Frank Lloyd, a highly gifted pilot, was poached from 101 Squadron, joining the Pathfinders in November 1944. He can been seen above with Des Lamb, his original bomb aimer at OTU, later to become his Navigator 2.
There is a chapter on Frank Lloyd (‘Life in Both Hands’) in Sean Feast’s book Master Bombers, The Experiences of a Pathfinder Squadron at War, 1944-1945. By far the most dramatic incident in this chapter is the night of 14 January 1945 when Frank won an Immediate DFC. His aircraft was hit not by the enemy but by a bomb load dropped from above, and suffered near-catastrophic damage. Frank shouted at the crew on the intercom to bale out:
I knew we had been hit heavily, but I also thought that I could save her. The crew, however, were already making preparations to abandon the aircraft. I shouted back, ‘Grab Tim’, our flight engineer, and Des just grabbed him before he went. David Mansell-Playdell, however, had already gone and it was too late to stop him.
Frank managed to level off the aircraft, which was in a steep dive, at 4,000 feet. The damage was immense, including a hole further down the aircraft which ran the whole width of the fuselage.
When we were half way back [home] Phil (the wireless operator) said he needed to go the toilet, but then he told me he couldn’t get to the Elsan because of this hole, but that he could see Happy (the mid-upper) and Shorty (the rear gunner) standing by the rear door singing songs. They had actually jettisoned the door, ready to go.
With superlative skill, Frank got the aircraft back to England. Unable to make it to Little Staughton, the crew finally landed safely at Manston, The only crew member who had been lost was Squadron Leader David Mansell-Playdell. A highly experienced navigator, he had been assessing the suitability of Frank and his crew as future master bombers. Although there are no details given in the chapter of what happened to Mansell-Playdell, he evidently survived because Frank would later recount: ‘David never spoke to me again after that.’
Above: Frank Lloyd at the controls.
With grateful thanks to Sean Feast for the photographs of Frank Lloyd, and for the many other images in his large collection of 582 information which is now with the Archive.