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Sgt JM Weir 576 Squadron RAF

Discussion in 'Military Service Records & Genealogical Research' started by simonweir, Nov 2, 2009.

  1. simonweir

    simonweir Member

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    While the British Royal Air Force (RAF) searched in vain for a missing plane and pilot, the U. S. Army Graves Registration Office was attempting to determine what was buried in the village cemetery under U. S. control near Blosville, France.
    Robert J. Sarvis left the State Teachers College at Murfreesboro (now MTSU) in 1941 to join the Royal Canadian Air Force. His wife, the former Juanita Hindman, remained in Rutherford County with her parents on North Maple Street in Murfreesboro.
    In July 1944, after transfer into the U.S. Army Air Force and assignment to the British Royal Air Force, Sarvis was commanding a Lancaster bomber crew supporting the Allied drive across France. During a night raid on July 24, his plane was hit by both enemy and "friendly" fire. All six of his crew parachuted to safety, but Sarvis and his plane literally disappeared.
    One year later, the U. S. War Department issued an official "finding of death." Although lacking proof of a war casualty (human remains or witness testimony), the government based its "finding" on the fact that Flight Officer Robert J. Sarvis had been "missing in action" for more than 12 months, and all efforts to find a crash site or remains had failed.
    Reports from the bomber crew survivors, specifically the "rear gunner" who was the last to parachute, confirmed that Sarvis had ordered all to abandon the plane and was himself in jump gear and holding the plane in level flight for evacuation by the crew. "The rear gunner was on the point of leaving when (the plane) was again hit by (friendly fire)," according to an RAF report. "When parachuting down, the wireless operator saw the plane repeatedly hit by flak until it crashed and began to burn."
    When search crews reached the site of the reported crash on the following day, they found nothing. Meanwhile, local personnel in a nearby village found and delivered to U. S. forces a severed right arm and hand. The appendage was promptly fingerprinted and buried as Unknown X-104, Plot R, Row 9, Grave 179, Blosville Cemetery, France. Seven months later, the Graves Registration Officer, First U. S. Army, formally requested that an investigation be conducted in compliance with usual procedures.
    The investigation request stated: "The deceased is believed to have been hit by a plane when it crashed in the vicinity of Liesville, France...The EMT that accompanied the remains to the cemetery gave the following information: Near quarry G-7, Co. C, 299 Engr., Magnitude, Sugar." The adjutant for the 299th Engineer Combat Battalion promptly confirmed that the unknown "portion of body" found in the Liesville vicinity "was not a member of this command...It is believed that the unknown X-104 was a member of the RAF." The Engineer command identified two other units in the area-an anti-aircraft battery and a signal battalion. Both of these units also confirmed no losses of the described nature.
    The investigation request stated: "The deceased is believed to have been hit by a plane when it crashed in the vicinity of Liesville, France...The EMT that accompanied the remains to the cemetery gave the following information: Near quarry G-7, Co. C, 299 Engr., Magnitude, Sugar." The adjutant for the 299th Engineer Combat Battalion promptly confirmed that the unknown "portion of body" found in the Liesville vicinity "was not a member of this command...It is believed that the unknown X-104 was a member of the RAF." The Engineer command identified two other units in the area-an anti-aircraft battery and a signal battalion. Both of these units also confirmed no losses of the described nature.
    While the war zone investigation was being pursued, the fingerprints were sent to the U. S. Federal Bureau of Investigation in January 1945. In a February memorandum initialed by J. Edgar Hoover, the Bureau advised "that these fingerprints have been searched...through the files of this Bureau without effecting an identification." But in a later memorandum, dated August 24, 1945, Hoover announced that the prints had been positively identified as "Robert Joseph Sarvis, Army serial #10601593." (Because Sarvis had entered the U. S. Army Air Force "laterally" from the Royal Canadian Air Force in Europe in December 1943, his identification records were not readily available to the FBI in early 1945.)
     
  2. simonweir

    simonweir Member

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    My dad managed to find Savis grave on Saturday. He was very moved.
     
  3. DrGould

    DrGould recruit

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    My wife and I visited the museum at St Mere Eglise last week. You may know that there is a part of the Lancaster propeller exhibited. My attention was drawn to it by the crew list. The W/Op for the mission was Sgt Coates. My father flew in late 1944 and early 1945 with 576 Squadron. He was injured on a mission to Dortmund in late November 1944 and grounded until early February 1945. He flew with his original crew on a training flight in February 1945 and was due to go on operations again with them. His replacement was Sgt Coates who said to my father that he had this mission to complete his tour. They were all lost without trace on a mission to Dortmund on 20/21 February 1945. Such is fate. My father who passed away 15 years ago always wanted to find out what happened to them.
     
