Bomber Command target Hanover

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Peter Hill November 22, 2018 at 3:32 am

Hi there,

I don’t know if you can help but I strongly suspect (as does my mother, who knew him well) that the photograph of the pilot giving the thumbs up is of Sgt Kenneth E Stewart who ditched in the sea off Grimsby in a Whitley, Z9211, 30th November 1941. Happily, the crew were all rescued by a nearby trawler. Sadly, and barely a month later, he was killed when his plane was reportedly shot down when on a sortie to bomb Dusseldorf Docks on 27th December 1941 in another Whitley, Z9210, aged 21.

I am still researching his story and gradually piecing things together as two Whitleys were lost from 58 Squadron that night and the RAF records just say that Z9210 did not return. The stories I have found in Dutch and German records and newspapers refer to the other Whitley (Z6841) crashing en route in the sea just off the coast of Holland. So I am more interested in the report of a Whitley being hit by flak over Moers at around 9pm and a Whitley crashing in Viersen, some 20 miles away, killing two German civilians when the plane crashed into two houses in the town. Could this be the same plane? Nothing is certain as yet but it is intriguing as the geography doesn’t quite tie up. The timing of their take off (16:57 UK) and the time of the hit over Moers (21:00 GER = UK+1hr) would suggest that they were on their way back. But would they and could they have been hit over Moers and crashed in Viersen? Viersen is Southwest of Moers. The descent of the plane in Viersen was clearly gradual as the plane just missed the Festival Hall before clipping a large villa and finally crashing into the houses – and from mapping the crash, the plane was travelling in a Northwest direction and descending slowly as it crashed. A witness tells of how fuel leaked from the plane into the cellars of the houses and caught fire, killing the civilians sheltering there. The pilot was still strapped into his seat but not alive and he may well have been talking about Ken. But was there another Whitley lost that night?

I am not 100% sure if your photo is of him but his facial features are remarkably similar to another photo I have of him with my mother as a youngster and he has a tooth missing in the same place. It would be good to somehow confirm the name in the photo and it would be lovely to know who owns it and whether they have any further details. If you can help in any way, I would happily fill you in with all the detail I can find as and when I firm things up. Happily for my mother, I have details and a photo of his grave in Reichwald Forest War Cemetery where he is buried with his fellow crew members.

Thanks in advance

Norman Southam December 29, 2015 at 8:43 pm

The pilot Ralph Woods is writing about was my uncle Sgt John ( Jackie ) Reid, the aircraft was Z6746. Jackie went on to fly with 271 Tpt Sqdn for 18 months, before joinging 605 County of Warwick Sqdn flying Mosquito FBV1’s….he was killed with his observer Ray Phillips on 26th June 1944,during an NFT over Margate he was 23 years old, his observer was 21.

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