16/17.03.1945 625 Squadron Lancaster I RF145 CF-Z F/O. Patrick Morley Rolls
Date: 16/17 March 1945 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: 625 Squadron - Motto: We Avenge
Squadron Badge: Within a circular chain of seven links, a Lancaster rose; The Lancaster rose stands for the aircraft used, the seven links the number of personnel in one such aircraft
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Kelstern, Lincolnshire
Location: Bürglein area near Nuremberg
Pilot: F/O. Patrick Morley (Pat) Rolls Aus/424322 RAAF Age 21 - Missing believed killed (1)
Fl/Eng: Fl/Sgt. Derek Branston Jones 1624612 RAFVR Age 20 - Killed (2)
Nav: Fl/Sgt. Robert Craven Rhodes Aus/433648 RAAF Age 22 - Missing believed killed (3)
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Thomas Martin Ryan Aus/436573 RAAF Age 31 - PoW - details unknown (4)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. John William (Jack) Teague Aus/435192 RAAF Age 20 - Missing believed killed (5)
Air/Gnr (MU): Fl/Sgt. Cecil James Tarrant Aus/437369 RAAF Age 27 - Missing believed killed (6
Air/Gnr (R): Sgt. George Allen Clarke 3010578 RAFVR Age unknown - Missing believed killed (7)
We appeal to anyone with further information and/or photographs to please contact us via our HELPDESK
The original crew was spawned in August 1944 in Staffordshire, the home of the famous Bull Terriers and the not so famous 30 Operational Training Unit based at RAF Hixon. On the face of it the crew was 100% Aussie but scratch the surface and that was not exactly true. Air Bomber Thomas Ryan, Wireless Op. Jack Teague and Air Gunners Ross McDonald and Cecil Teague were without doubt born and bred Australians but Pat Rolls, the captain, was actually a New Zealander whilst navigator Robert Craven had been born in Toronto Canada but hey, at least they were all RAAF and that was what probably mattered most to them. They had a bond, a certain affinity that comes from a common background be it simply geographical or something more profound. Age-wise the crew formed two distinct groups, Cecil Tarrant and Thomas Ryan were 27 and 31 respectively whilst the other four were aged either 20 or 22.
At heavy conversion unit training the RAAF monopoly was broken by the introduction into the crew of a Flight Engineer, a trade of which there was a British preponderance. Step forward a 20 year old scouser by the name of Derek Branston Jones from Birkenhead.
Duly converted and conversant with the idiosyncrasies of the Lancaster heavy bomber, the crew were posted to 625 Squadron at RAF Kelstern in Lincolnshire with effect from 24 February 1945.
It was 8 March when the crew were first detailed for operations, though not all of them. The navigator and two air gunners remained behind whilst Pat Rolls, flying as second dickey, together with Thomas Ryan, Jack Teague and Derek Jones were selected to fill their respective positions with F/O. Keith Ernest Bailey's crew on a night raid on Kassel. All aircraft returned safely.
Three nights later on 11 March Pat flew with his own crew on their first operation, a daylight raid to Essen in Lancaster NG237.
All 21 detailed returned safely.
The following afternoon they were off again in NG237, one of 23 detailed for a raid on Dortmund from which again all returned safely. For this operation rear gunner Ross Macdonald was replaced by spare bod Sgt. R. G. Schofield. Ross Macdonald did not fly with the crew again, the reason is not known (see biographical details 8).
A raid to Erin on the night of 13/14 March made it three in a row and again the gods were with them as all 14 returned safely. Rear gunner on this operation was Sgt. J. W. Slater as they were again allocated NG237.
A day's respite on 14 March but the following day saw them detailed for a night raid on Misburg again with NG237 as their mount. Flying with them in the rear turret on this operation was Sgt. Edmund Kenneth Day. See NG169.
There were fortunately no losses yet again and all 21 that set out returned safely.
On 16 March they were one of 26 crews detailed for a raid on the very difficult target of Nuremberg. For reasons unknown instead of their usual Lancaster NG237 they were allocated Lancaster I RF145, an aircraft delivered brand new to the Squadron a mere three weeks earlier on 22 February. Since then of course the bomber had seen service on 9 operations but was, nevertheless one of the newest aircraft in service with 625 Squadron.
Their rear gunner for this operation was Sgt. George Allen Clarke about who little is known except that he was a very experienced airman. Having been posted to RAF Kelstern on 15 November 1944 from 1668 Conversion Unit as mid upper gunner of the F/O. John Lilley crew, he had since flown on at least 21 operations, latterly as rear gunner with the crew of Fl/Lt. Charles Roy Parker.
The crew surely drew some solace from having such an experienced man watching the back door.
