01/02.01.1944 No. 156 Squadron Lancaster III JA925 Sq/Ldr. Fawcett D.F.C Location: Berlin-Danlen (Kiebitz weg und Domane)
Mission: Berlin

Date: 1/2nd January 1944 (Saturday/Sunday)

Unit: No. 156 Squadron

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: JA925

Code: GT-L

Base: R.A.F. Warboys, Cambridgeshire.

Location: Berlin-Danlen (Kiebitz weg und Domäne).

Pilot: Sq/Ldr. Rowland Eden Fawcett D.F.C. 43032 R.A.F. Age 26. Killed

Fl/Eng: Fl/Sgt. Roland John Bowen 54028 R.A.F.V.R. Age 23. Killed

Nav: P/O. Percy Robert Lyford D.F.C. 159425 R.A.F.V.R. Age 21. Killed

Air/Bmr: P/O. Geoffrey Vickers 158905 R.A.F.V.R. Age 22. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Bell 1133841 R.A.F.V.R. Age 22. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. George Mathew Headley 2206703 R.A.F.V.R. Age 19. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Brinley Charles Hinks 1074123 R.A.F.V.R. Age 20. Killed


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Took-off from R.A.F. Warboys, Cambridgeshire at 00:19 hrs to bomb the heart of Germany, Berlin. 471 Lancaster’s took part in this operation, one of four attacks on the capital within 10 days. The Luftwaffe night fighters intercepted the bomber stream very early, despite a diversionary raid made on Hamburg by 15 Mosquito's.

A number of the 28 Lancaster losses took place early en-route to the target. A number became victims over Berlin claimed by flak and Night Fighters, with further losses on the return leg from the target. Bombing was scattered in the southern parts of the city with only 21 houses and 1 industrial building destroyed.

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Left to right: Fl/Sgt. Hinks, Fl/Sgt. Bowen.

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Left to right: P/O. Lyford D.F.C., Fl/Sgt. Headley.

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Above left to right: Fl/Sgt. Brinley Hinks, Sgt. John Bell, Fl/Sgt. Brinley Hinks in flying gear, P/O. Percy Lyford D.F.C, taken whilst on leave (see credits)

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Letter sent from Fl/Sgt. Brinley Hinks whilst at R.A.F. Hixon (see credits)

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Above, a touching letter from Fl/Sgt. Brinley Hinks to his family whilst at R.A.F. Warboys (see credits)

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Pathfinder badge citation presented to Fl/Sgt. Hinks, and two page letter sent to his father from Ronald Ames Bowen, the father of Fl/Sgt. Roland John Bowen.

Lancaster JA925 was first thought to have been lost over the sea, further research by Judith Singleton, a relative of Roland Bowen has through contact with the M.O.D. revealed that the crew in fact crashed over Berlin. Letter from M.O.D. with details from there Casualty Files reproduced below.

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Left. Warboys Church Memorial Window. Right Roland Bowen

Roland Bowen Biography by Judith Singleton.

Roland John Bowen was born on 13th July 1920 in Bridgnorth, Shropshire to Elizabeth May and Roland Ames Bowen. He was their first child, and was known by his middle name, John. He had three younger siblings; Barbara, Charles, and Elizabeth. Their father was the mayor of Bridgnorth from 1934 to 1937. John had a great love for the RAF, and was keen to be in the air force as a boy. He joined RAF Halton’s engineering college in January 1937, aged 16. He was always very enthusiastic about his 7 years of service, except perhaps for his time with the Fleet Air Arm, and was happy to get back to the RAF. John often spoke of the wonderful comradeship of this crew at 156 Squadron. He was nicknamed ‘Lofty’ because of his height. John said their pilot, Squadron Leader Rowland Fawcett, was ‘a great guy and he would have gone anywhere with him’. John received a posthumous commission in February 1944, and was appointed Pilot Officer.

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Burial details:

Sq/Ldr. Rowland Eden Fawcett D.F.C. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 200. Further information: From Duncan, British Columbia, Canada. A Canadian who joined the R.A.F. in 1930’s and was on his third tour having amassed 69 Sorties. In 1941 he had been shot down near Tobruk, in a Lysander, with the Army Co-operation unit, managing to find his way back to allied lines.

Fl/Sgt. Roland John Bowen. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 210. Son of Roland Ames and Elizabeth May Bowen of Bridgnorth, Shropshire.

P/O. Percy Robert Lyford D.F.C. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 211. Further information: Son of Francis Robert and Kathleen Elsie Lyford of Willesden Green, Middlesex. Known as “Bob” he and his twin Francis joined up on the same day. (1) His twin brother Flight Sergeant Francis Phillip Lyford RAFVR was killed on an operation to Trossy on 3rd August 1944.

P/O. Geoffrey Vickers. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 212. Son of George and Ada Maud Vickers of Castleford, Yorkshire

Sgt. John Bell. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 215. Son of William and Ellen Bell of Sudden, Lancashire

Fl/Sgt. George Mathew Headley. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 218. Son of Ernest and Rose Headley of Hull

Fl/Sgt. Brinley Charles Hinks. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 218. Further information: Son of Frederick Oswald and Irene Hinks of 3, Argyle Street, Abercynon, Glamorgan. Born 11th July 1923 and known as “Bryn” he was an only son and aged eight when his mother died, his father with the help of an aunt and grandparents raised him and his sister Doreen. Had a wonderful singing voice, winning a gold medal at the Eisteddfod in Wales. In the letters of condolence his singing voice is mentioned and how it moved all who heard him sing. On the back of his Pathfinders certificate is jotted down the words to Verdi’s “La Donna e Mobile” which he was possibly intending to sing at a function in the Mess. After leaving school he worked for the Co-operative Society in Pontypridd before joining the R.A.F. in October 1940 aged 17. He joined 156 Squadron in July 1943, like most of the crew being transferred from 12 Squadron. Letters home to his family relay some of his missions hair raising moments, although he wrote as if he was not part of it, as he didn’t want his grandmother to know that he was flying.” Bryn” was a much loved, considerate and talented young man who is still sadly missed by his family. He had returned home on leave with John Bell of the crew before returning to base in the New Year where he was to lose his life on his next mission.

Researched and page reconstruction by David King & Alexander King Aircrew Remembrance Society, and volunteer researcher Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew. New material in this update thanks to Judith Singleton. Special thanks for photographs and information of Fl/Sgt. Hinks, Fl/Sgt. Headley, Sgt. Bell and Fl/Sgt. Bowen to Lynne Lewis (niece) and Maureen Carter (first cousin). Also to Lucinda Hannant for photographs and information of P/O. Lyford. Further credits. Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten - "Nightfighter War Diaries Vol. 1", Les Allison and Harry Hayward - "They Shall Not Grow Old", Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - "Bomber Command War Diaries", Commonwealth Graves Commission.

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