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Sergeant William Ellis Gough, Lancaster DV332
This page is in memory of William Ellis Gough, known to his family as Ellis, who was killed in 1943 when his Lancaster bomber was shot down over Berlin with the loss of all on board. I am grateful to Patricia Clarke and her sister Marie (Ellis’ neices) who have provided much of the information and images here, with some details kindly provided to them by people on the Facebook group ‘RAF Bomber Command Crews and Aircraft Pictures’
Sergeant Gough was aged 29 and from Oldham in Lancashire, and was an air gunner on Lancaster DV332 WS-D. He had already flown 21 missions with 9 Squadron out of RAF Bardney in Lincolnshire in less than six months, before boarding DV332 for what would be his last (and DV332’s ninth) operation on the afternoon of 02 December 1943.
Looking at his record provided by his niece Marie, one has an idea of the intensity and scale of the losses. For example, I started writing this piece on 08 July 2023, 80 years to the day since Sgt Gough boarded Lancaster R5700 (pictured below). That same Lancaster was lost attacking Hanover on 22 September 1943, while Sgt Gough and his pals were on a different bomber on the same air raid. It should be remembered that at this stage of the war, the chances of a bomber command crew member surviving 30 operations was about one in five.
Image of R5700 from Aircrew Remembered
The air raid on Berlin 02 December 1943
The operation against Berlin was part of the RAF Campaign, the ‘Battle of Berlin,’ between November 1943 and March 1944. Air Chief Marshall Sir Arthur Harris believed that, with the USAAF, they could “wreck Berlin from end to end” and force the Nazi state into defeat. It was not, by any account, a success and the attack on the night of 02 December 1943 was itself largely a failure for various reasons.
Across the north and east of England, 458 aircraft were dispatched that afternoon of which 425 were Lancasters and they assembled over The Wash. The route was to be a straight in and out.
There was no moon and towering clouds causing 10% of the heavy bombers to turn back with icing problems. Those on the ground in Germany quickly identified the intended target was Berlin. Unpredicted high winds caused the bomber stream to scatter and also meant the bombers could not rely on their ‘Window’ air defence.
Luftwaffe night fighters of Nachtjagdgeschwader 3 and Nachtjagdgeschwader 5 – along with the ‘Wild Boars’ of Jagdgeschwader 302 flying FW109s – picked off bombers in the attacking force as it headed for Berlin.
Deceptive measures were attempted in the UK with fake Luftwaffe transmissions ordering the fighters to return to base, but these were identified and ignored by the defenders.
The image above shows coloured target indicators of the sort dropped by the initial Pathfinders, lighting up the target area for the bomber stream to attack.
The Pathfinder units, Mosquitos which dropped the target indicators for the rest to bomb on, were pushed fifteen miles south by the winds.
Thus, while the bombers intended to approach Berlin from the east, drop their bombs and continue in an easterly direction before turning north then west for the journey home, they approached singly having scattered and bombed the south of the city and before unwittingly turning north and into the city’s northern defences.
Above shows very roughly the planned route in and out in red and the actual route in black. The approximate crash location is marked. You can see how DV332 came to be over the south of Berlin.
Middlebrook (1988) says “It is probable that three-quarters of the bombs fell in open country…” It is likely the air crews did not at any time realise they were not bombing the actual target, central Berlin.
40 aircraft (8.7%) were lost, with 228 air crew killed and 60 taken prisoner (with two war correspondents killed and one taken prisoner).
Below are a couple of photos of Lancasters which I took, the first is of the Canadian Lancaster FM213 on a visit to the UK in 2014
And this is Lancaster PA474 photographed at Derwent in 2013
The aircraft was built at Manchester sometime between May and November 1943. DV332 is logged as leaving RAF Bardney (or a satellite station near to it) in Lincolnshire at 16.34. Accounts say no more was heard from the air crew after that.
