18 December 1944, 0930hrs
On return to England after the raid on Duisburg, the 10 remaining bombers of the 434 Squadron were unable to land at their own field because of bad weather. They landed at Little Snoring as an alternative. The time would have been about 0930 hrs. A number of the returning planes, including two from 434 Squadron, met opposition from German fighters. WL-N was attacked by a FW-190 but there was no damage to the bomber. WL-X was attacked by a ME-109 and the gunners on this Halifax fired off 700 rounds at the Messerschmitt sending it down through the clouds in flames.
WL-U was reported as missing and several days later on the 21st of December, the next of kin of the crew were notified by telegram of the “missing” status. A personal letter was sent later to extend further condolences. Bomber Command would know nothing of the fate of these young men until the American military reported their identification and burial. According to military policy, the families were not notified of the deaths until three months after the “missing” status was initiated. This delay caused great anxiety in the families of the missing. Patricia Parrott, as well as other wives and relatives, wrote the Ministry of Defence asking why she was not being given the details despite the fact that she knew Bert Brown had survived and could tell what had happened. The Ministry was consoling but not forthcoming; never giving a reason for the crash while leaving the families to imagine that the plane had been shot down.
Officials in Croft carefully inventoried all the possessions of the dead fliers. Every piece of their clothing, personal belongings, letters and log books etc. were listed and packed for shipment to the next of kin. Bank accounts and any other financial ties in England were closed or liquidated and the proceeds returned as well. Many of the fliers had bicycles to get around the base and into town but these were sold in England and the proceeds forwarded instead. It was not worth it to pack and ship them considering their low value. These actions marked the beginning of a long paper trail that was picked up in Ottawa to resolve all the legal and financial issues surrounding the deaths.
The bodies of Jim Parrott, Alan Kurtzhals, Harry Pearce, Les Janzen, Gordon Olafson and Alex Divitcoff were prepared and placed in heavy canvas body bags with their names clearly stencilled on the outside. The bags were then placed in rough wooden caskets that were again identified with the name of the deceased. An army padre conducted the burial services and they were interred at Fosses-La-Ville in the Belgium No. 1 American Military Cemetery along with some of the other Commonwealth fliers who perished over Allied territory that day. Six white crosses now marked the graves of these young men who had died so violently that day. The four planes that went down in the same area at roughly the same time that day carried a total of 28 crew members. Only two survived! Of the 1310 sorties flown by Bomber Command that night, 14 aircraft were lost.