Varsity: C47 crash with British paras

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by alberk, Feb 2, 2021.

  1. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Hello,
    on March 24th, 1945 a US C-47 of 45th Squadron / 316th TCG crashed - it says all British paras of 9th Para Battalion on board were killed. Is this incident corroborated elsewhere? The aircraft was #43-15184 coming from Wethersfield. The US accident report says this:
    "TDY to Wethersfield (Station 170) 21Mar45. Transported British 9th Parachute Battalion paratroopers to a drop zone at the southern edge of the Diersfordt Wood, three mile northwest of Wesel, Germany on Operation ‘Varsity’ 24Mar45. Hit over the drop zone, the aircraft caught fire burning off the elevator and rudder fabric before crashing [5 crew plus 16 British paratroopers KIA] . MACR 13346"

    The information about the US crew is confirmed in different sources.
    Does anyone have any information about the names of the British paras?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Temujin

    Temujin Member

    Info for you


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    Last edited: Feb 2, 2021
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  3. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Thank you, Temujin!
     
  4. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    A quick look at the CWGC database suggests that the paras all made it out before the aircraft crashed.
     
  5. Lindele

    Lindele formerly HA96

    Hi,
    if they all bailed out, there may be additional information from another source.
    Stefan.
     
  6. Temujin

    Temujin Member

    Your welcome. I would suggest your correct on the para’s. The “witness” accounts state “after dropping out troopers”.......and the witness aircraft was immediately BEHIND the subject aircraft. And the MACR only reports the 5 crew members on the missing list
     
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  7. Temujin

    Temujin Member

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  8. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Thanks - my question is answered!
     
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  9. Temujin

    Temujin Member

    A bit more information confirming aircraft, group, etc


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  10. Temujin

    Temujin Member

    A follow up. ON the list of British Para’s, it mentions RSM Miller, G.C., MM

    I think he’s George Miller, link to his bio below

    George D Miller | ParaData
     
  11. Temujin

    Temujin Member

  12. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Hi,

    According to the overlay map in Temujin's #2 post aircraft 43-15184 was last seen just below Mehr. So presumably it crashed in that area. Is there a possibility it crossed DZ 'A' before finally crashing?

    In Tim Saunder's book Lt-Col. Hewetson, CO of the 8 Parachute Battalion, mentions seeing an aircraft on fire pass by overhead.

    "Looking up Colonel Hewson (Hewetson) noted that there was still ‘… very little flak. One or two planes were shot down. I remember as I was getting out of my parachute watching a Dakota returning with flames streaming out of the engine; probably No, 1 plane flown by the Colonel, which crashed west of the Rhine’."

    As it turned out it wasn't CN 1 as that Dakota returned safely to RAF Chipping Ongar. Interestingly there is a well known clip of a low flying American Dakota with one engine aflame flying fairly level across a drop zone. In the foreground several British Paratroopers pass before the camera carrying weapons and equipment. As the flaming aircraft recedes into the distance the view lowers to show the DZ with men scurrying about with a few following the plane's progress. No gliders are visible on the field and a clump of trees can be seen to the right.

    The clip shows up well in the short German documentary "WESEL 1933 bis 1945 in Schutt und Asche" and can be seen at the 23:44 mark. Also a direct link to it here on Youtube.



    At the moment I don't know who shot the clip or if it actually shows DZ 'A' but offer it up as a possibility that the Dakota seen was the one piloted Lt-Col. Mars Lewis not long before it crashed near Mehr.

    Regards ...
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2021
  13. Lindele

    Lindele formerly HA96

    Fantastic video. Any possibility to have an English soundtrack? There is so much information given to the pictures. Interesting especially to the allied officers and soldiers if any of them are stll alive.The video shows a once booming Wesel turning into a smashed place.
    Stefan.
     
  14. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Hi Stefan,

    The best I can suggest is subtitles. Go to the film on YouTube click Settings, Subtitles and then Auto-generate to select language you wish to use. The translations are not always the best. According to the information provided by the uploader the film was "created by Gerd Warnat, editing, montage and image processing 1995".

    Regards ...
     
