15/16.10.1939 No. 77 Squadron Whitley Mk III. K8947. F/L Williams. Location: Village of Geinsheim near GroƟ Gerau in the Rhein-Main Area near Frankfurt.
Mission: (“Nickel”) In the area of Möhne- and Eder dams, Germany.

Date: 15/16th October 1939.

Unit: No.77 Squadron R.A.F.

Type: Whitley Mk. III.

Serial: K8947

Code: KN-O

Location: Village of Geinsheim near Groß Gerau in the Rhein-Main Area near Frankfurt.

Pilot: F/L R Williams. (Killed)

Co. Pilot: P/O J Tisley. (P.O.W.)

B/A: Sgt J W Lambert (P.O.W.)

W/Op/A/G: Cpl A R Gunton. (P.O.W.)

A/G: LAC R E Fletcher. (P.O.W.)


Took-off from Villeneuve-les-Vertus (forward base) airfield for a “Nickel” mission in the area Möhne- and Eder dams in Germany. Shortly after take-off the mission was cancelled but the crew never received the radio message due to interference.

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Sister aircraft to K8947 from same production batch Whitley Mk III K8936.

German Historian Michael Balss takes up the story (2019).

In search for the crash site of a German fighter plane near Groß-Gerau (Germany) I meet an old Lady (this was now more than 25 years ago) she told me during the war some soldiers take quarters in their house and one give her some photos of a crashed airplane . I got the photos and it was a British aircraft and here is the “story” (for which I need more than 2 years to get the details):

The crew of five: Pilot FO Ronald Williams; Co. Pilot: P/O J Tisley; B/A Lambert; W/Op R. Gunton; and Gnr. Fletcher.

What the crew didn´t know was shortly after take-off the mission was cancelled as their radio contact was disturbed. The crew completed their mission (it was the second operational mission for them) with success and made the flight back. They also don´t know that they face heavy headwind - much heavier than the weather report told them. After the calculated time to reach allied airspace was over, FO Williams decide to go under the clouds and made contact with the air base. A few seconds after they had been under the clouds the aircraft was caught in searchlights Wop/AG Gunton remembered that they were mad with the French Anti-Aircraft units down there to blind them… Then heavy Anti-Aircraft fire opened up – and the aircraft took a hit seconds later. FO Williams realized that the aircraft was lost and ordered the crew to bail out. He stayed in the Cockpit and tried to keep the plane steady so his crew could bail out (his crew and also reports from the Anti-Aircraft units on the ground stated that the pilot stayed in the aircraft to give his crew the chance to bail out- scarifying his own life) after the last crew member (WOp R. Gunton) bailed out, he could see that shortly after he leave the plane a wing collapsed and the Whitley tumbled uncontrollable down. He lost sight and was soon after landing he was taken prisoner (that´s another story) also his 3 comrades.

The Whitley crashed near the small village of Geinsheim near Groß Gerau in the Rhein-Main Area near Frankfurt. The body of FO Williams was found in the wreckage. He was given a military burial with all honours at the cemetery of Groß Gerau. (The old Lady – Mrs. Schmitt was at the burial – because her brother was a fighter pilot in the German Luftwaffe and she told me: “ if something happens to my brother I wish that also someone be there and I think that’s also the wish of this pilot´s wife, mother and family) An officer from the Anti-Aircraft unit gave a speech and honoured the braveness of the British Pilot who sacrificed his own life so his comrades get out of the stricken plane.

Michael Balss.

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The aircraft was broken into three main sections, here the main wings inverted with engines and cockpit section can be seen, with a chain attached to an engine in left of the photo during the Luftwaffe’s recovery of the body of the pilot F/L Roland Williams.( Michael Balss)

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Flight Lieutenant 37141 Roland Williams R.A.F. Age 23 (left), photographed inside a Whitley aircraft.( Michael Balss)

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The main fuselage section of K8947 clearly showing the squadron code letters.( Michael Balss)

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Remains of the tail section inverted with the tail wheel visible in front of the back of the Luftwaffe recovery crew’s Sdkfz Halftrack.( Michael Balss)

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Newspaper clip about the downing of the Whitley (and later that day a French Potez not far away) (Michael Balss)

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The coffin of Flight Lieutenant Roland Williams on its way to the grave at Groß-Gerau Cemetery, where Ronald was first buried.( Michael Balss)

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The Luftwaffe Guard of Honour at the cemetery at Groß-Gerau Cemetery.( Michael Balss)

Burial Details:

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After the war Ronald Williams was reinterred at the Dürnbach War Cemetery in Bavaria/Germany.

Flight Lieutenant 37141 Roland Williams R.A.F. Age 23. Durnbach War Cemetery, Plot 1, Row H. Grave 24. Son of Horace Stanley Williams and Dorothy Evelyn Williams, of Marton, Yorkshire; husband of Rosemary Vivian Williams.

The P.O.W. Crew members.

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Photo from W/Op R. Gunton of three of the crew taken in the POW Camp Sagan in 1944. (Back row from left to right) Bombardier Lambert, Tail Gunner Fletcher and W/Op R. Gunton.( Michael Balss)

The Co. Pilot: P/O J Tisley was Mentioned In Dispatches on the 31st January 1947, most likely for activities whilst being held captive. Cpl R Gunton was repatriated in 1944 on the S.S. Gripsholm.

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The S.S. Gripsholm belonged to the Swedish American Line, and between 1942 and 1946 was chartered by the American Government for exchange and repatriation duties. Cpl Gunton was included in the September 1944 exchange.

Research material provided by Michael Balss. Page construction and additional research by David King and Alexander King. Additional
credits: W R Chorley Bomber Command Losses Vol 1 1939-40 2
nd Edition, C.W.G.C., R Gunton, Mrs. Schmitt, Geinsheim near Groß Gerau in the Rhein-Main Area near Frankfurt.

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