  4. simonweir

    simonweir Member

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    Dr Gould, thank you for the info. Am going to research this crash and find out if it was the same Coates. I have his wedding photo, see attached.
     

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  5. simonweir

    simonweir Member

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    I am looking for further info on this crash....Lancaster NF975

    Serial Range NF906 - NG503 This aircraft was one of 400 Lancaster Mk.1s ordered from Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft (Baginton) and deliver4ed from Jul44 to Feb45 mainly with Merlin 24 engines from Baginton and Bitteswell. NF975 was delivered to 576 Sqdn 3Aug44. Took part inthe following Key Operations: Fontenay-le-Marmion 7/8Aug44-Tactical; Cologne 30/31Oct44; Duren 16Nov44-Daylight; Merseburg 6/7Dec44; essen 12/13dec44; Nuremburg 2/3jan45; Munich 7/8Jan45; Dresden12/13Feb45; Dortmund 20/21Feb45-Lost. No record of total hours. Airborne 2141 20feb45 from Fiskerton. Lost without trace. all are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. F/O R.S.Bastick KIA Sgt F.G.J.Martin KIA F/S W.G.Frost RAAF KIA F/S W.V.Bibby KIA F/S J.Coates KIA Sgt H.A.Sargent KIA Sgt R.L.Swaffer KIA

    The Wireless Op was the same Sgt Coates from my grandfathers crew on PB265.
     
  6. alieneyes

    alieneyes Member

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    Dr. Gould and Simon,

    Go here:

    National Archives of Australia - General search

    Enter "NF975" "without quotes" where it says "Keyword". Click "Search". New window opens, click "Display". New window opens, click "Request copy" and follow instructions.

    As F/Sgt Frost was Royal Australian Air Force you can have his casualty file, known as an A705, dealing with the loss of this aircraft, digitized for $15.00 AUD, or about 10 quid. Takes about three weeks. Least amount of information I have ever seen in one? 12 pages. The most? 188. Unfortunately as this aircraft was lost without a trace the exercise may prove futile except to provide background . Commemorated on Runnymede implies no KNOWN grave.

    Without Frost being on this aircraft there would be no information at all except to next of kin as the rest of the crew were RAF.

    Hope this helps.
     
  7. simonweir

    simonweir Member

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    Alieneyes, as usual u r a great help. will check it out.
     
  8. simonweir

    simonweir Member

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    SGT J COATES was on his 29th mission when he was killed.
    They were...

    06/06/1944 - op#1 - VIRE (BRIDGE)
    12/06/1944 - op#2 - GELSEN KIRCHEN (OIL PLANT)
    14/06/1944 - op#3 - LE HAVRE (E BOAT PENS)
    16/06/1944 - op#4 - STERKRADE (OIL PLANT)
    17/06/1944 - op#5 - AULNOYE RAILWAY BRIDGE
    23/06/1944 - op#6 - SAINTES RAILWAY MARSHALLING YARD
    24/06/1944 - op#7 - FLERS (PILOLESS PLANE BASE)
    27/06/1944 - op#8 - CHATEAU BERIVAPRE
    29/06/1944 - op#9 - DOMLEGER
    02/07/1944 - op#10 - DOMLEGER (P.P SUPPLY BASE)
    04/07/1944 - op#11 - ORLEANS (MAR. YARD)
    05/07/1944 - op#12 - DIJON
    07/07/1944 - op#13 - CAEN (GROUND DEFENCES)
    12/07/1944 - op#14 - REVIGNY (DIVERTED MAR. YARD)
    14/07/1944 - op#15 - REVIGNY (DIVERTED MAR. YARD)
    18/07/1944 - op#16 - SANNERVILLE
    18/07/1944 - op#17 - SCHOLVEN
    20/07/1944 - op#18 - WIZERNES
    23/07/1944 - op#19 - KIEL
    24/07/1944 - op#20 - STUTTGART (MISSING)

    At this point the Sarvis Crew were broken up. Coates joined the Bastick Crew at Fiskerton. Their missions together were:

    29/12/1944 - op#21 - GELSENKIRCHEN
    03/01/1945 - op#22 - ROYAN
    14/01/1945 - op#23 - MERSEBURG
    16/01/1945 - op#24 - ZEITZ
    22/01/1945 - op#25 - DUISBERG
    01/02/1945 - op#26 - LUDWIGSHAFEN
    02/02/1945 - op#27 - WIESBADEN
    03/02/1945 - op#28 - BOTTROP
    20/02/1945 - op#29 - DORTMUND(MISSING)

    So unless he had flown an extra mission on another Lancaster, the Dortmund raid was Coates 29th, one short of his full tour of duty.
     

