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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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50 Squadron Crest
14/15.03.1945 50 Squadron Lancaster I NG177 VN-L Fl/Lt Frank James Ling



Operation: Lützkendorf (Wintershall synthetic oil plant) Germany

Date: 14/15 March 1945 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit: 50 Squadron - Motto: Sic fidem servamus; ('Thus we keep faith'); Squadron crest shows 'From Defence to Attack'

Squadron Badge: A sword in bend severing a mantle palewise. This unit was formed at Dover and adopted a mantle being severed by a sword to show its connection with that town, the arms of which include St. Martin and the beggar with whom he divided his cloak. The mantle is also indicative of the protection given to this country by the Royal Air Force

Type: Avro Lancaster I

Serial: NG177

Code: VN-L

Base: RAF Skellingthorpe, Lincolnshire

Location: Unknown

Pilot: Fl/Lt Frank James Ling J/27079 (formerly R162573 RCAF Age 29 - Missing believed killed (1)

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Herbert Cecil Lomax 1079993 RAFVR Age 36 - Missing believed killed (2)

Nav: F/O. Bruce Wells Rutland J/37745 (formerly R179786) RCAF Age 31 - Missing believed killed (3)

Had completed 29 operation

Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Eric Leslie Howard 1582382 RAFVR Age 23 - Missing believed killed (4)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: P/O. Ralph Lindsay Thompson J/95523 (formerly R198491) RCAF Age 21 - Missing believed killed (5)

Air/Gnr (MU): P/O. Robert Bruce Millman J/95401 (formerly R205556) RCAF Age 21 - Missing believed killed (6)

Air/Gnr (R): P/O. Angus Wharing (Sonny) Holmes J/95333 (formerly R252285) RCAF Age 20 - Missing believed killed (7)



INTRODUCTION


Pilot Frank Ling had been at Cottesmore for just over a week before the rest of his crew arrived though to be fair at that stage they were not anyone's crew, come to think of it, they were not even a crew. Herded into a hangar and told to 'sort yourselves out' was the accepted method of forming crews that were happy not just to fly together, but to live, eat, sleep and socialise together, with each having absolute trust in the others. With such brotherly-like bonds each crew would be made ready for what awaited them when they eventually went to war.

And so Frank gathered the others about him: five Canadians and a token Brit in the shape of Eric Howard, erstwhile House Painter but now an air bomber by trade, formed his rookie crew.

Age-wise, they fell into two distinct groups, Frank Ling and navigator Bruce Rutland were 28 and 30 respectively whilst the other three Canadians were all 20 and Eric Howard was 23.

Course 91 awaited them and having commenced on 21 April was completed successfully on 29 June. But though they were now conversant with the Wellington bomber and night flying the RAF demanded more from them; so it was off to 1654 Conversion Unit at RAF Wigsley, Nottinghamshire, followed by 5 Lancaster Finishing School at nearby RAF Syerston until to 19 September 1944, by which time they were deemed just as proficient on the four engine iconic Lancaster, and thus posted to 50 Squadron at RAF Skellingthorpe in Lincolnshire for operational flying.

Frank Ling hardly had time to unpack before being detailed to fly the same night as 2nd dickey with F/O. J. W. Warrington and his crew on an operation to Rheydt. All went well and he returned safe and sound, no doubt to the relief of the rest of his crew waiting anxiously for his return.

It was a week later on the night of 26/27 September before he had the opportunity to lead his own crew on an operation to Karlsruhe in Lancaster NF984 and the next night to Kaiserslauten flying Lancaster LL741.


On 19 September 50 Squadron had taken delivery of a Lancaster I straight from the Armstrong Whitworth factory. Powered by Merlin 24s the aircraft was prepared by ground staff at Skellingthorpe and declared ready for service. The Lancaster, serial number NG177 VN-L, was duly allocated to Frank Ling and his crew for its maiden operational flight on 5 October, a day raid on Wilhelmshaven.

Hence began the crew's association with NG177 as the Lancaster became its mount of choice, the crew flying only two of their following operations in alternative aircraft.

Operations followed regularly and according to the ORB miraculously the Ling crew escaped any problems until 17 December when on return from a raid on Munich they reported 'our own defences at position G did their best to shoot everyone down. The light flak there was heavier than at most German positions' and on 27 December at Rheydt 'Camera run done on heading of 050T due to turning off to avoid falling bombs' and the following day 'Port Fin holed by flak' during an attack on shipping.

