The following includes tributes to two further members of Ernie's air crew who do not appear in the photo above. The information concerning these two crew members has only recently become available.

 

 

Flight Engineer, Sgt. Christopher T. Baker (RAF)

This information is displayed with kind permission of the Baker family, England (March 2012)

 

 

Some time after the end of WW2, Cliff Allen wrote a letter* to Christopher Baker's brother in which he described a most moving experience in fare-welling the air crew on what turned out to be their last fateful mission on the night of February 19th, 1944.

  *Extracts from this moving story are set out below with the kind permission of Christopher Baker's family.

 

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Cliff Allen, RAF

Engine Fitter

The photo on the left shows 4 of the 7 air-crew members together in the centre, with ground crew members at each end.

L to R: No Name - Sgt Christopher Baker RAF, flight engineer - F/O Ernie Fayle RAAF, pilot

F/Sgt Brian Bennett RAAF, rear gunner - No name - Cliff Allen RAF

It is thought that the officer 5th from left is F/O F. Chappell, Navigator

Cliff Allen's rank is unknown, however his classification was "Engine Fitter"

 

Only one photo of Ernie together with his ground-crew and air-crew members is held by the author at this time (see above).

The photo in the centre of the 3 above, has only recently come into my possession (April 2012) and is enlarged below.

The air-crew member on the left has been positively identified as Sgt. Christopher Baker (flight engineer).  It is known that there was one other officer in the compliment of seven air-crew members apart from F/O Ernie Fayle (pilot) and it appears, subsequently, that the officer wearing the cap in this photo is very likely F/O F. Chappell (navigator).  If this is the case, and assuming that the four men are from the same air-crew, then the names of the two air-crew members in the middle can only be Sgt. L.K. Topham (bomb aimer) and Sgt. R.J. Farrell (wireless operator) as Sgt. ALN Vickery has been excluded from this photo following consultation with the Vickery family. Sgt. Christopher Baker and the officer in the cap are definitely the same two airmen as in the other crew photo, so it’s most probable that the two air-crew members in the middle are in fact members of Ernie’s air-crew (Sgt. L.K. Topham and Sgt. R.J. Farrell).  It is also highly likely that the Lancaster in this photo is that of Ernie and crew.

 

 

 

Mid Upper Turret Gunner, Sgt. ALN (Norman) Vickery RAF.

This information is displayed with kind permission of the Vickery family, England (December 2012).

I also wish to acknowledge the assistance provided by Sqn Ldr Bryan Clark MBE RAF Rtd.

 

It is of interest that both Sgt. Christopher Baker and Sgt. Norman Vickery came from the same town.  In fact they were both founder members of the 124 Air Training Corps Squadron at Hereford, Herefordshire, UK.

The following is an extract from an internal memo taken from the records of the ‘Ministry of Defence, Air Historical Branch’, UK.

The other cadet who is honoured on the roll is Sgt. Christopher Baker, who together with another ex-cadet, Sgt. Norman Vickery, were part of the crew of a Lancaster of No. 463 Squadron operating from Waddington, Lincolnshire. Lost in early 1944, they are still missing, presumed killed, as they have no known graves, except perhaps the cold North Sea.  Chris was the flight engineer and Norman the mid-upper gunner.  Both of them were founder members of the 124 A.T.C. Squadron..’

 

 

During WW2, it was apparently normal procedure for ground crew members to remain with the same aircraft and air-crew for sustained periods, and I have, just recently, been successful in obtaining the names of some of the ground crew members that were attached to Ernie’s last Lancaster, DV338 .  It is not known at this stage what rank was held by the ground crew members, or the particular area of operation that each was involved in, suffice to have their names recorded here pending further enquiry.

The names of the Ground Crew Members are; C. H. Brown, Cliff Allen, Eric Offen, Jeff Coote, Dick White, Nick Nickols, ‘Poof’ Teylor, ‘Taffy’ Churchill and ‘Nobby’ Webster.

I have recently obtained a document, originating  from the WW2 RAF Archives, referring to the fateful night - the night  that these seven brave men lost their lives (19/20 February 1944).  This original document is reproduced immediately below.  This account was written by Eric Offen, one of the ground crew members mentioned above.

The sentiment contained in the second last line, above, “7 bloody Berlin trips” is consistent with a comment I heard very recently when speaking with a surviving RAAF air-crew member of Bomber Command as he expressed some surprise when noting from official records, the 5 consecutive Berlin trips included in a total of 7 within a very short period, carried out by Ernie and his crew.

 

The following comment is made here, as an addition to the comment in Chapter 1, concerning the remarkably quick return to operational duty by Ernie and his crew following combat damage and injury sustained during a raid on Leipzig.

Official documents (refer chapter 1, 20/21 October and 22/23 October 1943) show that Ernie and his crew returned to their base in the early morning of 21 October 1943 at 00:27 in their combat damaged aircraft, but were airborne again in a replacement aircraft on the night of the very next day, 22 October 1943 at 18:06 bound for Kassel.  It is especially noteworthy that 2 crew members sustained injuries during the attack, but nevertheless, took part as members of the normal aircrew the very next day.  (It is recognised that the injuries incurred by the bomb aimer and the tail gunner may not have been serious, however, their willingness under these conditions has got to be extraordinary to say the least.)

One wonders whether or not the emphasis placed on ‘trauma counseling’ nowadays, has induced a level of expectation in our society that is not always warranted.

 

 

The article below is a verbatim transcript obtained from the "Lost Bombers" web site.  This article has simply recorded the history of this particular aircraft, albeit a very short life cycle.  Ernie Fayle and crew manned this aircraft (DV338) on all missions listed below, except the first 5 Berlin missions referred to in November/December 1943.  Their first mission in this aircraft was on 22/23 October 1943 (Kassel).

The record, however, contains 2 omissions in respect of combat missions completed during January 1944, just prior to its disappearance.  These omissions can been verified by reference to 463 Squadron's 'Operations Record Book' (refer Chapter 1) which details the 2 Berlin missions omitted from the record below.  The first on 20/21 January 1944 and the second on 28/29 January 1944.

This aircraft was the replacement for Ernie and crew after JA902 Lancaster had been badly damaged by two German night fighter attacks and 'friendly fire' from a nearby Lancaster (refer Chapter 1, debriefing notes 20/21 October 1943).

 

 

 

Rear Gunner, Flight Sgt. Brian Percival Bennett RAAF.

This information is displayed with kind permission of the Bennett family, Clermont, Queensland, Australia.

 

 

Reference has been made to Ernie's sporting ability earlier in this biography, however, his skill as a batsman is

worthy of special mention.  One of Ernie's former cricket team mates, a junior at that time and now well

into his 80's, has advised that he was recently asked to nominate the best cricketer ever produced

by this small country town. Without hesitation he answered "Ernie Fayle". The following

article published in the Hay local newspaper recently seems to bear out this claim.

 

 

 

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Introduction

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Appendix

Notes

Epilogue