Although 27 O.T.U. was principally a training unit, this does not mean that crews training at R.A.F. Lichfield did not take part in operational missions. In fact, they completed both Nickel Raids as well as Bombing Raids.

Although 27 O.T.U. was principally a training unit, this does not mean that crews training at R.A.F. Lichfield did not take part in operational missions. In fact, they completed both Nickel Raids as well as Bombing Raids.

(1) Nickel Raids

Nickel Raids took place at the end of a crews training programme, when it was felt that they had reached a certain level of proficiency and were ready to face the enemy. Crews were tasked with the job of flying over occupied Europe dropping propaganda leaflets, which were designed to undermine the occupying German forces and to help to boost the morale of the local inhabitants and indeed encourage resistance. This was extremely dangerous,  as occupied Europe was heavily defended by German forces and these newly trained aircrews were inexperienced. Losses were inevitable.

Here is a breakdown of losses sustained by 27 O.TU. as a result of Nickel Raids during 1942 and 1943.


DATE                                   TARGET                     CASUALTIES.

27-28 04. 42                       LILLE                    2 AIRCRAFT LOST – 10 KILLED.

23-24. 05. 43                     PARIS                   1 AIRCRAFT LOST- 5 KILLED.

23-24. 09. 43                    ORLEANS             1 AIRCRAFT LOST- CREW EVADED



The following is a description of what happened to those crews.

On the evening of the 27-28th of April 1942, two crews from R.A.F. Lichfield were lost on the same mission.  They were sent to scatter leaflets in the Lille region of France.

The first aircraft Wellington 1C X9635 with a crew of five, took off from Lichfield at 21.58. They never returned and all are buried in Heverlee War Cemetery in Belgium. The crew comprised of F/O L.G. Chick, SGT.M.B. Remfry and SGT. A. J. Glaister of the R.A.A.F. and SGT.F.J. Dodd and SGT. J.R. Stukins of the R.A.F.


The second Wellington 1C Z8901 took off a little later at 22.41 and crashed at Sautour, (Namur) which is 3 kilometres S.SE of Philippeville in Belgium. The crew were buried in the cemetery at Charleroi. They comprised of the following airmen; SGT. G. A. Dale, SGT. W. J. Jewell both of the R.A.F. SGT. W. G. Mutton, SGT. E. C. Inder of the R.N.Z.A.F. and SGT.M.B. Remfry of the R.A.A.F.


On the 23rd to the 24th of May, Wellington 111 BK489 was lost on a Nickle Raid. Taking off from Lichfield  heading for Paris. There is no information about what happened to the plane, or its crew. They were lost without trace. Their names are remembered on the Runnymede Memorial. The five men were all serving with the R.A.F. They were as follows; SGT. C. W. Astle, SGT. C.F.S. Wells, SGT. C. A. Warnes, SGT.W. Antcliffe, SGT. A. Drury.

On the evening of the 23rd. – 24th of September 1943, at 19.00, F/S G.L. Dowling of the R.A.A.F. took off in Wellington 111 X966 on course for a Nickel Raid in the region of Orleans. On the outward journey, the crew observed two German fighters some way off on their port side. Ten minutes later, the bomber was hit several times by flack. All of the leaflets were jettisoned and with great skill F/S Dowling was able to get his plane back on course for home. However, they were losing petrol at an alarming rate and there was a strong smell of petrol inside the aircraft. F/S Dowding ordered his crew to bale out at 8,000 feet which they all successfully did. When it came to his turn to bale out, he realised that his parachute had disappeared through the escape hatch. He therefore had no alternative but to land the aircraft in a field near Amiens. He evaded capture and made a miraculous escape with the help of local resistance groups. Six weeks later he arrived back in England.

F/S. G. L. Dowling R.A.A.F.

(Photograph courtesy of the R.A.F. Lichfield Association.)

(To read the story of his thrilling escape see section entitled “Those who served”.)

What happened to the rest of the crew?