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  9. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Once again great info Simon. I see he flew to Orleans on July 4th. 1944

    This was a diversion bombing to allow many more bombers to attack St Leu Esserent (V1 storage) . The bombing of Olreans was a torla succes, the Fleury les Aubrais Station was absolutely zapped and a train full of Gemrans on thier way home was hit by a bomb which in turn put an amno train on fire. Those who survived tried to hide in French shelters near the station. In one of those about a hundred Germans went down the stairs when a bomb fel lthrough a ventilation chimney right into their hiding place, killing all of them. The next day the population found Kriegsmarine spoons, dictionnaries and even a gothic printed English language Shakespeare book among the helmets and the gear.
     
  10. simonweir

    simonweir Member

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    My grandfather was bomb aimer on that one.
     
  11. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    there are at least 25 claims by the LW night fighter force, sadly nothing seems to correspond for the Dortmund February 45 mission. Simon you may be interested to know that Herbert Rauh again claimed/given credit: 1 Lancaster though he told me he shot down 2 for his last victories of the war.

    overall it was a night for NJG 1 a few sorties flown by NJG 4 and even the Bf 109G-10's were up from Stab./NJG 11 as F-K Müller was given credit for two though I find this doubtful.
     
  12. DrGould

    DrGould recruit

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    Folks - not certain if I have the protocol right about threads but ...

    Thanks for the info so far about NF975 and Coates (BTW was he W/O by then?)

    My father flew with the Bastick crew on 30.11.1944 - I think he had been injured the day before on a mission to Dortmund and was grounded due to burst eardrums from a shell exploding near him.

    He returns to the crew on 15,2,1945 for a training mission (Bombing, Air Sea Firing and Y runs (?)). As I said before he was due to go on the mission 20/21 Feb but Coates - who had been his replacement asked to go instead to complete his tour. My father thought it was the last mission of his tour but ... I also seem to recall something about some missions to France and Italy counting less to a tour?

    I have the navigator's (Frost) record which makes interesting reading.
     
  13. Icare9

    Icare9 Member

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    Whilst with OTU's and HCU's many crews flew "Gardening" operations to drop sea mines off the coast, usually around the same time as the Main Force bombers, so as to divert or swamp the German defences.

    It was held that as they weren't intended to reach the coast, these raids were less hazardous (!) than the main attack, therefore were counted as one third or half (once it was recognised that they were still dangerous!!). Therefore both Coates and Gould could have had one, two or even more credits prior to joining 76.

    30 wasn't a hard and fast rule. Depending on the crews attitude, severity of the previous sorties etc, there was discretion to "pull" a crew before 30 was reached, so as to provide expert instructors, tour factories to boost morale etc etc. As shown above, the crew wouldn't necessarily all reach the magic 30 mark at the same time, with leave, courses, sickness or injury meaning that the same crew were not always on every raid, the same way they didn't always have a specific aircraft as "theirs".
     
  14. simonweir

    simonweir Member

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    Thanks to Dr Gould we may have found the 'missing' 29th op in Jan 45, so it was Jack Coates last op. He requested to take Dr Gould's father's place to complete the tour. How sad. When I have the exact date I will post here.
    Had a wonderful chat with my great aunt Betty, sister of Sgt Jackie Weir (Bomb Aimer). She remembers the crew well socialising in Glasgow on leave and staying at the family home in Ballieston. She also reckons that Tom Clark and Roy Gordon, the Canadiens were badly injured in the fall. Roy had broken his feet and Tom broke his back. She suspects they never flew again with 576 squadron.
     
  15. DrGould

    DrGould recruit

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    The ORB on 14/15.1.1945 for 576 Squadron shows my father flying with the crew of NF975 J2. I know that he was grounded then and his logbook shows that. I guess that it was Coates who replaced him.
     
  16. simonweir

    simonweir Member

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    At last I have managed to scan my grandfather's log book. Any observations or further info would be much appreciated! I have attached the OPS pages from 1944. Enjoy!
     

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  17. simonweir

    simonweir Member

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    On this day, 67 years ago, Lancaster PB265 lay burnt out and shattered on a road in Carquebut, it's American pilot dead in the wreckage. Two of the crew lay badly injured in fields near Carentan, one with a broken back, the other with shattered feet. The Engineer was on the run near St Lo, my Grandfather hiding in a field in Normandy and the W/Op hiding nearby, parachutes hidden in bushes, their insignia removed...
     
  18. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    My thoughts go to PB265. Glad you are sill honoring the memory of the fallen and nice to see you back here btw.

    :poppy:
     
  19. Fred Wilson

    Fred Wilson "The" Rogue of Rogues

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    simonweir likes this.
  20. simonweir

    simonweir Member

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    Synchronistic timing Fred! I'd like to find out everything I can about this raid, especially over France on the way there.
     

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