It was difficult to determine from claims lists by Luftwaffe night fighters, whether DV332 was shot down by one of them or by flak on the ground but it appears the credit was given to a heavy anti-aircraft battery; according to Boiten (2019), DV332 was hit by schwere Flak-Abteilung 513 and schwere Flak-Abteilung 521 and crashed just to the north east of the village of Brusendorf at 20.39. Brusendorf is to the south of Berlin, near to Schönefeld airport. I cannot tell whether DV332 had dropped its bombs when it was destroyed.
The squadron log book says, “Twelve aircraft were detailed to carry out operations at night, the target being BERLIN. There was some cloud over the target, but P.F.F markers were found to be concentrated. Good fires were seen to be burning in the area. “D” (F/LT WELLS) failed to return. “C” (P/O WARWICK) crashed on return to this country.”
Flight Lieutenant Robert Frederick Wells RAFVR, pilot
Pilot Officer Allan Uriah Duncan RAFVR, navigator
Flight Sergeant Kenneth Garnett RAFVR, air bomber
Flight Sergeant Frank Smith RAFVR, wireless operator
Flight Sergeant Stephen Vincent Moss RAFVR, air gunner
Sergeant William Ellis Gough RAFVR, air gunner
Sergeant Douglas John Nuttman RAFVR, flight engineer
Re the crew list above, more than one list says there were two navigators and no air bomber. However, please see the comment below from Paul Markham. It is also worth noting that P/O Duncan was a black airman. Unlike the USAAF which had segregated units, black and south Asian airmen were fully integrated with others in the RAF. Another Lancaster which crashed, this time in Salford in 1944, had on board a black airman, Sgt Arthur Young from Cardiff, and an Indian, Sgt Mohand Singh. See here for more.
William Ellis Gough
Known to his family as Ellis, he was employed as a charge hand at Platt Brothers. He lived at Egyptian Street, Lees in Oldham, Lancashire. Ellis enjoyed playing darts in his spare time. In 1935 he married Jane Hannah Lees at Middleton and they had twins, whom I understand died before their first birthday. Patricia tells me that after his death, his widow moved to Australia.
Sergeant Gough’s grave is at the Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery, his remains having been moved there from an earlier grave at Brusendorf.
Above, Sgt Gough’s grave in Berlin. Photo from Find-a-grave
Above headstone at Greenacres Cemetery in Oldham has a memorial to Ellis.
Telegrams and letters
The telegrams and letters sent to Sgt Gough’s parents are very sad to read. They are provided here with kind permission of his family.
The first is immediately after DV332 failed to return to RAF Bardney
27 January 1944, still no news…
But then the day after, Ellis’ parents received this telegram
Followed a couple of days later by this letter
The following May, Mr & Mrs Gough were told where their son was buried in Brusendorf
In October 1944, a postcard from Pat and Marie’s Uncle John from a Prisoner of War camp in Germany. The person referred to (Danny) was Pat and Marie’s father.
And finally in January 1947 came the news that Ellis’ remains had been transferred to the Commonwealth War Grave Commission cemetery in Berlin
UPDATE 23 September 2023
These photos kindly provided by William Ellis Gough’s neice Marie via Pat. They show:
Redacted copies of Sgt Gough’s service record
Photos Marie took at RAF Bardney in Lincolnshire
His name on the Wall of Names memorial at the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincoln, photo by Marie.
The photo below these showing the spire at the Centre was taken by me April 2023
Boiten, T.E.W., Nachtjagd Combat Archive The Early Years Part 3, 2019
Boiten, T.E.W., Nachtjagd War Diaries – An Operational History of the German Night Fighter Force in the West Volume 1 September 1939 – March 1944, 2011
Johnson, M., Caribbean Volunteers at War – The Forgotten Story of the RAF’s ‘Tuskegee Airmen’, 2014
Middlebrook, M., The Berlin Raids – The Bomber Battle, Winter 1943 – 1944, 2010
Thorburn, G., A Century of Air Warfare With Nine (IX) Squadron, RAF: Still Going Strong, 2014