By the turn of the year Frank Ling had completed 17 operations, the other crew members 16 and an operation to Dortmund on 12 March 1945 brought Frank's total to 30 and the crew's to 29.

On Wednesday 14 March, 18 crews appeared on the battle order for that night's operation, one of them being the Frank Ling crew.

In friendly chat with the ground crews the airmen soon gleaned details of the bomb and fuel loads to be loaded and armed with this information it took no Sherlock Holmes to work out that the night's op would be a long one, so when the curtain was drawn back at the later briefing, the ribbon stretched all the way across Germany to Lützkendorf near Leipzig thus a round trip of some 10 hours or so awaited the lucky lads. The specific target was the Lützkendorf oil facilities located 2 miles East of Mücheln which included a small Wintershall AG crude oil refinery (100,000 tons/yr), a Bergius process hydrogenation unit (125,000 tons/yr) for blending gasolines, a Fischer-Tropsch plant (80,000 tons/yr) to process heavier gasoline cuts from synthesized oil, and tankage for about 75,000 metric tons.



REASON FOR LOSS

Take off from RAF Skellingthorpe began at 16.31 hours and precisely 30 minutes later the last of the 18 was away.

Frank Ling and his crew had been one of the early ones, taking off fourth he was off at 16.34 and once formed up the group headed off south towards Reading and onwards to Beachy Head.


Reading 50°00N/02°00E - 4820N/0600E - 4820N/0920E - 4920N/1010E - 5100N/1110E -Target - 5110N/1200E - 5012N/1142E - 4907N/0920E - 4830N/0200E - Reading


H hour was set for 2200 hours and the first of the eighteen bombers of 50 Squadro duly delivered its load at 2202 with the last of them bombing at 2211.

50 Squadron ORB records:

'All aircraft took off and proceeded to the target but one of this number (Fl/Lt LING AND CREW) failed to complete this mission. Yet another (Fl/Lt. CHADWICK AND CREW) returned early owing to trouble with Rear Turret. Remainder sixteen aircraft bombed target as instructed (identified by Red and Green TIs). Many explosions seen and much smoke penetrating cloud. Considered excellent attack. Aircraft diverted on return and returned to base PM on 15.3.45.'

[Fog over Lincolnshire on their return was probably the reason for the diversion]

The Bomber Command Night Raid Report included the following details:

Weather forecast: Fit, Fog in Lincolnshire on return

Plan: Newhaven with direct bombing H= 2200 BST

244 Lancasters and 11 Mosquitoes attacked the synthetic oil plant on markers which were reported as accurate, and a good concentration of bombing was reported. Many fires and explosions were seen.

Only moderate damage was effected to the Borgius and Fischer Tropsch plants, but a week after the attack they were both inactive.

Enemy fighters were active and 20 Lancasters were intercepted involving 11 attacks and 17 combats. At the target there was a moderate heavy flak barrage up to 10/12000 feet and also slight light flak. Near Weimar accurate heavy flak was experienced

Despatched 255

Attacked primary 245

Attacked alternative target 2

Aborted 8

Missing 8

In addition to the 8 losses noted above Lancaster LL902 of 207 Squadron crashed near Little Rissington airfield Gloucestershire while returning to base and killing all 7 crew. The total number of airmen in the crews of the 9 losses was 65 of which 52 were killed.

The Bomber Command War Diaries (Middlebrook and Everitt) and several other sources state that 18 Lancasters (7.4%) were lost on the raid. However Bomber Command Losses (Chorley) records only 8 losses on the raid plus 1 on return to England. Bomber Command Night Raid Reports as stated above also records 8 as missing.

Nothing was heard from Lancaster NG177 after take off on 14 March 1945 and despite the efforts of the Missing Research and Enquiry Service no trace of the aircraft or crew has ever been found, but the search goes on.

Aviation archaeologists in Germany continue to seek evidence of the fate of Lancaster NG177 and its crew. News of any future developments will appear here.

Having no known graves all the members of this crew are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.






