The Loss of the Robertson Crew – German Civilian Reports

‘Three inseparable Canadians’ – Robertson, Crockett and Frizzell, as described by 97 Squadron’s Adjutant, Flight Lieutenant L G Hind, in his scrapbook. The rear-gunner, Hebb, was also Canadian.

LANCASTER JA958K – Crashed at Bubenreuth, near Erlangen, on 28 August 1943

FROM 97 SQUADRON’S OPERATIONS RECORD BOOK

27/28 August 1943 Nuremburg

JA908N  S/L J.H.Sauvage, F/Sgt W.G.Waller, F/O H.A.Hitchcock, F/O F.P.Burbridge, W/O E.Wheeler, F/L J.E.Blair, F/Sgt G.W.Wood.  5 x TI, 1 x 4000lb, 3 x 1000lb.  Up 2141  down 0449.  Nuremburg bombed.  18,000’.  No cloud, no moon.  By Nav aids “Y” bombed workshops and railway marshalling yards and built up area.  No results seen.

JA958K  F/L O.B.Robertson, Sgt W.G.Peel, F/L E.G.Crockett, W/O P.Scott, F/O J.C.Frizzell, F/Sgt W.Wilkes, F/Sgt W.St C.Hebb.  Bomb load as S/L Sauvage.  Up 2143 – aircraft and crew missing.

Robertson’s aircraft took off immediately after Sauvage’s as they were both marker aircraft carrying TIs. Sauvage and his crew survived the war and he lived to 100 years of age.

CREWAll killed except Peel and Scott

 Pilot: F/L Oliver Brock Robertson, RCAF

Flight Engineer: Sgt W G Peel (seriously injured, survived as a prisoner of war)

Navigator: F/L Earl Grant Crockett, RCAF

Bomb Aimer: W/O Peter Scott (uninjured, survived as a prisoner of war)

W/Op: F/O James Clifford Frizzell, RCAF

Mid-Upper Gunner: F/S Walter Ian Leslie Wilkes

Rear Gunner: F/S Warren St Clair Hebb, RCAF


GEMAN EYEWITNESS REPORTS

From the account prepared in 2000 by the Bubenreuth Home Association (a historical society); document given to Dalton Ferris (a relative of Oliver Robertson, the Lancaster pilot) by Karsten Schultz and translated by Sue Kelly.

During the night of August 27/28 1943, a young high-school student by the name of Ernst Veith, barely 14 years old, was standing on the village road of Bubenreuth while his mother and his two younger brothers, and other women and children, were sitting in the air raid shelter in the basement of the Bakery Vestner, to which they had fled when sirens went off, anticipating an air raid on Nuremberg. Suddenly Ernst noticed two aircraft approaching across the forest from the south-west, a British Lancaster pursued by a German Nachtjäger (night fighter). The Lancaster was fired at near Bubenreuth and burst into flames. It turned around near Atzelsberg and continued to fly west in the direction of Dechsendorf. The flames seemed extinguished. The German Nachtjäger kept following closely. The Lancaster, having been fired at for the second time, turned around and crashed behind Bubenreuth in front of the Twin Oaks.

Ernst, the eyewitness of this event, had only to run across some meadows and fields to reach the crash scene, a horrible sight for a 14-year-old. He heard the onboard ammunition spark off and then he noticed a short distance from the aircraft a crew member lying on the ground who had parachuted at the last moment and the rigging had ripped off one arm and one leg. He was not bleeding much and appeared to be fully conscious. Thanks to his knowledge of English, Ernst was able to talk with him. Soon people from the village arrived, women and children, but only a few men as most of them were fighting in the war.

The remaining crewmembers of the Lancaster were dead. Therefore, everyone gathered around the wounded man. Many made fun of his shabby-looking shoes while others shouted, “Kill him at once, the dog!” A few German soldier who happened to be on leave at the time tried to protect the injured man. When he asked for a drink of water, the villagers wanted to fill his helmet with the stagnant water of the Entlas, but then they changed their minds and went to get it instead from the Mueller family whose house was located at the fringes of the village. At the Angermueller Inn where there was a post office, medical help was requested out of Erlangen. The wounded man, who during the entire time never lost consciousness, was transported to a military hospital in Erlangen and recovered from his severe injuries. Later on, it became known that he had received artificial limbs over a six-month period.

There was also a second survivor of the Lancaster. He had parachuted over Atzelsberg after the first attack by the Nachtjäger, was not injured, and was taken to the local ranger who was in possession of a gun.

On the next day the First Lieutenant of the Nachtjäger arrived in Bubenreuth in order to inform himself about the events of the night.

The crash site, of course, also attracted many curious onlookers from the neighbouring villages and many articles were collected from the destroyed aircraft. There was one person who was especially interested in the parachutes. The largest items of the wreckage were taken away a few days later; smaller ones remained for a long time strewn across the fields in front of the Twin Oaks. The trail of oil on the tarred village road gave witness to the fact that the village itself had barely escaped a great catastrophe.

The above has been written down in accordance with statements by Ernst Veith, carpenter in Bubenreuth.

Karl Schmidt of Braeuningshof, owner of the field where the Lancaster crashed, added the following from hearsay (partly from his father Johann Schmitt):

The fact that several people from Bubenreuth, at least at the beginning, had little sympathy for the wounded man was experienced by the old “Barthli” (last name Malter, grandmother of Klara Seuberth) who had taken milk to the wounded man and was consequently reproached.

When the field was dug up later on, small parts of the aircraft kept turning up as well as bones of the separated limbs belonging to the wounded Englishman. At the spot where the tyres burnt, nothing would grow for a long time. The Twin Oaks lost theirs crowns […] but recovered later.

As far as the second survivor is concerned, who had parachuted out over Atzelsberg, he got caught with his parachute in the trees and had to be rescued by the villagers. There was rage against the Englishman here also. When he showed his cross, the crowd jeered. He was delivered into the hands of the ranger who locked him up until he was picked up by the authorities.


For a slightly different account by German witnesses of the loss of the Robertson crew, see the 1947 MRES report.