The bomb load of RF145 was to be made up of 1 x 4000lb 'Cookie', 9 x 150 x 4lb clusters and 2 x 60 x 4lb 105 'X' type. Special equipment on board would be H2S and Fishpond (see abbreviations).
REASON FOR LOSS
By the time that Pat Rolls flying RF145 took off from RAF Kelstern at 17.46, 22 Lancasters were already airborne and ten minutes later all 26 were on their way south towards Reading.
It was a fine evening as the bomber stream flew to Beach Head, over the Channel and crossed the French coast about Le Tréport.
The briefed route took the 231 Lancasters of Group 1 and 46 Lancasters and 16 Mosquitoes of Group 8 in a south easterly direction until just west of Strasburg where they were to turn east and continue for about a hundred miles before turning north east. After by-passing Stuttgart they were to turn ENE and on to the target (see map below).
Zero hour was set for 2130 BST.
Reading - 50°10N 02°00E - 48°20N 07°00E - 48°27N 09°00E - 49°13N 09°55E - Nurnberg - 49°28N 11°12E - 4910N 11°20 E - 48°50N 10°25E - 48°17N 09°00E - 47°50N 07°20E - 50°00N 02°00E - Reading.
The following details are taken from the Bomber Command Night Raid Report.
'Enemy fighters were very active and there were 5 attacks and 6 combats en route to the target with 10 attacks and 7 combats over the target between 21.24 and 21.40 hours. Only 1 attack was reported after leaving the target. Moderate predicted heavy flak was experienced at Nurnberg.
24 Lancasters, all of Group 1 were lost, 16 to fighters, 4 to flak, 2 in collision and 2 due to unknown circumstances.
283 aircraft bombed the primary target, 4 the alternative and 6 aborted.
Heavy damage was caused to the eastern and south-eastern parts of the town and practically completed the devastation of the built up area. Industries and rail facilities were heavily damaged.'
And from 625 Squadron's Operations Record Book:
'16 March 1945
BOMBING ATTACK ON NUREMBURG
26 aircraft from this squadron were detailed to attack this much bombed target during night-time. The weather was fairly good, cloud breaking up to 4-5/10 at the target. The markers were punctual, plentiful and good and the target was well and truly bombed, the glow from the fires being visible 120 miles away on the return journey. H/F [heavy flak] was moderate but fighter opposition from the area around Stuttgart to the target was heavy. Two of our aircraft failed to return from this operation. Detailed 26, Primary 23, Abortive 1, Missing 2.'
The other 625 Squadron Lancaster lost on this raid was Lancaster I NG169 CF-B2 captained by F/O. Ernest Frank Seear. He and the other six members of his crew were killed and lie in Dürnbach War Cemetery. To read an account of this loss please click here.
Precisely two months later, on 16 May 1945, air bomber Thomas Ryan arrived back in the UK after being liberated from a prisoner of war camp in Germany. It was only then that the authorities discovered the fate of Lancaster RF145.
The following statement by Sgt. Ryan was conveyed in a letter dated 21 September 1945 from RAAF Casualty Section in Melbourne to the pilot's father Dr. C.J. Rolls.
'Approximately 5 minutes before reaching target, aircraft was hit by night fighter. From my position it appeared that the plane immediately burst into flames somewhere aft of my own compartment. The captain gave the emergency order "Bale out". I did not hear any acknowledgement, but this may have been due to my own inter-com plugs being removed during my movement in jettisoning hatch. I have no knowledge of injuries to rest of crew.
I believe that I was the first member of the crew to bale out. I assume that the following members of my crew were still in the aircraft when I baled out:- Pilot Officer P.M. Rolls, Flight Sergeant Rhodes R.C., Sergeant Jones D.B. Flight Sergeant Teague, J.W., Flight Sergeant Tarrant, C.J., Flight Sergeant Clarke. The height at which I baled out was approximately 16000 feet.
The aircraft appeared to me to be under control, but from the bright glow that surrounded it, it was evidently badly in flames. Assuming the aircraft crashed soon after my leaving, the location would be at a place approximately 5 minutes before Nurnberg on an approximate heading north-east.
As indicated above, I have no definite information regarding the probable fate of the other members of my crew; I saw no parachutes, nor did I receive any information regarding these men after my descent.
At the time I baled out we were still carrying our full bomb load. This, combined with the fact that the plane was on fire may (may is underscored) have resulted in a mid-air explosion. I regret that I can supply no definite solution.'
In 1948 investigations carried out by the Missing Research and Enquiry Service discovered that on 18 March 1945 a body of a British airman had been found in a field 1½ km south of Bürglein and buried in the village cemetery. On exhumation by MRES in 1948 the body was identified as being that of Sgt. Derek Branston Jones and duly re-interred at Dürnbach War Cemetery on 18 June 1948.
