16/17 December, 1943; BERLIN:
Bad weather had prevented the bombers operating for almost two weeks.
Thursday night of 16th saw them back on the road to Berlin once again. An all Lancaster force of 483 plus PFF Mosquitoes attacked a cloud covered target using sky-markers. 49 Squadron had two new crews operating; Canadian F/O Bill Healey (JB679) and crew flying D-Dog, and P/O Gordon Ratcliffe (JB545) and crew in O-Oboe.
German night fighters had managed to intercept the main force whilst en-route over Holland, and it was here that Oberleutnant Heinz Schnaufer the German night fighter ace shot down the unsuspecting Ratcliffe crew using the dreaded 'Schrage Music'. Their Lancaster came down between Oldetrijne and Sonnega in Holland where recovery of the bodies proved extremely difficult due to the marshy ground. The crew are all buried together in Wolvega Cemetery.
Twenty-five Lancasters had been brought down over enemy territory, but the losses did not end there. Returning over Eastern England, tired crews found low cloud covered many of their bases. A further 32 bombers were lost as a result of crashes or being abandoned when their desperate crews baled-out. No. 1 Group, whose airfields were situated up on the Lincolnshire Wolds suffered the heaviest - fifteen 1 Group Lancasters and their crews perished on what became known as 'Black Thursday'.
P/O G.L. Ratcliffe Pilot (Killed)
Sgt A.E. Marsland F/E (Killed)
Sgt E. Holloway NAV (Killed)
Sgt W.T. Rees W/AG (Killed)
F/S R. Losa RCAF A/G (Killed)
Sgt W.R. Day B/A (Killed)
F/S B.J.V. King RAAF A/G (Killed)
Crew on their 1st operation
On the 16th December 2009 the local community unveiled an information plaque at the site of the existing memorial.
Images from a DVD courtesy of Douwe Dijver.