Pilot: F/O William Patrick Moroney
Flight Engineer: Sgt Frederick Thomas Coulter
Navigator: F/O Martin Jenkins
Bomb Aimer: F/Sgt Geoffrey Stuart Davies
W/Op: Sgt David Dushman
M/U Gunner: F/Sgt John (Jack) Bell
Rear Gunner: Sgt Cecil Albert Mills
LANCASTER Y-YORK – JB731 0F-F
22 March 1944, ditched in sea, all the crew were lost.
From the ORB
22.3.44 14 Lancasters were detailed for operations tonight. Frankfurt was the target and the attack opened on time at 21.45. […] There was slight H/F, searchlights numerous but ineffective. Enemy fighter activity below normal. P/O Cooper and crew failed to return, no news having since been received. F/O Moroney and crew also failed to return, the last message heard was at 20.38 hours, position given as 53.21N 03.45E baling out.
JB731F […] Up 1845. 6 x 2000lb. At 2038 hours an SOS received, no fix. At 2039 hours message received from “Pulham”, position 53.21N 03.45S – baling out. No further news – missing.
The message received by “Pulham” would have been sent by the wireless operator, David Dushman. The aircraft had been in the air for less than two hours. This would have taken it over mainland Europe and it must have been returning to England when it went down, perhaps with the bombs still on board. Either the aircraft had been damaged by enemy attack, or the aircraft had developed a critical technical fault; the former is by far the likeliest explanation. The fact that there was so little time to send the message suggests the aircraft may have been attacked when already damaged and on the way home.
There was a non-operational RAF Station at Pulham St Mary in Norfolk, which appears to have been the place which received the message. Pulham was a little rural place, out in the sticks. The position transmitted by David Dushman was in the North Sea, apparently some seventy miles off the Norfolk coast, so perhaps Pulham was the only station near enough to pick the message up.
The only identifiable body which was recovered was that of Geoffrey Stuart Davies, which was washed up on the island of Juist, one of the German Frisian islands. After the war, as was standard British policy for graves in outlying German territory, his body was removed to the mainland to the nearest cemetery to the original burial site. In Davies’ case, this was Sage War Cemetery, and he was reburied there in April 1947 along with nine other aircrew who had originally been buried at Juist New Cemetery. Only two of the nine aircrew, including Davies, were identified. Davies was only 22 years old. (Commonwealth War Graves Commission records)
The navigator, Flying Officer Martin Jenkins, had attended St Andrews University, graduating with a BSc degree. His family lived at Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire in Scotland. (Commonwealth War Graves Commission records)
The above two images of Coulter are a miraculous survival. They were very kindly donated by Simon Jervis, who wrote in 2011: ‘I collect old photographs mainly relating to the Great War but others if they are re-searchable. These came from a house clearance and once I had worked out who he was I realised that I should try and do something with them. I stumbled across the 97th Squadron website and was very impressed with what I found.’