We will be pleased if family or friends of the crew with any additional information or photographs will please contact our HELPDESK




BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW


(1) Fl/Lt Frank James Ling was born on 4 September 1915 at Ashcroft, British Columbia, Canada the son of New Zealand born father Frank Ling (a Farmer) and Canadian born mother Josephine Ling nee Charles.

The family later lived at 560 Watson Road Sardis British Columbia, Canada.

He had seven siblings: Isabella Agnes Ling 1916-2008, Herbert Gordon Ling 1919-1997, Josephine Ling 1921-1921, Stanley Harold Ling 1923-1944 (further information below), Viola Ling 1925-1993, Walter Lawrence Ling 1928-1977 and Ernest Robert Ling 1930-2011

Frank Ling was educated at Sardis Public School 1923-1930 and Chilliwack High School 1930-1935 and later undertook two Hemphill Diesel School correspondence courses 1936-1938. He engaged in football basketball baseball and hunting.

After leaving school he worked in Farming 1935-38, as a Feller 1939-1940, a Riggingman (Chaser) 1940-42 and a Derrick Signalman 1 month.

When he enlisted at Vancouver on 9 April 1942 he was 5' 8½" tall weighing 167 lbs with a dark complexion brown eyes and black hair.

After training 10 Service Flying Training School at RCAF Dauphin, Manitoba, 2 Initial Training School at RCAF Regina, Saskatchewan, 2 Elementary Flying Training School at RCAF Fort William, Ontario, and 12 Service Flying Training School at RCAF Brandon, Manitoba he was awarded his Flying Badge and commissioned as a Pilot Officer on 11 June 1943. He was then posted to 1 General Reconnaissance School at RCAF Summerside, Prince Edward Island.

He embarked for the UK at New York on 12 October 1943 and the day following arrival, 20 October, was posted 3 Personnel Reception Centre at Bournemouth.

Promoted to Flying Officer on 11 December 1943 he was posted to 20 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit at RAF Kidlington on 28 December 1943 and on 10 April 1944 to 14 Operational Training Unit at RAF Cottesmore in Rutland until 12 July when he was posted to 51 Base. He was attached to 5 Group Aircrew School at RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire from 12 July to 25 July and then to 1654 Conversion Unit at RAF Wigsley, Nottinghamshire until 7 September followed by 5 Lancaster Finishing School at RAF Syerston, Nottinghamshire to 19 September 1944 on which date he was posted to 50 Squadron at RAF Skellingthorpe in Lincolnshire.



The Province of British Columbia honoured the memory of Frank James Ling by the naming of Ling Lake, and the memory of his borther, Leading Aircraftman Stanley Harold Ling, by the naming of Mount Ling.

Stan hoped he could join his brother’s squadron, and possibly become part of the same crew. While undergoing training as a bomb aimer at 5 Bombing and Gunnery School, Dafoe, Saskatchewan, Stanley Ling was killed when the Anson aircraft in which he was flying, crashed.


(2) Sgt. Herbert Cecil Lomax was born on 15 August 1908 at Darwen Lancashire the son of James Lomax (a Shopkeeper) and Betsy Lomax nee Aspden. He had two siblings: James Aspden Lomax (1899-1918) and William Ernest Lomax (1905-1984)

In 1911 the family lived at 19 Gladstone Street, Darwen, Lancashire

In 1934 he married Hilda M. T. Cooper at Blackburn (born 1911 Blackburn). There are no known children of the marriage.

In 1939 Herbert Lomax was the Postmaster at Green Lane Post Office Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire where he lived with his wife Hilda.



(3) F/O. Bruce Wells Rutland was born on 18 December 1913 at Toronto, Ontario Canada the only child of England born parents Hubert Douglas Rutland (a Shipper) and Helen Rutland nee Wells

Educated at Winchester Street Public School 1920-27, and Jarvis Collegiate Institute Toronto 1927-32 he later took a Commercial Correspondence Course 1932-33 after which he was employed by Canada Packers as a Bookkeeper 1933-40, First and Co-operative Packers as a Credit Manager 1940-41 and Dunlop Tire and Rubber Co as a Cost Clerk 1941-42.

He played tennis and badminton extensively and his hobby was music

He married Alice Maud Broomhall 23 November 1940 lived at 71 Binswood Ave Toronto later 847 Logan Avenue Toronto. They did not have any children.

