Arnold J P Panther, 166 Sqdn & 153 Sqdn, RAF

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by jonno153, Sep 21, 2018.

  1. jonno153

    jonno153 Member

    Good evening,

    I am doing some research into my Great uncle Arnold J P Panther. He was a flight engineer and was posted to 166 squadron on 20/09/1944 before moving to 153 sqdn on 07/10/1944 sadly all were lost on 14/10/1944 raid on Duisberg. According to local press the crew had flown 27 missions but I am struggling to find what missions they flew or what sqdn the were posted with prior to 166. I have looked at the operations records for 166 during their time there but the I my mention I can find is when they were posted in. There seems to be no record of missions flown between.

    Crew were as follows:

    C G Draper
    A J P Panther
    R Lammas
    C Wilkinson
    A H Detroit
    D R G Watkinson
    N Lawrence

    I did some research into their short time with 153 sqdn a number of years ago and I am keen to continue this. Any help or pointers on where to find this info would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance

  2. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    Hello and welcome
    I think your research would be better served by starting a thread on Panther, rather than tacking your quest onto this thread.
    I'm no expert, but I think others will point out that Squadron ORB's come in two parts; one for the station and one for Ops, and you may only have the brief section, not the main.
    I can only repeat what we tell everyone on here for the first time is to apply for his Service records.
    Please do so, as they contain the essential information we need to clarify what he did, when and where.

    Why did you believe they were with another Squadron before 188?
    At the age of 19, Arnold would not have been in the RAF for very long, so would have needed training and 166 may have been his first operational Squadron after serving in training units.

    JB297 coded P4@B was one of the first 2 losses of 153 Squadron which had only just reformed on 7 October at RAF Kirmington from crews supplied from 166 squadron.

    PANTHER, ARNOLD JOHN PORTER. Sergeant (Flight Engineer). Service Number 1880849. Died 14/10/1944. Aged 19.
    153 Sqdn. Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
    Son of Joseph and Mary Ellen Panther, of Kettering, Northamptonshire.
    Buried at REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY. Cemetery/memorial reference: 16. C. 11.
    JB297 was a Mk III. This variant, which was built concurrently with the B I and was indistinguishable externally from that variant, was fitted with Packard-built Merlin engines. The Packard Merlins used Bendix – Stromberg pressure-injection carburettors, requiring the addition of slow-running cut-off switches in the cockpit.

    As you will note from the take-off time, this was a daylight raid on Duisberg, coded as Ramrod 1332, which had originated as fighter sweeps to try and tempt out Luftwaffe fighters much earlier in the War. They were one of 15 Lancasters and 1 Halifax lost that day, out of 519 despatched.

    His pilot had suffered injuries during training.
    Tiger Moth T8202 near Brough airfield. On 16th July 1941 this aircraft was being flowm on a dual control training flight and while making a turn at low level the aircraft stalled. It entered a spin from which the pilot was unable to recover from before it hit the ground some two miles south-west of Brough airfield. The wreckage was recovered to Brough airfield. Pilot - Sgt Ivan Frederick Dell RAFVR (1179321), aged 27, of Isleworth. Buried Isleworth Cemetery, Middlesex. Pilot under training Cornelius George Draper RAFVR (655225). Injured.

    The Squadron's official code-letter appearing on all aircraft was P4. An individual aircraft letter - the entire alphabet being used except letter 'Z' (although following its early loss, the letter 'M' was never reactivated). 'A' Flight operated letters A to L and 'B' Flight the letters N to Y.

    From the above you might deduce that they were part of A Flight. However the 153 Squadron website records "In the meantime, detailed plans had been published (Movement Order 1/44) to transfer to Scampton on 14 October 1944, but once more the war intervened. On 13 October 1944, when the movement order required aircrew to have their kitbags packed and put in the gymnasium, together with their private bicycles (all properly labelled and secured), the Squadron was required to prepare 13 aircraft for a raid on Duisburg which was then postponed following briefing. The postponement was only temporary and 13 aircraft took off at 06 30 hrs to rendezvous with fighter escort which protected them to and from the target area. Visibility was restricted, so area bombing was adopted. Some moderate flak was reported and it was rather upsetting when two aircraft of 'B' flight failed to return: the veteran JB297 (P4-B) which had entered operational service in September 1943 with 405 Squadron, flown by P/O Draper and his all RAFVR crew,
    Whether that refers to the AIRCRAFT or the crew is ambiguous, as that infers that Draper and his crew were operational with 405 Squadron from late 1943. Personally, unless evidence otherwise emerges, I think that relates to the aircraft and not the crew, but happy to be proved wrong.

