Any war is tragic, casualties are inevitable and numerous families will grieve the loss of a love one, whether Allied or Axis.
For some, fate dealt a cruel hand, none more so than thirty-two year old Lloyd Lincoln Stuart, bomb aimer aboard Short Stirling BF450 HA-X. Lloyd was half-German and his early life was anything but easy.
Lloyd’s father came to England from Silesia, south east Germany in 1908, six years before the outbreak of the Great War, hardworking he quickly settled down, fell in love, married, and became the proud father of Lloyd, the eldest and daughters, Freyga, Florence and the youngest Felicity. Lloyds father, Gottlied had until the start of the Great War owned a successful ladies hairdressers in Blandford St, London W1, during one of the anti German riots it was badly damaged. Gottlied was interned and sent to Stratford, East London in 1915, in 1917 he was transferred to Alexandra Palace internment camp in North London. By the time the Great War was reaching its final dramatic conclusion in 1918, the young Lloyd found himself fighting another type of war, Germanophobia. Being the children of a German meant that they were targets, potential enemies to be attacked and vilified. Lloyd, being the big brother would take the brunt of the action while protecting his younger sisters. With the war to end all wars finally over in November 1918, it was hoped that the family could once again settle down, sadly it was not meant to be. Soon after the Armistice the family found themselves facing deportation, it was only the intervention of the families local MP that prevented their return to a war ravaged Germany. It would be 1936 before Lloyds father would become a British citizen. Given Lloyds childhood encounters it was not surprising that he changed his German surname, Blasek to Stuart, the name of his grandmother. It is ironic that Lloyd chose to join the RAF, and specifically Bomber Command. He must have been aware that in his role of bomb aimer he would be bombing Germans and possibly his own relatives.
Lloyds RAF career is picked up when he completes his conversion to the Short Stirling at No.1651 CU based at RAF Waterbeach, he and his crew, skippered by Sergeant Raymond White arrived at RAF Downham Market w.e.f 21st November 1942. Lloyds skipper the fresh faced 20-year-old, would as custom be required to undertake a number of second dickie flights with experienced pilots to gain operational experience. The first of these was on November 22nd when he joined the crew of F/Lt Ernest Sly on a raid against Stuttgart, this was followed on the 28th when he attacked Turin with P/O Colin Jerromes and crew. The following night he was in the right hand seat with S/Ldr Waldo Hiles DFC, again the target was Turin.
With his second dickie trips completed, the crew were now ready to start operations. They were briefed for their first operation on December 9th 1942, a mining operation. The crew were aloft at 17:20 hours in Stirling BF403 HA-R, the “Garden” was found and mines successfully dropped, they were back at Downham Market at 20:50hrs. There were no operations flown by the crew over the Christmas of 1942, and it would be almost a month before they operated again. On January 8th another successful mining operation was flown, this was followed by an abortive raid against the U-Boat pens at Lorient on the 15th. Unable to maintain height the all-incendiary load was jettisoned into the English Channel. It was back to Lorient on the 23rd when the crew successfully dropped 1940 x 4lb incendiaries on the U-Boat pens meeting little opposition in the process. On February 2nd 1943, the crew were briefed to bomb Hamburg. One can only imagine what Lloyd thoughts were as he attended briefing, this was his first operation of Germany, beneath him could be cousins, uncles and aunts. The crew departed Downham Market at 18:30 hours in Stirling R9244 HA-W. Eight crews were detailed by 218 Squadron, two would be recorded as “Missing” while two crews returned early with various malfunctions. Those remaining found Hamburg covered in cloud, Lloyd lined up on the few marker flares available and dropped his 7500lb of 4lb incendiaries on the city below. They were back at Downham Market by 00:10hrs.
There followed two operations flown against Lorient, the first on the 7th , they were joined on this occassion by a 2nd pilot, Sgt Webb flying for operational experience, on the 13th they were over the coastal port again. Both these operations were undertaken in a brand new aircraft, Short & Harland, Belfast built, Short Stirling Mk.I BF450 HA-X, which had only arrived on the squadron on January 22nd. On the 14th it was back to Germany , the target was Cologne. While on route to Cologne the starboard inner oil pressure dropped to zero forcing the crew to jettison their bombload of 1620 x 4lb + 48 x 30lb Incendiaries, with no bomb load, a defective engine the crew were forced to return to Downham Market. There were no incidents on the return flight, however on landing the Stirling swung violently, it was only the quick reaction of Raymond White that prevented a serious accident. The squadron Operational Records book states it was “ A GOOD EFFORT”.
The crew whether by design or luck were not required for operations until February 25th when the briefed target was Nurnberg. This would be their longest trip to date, flown against a heavily defended target. Fourteen crews were detailed and briefed for this operation, two of which were cancelled just before take-off. The remaining crews flew south and departed England over Dungeness before heading to the French coastal town of Cayeux. The route then took them slightly north of Saarbrucken, skirting the flak defences of Mannheim and Karlsruhe. German defences were as usual alert and considerable opposition was encountered by flak, German night fighters were hampered by fog and haze restricting their participation. Weather conditions over Nurnberg were not ideal, heavy haze made ground identification difficult for the Path Finders of 8 Group who arrived late on target. Initially marking hampered by haze resulted in the H2S dropped markers being 2 miles NW from the intended aiming point.
It is believed that the crew of Sergeant Raymond White successfully located and bombed the target and turned for the long journey home. It was while on the return leg that the crew met their fate. The Stirling was hit by 1., 2. and 5./s 491 and 3. and 4./s 492 flak batteries crashing at 01:04hrs German time at Rheinau, 5 miles SSE of Mannheim, there were no survivors. Evidence seems to suggest that the crew were slightly off course when they encountered the formidable flak defences that surrounded Mannheim.The wreckage of BF450 crashed into the bank of the Rhine close to Mannheim’s power station, the rear section containing the rear turret and rear gunner was found on the river bank, the forward section is presumed to have fallen into the Rhine taking with it the remainder of the crew, including the pilot, Sergeant White. Three bodies were later found and identified downstream, Raymond White, Kenneth Young, the Canadian mid upper gunner, and the observer Canadian George Mathews. The four crew were initially buried on March 5th in the Romanian Section of the main Mannheim Cemetery. They were moved post war to Durnbach War Cemetery, it was only then that the fourth body
was identified as 19-year-old rear gunner, John Hearn. A Red Cross report records two further bodies were recovered, these are believed to be that of Lloyd and James Wade the 25-year old Australian flight engineer. The bodies were buried in the Principle Cemetery, Ludwigshafen, sadly post-war the bodies could not be located and their names along with Sergeant Harry Werner, the crew’s wireless operator are recorded on the panels of the Runnymede Memorial.
The crew had flown eight operations during their short operational lives, the strain of operational flying was bad enough, but to hide the secret that you were half-German must have caused Lloyd endless worry. The fear of being captured if shot down, the moral dilemma of bombing Germany, and perhaps close relatives must have played heavily on Lloyds mind and conscience. We will never know what Lloyd felt about his role as a bomb aimer in Bomber Command, what is known is that he carried it out with courage to the bitter end.
Would like to thank Howard Bradrook for the photo of Lloyd and details of his early childhood, I would also like to thank Jack Tupper for correctly identifying George Mathews and sending the photograph of “Jack” Hearn.