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.
CREW OF LANCASTER PA278 PM-F (FREDDIE):
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.
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