    In 1943 JB297 had been coded "S" with 188 Squadron and had been damaged on 25 July 1943 and had one engine shut down (and no doubt other damage). As "S" she would have been a B Flight craft, the "B" may just have been on her return to 153 after repairs.

    Her history seems to be
    32 MU St. Athan del'd 15-9-43, 7 Sqn del'd 21-9-43 MG-?, 405 Sqn, RCAF del'd 28-9-43 LQ-?, 166 Sqn del'd 18-6-44; AS-S, 153 Sqn del'd 7-10-44 P4-B, SOC 14-10-44.

    My guess therefore would be that she initially came over on 7 October as AS@S from 153 to B Flight (as "S") but then the Squadron would need to recode aircraft for their own A and B Flights and somehow another "S" had appeared, making JB297 to be coded as "B"..... but hat's trying to square a circle! At some point during her stay with 166 she had been coded as AS@B2 and that might be a clue, if there were 2 "S"'s on the Squadron. They simply painted out the "2" although she was still in B Flight (as if that matters).

    The daylight attack was followed up that night to demonstrate the superiority of the RAF over the Luftwaffe. Hopefully you'll understand the impact of that and although some crews died, the message got through. The RAF dominated the skies over Germany and the War was going against them.

    If there is any comfort, all the crew died, but have separate graves, indicating they were able to be identified...
    They were initially buried at Dinslaken before being moved to Reichswald in June 1947.


    Hope that helps

    EDIT PS: I have to ask, as from the same town, but is this a relative?
    PANTHER, GEORGE. Private. Service Number 9409. Died 09/05/1915. Aged 23.
    1st Bn. Northamptonshire Regiment
    Son of Henry Panther, of 32, Northall St., Kettering.
    Commemorated at LE TOURET MEMORIAL. Cemetery/memorial reference: Panel 28 to 30.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2018
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  3. jonno153

    jonno153 Member

    Hi Kevin thanks for all that information. The only reason I thought they may have served with another sqdn is because of a newspaper cutting from the time. This (I hope my memory serves me right) stated that he had completed 27 missions but as above I struggle to identify any with 166 sqdn. I will look for the news paper on my day off.

    PANTHER is a rather popular surname in Kettering. I don't recall anyone talking about a George PANTHER when my relatives we alive. I will be tackling the family tree at some point next year be interesting to see what comes up.

    Thanks for your help.
  4. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    166 had only formed on 7th October, so hardly any time for earlier Ops and as I mentioned above they were the first casualties for 166 Squadron.

    As for George, with a name like Panther, I'm surprised no one transferred him to the Leicestershires :D
  5. jonno153

    jonno153 Member

    153 formed on the 7th October. It's was made up of crews from 166. I believe 166 was formed a few years prior to 153.
  6. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    Thanks for correction, jonno, yes 153 was reformed from 166 crews also at Kirmington.

    One aspect has puzzled me....
    The crew of JB297 had initially been buried at Dinslaken as shown in the Concentration Report when they were moved to Reichswald.
    That sheet also showed men from a 12 Squadron Lancaster, NF928 and at least 1 from a 626 Sqdn Lancaster NE163, totalling 13 in all.
    Why? From 3 different aircraft all in one location? They were individually buried, so I take that as they were en route back, after dropping their bombs and I'm just wondering if they collided evading flak or fighters.
    MacMillan, the 626 Sqdn Flight Engineer on NE163 is the only 626 casualty at Dinslaken, the rest of his crew were buried at Walsum Alkenrade (as was Picard from the other 153 Sqdn loss that night MG140 (Brouilette crew) P4@T - another B Flight aircraft.
    Obviously this is simply supposition but there seems to have been a "scattering" of crews, all identifiable but in different locations.

    I don't know why and it's a bit of a mystery....

    EDIT: Partly in answer to my own question and also to detail the weather conditions for this attack please read from p13 here
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2018
  7. jonno153

    jonno153 Member

    I didn't realise other crews were buried in Dinslaken. You could well be right, I know moderate to heavy flack was reported during the early part of the raid before getting overwhelmed. It's more than possible one got hit and collided. Thanks again for your information and insight.
  8. jonno153

    jonno153 Member

    Kevin, I have just read the document in your edit. It seems to make sense that this could have been a unfortunate collision although we will never know for sure this seems the most likely. It really shows the dangers these brave men faced.

