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[Home] [Profiles 103 Sqn N to Z] [William E Nightingale and crew 103 Sqn]

F/O William E Nightingale RCAF and crew – 103 Squadron – RAF Elsham Wolds – 1945

Failed to Return – 7/8th March 1945 – Avro Lancaster I – RA500 – Op Dessau.

103 Squadron Nightingale 1

William Nightingale ( pictured above ) and his crew were posted to 103 Squadron at RAF Elsham Wolds from 1667 Heavy Conversion Unit on the 9th January 1945. This crew were lost on their 7th operation. See below :-

14-Feb-45 - Chemnitz - Lancaster - JA857 - F/O WE Nightingale RCAF - Landed at Woodbridge

20-Feb-45 - Dortmund - Lancaster - LM177 - F/O WE Nightingale RCAF

21-Feb-45 - Duisburg - Lancaster - LM177 - F/O WE Nightingale RCAF

01-Mar-45 - Mannheim - Lancaster - NG360 - F/O WE Nightingale RCAF

02-Mar-45 - Cologne - Lancaster - NG360 - F/O WE Nightingale RCAF

05-Mar-45 - Chemnitz - Lancaster - ME848 - F/O WE Nightingale RCAF

07-Mar-45 - Dessau - Lancaster - RA500 - F/O WE Nightingale RCAF - Abandoned on return over Allied held Belgium. Night fighter victim. Badly damaged and 2 crew members wounded.


F/O William Edwin Nightingale RCAF - 20 – 103 Sqn - Son of William Hall Dodds Nightingale and Lottie Nightingale of Kingswear, Devon - Choloy War Cemetery, France

Sgt H S Simpson RAFVR – 103 Sqn - Safe

F/S R A Almas RCAF – 103 Sqn - Safe

F/S R Bruce Magahay RCAF ( pictured below) – 103 Sqn - Injured - Safe

Sgt D Strickland RAFVR – 103 Sqn - Safe

F/S J A Goldie RCAF – 103 Sqn - Safe

F/S J A Hawreliak RCAF – 103 Sqn - Injured – Safe.

See item re William Nightingale at the foot of the page.

103 Squadron Magahay

F/S R Bruce Magahay RCAF


07-Mar-45 - Dessau

103 Squadron detailed 15 aircraft for this attack on Dessau. All took off in poor weather. F/L Anderson returned early with wireless and navigational aid problems. En route and over the Ruhr some trouble was encountered with defences and several aircraft were seen to go down. On arrival in the target it was found to be covered in 10/10ths cloud although it was fairly light and some ground detail and target indicators could be made out. On the Master Bomber's instructions all crews bombed the Wanganui sky markers. These were fairly well concentrated and results were thought to be good. Many explosions and fires were seen. Bombing took place from between 13000 ft and 15000 ft. Defences were quite active a moderate heavy flak barrage and also many fighters. Some were thought to be armed with rockets as several were observed by various crews. S/L Butler was attacked by a fighter but sustained no casualties or damage. F/O Saxe, F/O Nightingale and F/O Havell are missing from this operation. All remaining crews returned to base.

For this attack on Dessau Bomber Command detailed a total of 526 Lancasters and 5 Mosquitos of Nos 1, 3, 6 and 8 Groups. 18 Lancasters lost, 3.4 per cent of the force. This was another devastating raid on a new target in Eastern Germany with the usual town centre, residential, industrial and railway areas all being hit.


Lancaster - RA500

28-Jan-45 - Stuttgart/Zuffenhausen - Lancaster - RA500 – F/L DA Newman RCAF - Combats. Twice attacked by EA prior to bombing run and lost both inner engines. Landed at Manston

05-Mar-45 - Chemnitz - Lancaster - RA500 – F/L PG Cavanagh

07-Mar-45 - Dessau - Lancaster - RA500 – F/O WE Nightingale RCAF -  Abandoned on return over Allied held Belgium. Night fighter victim. Damaged and two crew members wounded.


F/O William Edwin “Ted” Nightingale RCAF – 103 Squadron

103 Squadron Nightingale 2

William Nightingale of 103 Sqn who was killed on the 8th March 1945. He hailed from Kingswear, Devon in the UK. During the war however he lived in the USA with his grandparents, Percy LeBaron Spencer and Louise. They took him into their own home when he was a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Before he completed his studies William left for Canada and joined the RCAF training as a pilot and joined 103 Sqn in early 1945. His death was keenly felt by the Spencer family.

This crew were lost on their 7th op to Dessau in Lancaster RA500 following a night fighter attack. The starboard No 1 tank was holed and starboard fin and rudder shot away. Two crew members were wounded. The aircraft managed to limp back over Allied held Belgium where they baled out. William Nightingale was killed when he baled out possibly due to being too low or I seem to recall being told many years ago he may have been strangled by his parachute lines when he came down in a tree. Be that as it may William was interred at the Choloy War Cemetery.

Percy LeBaron Spencer was an electronic engineer of considerable distinction. In WW2 he was a senior engineer for the Raytheon electronic company working on the cavity magnetron and developed a much improved method of mass production of this important radar component.

Post-war Percy became a distinguished inventor registering around 150 patents. Interestingly amongst his inventions was the first micro wave oven from which all such modern appliances originate.


A plaque commemorating F/O Nightingale was inaugurated  on Saturday 4 June  2022

Nightingale Memorial Ceremony

Inauguration ceremony. Hannah played "Aux Morts" on the Oboe and Aaron played "The Last Post" on the melodica. Ben Howson extreme right.

103 Nightingale official party

Inauguration plaque official party

Nightingale Memorial

Inauguration plaque

Nightingale grave group

Nightingale grave at Choloy WC with Ben Howson, Hannah, Aaron, Colonel Pierre-Alain Antoine (French Air Force) and Chris and Christine Johnson (Chris is Ted's cousin).

Item written and compiled by David Fell. Thanks to the Spencer family for their input. Photo of the late Bruce Magahay courtesy of the family. Nightingale  photos courtesy of the Canadian Virtual War Museum. Thanks to Ben Howson for the commemoration photos.


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