26/27.04.1944 No. 106 Squadron Lancaster I ME699 ZN-O F/O. Mifflin
Date: 26/27th April 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: No. 106 Squadron
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Metheringham, Lincolnshire
Location: Kirchensall, Germany
Pilot: F/O. Frederick Manuel Mifflin DFC. 155486 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Norman Cyril Jackson VC. 905192 RAFVR Age 25. PoW No: 53142 Camp: Stalag Muhlhausen (9C) (note)
Nav: Fl/Sgt. Frank Lewis Higgins DFM. 175171 RAFVR PoW No: 3574 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus (357)
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. M.H. Toft 1323574 RAFVR PoW No: 2576 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus (357)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Ernest Sandelands 1060417 RAFVR PoW No: 3511 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus (357)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. W. Smith 1516279 RAFVR PoW No further details - probably held in Camp Stalag Kopernikus (357)
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Norman Hugh Johnson 1398602 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 21:26 hrs from RAF Metheringham in Lincolnshire to attack the ball bearing production factories at Schweinfurt as part of a 206 Lancasters, 11 Mosquitoes from 5 group and 9 further Lancasters from 1 group to bomb the ball bearing production plant.
Another huge failure with very light damage done on the ground due to strong head winds making the markers inaccurate from the Mosquito pathfinder force. It is reported that only 2 people were killed on the ground in the target area but a total of 21 Lancasters lost! 125 aircrew killed and a further 28 being made PoW.
Above L-R: Fl/Sgt. Frank Higgins, Fl/Sgt. Maurice Toft, Fl/Sgt. Norman Johnson, Fl/Sgt. Ernest Sandelands, F/O. Frederick Manuel Mifflin. Extreme right: DFM of Fl/Sgt. Frank Higgins (courtesy Barry Raymond)
Lancaster ME669 was attacked by a night fighter and subsequently shot down 1.5 miles west of Kirchensall in the village of Wuerttemberg. Combat taking place at 5,800 mtrs at 02:45 hrs. The Luftwaffe pilot being the ace Fw. Gunther Bahr of 3./NJG6 for his 15th claim of the war. (shown above) (1)
Barry Raymond submitted the following information:
’Sandy' Sandelands own account of events, reference the attack aircraft, he states "he returned to his radar to find a pending disaster 'Miff', Miff it's at 800 yards now and closing in" he warned tail gunner Johnson, who had already spotted it, although Sandelands states it being a Junkers 88 Johnson shouts "dive, dive, starboard, starboard, corkscrew skipper it's an FW 190 coming straight at me", which aircraft delivered the 'first hit' is not clear, but while Jackson was out on the wing a FW 190 again strafed the aircraft hitting the already injured Jackson in the back, causing him to lose his grip on the air intake and become engulfed in flames, whether this was a second FW 190 or the one that Johnson fired on returning to finish them off is unclear.
The two bodies were recovered, but due to the force of the impact could not be positively identified, and were buried that day in a single communal grave marked ' Unknowns'. It was four years later when MRES investigation officers visited Wuerttemberg and exhumed the remains when they positively identified them as Mifflin and Johnson, and they were re-interred in Bad Tolz (Durnbach) Military Cemetery.
Also Jackson, Toft, Higgins and Sandelands were initially taken to a civilian hospital and then moved to Dalag Luft IX interrogation centre before being released into a Red Cross Compound a week later before being transferred to Stalag Luft VI POW Camp in Heydekrug on the Baltic coast, Sandelands states it was here that they were reunited with 'Smudger' Smith their mid-upper gunner, during all this time none of them were aware of the fate of Mifflin or Johnson.
After the war Frank Higgins worked as a Steward in Hounslow Cricket Club, West London, near to where we lived at the time before becoming the Licensee of two different pubs in the area, he died in 1979 he and his wife Peggy, my dad's sister never had any children, Peggy re-married not long after and moved to the Isle of Wight, where not long after she also died.
Ernest (Sandy) Sandelands died in 1981
A disastrous night for 106 squadron losing some 5 aircraft, the others:
28 year old, Sq/Ldr. Anthony O’Shea Murdoch NZ/40414 RNZAF from Canterbury, New Zealand - Lancaster III JB601 ZN-V, killed with 6 other crew, remaining 1 made PoW.
21 year old, P/O. Edward Charle Bisset Harper 172183 RAFVR from West Runton, Norfolk - Lancaster III JB562 ZN-H, killed with 4 other crew, remaining 2 made PoW.
