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6 November 2017
Investigation Report for Loss of Halifax III NA-240 Z5-V

The following Investigation Report of the loss of Halifax III NA240 Z5-V and its Crew, dated 14 October 1947, has been transcribed in full. It has been extracted from copies of the same document in each of the Casualty Files (Series A705) of the five RAAF members of the Crew who died in the crash. As far as possible, format is as per the original, including all inconsistencies and errors. (Comments & corrections are bracketed in italics.)
Official RAAF correspondence dated 5 July 1948 advised of the acceptance of individual graves for the final two members of the Crew, previously unidentified.
Letters sent to the next-of-kin of the crew, regarding this Investigation Report, have previously been transcribed and are included in chronological sequence on the various crew pages – please use links below. There is no copy of the Report, or any correspondence related to it, in the Casualty File of crash survivor F/Sgt Maxwell James Hibberd.
Comments relating to the Report of 14 October 1947, and Letter of 5 July 1948.

......... (quote)

INVESTIGATION REPORT

From:       BERLIN DETACHMENT, No.4 M.R. & E.U., R.A.F. (GERMANY)

To:         Air Ministry S.7 Cas. 2, Seville Street, London, S.W.1.

Copies to:  H.Q. 4 M.R.E.U., R.A.A.F., Files.

Date:       14th October, 1947.

Your File or Folder Reference:      1401/10110/P.4.

Your Casualty Enquiry Number:       675

Our Reference:                      4 MREU/1111/675/P.4

Name of Search Officer:             F/Lt. I.R. MACINTYRE

Target:                             LEIPZIG

Aircraft Type and Serial Number:    Halifax N.A. 240 Z 5

Date reported missing:              10.4.45.

Place of Crash, with map reference:       ZAASCH M 52/E 1437

Place of burial, with map reference:      ZAASCH M 52/E 1437

Crew:

Aus.409532   F/O   M. FRANK          A/B   RAAF  M.B.K.
Aus.427182   F/O   A. BALL           Pilot       “
Aus.436113   F/S   N.V.Evans         NAV.  “      “
Aus 432346   W/O.  R.R.TAYLOR        W/Op. “      “
Aus.435342   F/S.  M.J.HIBBERD       R/G.  “    Safe
Aus.430788   F/S.  J.M. TAIT         M/U/G “    M.B.K.
    546437   Sgt.  F. BROOKES        F/E   RAF         (sic)
    179888   P/O.  J. HEGGARTY       A/G   RAF   M.B.K.

RESULTS OF INVESTIGATION AND FINDINGS:

      Whilst on an exhumation trip in the Russian zone of Germany
as RAF witnessing officer with Capt. D. Gowers team commander and
a Russian Conducting officer, we visited ZAASCH to exhume and attempt
to identify the British airmen buried in the village cemetery.

WITNESS INTERROGATED

      Herr KRONE, a farmer from ZAASCH.

AIRCRAFT

      The above witness made the following statement regarding
an aircraft crash. At about midnight on the 12th (sic) April, 1945, a
four engine British bomber approached the village of ZAASCH from
the North.

      It was on fire and exploded in the air, scattering burning
wreckage over a large area. The majority of the remains landed
some two hundred metres North of the village cemetery.

      About three or four weeks after the crash the entire
wreckage was removed by German officials to an unknown destination.

AIRCREW

      From amongst the wreckage seven casualties were recovered,
three badly burnt and the other four in a smashed condition. German
officials inspected the bodies and removed all papers and personal
effects.

      The day after the crash the seven bodies were buried in a
communal grave in the North West corner of the Cemetery. They were
buried without coffins and without rites. The grave was found to
be in good condition and was marked with a plain cross bearing no
inscription.

