Operation Dodge saw the repatriation of Allied troops and POWs from the Mediterranean arena, as well as the transportation of staff.  Many flew via Italy, on a trip a six-hour flight to bring them home.

103 Squadron participated in Operation Dodge from the embarkation centre at Bari Airfield, southern Italy. The Lancaster could carry up to 22 passengers, but on this trip there were six crew and 19 nursing staff.

On the 4th October 1945, the weather was poor with low cloud hampering flying conditions.  They took off from RAF Glatton, Cambridgeshire just after midnight to collect their passengers. Folding canvas seats were hung the full length on the fuselage, but there was no heating or parachutes, and with no oxygen supply for the passengers the aircraft had to fly at 2000ft.

It is believed that the aircraft may have been struck by lightning or suffered engine failure, as a large bright flash was seen at 4.40am as it was heading towards Corsica. Nothing was heard from them, and despite extensive searches no wreckage or bodies were found.

The disappearance of Lancaster PA278 from 103 Squadron on 4 October 1945 saw the biggest single loss of female service personnel in World War II.


PILOT                                    FL Geoffrey Taylor                                           189687                                   Panel 251

FLIGHT ENG                        Sgt Richard Steel                                              1818104                                Panel 247

NAVIGATOR                       FS Jack Reardon                                                1626816                                Panel 230

WIRELESS OP                     FS Norman Robbins                                         1894110                                Panel 233

AIR GUNNER                      Sgt William Kennedy                                      2208930                                Panel 193

AIR GUNNER                      FL John (Johnnie) Whymark DSO DFC       53481                                    Panel 264

PASSENGERS  Auxiliary Territorial Service unless stated otherwise..

L/CPL                                     Williamina Allan                                                W/23244                           Panel 122

PRIVATE                               Phyllis Bacon                                                      W/77415                             Panel 125

CPL                                         Heather Cosens                                                W/184715                             Panel 148

PRIVATE                               Stefania Courtman                                          W/Pal/203386                    Panel 149

PRIVATE                               Barbara Cullen  MiD                                        W/252761                            Panel 151

NURSING SISTER              Jane Curran                                                        236425                                Panel 151

(Queen Alexandra Imperial Military Nursing)

PRIVATE                               Anges Edwards                                                 W/258692                           Panel 159

PRIVATE                               Rhoda Fraser                                                      W/155281                           Panel 166

PRIVATE                               Bessie Goodman                                              W/143732                             Panel 171

CPL                                         Jill Goring                                                            W/237256                          Panel 171

PRIVATE                               Joan Larkin                                                          W/154454                         Panel 196

PRIVATE                               Alice Lillyman                                                     W/74459                            Panel 199

L/CPL                                     Shelia MacLeod                                                W/170036                            Panel 203

L/CPL                                     May Mann                                                          W/236937                           Panel 204

PRIVATE                               Betty Precious                                                   W/147946                            Panel 228

L/CPL                                     Enid Rice                                                              W/144264                         Panel 231

SENIOR MATRON             Gertrude Sadler                                                254580                                  Panel 237

(South African Military Nursing Service)

STAFF SGT                           Jessie Semark  MiD                                          W/7326                                Panel 239

PRIVATE                               Marion Taylor                                                    W/99752                              Panel 251

To find out more about the crew and nurses use the IBCC Losses Database here

The ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) was founded in 1938, originally just offering such positions as chefs, orderlies, stores persons or drivers.  The range of jobs was expanded allowing men to be released onto front lines duties.  More than 250000 women served in the ATS.

More stories like this can be found on our Blog Space here