The Story of Lancaster ME320’s Last Flight

On the night of March 5th, Lancaster ME320 took off from RAF Hemswell at 1700 hours headed to to bomb Chemnitz, Germany. On this sortie were 760 aircraft - 498 Lancasters, 256 Halifaxes, 6 Mosquitos - to continue Operation Thunderclap. The operation started badly when 9 aircraft of No 6 Group crashed near their bases soon after taking off in icy conditions. No 426 Squadron, at Linton-on-Ouse, lost 3 out of their 14 Halifaxes taking part in the raid in this way, with only 1 man surviving. 1 of the Halifaxes crashed in York, killing some civilians. 22 further aircraft were lost in the main operation - 14 Lancasters and 8 Halifaxes

Available records indicate that while over Chemnitz the plane collided with another allied plane.   A report by Flt Lt Irvine (Pilot) on the crash landing in Poland of Halifax NRF`180 of 192 Sqn RAF on the night of March 5th 1945 stated: 

“We were briefed to be over the target Chemnitz at 0247 hours but arrived at 2149 hours. The target was well ablaze by that time. Our bombs were dropped, and at that moment the Rear Gunner spotted a JU88 on the port quarter. A few seconds later the Rear Gunner gave me a corkscrew to port. This I did on instruments. At the bottom of the dive to port and just after the climb to starboard, I instinctively looked up to the belly and tail of what I think was another Halifax directly above me and about 30 feet away. There was no time to avoid a collision and the nose of my aircraft struck the tail turret of the other aircraft. The impact took about five feet of the nose of my aircraft off. The other aircraft did not appear to be seriously damaged.”

Despite the final comment above it appears the Lancaster ME320 was mortally wounded and crashed. All the crew were killed although one officer, John McNally successfully bailed out. Sadly, surviving records and family correspondence indicate he was captured and then killed by the German police, perhaps assassinated. A full account of McNally’s story can be found on Government of Australia’s Archive site (
Right click to download Australian government archive file on the crash of Lancaster bomber ME320 - 3 megs in Word format).

Wireless Officer McNally is buried in the Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery, Germany. All the other six crew members have no known grave. Their names are commemorated on the
Memorial to the Missing, Runnymede, Surrey, UK (also look at Runnymede slideshow).

Memorial
In memory of those who did not return 1944-1945. Erected by the Squadron reunion association and dedicated June 1985 - 170 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Bomber Command, Hemswell