When he enlisted at Toronto on 13 July 1942 he was 5'9" tall weighing 140 lbs with a medium complexion, grey eyes and brown hair.




After training at 4 Bombing and Gunnery School at RCAF Fingal, Ontario 6 Initial Training School at RCAF Toronto and 1 Air Observer School at RCAF Malton, Ontario he was awarded his Navigator's Badge and commissioned as a Pilot Officer on 29 October 1943.

He embarked for the UK on 24 November 1943 and after arrival on 1 December was posted 3 Personnel Reception Centre at Bournemouth. On 7 March 1944 he was posted to 10 (Observer) Advanced Flying Unit at RAF Dumfries, Scotland (Course 314)

On 18 April he was posted 14 Operational Training Unit at RAF Cottesmore in Rutland until 12 July when he was posted to 51 Base. He was promoted to Flying Officer on 29 April 1944

He was attached to 5 Group Aircrew School at RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire from 12 July to 25 July and then to 1654 Conversion Unit at RAF Wigsley, Nottinghamshire until 7 September followed by 5 Lancaster Finishing School at RAF Syerston, Nottinghamshire to 19 September 1944 on which date he was posted to 50 Squadron at RAF Skellingthorpe in Lincolnshire.



(4) Fl/Sgt. Eric Leslie Howard was born on 15 November 1920 at Arlesey, Bedfordshire the son of Arthur Bernard Howard (a House Painter) and Mabel Howard nee Albon. He had one sibling: Frederick Bernard Howard (1914-2005)

In 1939 he lived with his widower father and brother at 47 Hitchin Road, Arlesey.



(5) P/O. Ralph Lindsay Thompson was born on 21 April 1923 at Toronto. Ontario, Canada the son of Northern Ireland born parents William Thompson (a Fireman) and Elizabeth Thompson nee Lindsay. He had three siblings: William Alexander Thompson born 1914, John James Thompson born 1915 (later F/O. RCAF J90835) and Vera Elizabeth Thompson born 1918 and the family lived at 157 Greenwood Avenue Toronto.

He attended the Duke of Connaught Public School (1928 1937) and Eastern Commerce Collegiate Institute (1937-1940) and played hockey and baseball. After leaving school was employed by Ingram and Bell as an Office Clerk until enlisting in 1942.

When he enlisted on 28 October 1942 at Toronto he was 5' 6½" tall weighing 126 lbs.




After training at 18 Pre-Aircrew Education Detachment at Queens University, Kingston, 2 Wireless School at RCAF Calgary, Alberta and 5 Bombing and Gunnery School at RCAF Dafoe, Saskatchewan, he was awarded his Air Gunner Badge and promoted to Sergeant on 29 November 1943

He embarked for the UK on 20 January 1944 and the day after arrival, 1 February, was posted to 3 Personnel Reception Centre at Bournemouth. On 7 March he was posted to 6 Observer Advanced Flying Unit (Course 126 7 March 1944 to 18 April 1944). On 18 April he was posted 14 Operational Training Unit at RAF Cottesmore in Rutland until 12 July when he was posted to 51 Base. He was attached to 5 Group Aircrew School at RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire from 12 July to 25 July and then to 1654 Conversion Unit at RAF Wigsley, Nottinghamshire until 7 September followed by 5 Lancaster Finishing School at RAF Syerston, Nottinghamshire to 19 September on which date he was posted to 50 Squadron at RAF Skellingthorpe in Lincolnshire.


He was promoted to Flight Sergeant 29 August 1944, WO2 on 28 February 1945 and commissioned as a Pilot Officer on 13 March 1945


(6) P/O. Robert Bruce Millman was born on 14 November 1923 at Stratford, Ontario, Canada the son of James Robert Millman (a Salesman) and Hilda Millman nee Ritter. He had three siblings: Audrey Helen Millman born 1925, William John Millman born 1928 and Kenneth James Millman born 1929

The family later lived at 140 Park street Chatham Ontario and later at 24, Ardavan Place, London, Ontario

He attended Central Public School (1936-1937) and Chatham and Chatham Collegiate (1937-1941).

After leaving school he was employed by the Chrysler Corporation as a Messenger and later as a Stockpicker until enlisting in the RCAF.

