The Annis Crew - 103 Squadron  


The Annis Crew, Ground Crew and Station Commander pose with first Lancaster to complete 50 operations.

Lancaster W4364  103 Squadron, Elsham Wolds, Lincs. August 23, 1943


Jack Birbeck, the Bomb Aimer for the Annis crew and later to survive as a POW recounts the story behind this particular photo;

“This was the first Lancaster in Bomber Command to achieve 50 operations with a number of different crews. The 50th trip was on Monday,23rd August 1943 to Berlin. The crew had just started to board the aircraft when there was a shout to get out quick and when we did we saw that the  the next dispersal was on fire and we took shelter. After a few minutes it blew up and the airfield was covered in smoke. We thought operations would be cancelled but the C.O. thought otherwise and we took off about an hour late and I think we were about last over the target and consequently had a rough time, getting coned in searchlights etc.However we survived and returned to base unaware of our landmark trip until next day when we were ordered to report to flights for this photo. Martin Middle brook told Cliff(Cliff Annis the pilot) and me that the C.O.would be keen to get us away so as to complete the record.”

On Platform:

Station Commander Group Captain Dickens, rivet gun in hand, fixing a dummy D.F.C. to the aircraft nose.

Back Row: - The Ground Crew.

Front Row: - The Aircrew, Left to Right

 On the 27/28th of August 1943, Lancaster I W4364 PM-D departed Elsham Wolds at 2131hrs for an operation to bomb Nuremberg. After being shot down by a night-fighter, it crashed at Durrnbuch,4km SSE of Emskirchen. Four of the seven men aboard were killed.

The crew consisted of;

Name Service Trade Hometown Age
W/O Clifford Annis - POW RAFVR Pilot - -
Sgt Norman Turrell - POW RAFVR Flight Engineer - -
Sgt John McLeod Renwick  RCAF Navigator - -
P/O Jack Birbeck - POW RAFVR Bomb Aimer - -
Sgt Samuel Macdonald  RAFVR Wireless Air Gunner Dumfries, Scotland 22
Sgt Cyril Edwards  RAFVR Air Gunner Hove ,Sussex 22
Sgt John Oldershaw  RAFVR Air Gunner Askern,Yorkshire 33

Pilot Officer Jack Birbeck, who also went to school with W/O Annis, recounts of this last mission;

After we had set off, we realised one engine was lacking power and we had great difficulty in gaining operational height. We didn’t turn back for several reasons, turning back was frowned upon and we had returned early a few nights previously for the same reason and the operation wouldn’t count and we were due to get a new aircraft the next day.

 The flight was uneventful until we turned on the last leg and the run up to the target, when we were attacked by a night-fighter. He set the port outer engine on fire and probably killed the rear gunner. Cliff and the Flight Engineer between them put out the fire and Cliff disabled the damaged engine. We had lost considerable height but now continued the bombing run on 3 engines. Immediately after I had dropped the bombs we were attacked again. This time the whole of the port wing was set on fire and Cliff lost control and gave the order to “abandon aircraft”.

 I was lying on the front escape hatch and according to the drill had to go out first. As my parachute opened, I saw the aircraft falling away in flames. I was picked up by the German Home Guard some 7 hours later, marched into a nearby village and locked in the attic of a farmhouse. About mid day, the same people moved me to what I thought was the village pub, and lying on his back, with his parachute used as a pillow, was Cliff, our pilot. He was obviously in great pain, drifting in and out of consciousness and appeared to have bullet wounds in his throat and foot. At one end of the room was a man sitting at a table with a shotgun. Various people kept coming into the doorway to look at us. I was very concerned to get a doctor to Cliff and  eventually a schoolboy appeared who could speak French and I asked him to request a doctor for Cliff. When he relayed this to the man, who appeared to be in charge, this man nearly exploded, saying they were too busy attending to their injured in Nuremberg to attend to “Terror fleigers”. Eventually a there was a stir and someone said “Herr Doktor”. A little old man with a Gladstone bag pushed his way through, knelt by Cliff, seized his battle dress blouse and pulled him upright. Cliff screamed in pain. The doctor let him go, shrugged his shoulders and left. I was with Cliff for another 2 to 3 hours and did what I could to comfort him but most of the time he was unconscious. In the late afternoon 2 Army officers appeared and took me away in a car. In the car they had our Flight Engineer but we didn’t exchange any signs of recognition didn’t see Cliff again until after the war, back in Boston,Lincs”

The bodies of the 4 dead crew were transferred from Durrnbuch to the Durnbach War Cemetery after cessation of hostilities.

W/O Annis sustained serious back injuries and after hospitalisation, was re-patriated in September 1944.

  Photo courtesy of Victoria Oliver (granddaughter of W/O Annis), special thanks to Jack Birbeck,  research by Linda Ibrom.