EXHUMATION

      This was carried out on the 30th September, 1947, and revealed
the following information:-

Body 1       F/S N.V. EVANS    (Navigator’s brevet)

Body 2       F/O A. BALL       (Pilot’s brevet)

Body 3       F/O M. FRANK      (Identity disc)

Body 4       W/O R. TAYLOR     (form 1250 (R) with name F/S TAYLOR)

Body 5       Unknown

Body 6       Unknown

Body 7       F/S J.M. TAIT     (F/Sgt’s chevrons and crown)

      These seven casualties have now been reburied in the
British War Cemetery HEERSTRASSE, BERLIN, as follows:-

Body 1       Plot  IV    Row   Z     Grave 8

Body 2             IV          Z           9

Body 3             IV          Z           7

Body 4             IV          Z           10

Body 5             IV          Z           11

Body 6             IV          Z           12

Body 7             IV          Z           13

CONCLUSION

      Halifax N.A. 240 Z.5 was shot down and exploded in the
air over the village of ZAASCH. Seven members of its crew were
killed and buried in the village cemetery ZAASCH.

      It is suggested that the five graves in HEERSTRASSE for
the crew members named above be registered separately and that
graves 11 and 12 in row Z, plot IV be registered collectively for
P/P.(sic) HEGGARTY and Sgt. BROOKES.

                   (Sgd.)      IAN R. MACINTYRE F/Lt.
Investigation Officer,
BERLIN DETACHMENT, M.R.E.S., R.A.F.

                  (Sgd.)      J.W. WILLIS RICHARDS S/Ldr.
Officer Commanding,
BERLIN DETACHMENT, M.R.E.S., R.A.F.

................ (end of quote)

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5 July 1948 – Letter from RAAF Overseas Headquarters, London to The Secretary, Air Board, Melbourne .... (quote)

COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA.

Royal Australian Air Force,
Overseas Headquarters,
Canberra House,
85-87 Jermyn Street,
LONDON. S.W.1.

1401/10111/P.4(28A)

5 Jul 48.

03001.

The Secretary,
Air Board,
Victoria Barracks,
St. Kilda Road,
Melbourne,
Victoria, AUSTRALIA.

Flying Officer M. FRANK (Aus. 409532)
Aus.436113 Flight Sergeant EVANS, N.V.
Flying Officer A.D.J. BALL (Aus.427182)
Aus.432346 Warrant Officer TAYLOR, R.R.
Aus.430788 Flight Sergeant TAIT, J.M.
...............DECEASED...............


Forwarded herewith is copy of report from No.4
Missing Research and Enquiry Unit dated 14 Oct 47 relating to
the recovery of the remains of the members of this crew and
the means of identification.

2.         We have now received the final graves registration
form confirming the concentration details shown in the report.

3.         Air Ministry have accepted Graves 11 and 12
respectively for Sergeant BROOKES and Flying Officer HEGGARTY.

(Sgd.) D.A. Wright,
Squadron Leader,
For Air Commodore,
Air Officer Commanding.

Encl.

................ (end of quote.)

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Letters sent to the next-of-kin of the crew regarding this Investigation Report, have previously been transcribed and are included in chronological sequence on the various crew pages – please use links below.

Pilot – Flying Officer Alfred Desmond John BALL, 427182 RAAF
12 April 1948 – Letter from The Secretary, Casualty Section to Mr F.A.Ball (father) …… RAAF 166/5/1064(47A)
12 April 1948 – Letter from The Secretary, Casualty Section to Miss J.Little (fiancée) … RAAF 166/5/1064(46A) … (wording similar to letter of same date to Mr Ball).
26 July 1948 – Letter from The Secretary, Air Board Melbourne to Mr F.A.Ball …… RAAF 166/5/1064(49A)
5 August 1948 – Letter from The Secretary, Air Board, Melbourne to Mr F.A.Ball ...... RAAF 166/5/1064(50A)