    Per ardua ad astra

  9. alieneyes

    alieneyes Senior Member


    I had a look at some of the files of RCAF killed in the other two losses in this area. You'll find that information from one crash will often end up on another crash's file. Your great - uncle is mentioned in document "Clearwater b" (loss of Lancaster NF928). It's all very chaotic information but given the times...



    Attached Files:

  10. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    Well found, Dave
    Whilst this may be distressing, the File relating to JB297 appears to be CEG 772 (Graves 9-15 inclusive) and specific mention is made regarding Sgt Panther as being in that file. 16 or 17 men from 3 different aircraft all in one cemetery plot? The unfortunate circumstantial suspicion is that some, if not all, did not meet their deaths in the air. Perhaps it's best not to know.

    But Duisburg had received a tremendous pounding with 4,000 Allied aircraft involved in around 18 hours, 2,000 RAF and another 2,000 USAAF, dropping virtually the same weight of bombs in one day as London received throughout the entire War. There were few reports of any Luftwaffe activity, so just think of it, some 4,000 sorties in 18 hours, the flak defences may only have been able to range in on the leading elements before being blasted themselves.

    EDIT: There is a book Bomber Command - Operation Hurricane: The Story of Those who Flew, Fought, and Failed to Return on 14 and 15 October 1944: Marc Hall: 9780957116337: Books Bomber Command - Operation Hurricane: The Story of Those who Flew, Fought, and Failed to Return on 14 and 15 October 1944
    Hardcover: 256 pages Publisher: Fighting High Publishing (19 Jan. 2013)
    ISBN-10: 0957116330 ISBN-13: 978-0957116337
    (No, I'm not the author)
    It might contain further information not available on the internet. It has 10 pages on the two 153 Squadron losses as well as all the others. You may find it cheaper elsewhere
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2018
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  11. jonno153

    jonno153 Member

    Thanks both for this information. Kevin I agree there may have been more to it than meets the eye. Or was it that they just put them all in one grave to save time? I do have some details about the graves somewhere but have moved house three times since I last looked into it. I will try to look them out when on rest days.

    Dave, from the information you have supplied does this mean Arnold was not buried with his crew but with two other crews or am I getting the wrong end of the stick? If this is the case do we know where the rest of the crew were buried.

    Sorry for the barrage of questions I am new to this research and don't know where to start looking for information.

    Thanks in advance.
  12. alieneyes

    alieneyes Senior Member

    Unfortunately without access to the MRES documents for the Draper crew I cannot answer that. Unlike the RCAF and RAAF who have declassified all MRES documents, the RAF, citing the UK Data Protection Act, will not release those of RAF crews.

    I do know, as family members of KIA RAF chaps have sent me copies, that you, or authorized next of kin, can ask the AHB at RAF Northolt to release what they have.

    I have a copy of Hall's book somewhere. When I find it I'll post what it's in there.
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  13. jonno153

    jonno153 Member

    Thanks Dave I will add this to my list of documents I need to get.
  14. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    Arnold WAS buried with his crew, plus another complete crew and several from yet a third Lancaster, totalling some 15 men, plus 2 (unrelated) others from different dates. The uncertainty was that Grave No 6 was found to contain 2 skulls and 3 sets of uniforms, but I believe the Exhumation Officer was able to identify who they were, even if not who was who.

    I apologise, this was my musing on the possibility of a mid air collision (or one aircrafts bombload exploding) bringing down another nearby Lancaster. Having then found at least one crew member (but not the entire crew) from a third aircraft seemed "strange" enough to comment on.
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  15. jonno153

    jonno153 Member

    I have found some of the letters etc in my roof. I will post photos when I get the chance. Is there anyway to cut all this info onto a new post I don't want to hijack the 166 sqdn lookups thread but want to keep the info together.

    Thanks in advance
  16. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    I've asked Admin to take Post #45 onwards onto a new Topic for you.
    Arnold Panther 153 Sqdn or do you have a better title in mind?
  17. jonno153

    jonno153 Member

    No that's great thank you.
  18. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

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  19. jonno153

    jonno153 Member

    I have found some documents and letters etc in the roof which I will copy on to here. The letters will take a while as I need to write them into word docs first as they are not very clear.

    I will be sending off for further info, casualty records etc in the near future and attempting to trace Arnold's RAF career to the beginning.
  20. jonno153

    jonno153 Member

    It looks like they were just posted to 166 as they passed through to 153. That would explain why they didn't complete any ops with 166. I will get his service record to clarify these things.

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