01/02.02.1945 No. 550 Squadron Lancaster I RA502 BQ-Z F/O. Aubrey Lohrey
Date: 1st February 1945 (Thursday)
Unit: 550 Squadron
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF North Killinghome, Lincolnshire
Location: Chateau Salins, France
Pilot: F/O Aubrey Lohrey RNZAF - Bailed out - Survived
Fl/Eng: Fl/Sgt. Vic Cassapi RAFVR - Bailed out - Survived
Nav: Fl/Sgt. Eddie Westhorpe RAFVR - Bailed out - Survived
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Bill Anderson RAFVR - Bailed out - Survived
Wop/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Norman Tinsley 2205513 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Andrew James 2225077 RAFVR Age. 20. Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Alan Jarnell RAFVR - Bailed out - Survived
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 15.56 hrs from North Killingholme, Lincolnshire. The operation was to bomb railway marshalling yards at Ludwigshafen. Carrying a bomb load which comprised of a 4,000lb (cookie) which gained it's reputation from the surface devastation it caused in built up areas, and a further 1,620 incendiary bombs. (Total bomb load some 11,132 lbs)
After releasing the bomb load RA502 headed for home. Leaving all their lights off to avoid German night fighters - the night was also very dark with no moon.
Crew L-R: P/O. Lohrey, Fl/Sgt. Westhorpe, Fl/Sgt. Anderson, Fl/Sgt. Cassapi, Sgt. Tinsley, Sgt. James and Fl/Sgt. Alan Jarnell
Allan Jarnell, the rear gunner, reported seeing a twin-engine German night fighter which he had identified as a Me 410. Allan did not take any action as he reported that this night fighter had not shown any inclination of attack. It was only a matter on minutes later that Andrew James reported another aircraft crossing RA502's beam from directly below and at that time the impact occurred.
It seems that the other Lancaster from 170 Squadron piloted by F/O. Dixie DFC RCAF had also seen the German Night fighter and was taking evasive action - failing to see RA502 directly above.
RA502 was seriously damaged. Both engines on the starboard side shut down and one or more of the engines on the port side malfunctioning. The pilot Aubrey Lohrey could not hold and maintain straight and level flight without the imminent danger of losing control completely, he reluctantly gave the order to abandon the aircraft. RA502 crashed near Chateau Salins at 20.02 hrs, some 5 kms from Nancy.
The two airman who died on this aircraft were never recovered and are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
The other aircraft that was involved (Lancaster NG202) returned safely although the tail gunner P/O. Fernquist, RCAF was killed instantly when the propellers of RA502 sliced through the tail section and lies in Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery. The pilot succeeded in nursing NG202 back to England.
Vic Cassapi, Bill Anderson, and Alan Jarnell, went to Fleville near Nancy in France in October 1998 for the unveiling of a Memorial Stone to two members of their crew and one member of a 170 Squadron crew who died after a collision.
We are grateful to the 550 squadron website (See links) for the photographs used in this tragic loss article, to Michael Harrison who undertook further research for us and also to Debbie Tilley for bringing this loss to our attention. Andrew James was Debby's late mothers cousin and here is a brief extract of her touching correspondence:
"I found your website and thought I would write to you as I am a distant relative of the late Sgt Andrew James of 550 squadron /Lancaster RA502.
Andrew was my late mother's cousin. For some time they lived next door to each other in Hartford village. Many years ago, I met Andrew's mother (my grand-father's sister) and his two sisters on a visit to Northumberland to meet mum's family.
A little background: after the war, mum moved around the country seeking work and eventually came to London and met my late father, Stanley Tilley (Royal Artillery and a veteran of Normandy - battles at Caen, Falaise and many more until the end of the war). They married and had two children, my brother Ray and me.
Mum never forgot her Northumberland roots and visited whenever possible. We never knew of Andrew's fate only that he was missing in action. Andrew has always been remembered through the years and we have always sought to honour Andrew's memory on Remembrance Sunday, leaving a poppy in the Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey.
Although we now know that Andrew is remembered in France and the UK, it is very sad indeed to learn that he has no marked grave and died in a horrific crash. Perhaps it is best that mum never knew what became of him.
As long as fitness allows, the family will continue to visit the Field of Remembrance to pay our respects to all and to honour our own 'heroes'.
There were quite a few in the family, in one service or other, as was common with many families. We are extremely proud of the service they gave to their country and the sacrifices made.
I hope you find this information of interest."
Sgt. Norman Tinsley. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 277. Son of George and Emma Tinsley, of Bury, Lancashire, England.
Sgt. Andrew James. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 275. Son of Charles Henry and Mary Maughan James, of Hartford, Northumberland, England.
Burial details: (170 Sqn Lancaster)
P/O. Virgil John Fernquist, Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery, Sec. G, Row F. Grave 2. Son of Victor and Viola Emelia Christina Fernquist, of New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada. Brother of Verne and Vincent.
With thanks to the 550 Squadron website
, Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol's. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', ‘Bomber Command Database’
, Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries (Updated 2014 version), Commonwealth War Graves Commission
. Runnymede Memorial Data Base