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977330 W/O Alsbury W.T

Bill Alsbury was the son of Thomas and Ethel Alsbury. Thomas, a former policeman, had retired from the police force before the war, but enlisted again on the outbreak of hostilities.

Bill had been educated at Ranelage School, Bracknell and left in 1933 and started work as a clerk in the offices of the Binfield Brick & Tile Co, where he remained until he joined the air force at the onset of war. His main interest was music, playing any instrument he could lay his hands on. He is known to have played trombone with the St Sebastian Silver Band in Easthampstead.

On joining the airforce, he trained as a wireless operator/air gunner, doing his radio training at Yatesbury followed by the gunnery course at RAF Kinloss in Scotland. His first tour of operations (normally twenty five flights over enemy territory) was with a Wellington squadron before returning to Yatesbury as an instructor. He then went on to complete a second tour (normally twenty operations but in this instance it may have been more) with a Lancaster squadron based in the Doncaster area, before another spell of instruction. His third tour, which was extended to 30 operations, was with 156 Squadron, flying Avro Lancaster bombers. 156 Squadron formed part of the Pathfinder Force, and was one of the squadrons whose job it was to mark the enemy target for the main force. This was an exceptionally dangerous mission which involved remaining over the target area for some time dropping marker flares.

It was on just such an operation on the night of 12 to 13 August 1944 following a raid deep into the Ruhr Valley industrial area, that Lancaster PB209 (coded GT-E) went missing, shot down after only eighty-three flying hours since its arrival with the squadron in July. It was also Bill's 97th operational flight.

Geoff Dunham added (by email Oct 2016) "Lancaster PB209 was shot down at 0048 hrs over Wasserliesch (Trier-Saarburg) in the Rhineland by Major Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer, the ‘greatest’ ace of all time (find him on Wikipedia). The plane was observed on fire, partially broke up presumably on impact. The Wasserliesch Fire Brigade extinguished forest fires and recovered the remains of 5 crew from the plane. The bodies of deceased Bill Alsbury and Robert Valencia were found about 500 yards away with burnt parachutes. The crew were buried in Wasserliesch Cemetery by the Germans, later in Rheinberg British War Cemetery. The raid had been on the Opel plant at Russelsheim which was thought to be making wings for V1 bombs."