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  15. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Dear Cee,
    just one minor point: The film "Wesel in Schutt und Asche" was made by Jutta Prieur-Pohl, the former director of the Wesel Municipal Archives (Stadtarchiv), and myself in 1994. It actually says so at TC 29:51.

    Gerd Warnat owned the company where we edited it - I do not remember if he himself was the editor. And we (i.e. the folks at the Stadtarchiv and me) were a bit surprised the company put the film on youtube. Well, it does not do any harm, I suppose... Funny that is should reappear in this forum. And pleased, of course, to see it mentioned...
    Best, Alex:D
     
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  16. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Of the aircraft that took 3 Para Bde to DZ "A" all in all five C-47 were shot down. One was from 61st TCG, all five members of its US crew were killed. 316th TCG lost four aircraft - one was 43-15184 as you correctly pointed out. Two others also came down in the vicinity of Mehr: 42-23931 made it almost to east bank of the Rhine and crashed near a farm called Riswickshof, five km to the west from DZ „A“. Three of its crew were killed. The other one was 43-15659 which crashed in the same area as 43-15184 but closer to DZ „A“, between the finger lake and the main road. Four US crew members were killed. I have the names of all these crews KIA.
    All loads of 3 Bde paras had been dropped on DZ "A" prior to the crashes.
     
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  17. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Alex,

    Oh my god that is embarrassing! Sorry Alex I missed the end credits completely as my interest was only in the clips devoted to the Airborne invasion. Most Operation Varsity footage found on the internet is poor quality. The IWM clips in your film are fairly good and the reason I chose them for viewing. Though hardly an expert on the history of Wesel I would recommend your documentary to anyone wishing to learn more on the city.

    As for the the aircraft seen crossing the DZ I am not entirely sure it is #43-15184. It seems to fit Captain Kirchner's eye witness report well enough though he doesn't specify which engine/wing was on fire. I am confused by Captain Lynch's report as he claims the fire started under the left wing and later the right engine propeller was seen to be feathered as it flew level before he lost sight of it. I thought feathering was employed on distressed engines not undamaged ones still working properly.

    Here are a few stills from the same clip in the best quality found so far showing the aircraft and a couple of the men who pass in front of the camera. On one a red cross arm band can be seen. On the other Para near the shoulder is what appears to be dark insignia, possibly an epaulet loop?

    American C-47 on fire..jpg Para Medic.jpg Para with Dark Shoulder Insignia.jpg

    Otherwise it is all still in the realm of speculation without knowing at this time who the cameraman was and if indeed the clip shows a view over DZ 'A'. If it does it could also be one of the other aircraft pointed out by you (42-23931, 43-15659). There is a photo in the Lt-Col. Crookenden book which shows an aircraft in steep descent just before crashing on DZ 'A' which I"ll try and dig out.

    Regards ...
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2021
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  18. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Cee, never mind the credits! I still think it is funny that you dug up this 1994 piece of work... I will ask in Wesel whether I can look at the original unedited tapes - that would give us some more context.

    I a conversation I had with alex1975uk he pointed out that there are no parachutes visible on the ground and that we have a line of sight with a long unbroken view. That would be improbable for DZ A and rather suggest LZ P.
    I believe he has a very good point there.
     
  19. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Just to illustrate my previous post I am adding this:
    Karte 1963_markiert.jpg
    This is a 1963 German military map 1:50.000 which shows the area before some changes took place - many farms near the Rhine disappeared since then because a large scale digging for gravel created lakes where farmland and meadows used to be. It shows Mehr in relation to DZ „A“ and Riswickshof 3 km southwest of Mehr - and an interesting pattern for the loss of the three aircraft.
     
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  20. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Alex,

    Thank you for the map showing crash locations. In the final brief moments of the clip, though hard to make out, there are men moving in the middle distance. The definition is not sharp enough to tell if there are chutes on the ground. It could be a case of you see what you want to see. There is smoke drifting in from the left of the scene. I'll also a include a watermarked pic of a Dakota about to crash from the book "Airborne at War" by Lt-Col. Crookenden found on the net. The caption reads, "A C-47 coming down on fire over DZ 'A'."

    WESEL 1933 bis 1945 in Schutt und Asche_23.58.jpg Airborne at War - Crookenden.jpg

    I could end up eating my hat on this one ... :)

    Regards ...
     
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