Navigator – Flight Sergeant Neil Vernon EVANS, 436113 RAAF
12 April 1948 – Letter from The Secretary, Casualty Section to Mr G.V. Evans (father) …… RAAF 166/12/174(47A)
12 April 1948 – Letter from The Secretary, Casualty Section to Miss J.B.M. Richards, (fiancée) ... RAAF 166/12/174(46A) … (Wording similar to letter of same date to Mr Evans).
27 July 1948 – Letter from The Secretary, Air Board Melbourne to Mr G.V. Evans …… RAAF 166/12/174(50A)
5 August 1948 – Letter from The Secretary, Air Board, Melbourne to Mr G.V. Evans ..... RAAF 166/12/174

Bomb Aimer Flying Officer Murray FRANK, 409532 RAAF
30 March 1948 – Letter from The Secretary, Casualty Section to Mrs. R.C. Frank (Canada) (wife) …… RAAF 166/14/403(33A)
30 March 1948 – Letter from The Secretary, Casualty Section to Mr. W.C. Frank (Australia) (father) … RAAF 166/14/403(34A) … (wording almost identical to letter of same date to Mrs. R.C. Frank).
12 August 1948 – Letter from The Secretary, Air Board Melbourne to Mrs. R.C. Frank (Canada) ……… RAAF 166/14/403(36A)
12 August 1948 – Letter from The Secretary, Air Board, Melbourne to Mr W.C. Frank (Australia) ... RAAF 166/14/403(37A) … (wording almost identical to letter of same date to Mrs. R.C. Frank).

Wireless Operator – Warrant Officer Ronald Reginald TAYLOR, 432346 RAAF
12 April 1948 – Letter from the Casualty Section to Mr J.B. Taylor (father)
26 July 1948 – Letter from The Secretary, Air Board Melbourne to Mr J.B.Taylor
5 August 1948 – Letter from The Secretary, Air Board Melbourne to Mr J.B.Taylor

Mid-Upper Gunner – Flight Sergeant John Mickle TAIT, 430788 RAAF
9 April 1948 – Letter from the Casualty Section to Mr G.W.Tait (father)
5 August 1948 – Letter from The Secretary, Air Board Melbourne to Mr G.W.Tait

Most likely there would also be similar copies in the Service or Casualty Files of the RAF/RAFVR members of the Crew who died:–

Flight Engineer – Sergeant Frederick BROOKES 546437 RAF;
Special Duties Operator – Flying Officer John HEGGARTY 179888 (1238295) RAFVR.

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Comments relating to the Report of 14 October 1947, and Letter of 5 July 1948.

Time of crash
The Witness's statement described the crash as being "at about midnight on 12 April 1945". This was obviously incorrect as the crash occurred on the night of 10 April 1945. The date of the Witness's interrogation is not recorded in the Report, however one could assume it was around the time of the exhumation, 30 September 1947. The time delay between the crash date and the witness's interrogation, approximately 2 years and 6 months, may have contributed to his incorrect memory recall regarding the date. Alternately, it may simply be a typing error on the Report.
Ex-PoW interviews and statements made by crash survivor F/Sgt M.J. Hibberd (refer to MJH Service File or MJH PoW file) gave the crash time as "about ten o'clock at night" in one interview, and "at approximately 2200 hours" in another interview. From the Squadron ORB Form 541 for 10 April 1945, the recorded departure time from Foulsham base for Halifax NA240 was 1910 hours (7:10pm). From the Aircraft Loss File, the departure time was 1910 hours, with fuel load of 2460 gallons allowing for 10 hours flying time. Two other 462 Squadron aircraft also participated in the Protective Patrol with the Main Force to Leipzig on the 10 April. One took off from Foulsham at 1902 hours and returned at 0242 hours, a flying time of 7 hours 40 minutes. The second took off at 1912 hours and returned at 0237 hours, with a flying time of 7 hours 25 minutes. Zaasch, where NA240 crashed, is approximately 19.5 km (12.1 miles) in a direct line from the target, the Wahren Rail Yards at Leipzig. Therefore NA240 was only about three minutes from the target. (Calculated from cruising speed of 230mph at 20,000ft as advised in "Halifax at War" by Brian J. Rapier, 1994 Ed'n.) The flight plan co-ordinates have been obtained and will be mapped and added as another page on this website at a later date. However, the scheduled times for arrival at each co-ordinate were not obtained. At this stage, it is not certain whether the crash would have occurred at 10.00 pm as per the Rear Gunner's ex-PoW statements, or at midnight as per the German Witness's statement. However, if midnight was correct, then the flight from target back to base would have needed a strong tail wind. From Base at 1910 hours, to Target at midnight, results in approximately 4 hours 50 minutes flying time. To arrive back at Base as recorded at 0237 and 0242 hours, the return flying time from target to base would be approximately 2 hours 40 minutes.
Also on the night of 10 April 1945, seven 462 Squadron aircraft participated in a Spoof Raid to Plauen (approximately 100 km south of Leipzig) and all seven departed between 1836 hours and 1857 hours. They all returned between 0217 and 0310 hours, the quickest flight time being 7 hours 37 minutes, and the slowest 8 hours 34 minutes.

