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Tom Bint - 626 Squadron & RAF Wickenby

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12 Squadron


626 Squadron

























RAF Wickenby

During RAF Wickenby's short active service 1080 lives were lost from the base. This sacrifice is commemorated by a memorial with the form of Icarus on an obelisk at the entrance to the airfield. Today the site is a private airfield used as an aviation school and is home to The RAF Wickenby Memorial Museum.

It was the home of 12 Squadron and 626 Squadron of No 1 Group, RAF Bomber Command.

During hostilities, over 300 operations were flown from the airfield with 166 bombers reported missing, all but six being Lancasters. Another 30 aircraft were lost in operational crashes.

626 Squadron was formed in November 1943 with two flights of eight aircraft. 'A' Flight was originally 12 Squadron's 'C' Flight and 'B' Flight was made up from Lancasters arriving from factories and other units.

Its first operation was to bomb the Western entrance to the Montcenis tunnel in the French Alps on the 10th of November 1943.

The last bombing operation  was on the 25 of April 1945 when the target was Hitler’s “Eagles Nest” and the nearby SS barracks at Berchtesgaden in Bavaria.

It  was disbanded on the 14 of October 1945 having spent the last months of that year on transport duties.



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Tom Bint

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Sgt T W Bint and his fellow crew members were posted in to 626 Squadron on the 31 January 1944 from No.1662 Heavy Conversion Unit, RAF Blyton an operational training unit for Lancaster bomber crews. Sgt Bladon had formed his crew at 25 OTU RAF Wing where their original training together was on Wellington bombers.




Sgt A Bladon 569974 RAF – Pilot. (Pilot Officer from March 22nd 1944), Sgt Hance Watt RAF 1571083 RAF – Flight Engineer, WO John Gibson R138082 RCAF ( later Pilot Officer) – Navigator, Sgt Cecil Nathanson 928627 RAF – Air Bomber, Sgt Charles Cecil Christie 1128392 RAF – Wireless Operator, Sgt Thomas William Bint 1853424 RAF - Mid Upper Gunner, F/Sgt Stanley William Jones A426789 RAAF – Rear Gunner. (Ranks as recorded on posting in.)   


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Tom Bint  first left, Cecil (Nat) Nathanson is next, then Canadian Johnny Gibson, Aussie F/Sgt Stan Jones, Pilot Officer Fred Bladon, and the wireless operator F/Sgt (Chris) Christie extreme right.



The target for March 24th 1944 was the final and 16th major attack on Berlin. All of the Squadron's aircraft took part, though  LL722 piloted by Pilot Officer Stewart had to abort with supercharger failure. Two crews, those of HK539 and LM393 did not return.

Records show that Lancaster HK539 UM-A2 crashed at approximately 02.30hrs on the 25 March 1944 at Warendorf in Germany. The aircraft was on the homeward route having bombed the target at 22.50hrs. The Pilot on this last operation was Wing Commander Quentin Weston Aldridge Ross 32111 RAF, Officer Commanding  626 Squadron. There were no survivors.

The crew’s own regular Pilot, Sergeant Fred Bladon, had only that week received a promotion. He was now a Pilot Officer and was stood down reluctantly from this sortie. His place was taken by the new Squadron CO, Wing Commander Ross who was due to complete the end of his tour and his 30th op. 



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The Squadron Op's Board  on March 25th showing 2 aircraft missing and their pilots, Wing Commander Ross and Sgt Margetts.


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Extract From The Bomber Command War Diaries 24/25 March 1944.

811 aircraft - 577 Lancasters, 216 Halifaxes, 18 Mosquitos - to Berlin. 72 aircraft - 44 Lancasters, 28 Halifaxes - lost, 8.9 per cent of the force.

This night became known in Bomber Command as 'the night of the strong winds'. A powerful wind from the north carried the bombers south at every stage of the flight. Not only was this wind not forecast accurately but it was so strong that the various methods available to warn crews of wind changes during the flight failed to detect the full strength of it.

The bomber stream became very scattered, particularly on the homeward flight and radar-predicted flak batteries at many places were able to score successes. Part of the bomber force even strayed over the Ruhr defences on the return flight. It is believed that approximately 50 of the 72 aircraft lost were destroyed by flak; most of the remainder were victims of night fighters. Needless to say, the strong winds severely affected the marking with, unusually, markers being carried beyond the target and well out to the south-west of the city.

This was the last major RAF raid on Berlin during the war, although the city would be bombed many times by small forces of Mosquitos




LM393 was the other 626 Sqdn Lancaster lost on this operation.  Airborne at 1844 24th March 1944 from Wickenby. Homebound, shot down by a night-fighter, not far from Berlin, crashing at Liebtz, 6 km NNE of Luckenwalde, near Brandenburg. Six are buried in the Berlin 1939-45 War Cemetery, F/S K.H.Margetts, Sgt R.W.Chandler, F/O H.L.Shortliffe RCAF, Sgt D.F.Brooker, Sgt G.T.Probert, Sgt R.C.Waters, Sgt C.G.G.Bateman. Sgt Probert is commemorated on Panel 236 of the Runnymede Memorial.

