Flight Sergeant Mervyn Thomas WHITTENBURY

Service No: 417920
Born: Naracoorte SA, 18 November 1922
Enlisted in the RAAF: 18 July 1942
Unit: No. 460 Squadron, RAF Binbrook, Lincolnshire
Died: Air Operations (No. 460 Squadron Lancaster aircraft ME785), Germany, 13 June 1944, Aged 21 Years
Buried: Olst (Duur) General Cemetery, Overijssel, Netherlands
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Alfred Horace and Ellen Whittenbury, of Largs Bay, South Australia
Roll of Honour: Naracoorte SA
Remembered: Panel 108, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: World War II Honour Roll, National War Memorial of SA, North Terrace, Adelaide

Bomber Command began its part in the oil campaign during the night of 12th-13th June when 294 Lancasters sought out the Bergius plant at Nordstern (Gelsenkirchen), reputedly one of the largest hydrogenation plants, producing 7 per cent of total German production. Fourteen crews from No. 460 and fifteen Australian pilots from Nos. 15, 90, 115, 166, 514, 622 and 626 Squadrons took part. The crews of No. 460 were enthusiastic about returning to the Ruhr after three weeks spent in concentrating on French targets, but before the raid were not very optimistic of success. They found, however, to their surprise clear weather over the target with less haze than was usual at Gelsenkirchen. Pathfinder marking was prompt and appeared to be well concentrated except for one red target indicator which fell about 10 miles south of the main cluster and attracted some of the bombs from nervous crews arriving early in the raid. Once the rhythm of attack began, large explosions were reported and black smoke rose to a great height. Seventy-five tons of bombs were dropped (out of 1,444) by crews of No. 460 and they turned for home in far more confident vein. They were also heartened in that ground defences seemed far less active than was normal for Ruhr targets, and there were no night fighters active during the attack.

Nevertheless free-lance German fighters penetrated the bomber stream during its homeward flight over Holland and 17 Lancasters were shot down including one from No. 460. Subsequent air photographs showed that the damage inflicted by this raid was severe and extended throughout the plant. Injection houses, generating plants, the turbine house, hydrogenation stalls, gas generation and paste preparation plants all revealed some degree of damage. In addition many storage tanks were destroyed and all 13 cooling towers damaged. Other facilities such as railway lines, sidings and waggons were also hit. The contemporary estimate was that efforts to make repairs could result in only a partial resumption of work.

Extract from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Over Europe 1944-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1963 – Pages 200-1

Lancaster ME785 took off from RAF Binbrook at 2305 hours on 12 June 1944 to bomb Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it did not return to base. Post war it was established that the aircraft crashed in flames at 0130 hours on 13 June after being hit by a night fighter. The aircraft crashed at Middel near Olst and all the crew members were killed. Nine aircraft from the squadron took part in the raid and only ME785 failed to return.

The crew members of ME785 were:

Sergeant Gerald Gordon Barker (1894666) (RAFVR) (Mid Upper Gunner)
Flying Officer James Rollo Fry (422165) (Navigator)
Flight Sergeant Robert Trevor Hill (20076) (Bomb Aimer)
Pilot Officer Austin Frederick Roche (5136) (Pilot)
Sergeant Joseph Beaddie Ross (1673067) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer)
Flight Sergeant Thomas Edwin Sage (1146986) (RAFVR) (Wireless Operator Air)
Flight Sergeant Mervyn Thomas Whittenbury (417920) (Rear Gunner)


Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records (RAAF Casualty Information compiled by Alan Storr (409804))
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veteran’s Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 166/43/712


Firkins, P. C. (Peter Charles) (441386) Strike and Return, Westward Ho Publishing City Beach WA, 1985

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