Contributed by Peter Broom
In fact, Uncle Albert, was not a true uncle; he was the best pal of an uncle but, to my cousins and myself, as youngsters growing up in WW2, he was, as a constant visitor, seen more often than our ‘proper’ uncles, all of whom were in the forces, as was my father. When he became an RAF pilot our hero-worship knew no bounds.
A very clear memory is of Christmas 1943, when he visited on leave and was so much a part of the family games. A darker memory arises from a few months later when my mother told me - "Uncle Albert has been shot down.”
Many years later I decided to research Albert's RAF career. He had been a cub reporter on a local newspaper in Wednesbury, Staffs. He joined the RAF in May 1941 and progressed through No 1 Aircrew Reception Centre to No 6 Initial Training Wing at Aberystwyth. On 29 November 1941 he was posted to 50 Group (Pool) Elementary Flying Training School; then on 5th January 1942 to 33 EFTS at Caron in Canada. In July he was posted to 37 Service Flying Training School at Calgary and then in September to 39 SFTS at Swift Current. He had returned to the UK in December and between December 1942 and April 1943 he was at 20 Advanced Flying Unit, Kidlington, including a short course with 1513 Beam Approach Training Flight at Bramcote. On 18 May 1943 he was posted to 14 Operational Training Unit, Cottesmore. On 4 September he moved to 1661 Heavy Conversion Unit at Winthorpe before joining 44 Squadron on 23rd of September 1943.
Between December 1943 and January 1944 he is listed as being at Scampton (for reasons unknown), returning to 44 Sqn on 19th January. On 25 March 1944 he was posted to War Casualty Accounts Depot.
From the Squadron operational records I deduce that Albert flew on the following operations :
He then seems to have been allocated his own new aircraft ND565 - C, in which he flew the following ops:
Lancaster ND565 took off at 1849 hrs from Dunholme Lodge. The target must have been bombed as the aircraft was shot down at Angermund by flak on the return journey, at 0001 on 25 March. The aircraft fell onto the railway line between Dusseldorf and Cologne. There were no survivors. His crew was:
Fg Off Garland - Navigator
Sgt Myles - Wireless Operator
Sgt Evans - Flight Engineer
Flt Sgt Hatton - Bomb-aimer
Sgt Burnard - Mid-upper Gunner
Sgt Miller - Rear Gunner
Flt Sgt Terrell was also on the flight as ‘second dickie’ to gain experience.
This raid on Berlin became notorious as ‘The night of the big winds,’ wind strength being far higher than forecast. Many aircraft were blown off course, including ND565, which drifted at an almost stationary speed over the Ruhr defences.
In 1945 an uncle, whose pal Albert had been, managed to find the graves of Albert and his crew who had been interred by the German authorities. In the 1980's, having read Martin Middlebrook's book ‘The Berlin Raids’, I contacted the author. He put me in touch with John Chatterton, through whose kindness, I joined the 44 Squadron Association. Much as I enjoyed the reunions, I was somewhat disappointed not to find anyone who could remember Albert. It began to seem that A Flight, in which he had served, had fewer surviving members than B Flight. It also brought home to me the tenuous existence of the aircrew in those days; few knew anyone outside of their own crew.
I did meet someone who remembered Albert's Bomb-aimer, Pete Hatton: "a tall, good looking chap, interested in sports cars and intended to buy an MG after the war”.
Over the years I've continued to follow up every clue but with little success. The Ian Allan series of books, ‘Lancaster at War’, has, at least provided two or three photographs of Lancasters flown by Albert at some point on the Squadron, but a photograph of ND565
In 1998 I achieved a long held ambition and visited the Reichswald War Cemetery in which Albert, and his crew, had been re-interred after the war. A very moving experience.