McCaskill crew – killed 15th April 1943. Crashed Forest of Nismes, Belgium.

McCaskill-Donald-Gordon-World-War-II-1939-1945-29243-649195

Douglas McCaskil, Pilot. Died with the rest of his crew on the 15th April 1943. Age 19

I have been contacted by Guy, with what could potentially be a very interesting request for information – and hopefully contact from relatives – about the McCaskill crew who were lost on the 15th April 1943, their Stirling crashing in Nismes Forest, near Regniessart. All crew were killed and now rest in  the municipal cemetery of Florennes.

Guy has contacted me as he is working in conjunction with the Municipality of Viroinval, in Belgium to gather information to add to the Municipalities commemorations in 2014 of the 100th anniversary of the 1st World War and the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. To this end, anything that we might be able to provide him with would be fantastic and add to the story of the McCaskill boys within these commemorations.

Guy has provided me with some information that he has gathered, I have added a little more regarding a search through the Squadron ORB’s. Kevin has been in touch, but says he knows nothing more about the boys – so this is a real ask to everybody – can we find anything more about the McCaskill boys………??

Douglas McCaskill arrived on Station at Newmarket on the 14th March 1943. The Squadron Form 540 lists Douglas and a set of other airmen (who by trade represent a full crew), James Grainger (Nav.), Bertram Elwell (AB), Reginald Green (W/Op), Angus McVicar (FE), Reginald Smith (AG) and Ernest Cook (AG).

28.3.43. Gardening – St. Nazaire.
Stirling Mk.III BK664 AA-M
Douglas  McCaskill – Pilot.
James  Grainger – Navigator.
Frederick  Bandy – Air Bomber.
Reginald Green – Wireless Operator.
D.J. McIver – Flight Engineer.
Ernest  Cook – Mid Upper Gunner.
Ronald Smith Rear – Gunner

The composition of the crew for its first Op appears a little confusing – based on the implied crew list on arrival at the Newmarket, Sgt. Elwell and McVicar are absent. Fred Bandy the replacement Air Bomber, was already on station (1/3 – 8/3 (3 Ops) with Ray Bennett’s crew, (22/3 1 Op) with Kevin Debenhams crew (he would fly another 3 Ops with the Bennett crew before being lost with them on 29/3/45 on the Wuppertal Raid). F/S D. McIver is a little more puzzling –  D.J. McIver was actually a Wireless Operator, flying with Ken Bettles crew for a single op and a total of  6 Ops with Dick Broadbent’s crew between the 27/4 and 11/6. This leads me to think that in fact F/S McIver’s listing in the crew is incorrect and it should in fact be Angus McVicar.

8.4.43. Gardening – Mining in the Gironde Estuary.
Stirling Mk.III BF513 AA-E
Angus McVicar replaces D.J. McIver as Flight Engineer (possibly, based on the comments on the previous raid).

10.4.43. War Ops – Frankfurt
Stirling Mk.III BF465 JN-K
Bertram Elwell replaces Fred Bandy as Air Bomber.

14.4.43. War Ops – Stuttgart
Stirling Mk.III BF513 AA-E
AIRCRAFT MISSING
ALL CREW LOST.
It is reported that the aircraft crashed after an air combat with Lt. Fritz Graef, I. NJG4 and crashed at 02:25 at Regniessart, 7 km South East of Couvin.

P/O Douglas Gordon McCaskill RNZAF NZ413573. Pilot. Age 19.
Buried Florennes Communal Cemetery Belgium.

P/O James Kennedy Grainger RNZAF NZ42295. Navigator. Age 21.
Buried Florennes Communal Cemetery, Belgium.

Sgt. Bertram Elwell RAFVR 519416. Air Bomber. Age 26.
Buried Florennes Communal Cemetery, Belgium.

Sgt. Reginald Thomas Charles Green RAFVR 1211032. Wireless Operator. Age 21.
Buried Florennes Communal Cemetery, Belgium.

Sgt Angus McVicar RAFVR 1371651. Flight Engineer. Age 20.
Buried Florennes Communal Cemetery, Belgium

Sgt. Ernest Desmond Cook RAFVR 1609864. Mid Upper Gunner. Age 19.
Buried Florennes Communal Cemetery, Belgium

Sgt Ronald Alexander Smith RNZAF NZ415378. Rear Gunner. Age 21.
Buried Florennes Communal Cemetery, Belgium

CRASH MAP

Location of the crash site of the McCaskill crew and BF513 AA-E
image courtesy of GoogleMaps

Guy has also provided a live link to Google maps where you can view the above map – you can view and explore it here.

After the war, James Grainger’s family sought information on fate and resting place of their son. The following is a letter is from the Belgian Consul-General in Wellington to the Mayor of Florennes, who had forwarded them a letter from Jame’s parents asking if they could establish where he had been buried and gather any official information or eyewitness accounts of his plane being shot down. A very big thank you to Angela for providing the English translation of the letter that is underneath the original letter……..

430415 Stirling SN5604

KINGDOM OF BELGIUM
Ministry of the Interior

Brussels, 12 March 1945

MILITARY ADMINISTRATION.
Identification and interment ofwar dead.
No. S.M.40/FLORENNES.
Please quote the above date and reference number in your reply.
1 enclosure

Mr. Mayor,
In a letter dated 26 September 1944, the Belgian Consul-General in WELLINGTON (New Zealand) has advised me of the following:

Pilot Officer James GRAINGER of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, according to information received from the International Red Cross, is interred at FLORENNES cemetery.

Pilot Officer J. GRAINGER was a crew member on a heavy bomber that was shot down during a raid on Germany about 16 months ago, i.e. in or around April 1943.

This airman’s father, who himself fought in the 1914-18 war, would like to know if his son is indeed interred at FLORENNES, and if possible would like to find out more about the circumstances in which the aircraft was shot down. It seems that none of the crew members survived, though some of them did attempt to bail out on their parachutes.

Mr. GRAINGER senior would like to hear from the parish priest of FLORENNES, from the local authorities and/or from local people who might have witnessed the destruction of the aircraft piloted by Pilot Officer GRAINGER.

The father of this valiant officer writes:
“After receiving the news of our son’s death – he was our only son – it was an immense comfort to us to learn that he had been interred in Belgium. I got to know your country well during the last war and I am glad that he has been laid to rest there.”

I kindly ask you to let me know whether the remains of Pilot Officer James GRAINGER are indeed interred at FLORENNES cemetery, and, if so, to provide me with all information you are able to gather regarding his death and burial (grave number, coffin number, number in register of burials) and (… sentence cuts off abruptly at this point …)

To the Mayor of FLORENNES,
(Province of NAMUR).

1 thought on “McCaskill crew – killed 15th April 1943. Crashed Forest of Nismes, Belgium.

  1. Jared Davidson

    My name is Jared and I am a research archivist at Archives New Zealand. I am happy to report that Guy also contacted us, and I was able to provide him with biographies of McCaskill, Grainger and Smith from our records (we hold bound volumes of biographies of deceased personnel, arranged alphabetically – http://www.archway.archives.govt.nz/ViewFullItem.do?code=17845607 – and also other 75 (NZ) Squadron records in the collection).

    Your website has been very helpful, so keep up the great work

    Jared
    Archives New Zealand

    Like

    Reply

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