SGT. F. J. Page (R.A.F.) also evaded capture and returned to England. Shortly afterwards on the 9th of December, SGT. Anderson (R.A.A.F.) returned home as did, SGT. W. Todd (R.A.F.) on the 20th of December, arriving via Gibraltar. The only unfortunate member of the crew was F/O W.C. Hawke (R.A.A.F.) who was captured and spent the rest of the war in a German prisoner of war camp, Stalag Luft Sagan and Beleria.

Nickel Raids continued across occupied France throughout 1942-1944, but there were no other losses reported.

(2) Bombing Raids.

Don Charlwood(Navigator), Geoff Madern (Pilot), Ted Batten (W/OP), Arthur Bowlett (Rear Gunner). This crew flew ther first mission to Bremen from Lichfield on the 13th of September 1942.

Like many O.T.U’s, R.A.F. Lichfield took part in the 1,000 bombs raids instigated by Air Chief Marshal Arthur Harris. In the Spring of 1942, Harris proposed air attacks of huge proportions on Nazi Germany, in order to boost the morale of Bomber Command and hopefully to bring the war to a favourable conclusion. He received the full support of Churchill and on the 30th of October, the first 1,000 bomber raid was organised. In order to raise the required number of aircraft, he needed to include the O.T.U’s. The first target  was initially to be the German city of Hamburgh, but this was changed almost at the last minute to Cologne. A massive force of 1,046 bombers, half of which were Wellingtons, was amassed. Lichfield supplied  20 Wellingtons together with 100 crew members. It is worth noting that wherever possible, a very experienced pilot was sent with the newly trained crews, but this was not always the case.

The raid was deemed to be a success. Large areas of Cologne were obliterated and unfortunately many German civilians killed. Bomber command losses by comparison were thought to be acceptable as only forty aircraft were posted missing. All of the aircraft from Lichfield returned safely.

On the first of June, another massive raid took place against Germany. This time the target was Essen, a destination feared by most flyers, as it was so effectively defended. Again, the O.T.U’S were asked to assist and contributed 374 aircraft. Lichfield contributed 20.Thankfully, Lichfield suffered no losses once again,but on the whole the raid was considered a failure. Hindered by poor weather conditions and therefore poor visibility, it was by no means as successful as Cologne.

On the evening of  25th to 26th of June, the final 1,000 bomber raid took place.The target was Bremen. Lichfield supplied 15 Wellington bombers, but again the raid was unsuccessful, with many losses. The policy of 1,000 bomber raids was being questioned at the time and has been ever since.

Lichfield lost one aircraft  Wellington 1C R1162, with a crew of 5. Four men were from the R.A.A.F.; SGT. J.B. Mathers, SGT. N.H. Cox, SGT.  K. H. Poynting and SGT. J. M. Synnott. The pilot officer was T.F. Lamb of the R.C.A.F. They were reported as being lost without trace and their names were commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

Although the 1,000 bomber raids ended, the training units were still called upon to support the Main Force, but numbers of aircraft taking part now tended to be smaller.

On the evening of the 31st of July to the 1st of August 27 O.T.U. took part in a raid on Dusseldorf. Ten aircraft left Lichfield that evening, but only seven returned. P/O  Parsons and his crew who were feared to be missing, managed to land safely landing at Oakington, but  the two other aircraft failed to return.

The first missing aircraft ,Wellington 1C R1526, had taken off from Lichfield at 23.27. They had apparently crashed whilst flying over Germany. No details of the crash are known. All were buried together in Rheinburgh War Cemetery.

The crew comprised of five men. F/L E. Walker, W/O A.S. Patterson,F/S  J. K. Stone and F/L  A. W. Court, who were all serving with the R.A.F. The final crew member was an Australian; F/S N. K. Judd of the R.A.A.F.


The second missing crew took off a little later, at 23.41. They were reported as having crashed at Huldenberg in the province of Brabant, 23 km. SE of Brussels.

They were a six man crew. The pilot was F/O M.G. McNeil who served with the R.N.Z.A.F. The rest of the crew were Australians; F/O A. F. R. Nash, SGT.O. Morgan, SGT. J. D. Halloran, SGT. C. H. R. McKee and SGT. C. D. Luedeke. All are buried in Huldenberg  Churchyard in Brussels.


C    Ian Wilson.

 F/O M.G. McNeil R.N.Z.A.F. 

