The Sandiacre Screw Company (8)

Ivan Keith Doncaster was lost on a raid on Kassel by 166 Squadron on October 22nd 1943.  He was the mid-upper gunner in  “Z-Zebra”, an Avro Lancaster Mk III with the squadron letters AS-Z and the serial number EE196…..

The morning after “Z-Zebra” had crashed, and most of the crew had been killed, including Keith Doncaster,  the flight engineer, Arthur Pilbeam, had the appalling task of identifying the four corpses which had so far been found. He thought that they all had been killed by the exploding bombload or had been unable to pull their ripcords after they jumped because they were unconscious.

I have been unable to identify any likely German pilot who might have pulled the trigger. When so many black painted aircraft were shot down in the pitch black, there were so many claims that hardly any of them can be verified:

Let’s take an example from the night of October 22nd-23rd 1943. Oberleutnant Hermann Bertram claimed a four engined aircraft “35 km N Kassel” at an altitude of 4,200 metres. How do we know if it was a Halifax or a Lancaster? Was he definitely “35 km N Kassel”? Did he see it crash? And so on.

Oberleutnant Bertram is not a liar. He is a young man who cannot possibly be 100% certain of what happened. And the same would apply to a very long list of night fighter pilots who might possibly have shot down “Z-Zebra”. These men claimed to have destroyed a Lancaster or a Halifax or a “4-mot flugzeug” and they mentioned Kassel in their claim. No doubt the list is incomplete:

Horst-Rüdiger Blume, Fritz Brandt, Franz Brinkhaus, Victor Emanuel, Leopold Fellerer, Erwin Glass, Ernst Haase, Alfred Heldt, Johannes Hiedlmayer, Werner Hoffmann, Horst John, Otto Kutzner, Hans Leickhardt, Richard Lofgen, Erich Metz, Manfred Meurer, Klaus Möller, Hans von Niebelschütz, Günther Nord, Heinz Oberheide, Ruprecht Panzer, Erhard Peters, Günther Radusch, Lothar Sachs, Josef Sallmütter, Heinrich zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer, Eduard Schröder, Helmuth Schulte, Paul Streuff, Gustav Tham, Kurt Welter, Gerhard Witt, Achim Wœste, Josef Wolfsberger and Fritz Yung.

And here are four of them:

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Eventually, all six of the crew of “Z-Zebra” were found. They were buried in Schwalenberg Cemetery on October 25th 1943. On September 18th 1947, they were all re-interred at Hanover War Cemetery. They occupy five graves that must be next to each other.

Keith Doncaster occupies Grave No 16.E.1, Edward Ellis Jones occupies Grave No 16.E.2, Roy Elkington Ault occupies Grave No 16.E.3, Victor George Deacon occupies Grave No 16.E.4 and Charles Neville Hammond occupies Grave No 16.E.5. The sole American, John Murray Walton, was reburied in the Ardennes American Cemetery at Neuville-en-Condroz in Belgium on an unrecorded date.

The Lancaster’s pilot, Charles Neville Hammond, received a posthumous Distinguished Flying Cross for his bravery and self-sacrifice as he struggled to fly the stricken Lancaster straight and level so that its crew could all escape the burning aircraft.


Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, military, Nottingham, The High School

16 responses to “The Sandiacre Screw Company (8)

  1. This makes me sad/angry/awe-filled

    • It certainly had an effect on me after researching and writing up more than 120 “deaths of young men” for the books I wrote. It was like an extremely watered down version of PTSD perhaps, or maybe just simple depression. The last picture in my blog post says it all.
      And it must have been dreadful beyond our understanding for the poor parents who lost a son.

  2. GP

    Derrick described my own feelings as well. I look into their eyes and can only say, “I’m sorry.”

    • Forwhat it’s worth I think that the blame for that particular war can be laid at the feet of the Kaiser who started WW1 and the Allied politicians who in the Treaty of Versailles insisted that beaten Germany paid enormous sums as reparations for WW1. The discontent that that caused made it easy for some looney tunes nutcase to start attracting followers in the 1920s and 30s. Germany was full of bizarre ideas at the time. Hitler was just the best of them,unfortunately.

      • GP

        Oh, I so agree! Hitler knew that German’s needed a way to build up their self-esteem again and to do that they needed a common enemy to blame. Voila!

  3. Such a waste of life. It is happening now too. But thank you for writing about them.

  4. We all say we know what happened but your small details and the names of the individuals makes it so dreadful sad and angry at the same time. Thank you John.

    • Thank you for your kind words. I have aways thought that the inclusion of all those little details makes a war casualty a real person rather than just a name, a regiment and an address.
      Being sad and angry at the same time are exactly the emotions we should all be having. Angry at the death of a mid upper gunner / teenager, and sad that he’ll never see his parents again, or breathe the air of the town he grew up in.

  5. It’s certainly very difficult to assertion with any accuracy who did what to whom on those dark nights when all around you is a blaze of fire, searchlights and tracers. At the end of the day they are all young men taken from their families far too early.

    • Absolutely. I have always had a lot of time for the wartime Luftwaffe who always tried very hard to keep RAF flyers out of the clutches of the SS and the Gestapo. Judging by their names, a good few in that list are actually members of the nobility… worthy successors to the Red Baron!

  6. Thank you for sharing!!.. sadly it seems that in spite of knowledge and technology, all the human race has managed to do is improve upon the “club” and at the same time claim to be civilized… “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom”. (Isaac Asimov)… 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May your troubles be less
    Your blessings be more
    And nothing but happiness
    Come through your door
    (Irish Saying)

    • Your comparison of society with science describes the problem 100% correctly. Personally,I wish they’d stuck to the trusty old club. At least there’s are strict limits on casualties when a club is involved.

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