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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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Bomber Command Crest
16/17.01.1945 No. 186 Squadron Lancaster I NG147 Fl/Lt. Ralph R. Tait

Operation: Wanne-Eikel

Date: 16/17th January 1945 (Tuesday/Wednesday)

Unit: No. 186 Squadron

Type: Lancaster

Serial: NG147

Code: AP-C

Base: RAF Stradishall, Suffolk

Location: Keddington, Suffolk

Pilot: Fl/Lt. Ralph Roland Tait 179588 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Peter Allan Sumpter 1869349 RAFVR Age. 23. Killed

Nav: Fl/Sgt. Thomas Brown Darney 1676154 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air/Bmr: F/O. Herbert Charles Dutfield 154376 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Wilfred Sidney Gamble 2206781 RAF Age 20. Killed

Air/Gnr: P/O. Gerald Stalker Haslam 56419 RAF Age 26. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Thomas Leslie Lenton 1622714 RAFVR Age 21. Killed


Left RAF Stradishall, Suffolk at 23:15 hrs to attack the synthetic oil producing plant. 138 aircraft from 3 Group taking part in this operation with this Lancaster being the only casualty.

Some three minutes from take off the aircraft crashed with the loaded aircraft exploding on impact. The noise of the explosion could be heard back at the airfield.

Alistair Taylor, not a relative of any of the crew, but a collector of various military memorabilia, has contributed some further pages from the log book of Sgt. Lenton, if his relatives would like copies. Also the superb photo of the crew is available larger. It is fantastic that people, like Alistair are collecting these type of records as otherwise, they may be lost forever.

Crew of Lancaster NG147 (Courtesy Alistair Taylor) Taken in front of NG137, this crew flew around 24 operations on this Lancaster.

Above: The memorial and plaque on the wall inside Kedington Community Centre. Unveiled on the 17th September 2022.

An interesting twist to this loss has been recalled by a rear gunner from the squadron, P/O. Gerald Mcpherson:

(It must be remembered that Gerald has written these words from memory, some 67 years after the event, some details regarding timings, maybe not accurate). More information on Gerald can be found "here", also information on Gerald's pilot, Fl/Lt. Jeff Clarson DFC can be found "here"

"During January 1945 our wireless operator, Wilbert Perry, became engaged to Elspeth, a young Scottish lass, and eventually returned to the Squadron after availing of an extra day’s unauthorised leave. During that day’s absence the crew had to go on a daylight raid to Erkenswick in the Ruhr with a substitute wireless operator. Wilbert was subsequently informed that if another wireless operator was unable to fly on an operation because of illness or absence without leave, he would have to fly as a substitute. A week or so later another wireless operator was AWOL and Wilbert was listed as a replacement for a night operation.

The remainder of our crew were having a drink in the Mess when the planes were taking off about 21.00 hrs. We heard an explosion and were told that one of the Lancasters had crashed on take off, killing the crew. We were devastated when we learned that it was the plane in which Wilbert was flying.

We had a wake in remembrance of our departed friend and returned to our barracks and bed. Our barracks consisted of a large hall in which about 20 aircrew were housed and it also had two single rooms at one end. Wilbert, being a Warrant Officer, occupied one of these rooms."

"Next morning as we were getting dressed, to our amazement, Wilbert emerged from his room! Naturally he went white when we informed him of what had happened the previous night. He told us that he was about to enter the aircraft before take-off when the crew’s regular wireless operator appeared and told Wilbert to “nick off” because this was his crew. Wilbert didn’t argue with him and returned to his quarters and went to bed.

That wasn’t the end of the story. There were five Australians in the crew and that morning four of them were informed that they had parcels from Australia to collect at the Station Post Office. Wilbert normally received more parcels than any of us, but on this occasion there were apparently none.

Very puzzled Wilbert enquired of the WAAF Clerk if there were any parcels for W.J. Perry, to which she replied “Yes, but they are being returned to London because he was killed last night”. It then dawned on us that no one in Administration was aware of the switch of wireless operators on the previous night, so we dashed down to the Adjutant and caught him just before he was about to notify Bomber Command of the names of the aircrew that were killed or missing on the previous night’s raid.

There was a happy ending to this tale, when in March 1945 Wilbert married Elspeth, his Scottish lass, in the presence of the crew. They settled down on a farm in the Western District of Victoria, and raised six children. Sadly Wilbert passed away in 2002."

Above showing Gerald McPherson on the left and Jim Mallinson, both of 186 Squadron at the Bomber Command Memorial luncheon 2008, held in Canberra, Australia

Burial details:

Fl/Lt. Ralph Roland Tait. Lee New Churchyard, Acomb (St. John of Beverley New Churchyard). Sec. K. Grave 1A. Son of Ralph and Mary Tait, of Acomb, Northumberland, England.

Sgt, Peter Allan Sumpter. Haverhill Cemetery. Sec. U. Grave 252. Son of George William and Geraldine Sumpter, of Leicester, England.

Fl/Sgt. Thomas Brown Darney. Hindley Churchyard, Broomfield. Grave 146. Son of Thomas and Susannah Craig Darney, of Stocksfield-on-Tyne, Northumberland, England.

F/O. Herbert Charles Dutfield. Haverhill Cemetery. Sec. U. Grave 149. Son of Frederick and Harriet Dutfield, husband of Patricia R. Dutfield, of Ewell, Surrey, England.

Fl/Sgt. Wilfred Sidney Gamble. York Cemetery. Section D. Grave 38. 12526. Son of Sydney and Lucy Mabel Gamble, of York, England.

P/O. Gerald Stalker Haslam. Haverhill Cemetery. Sec. U. Grave 201. Son of Richard and Winifred Mabel Haslam, of Coulsdon, Surrey, England.

Sgt. Thomas Leslie Lenton. Ashton-Under-Lyne Cemetery (Hurst). Sec. F. Grave 38. Son of Joseph and Jessie Lenton, of Ashton-under-Lyne, England.

Researched for relatives of the crew. With thanks to information supplied by Gerald and Fay Mcpherson, Alistair Taylor who has, we understand researched this loss a great deal, as well as others. Other sources as quoted below.

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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