I regret to inform you of the death of former Flight Sergeant Donald F Clement RCAF on 17th January 2013 at St Catherines, Ontario, Canada. Donald was the sole survivor of Lancaster CA-Q (PB 848), shot down on the night of 2/3 Feb 1945 over Karlsruhe. Donald was one of four rear gunners who were the sole survivors of 189 Sqn Lancasters that night.

Donald was born at St Catharines, Ontario on 21st November 1923. He enlisted into the RCAF on 8th Dec 1942 and trained in Canada at Trenton, Guelph, London and MacDonald. He gained his Air Gunner wing on 26th Nov 1943, and was sent to UK on the troopship ANDES, recalling sea-sickness en route. In UK he joined his future crew and they carried out further training at 17 OTU (Silverstone/Turweston), 1654 HCU (Wigsley) and 5 LFS (Syerston).

His crew were:
J89570 F/Lt N P Blain RCAF – Pilot
R183745 WO2 R E Fulcher RCAF – Navigator
74675 F/Sgt F T J Nicholls RAF – Flight Engineer
153892 F/O K S Porter RAFVR – Bomb Aimer
1399114 Sgt K C R Alder RAF – Wireless Op
1595042 F/Sgt A E Smith – Mid Upper Gunner
R208368 F/Sgt D F Clement RCAF – Rear Gunner (sole survivor)

Their tour of duty began with 61 Sqn RAF in Sep ’44. Their first operational mission was on 10th Sep against Le Havre with a bomb load of eleven 1000 lb and four 500 lb GP bombs. Further missions were flown against Le Havre (again), Stuttgart, Boulogne, Bremerhaven, Munchen Gladbach, Munster, Karlsruhe, Kaiserslautern, Flushing and Brunswick. Their 12th and last operational mission with 61 Sqn was on 19th Oct ’44 against Nurnberg carrying a bomb load of one 4000 lb HC bomb and 12 canisters of incendiaries. Their aircraft that night was QR-G, an aircraft they had not flown before (the previous 8 flights had been with QR-F), a fact that the superstitious might link to their attack by a JU 88 during the mission.

In late Oct ’44 they were transferred to the newly-formed 189 Sqn, first at Bardney and then at Fulbeck. Winter ‘44/’45 was very cold and a temperature of -23 deg C was recorded at Fulbeck! Missions continued against Homberg, Gravenhorst, Duren, Heilbronn, Giessen, Munich, Gdynia, Munich, Poliz, Merseburg and Brux. On 1st Feb they conducted a test flight aboard CA-S. Their 24th and final mission was to Karlsruhe on the night 2/3 Feb ’45 on CA-Q (PB 848), an aircraft that they had flown since its arrival from A.V. Roe in Oct/Nov ’44. Stronger than expected SW winds, together with heavy cloud, resulted in most of that night’s bombing falling on the unfortunate town of Bruchsal to the N of Karlsruhe. According to the Investigation Report compiled by No 8 Missing Research & Enquiry Unit in Feb ’47 (exactly 2 years later) PB 848’s loss was attributed to a hit by flak at an altitude of 26,000 feet, based on the memory of a gamekeeper. This is what the NOK were told and accepted. Subsequent access to Luftwaffe records show that pilots of NJG 6 claimed all 7 Lancasters shot down that night. This ties in with Donald’s recollection of several thuds followed by an explosion of flame – likely to indicate cannon fire from a night fighter below causing an explosion of one or more incendiaries (the 4,000 lb bomb was found unexploded amongst the wreckage). Donald’s miraculous escape, being blown clean out of the aircraft in his turret is described by him below.

The bodies of the crew were decently buried together in the nearby cemetery of Heidelsheim, until their exhumation and re-interment at the Commonwealth War Cemetery at Durnbach in Bavaria – in beautiful surroundings.
On landing by parachute Donald, though wounded, attempted to escape but was captured and after initial hospitalisation at Rottenmunster, he was held prisoner at Dulaf Luft near Frankfurt, Stalag XIII D, Nurnberg, and Stalag VII A, Mooseburg. He was repatriated after the War, first to UK and then by troopship to Canada where he returned to St Catherines. He married Marion in 1948 and had three sons, one daughter and several grandchildren.
My uncle was one of the crew, and since 2004 when Donald and I began corresponding he has been most generous with information and photographs. He, in turn, was interested to see photographs of the NJG 6 pilots claiming victories that night.

He has written accounts of two missions, the 12th and the 24th (final one), and I include them here:

“On the night of Oct 19th 1944 at 1720 hours we took off from Skellingthorpe in Lancaster QR-G. The target was Nurnberg. This was our 12th Operation and the first time we had flown in this particular aircraft. This was our last trip with 61 Squadron as we were shortly to be transferred to 189 Squadron first at Bardney and then at Fulbeck. Our trip to the target was mostly routine and the bombs were dropped. The night sky over the target at 15,000 feet was quite bright. On leaving the target area, visibility was fairly good. I spotted a JU 88 on our port quarter: it was at a slightly higher altitude, flying parallel and gaining on us very slowly. I told the pilot we had a JU 88 on our port quarter and be prepared for a corkscrew to port. I remember warning the mid upper gunner to keep a lookout on the starboard side, as I thought the JU88 might be a decoy. A few moments later he banked behind us as he started his attack. Needless to say, the pilot was again informed to be ready to corkscrew to port. The JU 88 banked back towards us and I told the pilot to “go!” just a second or two before the enemy’s nose was pointed directly at us. I opened fire, and he stayed on our tail. His guns were mounted in the nose and the flashes from them were bright. A few moments later I noticed the sounds from my guns were not the same. After starting out with four, they started to quit firing one at a time, until I was down to one gun and then it, too, quit firing. All four guns were reloaded as quickly as possible. I was then able to fire a fairly long burst again and then he banked to starboard and disappeared into the night sky, with no indication that he was hit. After leveling out, the pilot checked with all the crew and no one was hurt. The plane was checked out after we returned to base and not a single hit was to be found. We put our good luck down to the corkscrew.
On our 24th and last Operation we left Fulbeck on Feb 2nd 1945 at 2025 hours in aircraft CA-Q serial number PB 848. The target was Karlsruhe. Arriving in the target area our bomb-aimer found visibility poor and target indicators not visible; the bomb load was not dropped. We now had a 4,000 lb. bomb and a load of incendiaries still on board. The pilot and bomb-aimer were on the intercom planning the next move. About three minutes after leaving the target area, we were hit from below. No enemy was seen by me and the only indication was 4 or 5 quick thuds; then a big explosion and fire, which only lasted a few seconds. I had my hands covering my eyes and face; then all was quiet – the noise of the engines had gone. I looked around and discovered that I was free falling from 3 miles up in the rear turret, and I knew it would be about 90 seconds before I hit the ground. I reached behind, to open the sliding doors and discovered that all of the framework, doors and the Plexiglas had been blown away in the initial blast. All that remained was the parachute I was sitting on and the gun mechanism. I tried to push and kick the turret away, so that I could pull the rip cord. Now I found my feet were stuck and all the kicking and pushing would not free them…..my time was running out! What I did next was not what I wanted to do, but I had no choice. With my feet still stuck in the turret, I bent forwards as much as possible, to help free my seat pack parachute, then pulled the “D” ring, with both hands. I was concerned about the parachute being damaged and what would happen to my legs when it opened. As the ‘chute opened the remains of the turret disappeared and my legs were not injured when it pulled free. As I drifted down my thoughts were on the rest of the crew. I figured no one could survive an experience like that, and here I was drifting down to earth and the unknown. Looking around it was total darkness with no lights or fire to be seen. Now I checked my own condition and found that one of the thuds I had heard and felt was a bullet that had hit my upper arm and luckily missed the bone. I had no idea as to how serious an injury I had suffered. When I could see the ground, the Mae West was inflated and all I could recognize were trees and open ground. As I came down, the chute caught the edge of a tree and my feet were on the ground. The ‘chute was quickly pulled down and taken to the nearest bushes and trees. There I stayed for about 2 hours, resting and planning the next move. It was about 11:45 pm when I came down and I had to figure out where I was. In the distance I could see a slight glow in the sky which I assumed was the target area of Karlsruhe and I estimated it to be about 12 miles distance. With the map and compass, it was evident I was NE of the target area. The Rhine river would be about 20 miles west. I didn’t think there would be a chance of crossing a bridge, without getting caught. My next best bet was to head due south to Switzerland and that’s what I decided to do. I cut up a lot of the parachute material for bandages etc. I hid my flying suit as best I could and removed all the rank insignia and badges from my uniform and hid them in the grass. The large grey woollen scarf I had was perfect for a hat and neck wrap. It was now about 1 am and I was feeling more confident that no one had seen me coming down. I heard one German plane circle around but could not see it. The sound of the engines was a lot different to ours. Next I heard a rumbling noise getting closer and closer and then a railway locomotive goes by about 100 feet away! It is now about 2 am and I am ready to start out. My first stop would be at daylight, so I could see better to examine my arm. I walked through the woods till daylight. I found a fairly dry spot and stripped to the waist. I was in good shape from the waist down, but the rest of me was not a pretty sight. I picked out bits of clothing from the open wound in my shoulder and wrapped it up with ‘chute material as best I could. After getting my clothes back on, I went through my escape kit thoroughly, and went over my map. There was a river running east and west and then the City of Pforzheim in the general direction that I was going to take. On the way, I filled the water container and put a purifying pill in, as all I could fund was surface water. About 2 hours before sunset I came up to the river and a road leading to a bridge. With no one in sight I crossed the road to get a better view of the other side of the river. There was a large city on the other side. I decided that I would be best to cross the bridge after dark. There was a walking trail parallel to the river that I thought would give a better view and a spot to rest till after dark. I had just gone a short distance down the trail when around a bend I came face to face with a German soldier. We made eye contact, and I lowered my head and almost touched shoulders as we passed. I expected him to say something, but not a word was said. This was the first person I had seen. I left the trail and went down a hill and rested till after dark. After walking across the bridge without any trouble, there was a road sign (Pforzheim) and Stuttgart 30 km. I now knew exactly where I was and headed due south. During the night I would take only short rest periods, as it was too cold to stay still. It was nice to see the sun come up and later on find a warm spot to sleep for 3 or 4 hours, before starting out again. Parsnips in a farmer’s field was the only food I found on the way. I continued on for one more night and day. I was turned in by a civilian on February 5th. I was returned to England on May 11th, and visited my old squadron at Fulbeck. I found that four 189 Squadron Lancasters were lost on the Karlsruhe operation, and the only survivors were the four rear gunners.”