AR banner
Search Tips Advanced Search
Back to Top

• Kracker Archive
• Allied Losses
• Archiwum Polish
• Paradie Canadian
• Searchable Lists

Info LogoAdd to or correct this story with a few clicks.
Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
Check our Research databases: Database List


We seek additional information and photographs. Please contact us via the Helpdesk.

617 Squadron Lancaster I ME561 F/O. Arthur William Joplin

Operation: Politz

Date: 21/22nd December 1944 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: No. 617 Squadron (motto: Après moi le déluge - 'After me, the flood')

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: ME561

Code: KC-T

Base: RAF Woodland Spa, Lincolnshire

Location: Tealby, Lincolnshire

Pilot: F/O. Arthur William Joplin NZ/424044 RNZAF Seriously injured

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Frank L . Tilley 1869271 RAFVR Seriously injured

Nav: Fl/Sgt. Charles Basil Renshaw Fish 1519711 RAFVR Injured

Air/Bmr: F/O. Arthur James Walker 139686 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Gordon Cooke 1549747 RAFVR Seriously injured

Air/Gnr: F/O. Roberton Bertrand Yates 171019 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. James T. Thompson 1314255 RAFVR Injured


Took off at 16:54 hrs. from 617 Squadron's base at RAF Woodhall Spa. Their target was the synthetic oil plant at Politz in Germany.

On their return to base they were diverted to Ludford Magna. At 02:40 hrs. on the 22nd December and due to fog blanketing the local area, the Lancaster crashed at Tealby, near Market Rasen on the approach to Ludford Magna. Five of the crew survived with various degrees of injuries but sadly F/O. Walker and F/O. Yates did not.

Frank Tilley takes up the story:

'The outward flight was uneventful and the crew reached the designated area, but found that the target marking appeared haphazard. After releasing their ‘Tallboy’ against a nominated marker they headed for home, setting course for their designated diversionary base in Scotland, which would have not only the advantage of clear weather, but would also shorten the length of the flight. Soon afterwards the wireless operator reported that they were being ordered to return to Lincolnshire. Although this would stretch their fuel reserves Frank considered it was a viable option and they headed for Woodhall Spa. As they crossed the coast it became apparent that Lincolnshire was still shrouded in fog. A further instruction was received for all aircraft to land at the first available airfield.

It seemed that crew were in luck, for very soon they saw a glow through the murk which was identified as the airfield at Ludford Magna. That this was visible was solely due to the fact that it was one of a small number of airfields equipped with FIDO – using burning petrol to disperse fog on the runway approach enabling aircraft to land in such conditions. Joppy homed in on the glow and circled, calling up and asking permission to land. There was no reply. The crew were now in a perilous position. Other aircraft would also be circling, increasing the risk of collision, and Frank reported that their fuel state prevented diversion to any fog free airfield.

They needed to land as soon as possible and were also aware of the rising ground of the Lincolnshire Wolds beneath. A few minutes later, while still circling, a sudden shudder ran through the aircraft as the port wing brushed a hillside. Looking out past his pilot, Frank was seemingly aware of the wing beyond the outer engine bending upwards. Joppy immediately called for more power and Frank responded by pushing the throttles forward. The aircraft was still airborne, but only just, and would not remain so for long. There was a further bump, a horrendous noise and violent shaking – then everything became still.

Frank looked back and saw that the cockpit and nose had broken off from the main fuselage. The wreckage was on fire and Basil Fish, the navigator, had been knocked unconscious. Frank shouted to him to get out. He tried to get clear himself but found that he could hardly stand. With great effort, he crawled and dragged himself away from the cockpit and to relative safety. Looking around, he saw Basil removing smouldering flying kit from the wireless operator before heading back to the blazing wreckage to rescue Joppy who was trapped in his seat. This done, Basil went back in an effort to locate other members of the crew, but the heat of the flames drove him away'.

Above L-R Rear: Fl/Sgt. Charles Fish, Fl/Sgt Loftus Hebbard (not on this flight as he was sick - F/O. Arthur Walker took his place), Sgt. Frank Tilley, F/O. Roberton Yates, Front row: Fl/Sgt. Gordon Cooke, F/O. Arthur Joplin and Sgt. Norman Fredrick Lambell (not on this flight - Fl/Sgt. James Thompson took his place)

'Realising that he was the least injured and the only one of five survivors with any degree of mobility Basil set off across the fields in search of assistance, having briefed Frank to listen out for a series of whistle blasts that would signal his return. Nearly three hours later Frank heard a whistle, and sounded his own in reply to guide the rescuers to the injured.

Frank was admitted to the RAF Hospital at Rauceby with a broken leg and severe bruising to the other. Considering that he was not strapped in at the time of the crash since his role as flight engineer required him to stand for much of the time next to the pilot, or perch on a rudimentary canvas sling seat, he was incredibly fortunate not to be far more severely injured.