He enjoyed bowling and model aircraft construction.

When he enlisted at Chatham on 13 November 1942 he was 5'9" tall weighing 145 lbs with a fair complexion, blue eyes and brow hair.

He was hospitalised at Westminster, London, Ontario with Scarlet Fever 19 April to 17 May 1943

He then studied a 5 week Pre-Aircrew Education Course at Ontario Training College for Technical Teachers at Hamilton which he complete on 16 July 1943

After training at 5 Initial Training School at RCAF Belleville, Ontario and 9 Bombing and Gunnery School at RCAF Mont Joli, Quebec, he was awarded his Air Gunner Badge and promoted to Sergeant on 25 January 1944. He was then posted to 3 Air Gunner Training school at RCAF Three Rivers, Quebec.

He embarked for the UK on 25 March 1944 and the day after arrival in the UK, 3 April, was posted to 3 Personnel and Reception Centre at Bournemouth.

On 18 April he was posted 14 Operational Training Unit at RAF Cottesmore in Rutland until 12 July when he was posted to 51 Base.

He was attached to 5 Group Aircrew School at RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire from 12 July to 25 July and then to 1654 Conversion Unit at RAF Wigsley, Nottinghamshire until 7 September followed by 5 Lancaster Finishing School at RAF Syerston, Nottinghamshire to 19 September 1944 on which date he was posted to 50 Squadron at RAF Skellingthorpe in Lincolnshire.

He was promoted to Flight Sergeant on 28 October 1944 and commissioned as a Pilot Officer 13 March 1945



(7) P/O. Angus Wharing Holmes was born on 26 February 1924 at Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada the son of Joseph James Holmes (a Safety Inspector at a Steel Company) and Jessie Eleanor Holmes (nee McLean).

He had six siblings: Jean Eveline McLean Holmes (1922-1924), James Edwin Holmes (1926-2001), Catherine Elizabeth Holmes (1930-1930), Barbara Anne Holmes born 1931, Ruth McLean Holmes born 1934, and Catherine Patricia Holmes born 1937

The family lived at 54 St Peter's Road, Sydney and later at later 129 High Street Sydney

Angus attended Sydney Public School (1930-1939) and Sydney Academy (1939-1943). He played basketball and hockey and also hunted.


After leaving school he enlisted in the RCAF at Sydney on 15 May 1943. He was 5' 9½" tall weighing 145 lbs with a fair complexion with brown eyes and auburn hair.


Following training at 1 Wireless School RCAF Montreal, Quebec and 9 Bombing and Gunnery School RCAF Mont Joli, Quebec he was awarded his Air Gunner's Badge and promoted to Sergeant on 28 January 1944. On 12 February he was then posted to 3 Air Gunner Training School at RCAF Three Rivers, Quebec.

He embarked for the UK on 25 March 1944 and the day after arrival, 3 April was posted to 3 Personnel Reception Centre at Bournemouth.



On 18 April he was posted 14 Operational Training Unit at RAF Cottesmore in Rutland until 12 July when he was posted to 51 Base

He was attached to 5 Group Aircrew School at RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire from 12 July to 25 July and then to 1654 Conversion Unit at RAF Wigsley, Nottinghamshire until 7 September followed by 5 Lancaster Finishing School at RAF Syerston, Nottinghamshire to 19 September 1944 on which date he was posted to 50 Squadron at RAF Skellingthorpe in Lincolnshire.

He was promoted to Flight Sergeant on 28 October 1944 and commissioned as a Pilot Officer 13 March 1945










MEMORIALS


(1) Fl/Lt Frank James Ling - having no known grave he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial - Panel 278

(2) Sgt. Herbert Cecil Lomax - having no known grave he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial - Panel 275

(3) F/O. Bruce Wells Rutland - having no known grave he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial - Panel 279

(4) Fl/Sgt. Eric Leslie Howard - having no known grave he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial - Panel 271

(5) P/O. Ralph Lindsay Thompson - having no known grave he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial - Panel 281

(6) P/O. Robert Bruce Millman - having no known grave he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial - Panel 280

(7) P/O. Angus Wharing Holmes - having no known grave he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial - Panel 280



Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - August 2020

With thanks to the sources quoted below.

RW 1.08.2020

Acknowledgements: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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