P/O. W.G. Fraser Lancaster III ND850 ZN-C, evaded capture along with 3 other crew members, 3 were killed.
29 year old. P/O. Cyril Arthur Bishop 172471 from Bristol, England - Lancaster III ND853 ZN-J, killed with 4 other crew members, 2 being made PoW.
(1) Ofw. Günther Bahr - survived the war with a total of 37 confirmed claims. He died aged 87 in April 2009 at Wacken/Schleswick-Holstein, Germany.
Note: Sgt. Norman Cyril Jackson received the highest award for bravery, the Victoria Cross for his actions this night. Awarded on Friday the 26th October 1945 after the end of the war and that his actions had been verified by other surviving crew members:
“The King has been graciously pleased to confer the Victoria Cross in recognition of most conspicuous bravery to:-
Left: 905192 Sergeant (Now Warrant Officer) Norman Cyril Jackson RAFVR, 106 Squadron.
This airman was the flight engineer in a Lancaster detailed to attack Schweinfurt on the night of 26th April 1944. Bombs were dropped successfully and the aircraft was climbing out of the target area. Suddenly it was attacked by a fighter at about 20,000 feet. The captain took evading action at once, but the enemy secured many hits. A fire started near a petrol tank on the upper surface of the starboard wing, between the fuselage and the inner engine.
Sergeant Jackson was thrown to the floor during the engagement. Wounds which he received from shell splinters in the right leg and shoulder were probably sustained at that time. Recovering himself, he remarked that he could deal with the fire on the wing and obtained his captain's permission to try to put out the flames.
Pushing a hand fire-extinguisher into the top of his life-saving jacket and clipping on his parachute pack, Sergeant Jackson jettisoned the escape hatch above the pilot's head. He then started to climb out of the cockpit and back along the top of the fuselage to the starboard wing. Before he could leave the fuselage his parachute pack opened and the whole canopy and rigging lines spilled into the cockpit.
Undeterred, Sergeant Jackson continued. The pilot (Tony Mifflin), bomb aimer (Maurice Toft) and navigator (Frank Higgins) gathered the parachute together and held on to the rigging lines, paying them out as the airman crawled aft. Eventually he slipped and, falling from the fuselage to the starboard wing, grasped an air intake on the leading edge of the wing. He succeeded in clinging on but lost the extinguisher, which was blown away.
His obituary with courtesy of Daily Telegraph - reproduced with permission here.
By this time, the fire had spread rapidly and Sergeant Jackson was involved. His face, hands and clothing were severely burnt. Unable to retain his hold he was swept through the flames and over the trailing edge of the wing, dragging his parachute behind. When last seen it was only partly inflated and was burning in a number of places.
Realising that the fire could not be controlled, the captain gave the order to abandon aircraft. Four of the remaining members of the crew landed safely. The captain and rear gunner have not been accounted for.
Sergeant Jackson was unable to control his descent and landed heavily. He sustained a broken ankle, his right eye was closed through burns and his hands were useless. These injuries, together with the wounds received earlier, reduced him to a pitiable state. At daybreak he crawled to the nearest village, where he was taken prisoner. He bore the intense pain and discomfort of the journey to Dulag Luft with magnificent fortitude. After ten months in hospital he made a good recovery, though his hands require further treatment and are only of limited use.
This airman's attempt to extinguish the fire and save the aircraft and crew from falling into enemy hands was an act of outstanding gallantry. To venture outside, when travelling at 200 miles an hour, at a great height and in intense cold, was an almost incredible feat. Had he succeeded in subduing the flames, there was little or no prospect of his regaining the cockpit. The spilling of his parachute and the risk of grave damage to its canopy reduced his chances of survival to a minimum. By his ready willingness to face these dangers he set an example of self-sacrifice which will ever be remembered."
Sadly Sgt. Norman Cyril Jackson VC passed away on the 26th March 1994 aged 74. His family were upset because the medal went to a private bidder rather than the RAF museum at Hendon. They had planned to give their father's medals to the museum, but found they could not do so under the terms of their mother's will and the museum was outbid. His VC is now on display in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery at the Imperial War Museum, London, England.
F/O. Frederick Manuel Mifflin. DFC. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 1.F.28. Son of Samuel William and Jane Blanche Mifflin, of Catalina, Newfoundland, Canada.
Fl/Sgt. Norman Hugh Johnson. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 1.F.27. Son of Harris Young Johnson and Gertrude Johnson, of Surbiton, Surrey, England.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Barry Raymond, nephew of Fl/Sgt. Frank Lewis Higgins DFM who contacted us in August 2017.