Between February and June 1941, he had served with 218 Squadron, taking part in at least 16 operational sorties. He was a very experienced pilot who on one occasion had been attacked by an ME 109 over the Dutch coast. Despite the fact that his hydraulic liner had been hit , he returned safely with over 200 holes in the fuselage of the aircraft. McNeil was a highly experienced pilot and hence he had been chosen for this mission in the hope that his skill and experience would protect the fledgling crew.

c Peter Lonke.

SGT.J.D.O’Halloran  R.A.A.F. 

In civilian life, Sgt O’Halloran had been a soicitor and had served as Proctor and Attorney at the Supreme Court in New South Wales.


c Peter  Lonke.

On the evening of the 13TH of September 1942, 12 aircraft from 27 O.T.U. They  were taking part in a raid on Bremen. One aircaft, Wellington 1C  l7815, took off from Lichfield at 23.31, carrying four 500lb general purpose bombs. Within minutes, the port engine began to falter and they decided to return to base. Tragically, while turning finals, the Wellington spun out of control and crashed. On impact, the aircraft was enveloped in flames. All five crew members were killed instantly. The three Australian members of the crew; SGT. W.J.P.Fletcher, SGT. J. A. Turnbull and SGT. J. G. Milne are all buried in the Churchyard of St. Stephens Church, Fradley. In the aftermath of this accident four members of the ground crew, who had been ordered to guard the wreckage, were also killed when the Wellington exploded again. (For more details of this accident see the War Graves section.)

The year ended with two more raids.The first was on Dusseldorf involving 12 aircraft. Thankfully, all returned safely. On the 16th of September, there was another raid on Essen.This raid also involved 12 aircraft but unfortunately,     two aircraft were lost. Wellington 1C N2782-A took off at 19.49. The five crew members were all serving with the R.A.F. P/O F. Lupton, W/O M. L. Pierpoint, P/O A. Easton, P/O E. J. C. Wheble, F/L P. G. Felce.No details exist but they obviously crashed in Germany and are buried together in Rheinburg Cemetery.

W/O M. L. Pierpoint.

(Photograph courtesy of R.A.F. Lichfield Association.)

The second aircraft  had taken off just one minute before, at 19.48. Whilst they were over Essen, a burst of flak destroyed the port aileron. With great skill, the pilot R. A. Curle, managed to stagger back to the south coast . By this time, the Wellington had become almost impossible to handle and at 03.20, the order to bale out was given.  All of the crew safely baled out and the aircraft crashed at Collingbourne Dulcis, 3 miles N. of Tidworth in Wiltshire.

The raid on Essen marked the end of the training units involvement in Main Force Operations.

However, on the 14th-15th of January 1945, aircraft from Lichfield took part in a “Sweepstake Operation”. These were tactical operations desgned to distract enemy fighters away from the main force. On the evening of the 14th of January, a force of 126 aircraft all drawn from trainin g units were given the task of flying over the North Sea.

Wellington 111 X3465 took off from Lichfield,as part of this force. The crew were all Australians and having completed their mission, were on the return journey  when they encountered adverse weather conditions. They crashed at  23.58, whilst attempting to land at Wymeswold and the aircraft was burnt out. Of the six  crew members, five were injured amd one died. The injured were F/O  K. E. Cranley, F/O  G. Thompson, F/O  J. Hann, F/O  J. Reuter and F/O E. Minnns. F/O E.R. Peace who was killed was buried in Botley Cemetery in Oxford. He was the last R.A.A.F. airman to die in an air crash, whilst training at Lichfield. He came from Koonya in Tasmania.


Lyn Tyler.


I am again indebted to the detailed research of W.R. Chorley.

Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses (Volume 7)

Operational Training Units 1940-1941. (Crecy Publications).

Also once again to the the R.A.F. Lichfield Association Website and to the generosity of Derek and Angela Smith and the work of Chris Pointon.

Other useful resources include:

Bomber Base-A history of Royal Air Force Lichfield and Church Broughton by Malcolm L. Giddings. (Colerne Debden Publishing).

Staffordshire Airfields in the Second World War by Martyn Chorlton. (Countryside Books).