Summary of a Stirling Pilot
Died 26-04-1945-Aarhus, Denmark
Geoff from boyhood always wanted to be a Pilot, and as a lad joined the Air Defence Cadet Corp., which later became 120sqd ATC (Air Training Corps) of which he was a founder member.
In April 1941, as soon as he was of age, Geoff enlisted in the RAF and commenced training with the Empire Training Scheme in Moncton, Canada, to become a Pilot.
In 1943 after much training Geoff got his wings, and returned to England to continue his training at 42 OTU (Operational Training Unit) located in Ashbourne, Derbyshire.
It was here that he trained to fly the ‘Heavies’
In April 1944 he joined 570 Squadron at Harwell, where at first he flew Albemarle’s and finally in July 1944 when 570sqd converted to Stirling’s, he piloted the Stirling Mk 4 until the end of his career.
Geoff flew on eleven missions during 1944, including Operation Mallard in June 44 and Operation Market were he was shot down by flak on September 18th in Stirling LJ594 E7-J. They had only just cleared the Dutch island of Overflakkee, when they were hit by flak and lost height, smoke pouring from the starboard inner. They managed to bring the badly smoking aircraft safely to a ‘wheels up’ landing in a field between the villages of Bosschenhoofd and Zegge after ordering the rest of the crew to bale out, of which three did manage too.
Here, he and the remaining crew, hid in a wood until members of the Dutch Restistance found them, and took them into hiding in and around Breda until the town was liberated on October 30th 1944 and he was helped back to England.
He continued various exercises and operations after rejoining 570 squadron in November 1944.
570 Sqd had lost nine of its Stirling’s during September, with twenty two dead and sixteen POW’s it was at this time forced to ‘pause and lick its wounds’.
38 Group in total had lost 43 Stirlings and about a third of its strength during Operation Market.
In March 1945 Geoff flew in LJ620
on ‘Operation Varsity’ (The crossing of the Rhine), again as he
had done several times past, he towed a glider which was successfully released
onto the nearby DZ.
On April 22nd of that year, Geoff flew on a SOE to Denmark in Stirling LJ645 E7-M, it was here that his plane was badly hit by flak over the Jutland coastline, and crashlanded in a field north of Aarhus, killing three of his crew and injuring the remaining crew, including himself, who managed to get out of the aircraft before it exploded in flames.
All three survivors were taken prisoners by the Germans within a few hours of the crash.
Geoff’s injuries were so bad that the Germans took him straight to their hospital, were he was given intensive treatment for his burns., which unfortunately were so severe that he lost his fight for life three days later on the 26th April 1945
He and the three members of his crew ( F/O. W Hunt-Navigator, F/Sgt. Ken Johnson-Air Gunner, and F/Sgt John Hamilton-Flight Engineer) who perished in the stricken Stirling now lie together in Aarhus vestre Cemetery in Denmark..
The survivors F/Sgt Frank Rawlings- W/Operator and F/Sgt C.Flannigan-Air Bomber were made POW’s for the remainder of the war, which fortunately for them was only a few weeks, before being returned to England to recover from their wounds and rest..