Report of Lancaster wreckage stored at RAF Gatow

PSparkesW17010056.jpg

Title

Report of Lancaster wreckage stored at RAF Gatow

Description

Report by Ned Sparkes on the wreckage of a Lancaster which had been packed in crates which was inspected at RAF Gatow, Berlin on 26 August 1976. Lists identifiable parts of aircraft and crew equipment. Aircraft was Lancaster "JB640" ot 156 Squadron, RAF Warboys which was posted missing from operation to Berlin on 3 January 1944. Captioned 'This report concerns the wreckage of a Lancaster discovered by East German contractors building a block of flats in East Berlin. The bodies of the crew were returned at a ceremony on one of the bridges across the Spee. I carried out an inspection for the C-in-C Germany in August 1976. My diagnosis was confirmed see extracts from various books since written'.

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One page typewritten document mounted on an album page

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This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

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Identifier

PSparkesW17010056

Transcription

This report concerns the wreckage of a Lancaster discovered by East Germa [sic] contractors building a block of flats in East Berlin The bodies of the crew were returne [sic] at a ceremony on one of the bridges across the Spee.. [sic] I carried out an inspection for he [sic] C. in C. Germany in August 1976. My diagnostic was confirmed see extracts from various books since written

[underlined] REPORT OF AIRCRAFT WRECKAGE AT RAF GATOW [/underlined]

1. Report by H1601722 WO W S SPARKES of RAF Laarbruch, (Halifax and Lancaster Flight Engineer 431 RCAF Sqn, November 1943 – July 1944). Total hours Lancasters 250 including 70 hours Waddington Lancaster 1968 – 1970.

2. Wreckage was inspected at RAF Gatow on 26 August 1976 in company with WO Bennett RAF Laarbruch. Majority of wreckage was contained in five crates, which, for detailed inspection would have required unpacking and laying out. Readily identifiable items were:-

a. 3 Packard built Rolls-Royce Merlin Engines.
b. 1 Hamilton propeller.
c. 2 Lancaster Main U/C legs and main wheel hubs.
d. Lancaster centre section of main spar.
e. Section of aircraft floor with frame of pilots seat attached.
f. Elevator and Rudder transverse control tubes from under aircraft floor beneath pilots seat.
g. Auto-pilot clutches (“Clutches OUT” position) and auto-pilot gyro unit.
h. H2S indicator.
j. Browning .303 machine gun breech cover and feed mechanism marked in white paint [underlined] JB640. [/underlined]
k. 1 Empty bomb carrier.

3. Following items of crew equipment were identified:-

a. 4 Parachute canopies.
b. [deleted] Remains [/deleted] 2 pairs parachute attachment hooks from an observer type harness.
c. 2 Oxygen masks.
d. Remains of 1 pair suede type flying boots (very large size) bottom part of leather escape type flying boot.
e. 2 Mae West inner stoles.
f. 1 Aircrew whistle, 1 escape map, remains of French Bank note, part of Dalton Computer.
g. The securing portion of pilots Sutton harness with all four straps in position and locked by locking pin.

4. The 3 Packard Merlins whilst extensively impacted damaged were in good condition with very little corrosion. Indications were that they had not been in service for any length of time, no servicing marks on nuts etc, and manufacturers seals still intact on contact breaker covers. The engine data plates were missing from all 3 engines. The propellers had a circular hole 1/2" diameter in one blade 2’ from tip in mid chord area. Two .303 Brownings from wreckage were examined at the Station Armoury, they were complete except for the flash eliminators.

5. Nothing identifiable was found of that section of the aircraft, rear of the main spar, in fact the wreckage consisted of the fuselage forward of main spar and its attached wing stub.

[inserted] [underlined] CONCLUSIONS [/underlined] [/inserted] Lancaster III JB640 was one of 550 Lancasters III’s delivered to the service from June to December 1943, JB640 being delivered to 156 Sqn (PFF Backer up) RAF Warboys on 25th November 1943 ex 32 MU, from where it was posted missing from a raid on Berlin 3 Jan 1944.

The wreckage was of a Lancaster III whose engines were of “low miliage", [sic] it was fitted with H2S, standard on pathfinder aircraft, whereas only 25 percent of Main Force [deleted] fitted with H2S [/deleted] were so equipped.

The hole in propellers blade is consistant [sic] with 13mm calibre damage, this could point to the aircraft being attacked by a fighter, if this was in the target area would almost certainly have been a single engine “Wild Boar” fighter, whose secondary armament was 13 mm calibre.

The part of the fuselage recovered consisted of the fuselage forward of main spar and could have contained all or some of the following crew members:-

a. Pilot – Confirmed by locked Sutton harness.
b. Flight Engineer.
c. Bomb Aimer.
d. Navigator.
e. W/Operator.

The remaining part of the fuselage is either still at crash site or more likely was detached at time of crash and recovered at that time.

As it was not normal practice to swop guns between aircraft, it is probable that the guns recovered were from the front turret of JB640 and it is this aircraft and its front crew members [deleted] whose [/deleted] above who were recovered from the crash site.

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Citation

W Sparkes, “Report of Lancaster wreckage stored at RAF Gatow,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 20, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/36407.

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