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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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582 Squadron
23.12.1944 582 Squadron Lancaster III PB558 Fg Off. Robert P. Terpening DFC

Operation: Cologne (Köln), Germany

Date: 23rd December 1944 (Saturday)

Unit No: 582 Squadron, Pathfinder Force (PFF), 8 Group

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: PB558

Code: 6O:A

Base: RAF Little Staughton, Huntingdonshire

Location: Belgium, Allied held territory.

Pilot: Fg Off. Robert Patrick Terpening DFC, 424312 RAAF Age 24. Safe * (1)

Flight Engineer: Plt Off. Walter Snow DFC, 179248 RAFVR Age 24.Safe (2)

Navigator I: Flt Lt. Arthur Edward Creedon Derrett DFC, 82961 RAF Age 24. Safe * (3)

Navigator II: WO. Leslie John Groves 410228 RAAF Age 21. Safe

Wireless Op/ Air Gnr: WO. Arnold Andreas Andersen DFC, 426001 RAAF Age 34. Safe * (4)

Air Gnr (Mid Upper): Flt Sgt. Allan William McIlrath DFC, 428985 RAAF Age 21. Safe * (5)

Air Gnr (Rear): Flt Sgt. John Grylls Watson DFM, 424485 RAAF Age 20. Safe * (6)

* These crew members were aboard 582 Sqn Lancaster I PB983, 60:A on the 28th April 1945 when it crashed during a training flight.

Above left to right: Fg Off. Terpening DFC, WO. Groves, Flt Sgt. Watson DFM (From their Service Records)

REASON FOR LOSS:

On the 23rd December 1944 27 Lancasters and 3 Mosquitoes of 8 Group were detailed to attack the Gremberg railway yards in Cologne (Köln), Germany of which 17 Lancasters were from the 582 Squadron.

The force was split into 3 formations, each lead by an Oboe equipped Lancaster with an Oboe Mosquito as a reserve leader. During the inbound flight, 2 Lancasters from 35 Sqn collided over the French coast and their crews were all killed.

On approaching the target, it was found that the cloud which had been forecast had cleared and it was decided to allow the bombers to break formation and bomb visually This move was made because the formation would have been very vulnerable to Cologne’s Flak defences during the long straight Oboe approach.

Unfortunately the order to abandon the Oboe run did not reach Sqn Ldr. Palmer, who was the Master Bomber, and he continued on with the designated role, even though the aircraft was already damaged by Flak.

PB558 was one of five aircraft from the Squadron that failed to return from operations.

The other four were:

Lancaster III PB523 6O:J - Crashed at Opitter, 4 km SE of Bree in Belgium (3 KiA, 4 PoW);

Lancaster III PB120 6O:P - Hit by Flak and then shot up by Bf109s before crashing 7 km SE from the city centre of Cologne (Köln) (5 KiA, 2 PoW);

Lancaster III PB371 6O:V - Master Bomber. Shot down by Flak in the target area. Sqn Ldr. R. A. M. Palmer DFC and Bar was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) for his outstanding valour (6 KiA, 1 PoW);

Lancaster III PB141 6O:F - Shot down by German fighters. Two of the crew became trapped in the spinning aircraft but both miraculously survived after the aircraft fell 20,000 ft and crashed onto the marshalling yard. (6 PoW, 1 Mur);

PB558 was damaged by Flak while approaching the Initial Point (IP) and soon afterwards came under sustained fighter attack. During these engagements the rear gunner kept up a steady stream of machine gun fire even after his turret was hit and put out of action. His wireless operator realised that his rear gunner was trapped and made his way to the rear of the aircraft and forced the turret doors open to free him.

For this action Fg Off. Terpening and WO. Andersen were awarded the DFC and Flt Sgt. Watson the DFM.

Shortly later all of the crew successfully baled out over Belgium and landed uninjured in Allied held territory. They returned to RAF Little Straughton on the 27th December 1944.

(1) The DFC was awarded to Fg Off. Terpening whilst with 582 Sqn. London Gazette 2nd March 1945.