No trace of Lancaster RF145 or the other crew members was found and the five missing airmen were duly commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW
(1) F/O. Patrick Morley (Pat) Rolls was born on 17 March 1924 at Kingsland, Waitakere, Auckland New Zealand the son of Dr. Charles Jubilee Rolls and Mrs. Frances Rolls nee Magill of 15 Chalmers Road, Stratfield New South Wales, Australia and later of Kidderminster, Worcestershire, England. He had two siblings: John Charles Rolls (1918-1996) and Rev Robert Laidlaw Rolls (1920-1994).
When he enlisted at Sydney on 17 August 1942 he was 5'11" weighing 185 lbs with a fair complexion, green eyes and fair hair. Prior to enlisting he was a Student.
After training at 8 Elementary Flying Training School at RAAF Narrandra Narrandera, New South Wales and 1 Service Flying Training School at RAAF Point Cook, Victoria he was awarded his Flying Badge and promoted to Sergeant on 17 June 1943. He was posted to 4 Service Flying Training School at RAAF Geraldton, Western Australia on 30 June and on 26 November he embarked for the UK where on arrival on 10 January 1944 he was posted to 11 Personnel Despatch and Reception Centre at Brighton. His promotion to Flight Sergeant was on 17 December 1943.
He was posted to 21 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit at RAF Wheaton Aston in Staffordshire on 23 May 1944 and on 1 August to 30 Operational Training Unit at RAF North Luffenham in Rutland. On 6 October 1944 he was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) and on 30 October posted to 11 Base (renamed 71 Base on 3 November) at RAF Lindholme in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
He was posted to 625 Squadron at RAF Kelstern in Lincolnshire on 24 February 1945 and on 14 March promoted to Acting Flying Officer.
(2) Fl/Sgt. Derek Branston Jones was born on 12 September 1925 at Birkenhead the son of Thomas William Jones and Doris Evelyn Jones nee Davis.
In 1944 he married Margaret Mary Ann Jones, of Kendal, Westmorland and with whom he had a daughter.
(3) Fl/Sgt. Robert Craven Rhodes was born on 30 January 1923 at Toronto Canada the son of Wilfred Craven Rhodes and Jessie Marion Rhodes, of 5 Megalong, 35 Shelcove Road Neutral Bay, Sydney New South Wales, Australia.
He was educated at The Scots College, Victoria Road, Bellevue Hill, Sydney from 1935 to 1940 and Sydney Technical College studying a Naval Architecture Diploma Course Stages I & II from 1941 to 1942.
Later occupation: Cadet Ship Draughtsman - Ship Drawing (Cockatoo Docks).
He played Football and competed in Athletics and Yachting.
When he enlisted at Sydney on 24 April 1943 he was 5' 11" tall weighing 156 lbs with a medium complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair.
After training at 2 Initial Training School at RAAF Bradfied Park, New South Wales he embarked at Sydney on 11 August for Canada. Arriving on 26 August he was posted to 3 Manning Depot at RCAF Edmonton and on 3 October to 2 Air Observer School also at RCAF Edmonton. He was awarded his Navigator Badge and promoted to Sergeant on 25 February 1944.
He embarked for the UK on 3 April and after arrival was posted to 11 Personnel Despatch and Reception Centre at Brighton on 12 April.
On 27 June he was posted to 4 (Observer) Advanced Flying Unit at RAF West Freugh in Stranraer, Scotland and on 1 August to 30 Operational Training Unit at RAF North Luffenham in Rutland.
On 25 August he was promoted to Flight Sergeant and on 30 October posted to 11 Base (later 71 Base) at RAF Lindholme in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
He was posted to 625 Squadron at RAF Kelstern in Lincolnshire on 24 February 1945.
(4) Fl/Sgt. Thomas Martin Ryan was born on 18 August 1913 at Kalgoorlie, Western Australia the son of Michael John Ryan and Matilda Margarey Ryan nee Fagg. He had two siblings Mary Julia Ryan (1908-1993) and Catherine Margaret Ryan (1910-1993).
He enlisted at Clarement, Perth 26 May 1941 and was discharged on 29 November 1945.
He died on 2 November 2004 at Dalkeith Western Australia aged 91.
(5) Fl/Sgt. John William (Jack) Teague was born on 10 January 1925 at Chinchilla, Queensland, Australia the son of Arthur Charles Teague and Leslie Sarah Teague nee Russell later of Station House, Warra, Queensland, Australia.
He had two siblings Arthur Charles Teague (1929-2002) and Norma Teague.
He was educated at Chinchilla State School 1936-38, Brisbane Grammar School 1938-40 and Technical College January 41 - June 41. His sporting interests were cricket, hockey, tennis and swimming.