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My father Tom Bint and his fellow crewmates in Lancaster HK539 were unfortunate to encounter one of Germany's top night-fighter air aces while they were flying homeward approaching the Dutch border.

He was 22 year old  MAJOR HEINZ-WOLFGANG SCHNAUFER, and this was his 50th 'kill'. At the time of the photograph on the left in February 1944 he had 47 victory bars on his Bf 110G.

The photo on the extreme right shows Schnaufer in August 1944 receiving the Swords to his Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves from Hitler. 

On the extreme left is Hartman who had 352 confirmed victories and on his right is Schnaufer who on the 29th of July 1944 shot down his 89th bomber.


The same night - another Lancaster, 166 Squadron.


This is the true story of a 166 Squadron Lancaster bomber crew from  RAF Kirmington, one of many on the night of the 24th of March 1944. The night became known to Bomber Command as the Night of the Strong Winds. On the evening of March 24th 1944 a Lancaster bomber ME635 AS-C took off with a full crew of 7 airmen. F/S E Brown RAAF, SGT J.E Scruton, F/S W Mitchinson, SGT  R Boyde, SGT J Flavell, SGT W H Burnell, and SGT W C Mason.

All were to die that night bar one, Lesley Burnell. This is his story in his own words as written for a panel show called Claim to Fame on the TV channel TWW.

"I was a mid-gunner in a Lancaster bomber during the last war. On the evening of the 24th of March 1944 we were on a bombing raid to Berlin. We reached Berlin, dropped our bombs at 25,000 feet and as we were leaving the target area, our two port engines were hit by flack and set on fire. My skipper ordered us to abandon the aircraft but at that point a German fighter, attracted by our plane on fire, came in to attack us. A shell from the fighter seared across the top of my head and knocked me out. When I came to, I was in the wreckage of the bomber, it had crashed into the side of a huge pine forest. I was very bruised, the only injury I received was from the shell of the German fighter, my head was split wide open. I then gave myself up at a German railway signal crossing. Next day I found out that all 6 of my crew were killed when they baled out of the plane, they said they saw my plane spiral down and hit the side of the ground."

It is known that all the rest of the crew were buried in Berlin war cemetery. Sergeant W H Burnell, the only survivor after surviving a fall of 25.000 ft inside the Lancaster was interned in a POW camp Stalag Luft 6 and then Stalag 357 Thorn/357 Fallingsbostal. Here he remained until the end of the war when in April 1945 he was injured by American attacks on the camp causing him to loose a lung. He was flown home on May 4th 1945.  

When lost the aircraft had a flying total of 64 hours. ME635 was one of four 166 Sqdn Lancasters lost on this operation.

RAF Kirmington has continued to operate as an active airfield as Humberside International Airport.


A grateful acknowledgement to   '25,000 ft Down - and Alive: Bomber Crew Loss on Night of the Strong Winds.  Article ID: A1952084 by Lesley Burnell  BBC WW2 People's War'


Click here for another 166 Squadron survivor's account of that night. Roy Keen sole survivor of ND620... 




This letter came through Bob Piper of Australia's Military Aviation Research Services, and shows the results of German historian, Jorg Helbig's research. Our sincere thanks to them both.



A bomb attack by the USAAF on Warendorf only two days before, the 23rd of March 1944, had killed 80 people and destroyed significant parts of the historic Old Town



         HK539's probable crash site.     Image kindly supplied by Frank Scherff


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All seven crew members are buried in the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. 

Nearly 4,000 airmen are buried in the cemetery. Some lost their lives in supporting the advance into Germany, but most died in earlier years of the war, in the intensive air attacks on German targets, and were brought to the Reichswald from cemeteries and isolated burial places in the neighbouring area.


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Reichswald Forest War Cemetery

 Sgt Tom Bint's grave



One of Tom Bint's Sunningdale school-mates was also at RAF Wickenby. He was Flight Sergeant F. G Clarke who was a Flight Engineer with 12 Squadron and flying with Australian skipper F/Sgt H R H Ross and his crew on a Berlin raid in Lancaster JB715 when on their return they crashed into trees at Heaton in Lincolnshire during exceptionally foggy and cloudy conditions on the 16th of December 1943. He is buried at Sunningdale churchyard and both he and Tom Bint are commemorated on the Sunningale War Memorial.


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Reichswald Forest War Cemetery 1939-1945 by Tony Georgiadis (photonet)


My extreme gratitude with acknowledgements to Dorothy Bladon and her family for the  photographs and recollections, Alex Richendoller for the Wickenby pictures and getting me motivated, Dave Stapleton's earlier help and his energetic 626 Squadron research, and Helena Coney the Bladon family historian for finding Fred's family.


Continue to 626 SQUADRON Part 2