Wakley Crew

Lancasters departng

No photograph currently available of the pilot, Cyril Wakley

LANCASTER – ND351 K-King (possible error in ORB?), shot down 20/21 January 1944, the crew were killed with the exception of Taylor, Alexander, and Lowe, who became PoWs.

Pilot: P/O Cyril Arthur Wakley
Flight Engineer: Sgt C Taylor
Navigator: Sgt A Alexander
Bomb Aimer: Sgt Rendle George William Climo
W/Op: Sgt H Lowe
Mid-Upper Gunner: Sgt Jack Tye
Rear gunner: Tech Sgt B H Stedman

Wakley - crew graves
The crew’s graves at Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. These are the temporary wooden crosses erected prior to the involvement of the Imperial War Graves Commission, who would erect the permanent headstones. Photographs like this one were sent to the families by the British Army Graves Service. Photograph courtesy of Tania Frosdick.
CREW DETAILS The complicated interactions which sometimes occurred between crews can be seen with the Wakley crew. Hopefully the following will be clear enough to follow.
The crew were posted to 97 Squadron from 1660 CU, on 7th December 1943. Details given in the ORB are as follows:
1322669                Sgt C.A.Wakley               Pilot (soon to be Pilot Officer)
1590547                Sgt C.Taylor                     FE
1600217                Sgt A.Alexander             Nav
1031305                 Sgt R.G.Climo                W/Op
968623                  Sgt H.Lowe                      NavB
1594010                 Sgt J.Tye                           AG

1089013                 Sgt J.Roberts                  AG

The crew was very much above the usual squadron age range of 19-24 years of age. Wakley was 27, Climo was 29, and Tye was 32. The rear gunner, John Roberts, was quite possibly the oldest man on the squadron at this point, being 38 years of age.John Roberts was married to Jessica Morfydd Roberts of Maesteg, Glamorgan, and below is a photograph of their wedding, which took place only a few months before his death.


Wakley - Roberts wedding
John Roberts’s wedding day. Courtesy of Tania Frosdick (great-niece).

The crew, for some unknown reason, (possibly they were on leave), did not operate in December 1943 and thus missed Black Thursday.
In January 1944 Wakley did two trips as second pilot with Charles Wilson.
Wakley’s two trips with Charles Wilson:
5/6 January 1943 – Stettin –JB300D  F/L C.T.Wilson, P/O C.A.Wakley (2nd Pilot), Sgt T.W.Smith, F/L G.W.Borthwick, F/L G.A.Watling, F/Sgt L.G.Jones, F/Sgt G.Harper, Sgt H.J.Pleydell.  Up 0004  Down 0823.  12 flares, 3 x TI, 1 x 4000lb, 2 x 1000lb.  Stettin bombed.  Vis good, clear sky.  TIs well placed and good concentration.  Fires were seen burning which showed up streets in pattern.

14/15 January 1944 – Brunswick – JB353L  F/L C.T.Wilson, P/O C.A.Wakley (2nd Pilot), Sgt T.W.Smith, F/L G.W.Borthwick, F/L R.M.Nelson, F/Sgt L.G.Jones, F/Sgt G.Harper, F/Sgt H.J.Pleydell.  Up 1701  Down 2213.  4 flares, 4 x TI, 1 x 4000lb, 6 x 1000lb.  Brunswick bombed from 19,500′.  Target identified by Wanganui flares and bombs dropped in center of concentration.  Green TIs seen through cloud.


On the first op, to Stettin, Wakley’s rear gunner, John Roberts, was standing in with another crew, that of Victor Flack.
The Flack crew was lost, and with them John Roberts. The family story is that Roberts had taken the place of a friend who was celebrating his engagement. This may have been E L Wright, but as the Flack crew had just changed gunners, it is not possible to be certain. Their previous gunner, Geoffrey Wood, had gone to the Emerson crew, with whom he was killed on 21 February 1944.


It was on his first trip in charge of his own aircraft that Wakley was killed, along with four of his crew.

His replacement rear gunner was Technical Sergeant B H Stedman, who was from the USAAF, a most unusual posting. Stedman had been posted to 97 Sqn from No 12 US Replacement Control Depot on 1st January 1944. Could this unusual posting have been part of a drive to replace the losses of Black Thursday very quickly? Did Stedman volunteer for service with the RAF?

Stedman’s flight with Wakley was his first and last with 97 Squadron.


20/21 January 1944 – Berlin
21 Lancaster IIIs are detailed to attack Berlin.  One aircraft returned early, also one bombed Brunsbuttin, oxygen failure.  The remaining nineteen bombed the primary.  Weather was 9/10th to 10/10th thin cloud at the commencement of the attack with good visibility.  A fair concentration was achieved with early arrivals reporting incendiary bombs in built up area.  Cloud thickened and no further results were observed although aircraft reported seeing glow of fires 100 miles from target.  P/O Wakley and crew failed to return, no news since leaving base.

Extract from Bomber Command Losses – 20/21.1.44
Lancaster III  ND367  OF – K.  Op  Berlin.  T/O 1750 Bourn.  Believed crashed at Zahrensdorf some 6km ENE of Boizenburg, a largish town on the N bank of the Elbe, roughly 50km SE of Hamburg.  Three rest in Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery, but the remains of T/S Stedman could not be found, despite an extensive search of Zahrensdorf  Friedhof, where he was initially buried.  He is commemorated on the Walls of the Missing at Margraten US Military Cemetery, near Maastricht, Holland.
P/O C.A.Wakley(+), Sgts G.Taylor(pow), A.J.Alexander(pow), E.Lowe(pow), R.G.W.Climo(+), J.Tye(+), T/S B.H.Stedman USAAF(+).