After leaving school he was employed as a Clerk by Chinchilla Council.
When he enlisted at Brisbane on 26 March 1943 he was 5' 9½" tall weighing 121 lbs with a medium complexion, brown eyes and fair hair.
After training at 2 Initial Training School at Bradfield Park New South Wales, 3 Wireless and Gunnery School at RAAF Maryborough, Queensland and 3 Bombing and Gunnery School at RAAF West Sale, Victoria he was awarded his Air Gunner Badge and promoted to Sergeant on 6 January 1944.
He embarked at Sydney for the UK on 27 January 1944 and following arrival on 12 March was posted to 11 Personnel Despatch and Reception Centre at Brighton.
On 20 June he was posted to 4 (Observer) Advanced Flying Unit at RAF West Freugh Stranraer, Scotland. He was promoted to Flight Sergeant on 6 July 1944 and on 18 July posted to 27 Operational Training Unit at RAF Lichfield in Staffordshire followed on 4 August with a posting to 30 Operational Training Unit at RAF Hixon also in Staffordshire. He was posted to 11 Base (later 71 Base) at RAF Lindholme in the West Riding of Yorkshire on 30 October and to 625 Squadron at RAF Kelstern in Lincolnshire on 24 February 1945.
(6) Fl/Sgt. Cecil James Tarrant was born on 27 January 1918 at Bellingen, New South Wales Australia the son of Thomas George Tarrant and Annie Tarrant nee Brackin of Cameron Street West Kempsey, New South Wales, Australia.
He had 12 siblings: Ethel M. Brackin (1902-1903), George Edwin Tarrant (1906-1986), Sidney Gordan Tarrant (1907-1984), William Thomas Tarrant (1910-1978), Doreen Thelma Jean Tarrant (1912-1995), Harold Raymond Tarrant (1913-2001), Reuben Albert Tarrant (1915-1916), Allan Lloyd Tarrant (1916-1983), Ernest Arthur Tarrant (1920-2008), Rita May Tarrant (1921-2011), Ella Caroline Tarrant 1923-2008), Stanley John Tarrant (1925-2017).
After leaving West Kempsey High School in 1931 he trained as a Carpenter.
When he enlisted at Adelaide on 12 January 1943 he was 5' 9½" tall weighing 149 lbs with a brown complexion, brown eyes and black hair.
After training at 6 Service flying Training School at RAAF Mallala, South Australia, 4 Initial Training School at RAAF Victor Harbour, South Australia, 1 Wireless and Gunnery School at RAAF Ballarat, Victoria and 3 Bombing and Gunnery School at RAAF West Sale also in Victoria he was awarded his Air Gunners Badge and promoted to Sergeant on 11 November 1943.
He embarked for the UK on 27 January 1944 and arrived in the UK on 12 March.
He was posted to 11 Personnel Despatch and Reception Centre at Brighton on 14 March where he remained until posted to 27 Operational Training Unit at RAF Lichfield in Staffordshire on 9 May followed on 4 August with a posting to 30 Operational Training Unit at RAF Hixon also in Staffordshire. He was posted to 11 Base (later 71 Base) at RAF Lindholme in the West Riding of Yorkshire on 30 October and to 625 Squadron at RAF Kelstern in Lincolnshire on 24 February 1945.
(7) Sgt. George Allen Clarke - his service number falls within the range 3010000 to 3014917 issued to ATC Cadets enlisting at Padgate in May 1943. Other than that nothing further is known about him - if you have any further information, please contact our helpdesk.
(8) W.O. Ross Mervyn McDonald (Aus 443258) was born on 3 January 1923 at Delgate NSW the son of Roderick Peter McDonald and Clara Grace McDonald nee Johnson. He survived the war and died on 21 June 2016 at Adelaide SA aged 93.
BURIAL DETAILS, MEMORIALS AND EPITAPHS
(1) P/O. Patrick Morley Rolls - having no known grave he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial - Panel 283.
(2) Fl/Sgt. Derek Branston Jones was originally buried at Bürglein Civ. Cemetery and on 18 June 1948 was re-interred at Dürnbach War Cemetery, Bayern, Germany - Grave Ref: 11.F.17.
His epitaph reads:
By his wife, daughter,
Father and sister
(3) Fl/Sgt Robert Craven Rhodes - having no known grave he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial - Panel 284.
(5) Fl/Sgt. John William Teague - having no known grave he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial - Panel 284.
(6) Fl/Sgt. Cecil James Tarrant - having no known grave he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial - Panel 284.
(7) Sgt. George Allen Clarke - having no known grave he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial - Panel 274.
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - June 2020
With thanks to the sources quoted below.