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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.
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44 squadron badge
26/27.04.1944 44 Squadron Lancaster I LL920 KM:V Fg.Off. Gordon W. Oldham DFC

Operation: Schweinfurt, (Ball bearing production factories) Germany

Date: 26th/27th April 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit No: 44 (Rhodesia), Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: LL920

Code: KM:V

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

Bomb Aimer: Fg Off. Leslie William Petts 151756 RAFVR Age 30. Killed

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. William Frederick Williams 1750303 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Flt Sgt. Robert Day Frame 1560058 RAFVR Age 34. Killed

Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Gilbert Wheeler Whittles 1836276 RAFVR Age 19. Killed


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 Abschuss, 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)

Burial Details:

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.

Flt 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.

Fg Off. 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 (Aug 2016). Thanks to John Jones for the NoK information for Fg Off. Oldham and Sgt. Walker (Jun 2020).

RS 16.06.2020 - Update to the loss of the aircraft

Pages of Outstanding Interest
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CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
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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.
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