As his condition improved, Frank was sent to Hoylake for convalescence before returning to Woodhall Spa in August 1945. By now the European war was over, and following VJ Day Frank was keen to return to civilian life. However, it would be another eighteen months until this could be achieved, during which Frank re-mustered to a clerical role, serving with Polish units operating in Transport Command. He finally left the Service in February 1947. (Later in the same year, he and June were married. He told her nothing about his wartime experiences until 40 years later)'.

(courtesy of the Aircraft Enthusiasts’ Group - see link below)

Notes: F/O. Arthur William Joplin - After the war, Joplin returned to New Zealand to work in his father’s knitwear business In 1953 he married Bette (Betty), who died in 2014. Demobilised February 1947. They have no descendants. He passed away on the 21st March 2023, age 99. Read his obituary.
Sgt. Frank Tilley - born on the 26th December 1922 in Hackney, London. Later of Hitchin, Hertfordshire.
Fl/Sgt. Charles Basil Renshaw Fish - born in Bury, Lancashire died 27th February 2020, age 97. Husband of Margaret Fish died 19th September 1985, age 64 of Blackburn, Lancashire, England.passed away on the 26th February 2020.
Sgt. Norman Frederick Lambell - born on the 17th February 1925, survived the war. Husband of Barbara Ann Lambell died of heart failure on the 15th October 2003 age 78. From Buckfastleigh, Devon, but later lived in Warrington for 58 years.
Fl/Sgt. Gordon Cooke - Commissioned and promoted to P/O. (197847) with effect 20th April 1945. Promoted to F/O. with effect 22nd October 1945. Demobilised 19th April 1946.

Pilots course 36a. No. 1 Service Flying Training School, RNZAF Wigram - 08th March 1943.

L-R: Rear; J.P Halligan, J.J Macilree, D.J James, R.A Naylor, C.J Wright, M.S Aitchison, H.L Doyle, G.D Lean, A.G Brewer, E.G Brooke, W.A Jones, S.R Carlton.
3rd row; J.E Tompkins, B.F Rosson, A.W Joplin, K. Jackson, K.F Parker, D.M Moran, A.S.S McCurdy, J.L Gutzewitz, D.A Coster, C.H Edmands, E.C Harris, D.M Stevenson.
2nd row; T.G Lister, A.H Fairmaid, E.I Waters, M.L.T Harper, V.J Armstrong, M.J Adamson, C.T Campbell, C.L Organ, R.A Stone, A.D Wells, P.J McArthur, W.E Brunton.
Front; V.W Mathias, R.K Neiderer, K. Mangos, G.E Scott, A.M MacLeod, L.F Le Lievre, N.L Kelly, B.D Stewart, A.H Trewavas, C.F St John, J.R Sparrow, W.G Cowie.

Burial details:

F/O. Arthur James Walker. Richmond and East Sheen Cemeteries. Block AA, Grave 14. Son of James (died 21st May 1968, age 86) and Elizabeth Carnegie Walker (died 14th February 1971, age 82) of Ham Common, Richmond. London, England.

F/O. Roberton Bertrand Yates. Dartmouth Cemetery (Longcross) Sec A. Grave 287. Born on the 07th June 1921 in Toxteth, Liverpool, England. Son of Francis Bertrand and Winifred Elizabeth Yates (née Roberton) of Dartmouth, Devon, England. Nephew of the Revd. William Alfred Roberton, of St. Petrox Vicarage, Dartmouth.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Jennifer Lemaire of New Zealand, National Archives Kew, International Bomber Command Centre IBCC, Aircraft Enthusiasts’ Group, New Zealand Cenotaph.

Other sources as quoted below:

KTY 28-03-2023

Pages of Outstanding Interest
History Airborne Forces •  Soviet Night Witches •  Bomber Command Memories •  Abbreviations •  Gardening Codenames
CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
Concept of Colonial Discrimination  •  Unauthorised First Long Range Mustang Attack
RAAF Bomb Aimer Evades with Maquis •  SOE Heroine Nancy Wake •  Fane: Motor Racing PRU Legend
Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
Click any image to enlarge it

Click to add your info via ticket on Helpdesk •Click to let us know via ticket on Helpdesk• Click to buy research books from Amazon •Click to explore the entire site
If you would like to comment on this page, please do so via our Helpdesk. Use the Submit a Ticket option to send your comments. After review, our Editors will publish your comment below with your first name, but not your email address.

A word from the Editor: your contribution is important. We welcome your comments and information. Thanks in advance.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember them. - Laurence Binyon
All site material (except as noted elsewhere) is owned or managed by Aircrew Remembered and should not be used without prior permission.
© Aircrew Remembered 2012 - 2024
Last Modified: 29 March 2023, 13:20

Monitor Additions/Changes?Click to be informed of changes to this page. Create account for first monitor only, thereafter very fast. Click to close without creating monitor