that night they were the only ones that did not return.
Sue advised she had made contact, thanks to this webpage, with families of Skarratt, and Newman. The researcher in Holland had been unable to locate any relatives of the Deed family to complete his file.
Back row: L-R J. M. Ward (Bomb Aimer), M. C. Skarratt (Pilot),
R. I. Stewart (Wireless Operator).
Front row: L-R C. K. Deed (rear gunner), G .F. Day (mid upper gunner), R .J. Dickie (Navigator).
Photo:- Sharon & Simon Arkell
|L-R: G. E. Day, C. K.
R. J. Dickie, M. C. Skarratt
T. C. Newman
R. I. Stewart, J. M. Ward
On 18 April 2000, I was contacted by Andy Newman, whose late grandfather, Sergeant Thomas Charles Newman (923554), was a member of 460 Squadron based at Binbrook during WWII. He was a Fight Engineer in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Andy told me that he was killed on 24 December 1944 when the Lancaster blew up whilst returning to its base either from a direct hit from enemy anti-aircraft fire or as a result of damage inflicted by the German Air Force. Andy advised that Sgt. Newman was buried in a collective grave in Oostelbeers Catholic Church in Holland, 13 kilometres north west of Eindhoven.
Andy advised that he was about to travel to Holland to collect his grandfather's medal's and log book. Andy advised that their Lancaster was S11.
On 3 January 2000, I was contacted by Tony Newman, of Croydon, Surrey, UK, whose father was the cousin of Sergeant Thomas Charles Newman (923554), the flight engineer on the 460 Squadron flight piloted by M. C. Skarratt and navigated by Robert J. Dickie, which was shot down over Holland on 24 December 1944. He was the only English crew member on the R.A.A.F. flight, all of which were killed that day and are buried together in Holland.
Can anyone help me with more information?
"Australia @ War" WWII Research Products
© Peter Dunn OAM 2020
This page first produced 3 November 1999
This page last updated 22 February 2020