01/02.03.1943 No.149 Squadron Stirling III BK692 OJ-W Fl/Lt. Rowland Edward Richman D.F.M.
Operation: Berlin, Germany
Date: 01/02 March 1943 (Monday/Tuesday)
Unit: No. 149 Squadron
Type: Stirling III
Base: RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk
Location: Near Gueutteville, Seine Maritime, France
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Rowland Edward Richman DFM 115542 RAFVR Age22. Killed (1)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. D.R. Clayton 975347 PoW No. 27632 Camp: Stalag Lamsdorf - 344 (2)
Nav: Sgt. Robert Arthur Nunn 1378662 RAFVR Age 34. Killed (3)
Air/Bmr: Sgt. R.H. Hale 1378055 PoW No. 222822 Camp: Stalag Muhlberg-Elbe - 4B (4)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. H.J. Gillingham 798602 PoW No. 27640 Camp: Stalag Lamsdorf - 344 (5)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Donald Albert Crofts 1193969 RAFVR Age 21. Killed (6)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. N. Thornley 1438723 PoW No. 27663 Camp: Stalag Lamsdorf - 344 (7)
Spare Nav: P/O. R.J. Taylor J/22518 RCAF PoW No. 261 Camp: Stalag Sagan and Belaria - L3 (8)
We welcome contact from relatives of the crew in order to add further information/photographs.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off from RAF Lakenheath at 18.53hrs to bomb Berlin.
This aircraft was armed with 24 x 30lb IB and 510 x 4lb IB.
Special Equipment: IFF, Gee, Lorenz - see abbreviations
Route as per Loss Card: Cromer - 5400N 0300E - Mando - Berlin - Wunsdorf - Texel
It was a cloudless but hazy evening over East Anglia when BK692 took off from RAF Lakenheath and the weather remained clear with only small amounts of cloud for the 350 mile flight across the North Sea to Mando Island in Denmark. 302 aircraft from bases in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and East Anglia converged on Mando before the whole force turned south east towards Berlin. 156 Lancasters, 60 Stirlings and 86 Halifaxes made up the dispatched force but by the time the target was reached 37 aircraft had been forced to return early, mainly due to technical and manipulative problems. Stragglers crossed heavily defended areas in northern Germany where the searchlights and guns at Sylt, Aero Island, Kiel, Lubeck and Rostock were particularly active. Four aircraft were damaged whilst a fifth was coned and probably brought down by flak over Flensburg. 11 aircraft attacked the alternative target and with a total of 17 lost only 237 later reported having attacked the primary target.
Up to 200 searchlights were deployed round the city of Berlin with a broad band of them across the northern area. Groups of 20 to 30 beams combined to form large cones that remained fairly steady but seemed to have little cooperation with the flak guns, which was probably due to the fact that fighters were active in the area. The heavy flak was described as only moderate and was considered by the crews to be not as formidable as they had expected. Nevertheless, 21 of the attacking aircraft were damaged and two more were brought down by flak over the target. A further two were also lost over the target area due to causes unknown.
Zero hour was 22.00hrs and at Z-3 the Pathfinders commenced the attack. This was the first time H2S had been employed over such a large target and the built up area filled the H2S screens making it very difficult to identify the aiming point. As a result, most of the target markers were dropped 3 miles south and west of the aiming point.
The main force led by the Halifaxes began bombing at 22.04hrs followed by the Stirlings and finally the Lancasters. Bombing continued until 22.35hrs some 15 minutes beyond schedule. On the return journey there was a considerable scatter of aircraft due to them failing to follow the briefed overland route. Many encountered heavy ground defences, 2 being brought down by flak and 13 damaged. Night fighters shot down 5 more and a further 5 were lost to unknown causes.
The raid was considered to be the most successful so far delivered against the German capital. A great concentration of bombs had fallen on the south west of the city and later reconnaissance showed very heavy damage to the west and south west centred on the Wilmersdorf area. Wireless manufacturers Telefunken and Blaupunkt-Werke, two branches of Askania, the makers of optical and precision instruments and a roller bearing manufacturer were all severely damaged. Many warehouses, store sheds, hutted camps housing factory workers, many military barrack huts and other military installations were demolished or burned out. At least 600 detached and semi detached house were destroyed or severely damaged. 486 people were killed and 377 severely injured.