Identification of bodies
The Crash Investigation Report noted that "From amongst the wreckage seven casualties were recovered, three badly burnt and the other four in a smashed condition. German officials inspected the bodies and removed all papers and personal effects."
However, the German officials obviously missed the Bomb Aimer's (FRANK) identity disc, and the Wireless Operator's (TAYLOR) identity card, R.A.F. Form 1250 (R). These two items allowed their bodies to be identified.
From Rear Gunner F/Sgt M.J.Hibberd's ex-PoW interviews, he consistently maintained that he saw the undamaged identity cards of Pilot (BALL), Bomb Aimer (FRANK) and Wireless Operator (TAYLOR), as well as one undamaged round identity disc of Navigator (EVANS) on the table in 'SS HQ at Delitch' (sic, this is the phonetic spelling of Delitzsch).
The Rear Gunner ex-PoW interviews consistently state that the aircraft was first hit by flak in the star-board wing, then amidships, and finally outside the rear turret.
Because the three identity cards and the one identity disc seen by the Rear Gunner were not damaged or burnt, one could assume that the four bodies described as "in a smashed condition" belonged to the Pilot (BALL), Bomb Aimer (FRANK), Wireless Operator (TAYLOR), and Navigator (EVANS). The Crew positions for these were all towards the front of the aircraft.
The crew positions of the Engineer, Special Equipment Operator and Mid Upper Gunner were all located closest to "amidships", so would have been closest to any fire in that area.
One could assume that the three bodies which were "badly burnt" were those of the Engineer (BROOKES), Special Equipment Operator (HEGGARTY) and Mid Upper Gunner (TAIT). The bodies of BROOKES and HEGGARTY were the last to be identified, and this could have been because they were badly burnt. This could also mean that their crew positions took the full force of the flak and subsequent fire.
TAIT was identified by his F/Sgt’s chevrons and crown, so these were obviously not destroyed by fire.
Navigator EVANS, also a Flight Sergeant, has been identified by his Navigator's brevet, as had Pilot BALL by his Pilot's brevet.
The later correspondence of 5 July 1948 advised that BROOKES and HEGGARTY had been allocated individual graves, instead of the initial collective grave as described in the Report of 14 October 1947. It is assumed that individual identification had been made by some method not mentioned. Brookes was a RAF Sergeant with Engineer brevets, and HEGGARTY was a RAFVR Pilot/Flying Officer with Air Gunner brevets, so perhaps one or more of these items survived the fire to allow their positive identification.

Wreckage
The German Witness's statement "About three or four weeks after the crash the entire wreckage was removed by German officials to an unknown destination." Further information may be viewed on the page detailing the disposal of the aircraft wreckage.

Photographs
Photos relating to this Crash Investigation Report may be viewed by following these links to the crash site at the northern outskirts of Zaasch, the communal grave at the Zaasch cemetery, and the graves in the Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery, or by returning to the Crash Details page and following the links there.

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