156 Squadron Losses

156 Squadron, RAF Warboys/Upwood Losses

The 156 Squadron was formed at Alconbury in February 1942 as a medium-bomber squadron equipped with Wellingtons, and for the 1st few months operated with No. 3 Group.  When the Pathfinder Force (No. 8 Group) was formed in August 1942, No.156 was one of the 4 squadrons selected to form the nucleus of the new force.  It remained with the Pathfinder Force for the rest of the European War and, still flying Wellingtons at 1st and then Lancaster’s, and played a major part in Bomber Command’s offensive.  Base: Warboys, then Upwood from March 1944 Aircraft: Wellington, converted to Lancaster from January 1943

156 Squadron Losses

Sgt  James Walter Gilbert 1178418 who was killed on 24/25th Feb 1944. He was Mid-upper gunner on Lancaster JB 479 GT-K piloted by W/Cdr Eric Frederick Porter. This was on the raid at Schweinfurt.  Just the week before he died he learnt that he was going to be a father.  His birthday was on 23rd February. He was killed the next night.  The 32-year-old James Walter Gilbert was the husband of Marjorie Vera Gilbert, of Market Harborough, Leicestershire and is buried with his crewmates at Durnbach in Germany.  His skipper, 35-year-old Eric Porter, an Old Haltonian, had been Commanding Officer of 156 Squadron since November, 1943.

156SqnC1944Looking at 156 Squadron photo.  He is 5th from the right-hand side seated in row one. He was Squadron leader James Archibald Robertson.  The Lanc he flew was GTR for Roger. David Robertson

Officer in Command ~ Wing Commander A J L Craig ~ 10th April to 25th September 1945

The Runway Ghost

There was rumoured to be a female ghost on the Airfield. Several planes came in to land making perfect landings but then veering suddenly off-course with 2 crashing, one with fatal results. The Pilots were questioned independently, one finally admitting that as he came into land, he saw the figure of a little girl crossing the Runway right in front of them.  Others subsequently independently advised of the same thing.  Not long after, the shallow grave of a young girl was found close to the Runway. She was never identified and was removed and properly buried in a nearby Churchyard. Her ghost was never seen again after she had been properly buried.

Bomber Command casualties by year
1939: 321
1940: 2714
1941: 5435
1942: 9441
1943: 16209
1944: 18237
1945: 4748
Total 56925 
For any given 100 Aircrew in Bomber Command, 1939-1945 the statistical breakdown was:-
Killed on operations                   51
Killed in crashes in England       9
Seriously injured                          3
Prisoner of War                           12
Evaded capture                              1
Survived unharmed                   24

At a time when RAF bomber crews were living on powdered eggs and adrenaline, knowing that more than 40% of their number would never return from a Mission during WW2, they had a grim little breakfast ritual.  Each Squadron Member would get one fresh egg per week, obtained from local English Farms. There was a special mess rack, bearing everyone’s names, just for those eggs.  So if you were flying that night and a colleague wasn’t, a favourite expression was to tell him,If I don’t come back, you can have my egg, – That was the joke.”

There’s a saying among Airmen: “The only worse than being down here wishing you were up there, is being up there wishing you were down here – and that must have been very true for those men trying desperately to see the Runway in the Fog, with Fuel running low.


6 responses to “156 Squadron Losses

  1. Hi trying to find out a little more about Lancaster JB302 of 156 Squadron, a Lad from my Village was an Air Gunner Sgt Jimmy Beattie, Service No. 1822489 shot down 30th October 1944, 3 Crew Members survived and after the War it was found out that Jimmy had baled out but either his Chute didn’t open or he died on landing, it was his 16th Mission, any info of any kind is most welcome.


    • My late Dad was Flight Sergeant William Reay and knew Jim Beattie well. They were both from the Borders (my Dad born in Moffat but raised in Carlisle). He had trained with Jim and they were around the same age (Jim was 19 and my Dad was 20 when their Plane was shot down). My Dad used to recount his last conversation with Jim after the Plane had been hit and was ablaze. He did not believe Jim had been able to escape due to the intensity of the fire and Jim’s location in the Plane as Rear Gunner. My Dad, Phil Batman (Pilot) and Fred Darycott (Navigator) parachuted out of the burning Plane and were captured as PoWs being held in Stalag Luft 4 until Liberation. They all survived the War, even the notorious Death March including the ‘Run up the Hill’ and made contact with one another again in the late 1980s, attending Kriegie Club Reunions organised by another ex-PoW from their Camp. My Dad also was in contact with Jim’s sister, Mae, prior to her death. My Dad never fully recovered from knee injuries he sustained in the Parachute decent. He passed away in March 2000.


    • My Dad was given photographs of the Graves of the deceased members of his Crew – they are buried in the same area of the Charlottenburg Cemetery in Berlin. My Dad never felt he could visit Germany after the War following his incarceration in a Prison Camp there.


  2. My mother’s cousin Gordon Charles Sage (Air Gunner) died on the Frankfurt Raid 21st December 1943 aged just 22 yrs. He was with 156 Squadron.


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