The force converged on Mando Island and turned south east towards Berlin, stragglers having to negotiate the searchlights and guns, particularly active over Sylt, Aero Island, Flensburg, Kiel, Lubeck and Rostock.
Stirling BK692 seems to have reached Berlin more or less unscathed but once over the target area the situation rapidly changed. That night BK692 had an eighth crew member on board i.e. spare navigator RCAF P/O. R.J. Taylor. In his statement he explains what happened next. 'Coned over target, hit (no casualties). Minutes later N/F (night fighter) hit us - Crofts and Nunn badly injured'. Faint notes on the loss card tell us that Sgt. Crofts was 'Killed by shell in chest' and Sgt. Nunn was 'Wounded in groin and severed arm'. It is not mentioned on the loss card but it is logical to assume that at some stage the bombs on board were jettisoned and pilot Fl/Lt. Richman managed to extricate his aircraft from immediate danger then turned for home. P/O. Taylor continues 'Instruments u/s, for hours the Pilot guided defenceless plane from one danger to the next until we were at last over sea and cloud. Petrol gone, crew except Pilot and Crofts baled out'. Sgt. Nunn it seems, remained courageous to the end and P/O. Taylor observed, 'Nunn didn't complain even when later we pulled his chute and dropped him' and in conclusion he says 'the plane did not burn. 3 buried together'.
The aircraft crashed near Gueuteville, Seine Maritime about 4km south west of Totes, France. Sgt. Nunn, though conscious when he baled out, did not survive. Sgt Hale evaded capture for nine months but was eventually caught at the Spanish border and taken into captivity. Fl/Lt. Richman, Sgt. Nunn and Sgt. Croft were buried on 6 March 1943 at Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery, Hautot-Sur-Mer France.
(1) Fl/Lt. Rowland Edward Richman DFM. Born 1920 Sculcoates, East Riding of Yorkshire. Son of John Edward and Kate Richman of Hull and husband of Winifred Joan Richman of Hull. Fl/Lt Richman was posted to 49 Squadron in September 1940 and flew 33 Hampden operations before being posted to 149 Squadron in May 1941. On 3 November 1940 he was the pilot of Hampden X3029 EA-D that took off from RAF Scampton at 0135hrs for Kiel in very heavy rain and crashed 5 miles west of Scampton. There were no injuries. His DFM was announced in the London Gazette on 6 June 1941.
(2) Sgt. D.R. Clayton - nothing further known, are you able to assist?
(3) Sgt. Robert Arthur Nunn. Born Fulham 1908. Son of John Mountfort and Alice Sophia Nunn; husband of Mary Elizabeth Nunn of Harrow Weald, Middlesex.
(4) Sgt. R.H. Hale - nothing further known, are you able to assist?
(5) Sgt. H.J. Gillingham - nothing further known, are you able to assist?
(6) Sgt. Donald Albert Crofts. Born Norwich 1921. Son of Richard Edward and Edith Crofts of Far Cotton, Northampton.
(7) Sgt. N. Thornley - nothing further known, are you able to assist?
(8) P/O. R.J. Taylor - nothing further known, are you able to assist?
DIEPPE CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, HAUTOT-SUR-MER, FRANCE
Created by the Germans to accommodate the Allied dead left behind after the ill fated Dieppe raid of 1942 the graves are arranged in long rows with the headstones placed back to back in the German manner. After Dieppe was liberated in 1944 the Allies decided not to disturb the graves. It is the only cemetery maintained by the Commonwealth Graves Commission that was created by the Germans.
Fl/Lt. Rowland Edward Richman buried at Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery, Hautot-Sur-Mer, France. Grave No. H53 (1)
Sgt. Robert Arthur Nunn buried at Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery, Hautot-Sur-Mer, France. Grave No. H55
Sgt. Donald Albert Crofts buried at Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery, Hautot-Sur-Mer, France. Grave No. H54
Researched by Roy Wilcock for Aircrew Remembered - May 2015. Sources: RAF Loss Card, RAF Bomber Command Report on Night Operations, Commonwealth Graves Commission, Bomber Command Database, Bill Chorley 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions'.