Citation: "In December, 1944, Flying Officer Terpening was detailed to take part in an attack on Cologne in daylight. When approaching the target his aircraft was hit -by anti-aircraft fire. Severe damage was sustained. The port inner engine was set on fire and the propeller had to be feathered; the port outer and the starboard inner engines then began to fail. Despite this, Flying Officer Terpening continued his bombing run. Shells were (bursting all around but he pressed home his attack. On turning away from the target the aircraft was attacked by 5 fighters. Although both gun turrets had been put out of action and all but one gun were unserviceable, Flying Officer Terpening and his crew conducted a gallant fight. The aircraft was repeatedly hit by cannon shell and the situation became extremely serious. Nevertheless, Flying Officer Terpening succeeded in his resolve to reach Allied territory. It became necessary to leave the crippled aircraft by parachute. Even so, this brave captain ensured that all members of his crew had got clear before jumping himself. This officer displayed coolness, courage and captaincy of a high order".

(2) The DFC was awarded to Acting Fg Off. Snow whilst with 582 Sqn. London Gazette 25th September 1945.

(3) The DFC was awarded to Acting Flt Lt. Derrett whilst with 150 Sqn. London Gazette 30th January 1942.

(4) The DFC was awarded to Warrant Officer (WO) Anderson whilst with 582 Sqn. London Gazette 23rd February 1945.

Citation: Distinguished Flying Cross. Warrant Officer Arnold Andreas Leslie ANDERSEN (Aus.426001), R.A.A.F., 582 Sqn. Distinguished Flying Medal. Aus. 424485 Flight Sergeant John Grylls WATSON, R.A.A.F., 582 Sqn. Warrant Officer Andersen and Flight Sergeant Watson were wireless operator and rear gunner respectively in an aircraft detailed to attack Cologne in December, 1944. When approaching the target the aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire and sustained some damage. On leaving the area, the bomber was engaged by ten fighters. In the face of persistent attacks, Flight Sergeant Watson displayed great coolness. His turret was not functioning properly and two of his guns were unserviceable. Nevertheless, he defended his aircraft with great resolution Eventually, his turret was hit by a cannon shell. The windscreen was shattered. The intercommunication system was smashed. The turret doors became firmly jammed and Flight Sergeant Watson was trapped. Undeterred, he continued to fire at the enemy as best he could. Meantime, Warrant Officer Andersen had seen his comrade's plight and went to render assistance. It was a dangerous task as the pilot was taking violent evading action and the fuselage had suffered considerable damage. Nevertheless he negotiated a safe passage to the rear turret and extricated his comrade after forcing the turret doors with an axe. Soon afterwards it became necessary to leave the crippled aircraft by parachute. Had Warrant Officer Andersen not been successful the rear gunner would have had no hope of escape. In most distressing circumstances these crew members displayed cool courage and great determination".

(5) The DFC was awarded to Warrant Officer (WO) McIlrath whilst with 582 Sqn. London Gazette 25th September 1945.

(6) The DFM was awarded to Flt Sgt. Watson whilst with 582 Sqn. London Gazette 23rd February 1945.

Citation: Distinguished Flying Cross. Warrant Officer Arnold Andreas Leslie ANDERSEN (Aus.426001), R.A.A.F., 582 Sqn. Distinguished Flying Medal. Aus. 424485 Flight Sergeant John Grylls WATSON, R.A.A.F., 582 Sqn. Warrant Officer Andersen and Flight Sergeant Watson were wireless operator and rear gunner respectively in an aircraft detailed to attack Cologne in December, 1944. When approaching the target the aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire and sustained some damage. On leaving the area, the bomber was engaged by ten fighters. In the face of persistent attacks, Flight Sergeant Watson displayed great coolness. His turret was not functioning properly and two of his guns were unserviceable. Nevertheless, he defended his aircraft with great resolution Eventually, his turret was hit by a cannon shell. The windscreen was shattered. The intercommunication system was smashed. The turret doors became firmly jammed and Flight Sergeant Watson was trapped. Undeterred, he continued to fire at the enemy as best he could. Meantime, Warrant Officer' Andersen had seen his comrade's plight and went to render assistance. It was a dangerous task as the pilot was taking violent evading action and the fuselage had suffered considerable damage. Nevertheless he negotiated a safe passage to the rear turret and extricated his comrade after forcing the turret doors with an axe. Soon afterwards it became necessary to leave the crippled aircraft by parachute. Had Warrant Officer Andersen not been successful the rear gunner would have had no hope of escape. In most distressing circumstances these crew members displayed cool courage and great determination".

Burial details:

None all the crew survived

Researched by Ralph Snape and dedicated to the relatives of this crew.

Other sources listed below:

RS 28.11.2023 - Initial upload

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Acknowledgements
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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