26/27.04.1944 44 Squadron Lancaster I LL920 KM-V Fg.Off. Oldham DFC
Operation: Schweinfurt, (Ball bearing production factories) Germany
Date: 26/27th April 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: 44 Squadron (Rhodesia)
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Dunholme Lodge, Lincolnshire.
Location: Oberkirchen, Germany
Pilot: Fg.Off. Gordon William Oldham DFC 160013 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
Flt.Eng: Sgt. Frank Birkett Walker 937534 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
Nav: Flt.Sgt. John Andrew McKerrow 1381921 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Air Bmr: Fg.Off. Leslie William Petts 151756 RAFVR Age 30. Killed
WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. William Frederick Williams 1750303 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Air Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Robert Day Frame 1560058 RAFVR Age 34. Killed
Air Gnr: Sgt. Gilbert Wheeler Whittles 1836276 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off from RAF Dunholme Lodge, Lincolnshire. at 21:39 hrs 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.
This was 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.
Lancaster LL920 was reported to have been lost in a collision with 57 Sqn Lancaster I ME679 DX-K.
ME679 was piloted by Sqn.Ldr. Michael Innes Boyle DFC when all but one of his crew were also killed. The only survivor being that of WO2 Waddell RCAF he was made a PoW at the Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria camp.
However, Theo Boiten’s Nachtjagd Combat Archive 16th March - 11th May 1944 Part 2, acknowledges that although these two Lancasters were reportedly lost in a collision, the destruction of LL920 was later officially credited to Oblt. Helmuth Schulte, his 13th Abschusse, from 4./NJG5 near Nussback, 16 km east of Kehl at 01:28 hours.
Fg.Off. Gordon Williams Oldham DFC had a girlfriend at the time, also a pilot (Ferry) serving in South Africa. Gordon ran a store with his father prior to call up.
Memorial at All Saints Church, Great Steeping (courtesy Dave Hitchborne)
Crew grave photographs (courtesy David Franklin - who has provided us with permission to supply any of the relatives with a copy of the original photo at full resolution free of charge)
Fg.Off. Gordon Williams Oldham DFC Durnbach War Cemetery. Collective grave 8.K. 22-25. Born in Rhodesia on 9th October 1920. Son of Bernard Carmichael and Gladys Burgess (née Ayles) Oldham of South Africa.
DFC awarded whilst flying with 61 Sqn. Gazetted 13 July 1943.
Gordon Williams Oldham entered Lloyd House in January 1936. He was an outstanding boxer and represented the School; also a fine athlete, he held the Under 16 long jump, hurdles, and 100 yards School records for many years. He left Plumtree School in April 1938. He attested in September 1940, and after receiving preliminary training in Rhodesia he proceeded overseas in October 1941. Remembered on the Plumtree School Roll of Honour.
Sgt. Frank Birkett Walker. Durnbach War Cemetery. Collective grave 8.K. 22-25. Born in 1921. Son of William and Alice Walker, of Portinscale, Cumberland.
Fl/Sgt. John Andrew McKerrow. Durnbach War Cemetery. Collective grave 8.K. 22-25. Son of John Andrew and Margaret McKerrow; husband of Marie McKerrow, of Derby, England.
F/O. Leslie William Petts. Durnbach War Cemetery. Collective grave 8.K. 22-25. Son of Charles and Elizabeth Petts, husband of Vera Elizabeth Petts, of Catford, London, England.
Sgt. William Frederick Williams. Durnbach War Cemetery. Collective grave 8.K. 22-25. Son of George and Mary Ann Williams, of Weston Rhyn, Shropshire, England.
Flt.Sgt. Robert Day Frame. Durnbach War Cemetery. Collective grave 8.K. 22-25. Son of James and Jeanie Day Frame, of Lanark, Scotland.
Sgt. Gilbert Wheeler Whittles. Durnbach War Cemetery. Collective grave 8.K. 22-25. Son of James Whittles and Annie Waller Whittles, of Machen, Monmouthshire, Wales.
With thanks to Mark Palethorpe for further information on Fg.Off. Oldham DFC. Mark is in contact with the navigator who served with Fg.Off. Oldham on his first tour of thirty operations.
Page of remembrance created for relatives of the crew after being contacted by Paul Rogers, a relative of the rear gunner Sgt. Whittles.
To Andrea Gray, née Andrea Jean McKerrow, daughter of Flt.Sgt. John Andrew McKerrow. Also thanks to Michel Beckers and Gordon Poultney for image of the pilot - August 2016. Thanks to John Jones for the NoK information for Fg.Off. Oldham and Sgt. Walker.