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Carl Richard Kelaher 267504
Squadron Leader, Royal Australian Air Force
Aged 30 of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Son of Charles Frederic and Mary Kelaher; husband of Rosalie Phyllis Kelaher, of South Kensington, London.

Runnymede Panel Number: 187

Click here to view a letter to crew member Kelaher's sister (Mrs McGee) advising of the 1950 unveiling of the Stadil community commemoration stone at the crash site.

SQUADRON LEADER CARL RICHARD KELAHER.

Carl was an Australian cousin of mine who was born in Sydney, New South Wales on the 4th March 1913.   He was educated at Randwick Public School in Sydney following which he attended Sydney Technical High School qualifying as an electrical fitter.   Carl then became an apprentice fitter with a Sydney electrical company.

From an early age Carl had ambitions to be a flyer, so it came as no surprise to his family that having completed his apprenticeship he joined the Royal Australian Air Force in January 1936 as an Air-Cadet.   He was sent to No1 Flying Training School at Point Cook where he proved to be a diligent and competent student pilot who gained his Air Force Wings by the end of that year.   Carl then applied to join the Royal Air Force and was accepted as a general duties pilot on a Short Service Commission with effect from the 19th February 1937.

On arrival in England, Carl under went initial pilot assessment on completion of which he was posted to No.103 bomber squadron where he was to remain until March 1939 being promoted to Flying Officer rank during this period.    He was then transferred to Head Quarters No.50 (Training) Group and in May 1940 was promoted to the rank of Flight Lieutenant.  

Two months later Carl was appointed a flying instructor being posted to No.26 Empire Flying Training School at Gwelo in what was, at that time, Southern Rhodesia.    Whilst still an instructor at Gwelo, he was promoted, in December 1941, to the rank of Squadron Leader.

By February 1942 his Short Service Commission had expired and Carl was placed on the Reserve List of Officers but as the war was still in progress he was automatically re-classified as having been re-called to active service and his situation did not change.   Later that year Carl was to apply to transfer from the Royal Air Force to the Royal Australian Air Force.   His request was given official approval and between December 1942 and March 1943 he attended a refresher flying training course at No.3 A.F.U.

On 15th May 1943, Carl was posted to No.1656 Conversion Unit at RAF station Lindholm to familiarise himself with the flying of Lancaster aircraft together with a hand-picked crew consisting of four fellow Australians and two RAF airmen.   With effect from June 1st 1943 he was officially transferred to the RAAF with the rank of Squadron Leader and on the 14th of that month was posted, together with his crew, to 460 RAAF bomber squadron.

460 SQUADRON

This Lancaster squadron was based at RAF Binbrook in Lincolnshire and upon being posted to the squadron Carl was appointed commander of ‘A’ Flight.   Following air-testing and acquainting himself with the geography of the area around Binbrook, he and his crew’s first operational mission was to lay mines (otherwise known as ‘Gardening’) in the Deodars sea area on June 20th.    The next night, the 21st, the crew was assigned to bomb Krefeld in Germany.   Their Lancaster took off from Binbrook at 2357hrs but the flight had to be aborted due to oxygen failure resulting from a fractured oxygen pipe and after the bomb load had been jettisoned over open sea, Carl landed the Lancaster back in Binbrook at 0200hrs.

On the 22nd he and his crew carried out their first successful raid, which was to bomb Mulheim.   Having taken off from their airbase at 2317hrs they dropped their bomb load on target at 0126hrs returning to Binbrook by 0335hrs.   Two nights later they were in the air again, flying for the first time in Lancaster EE138, on an operational mission to bomb Wuppertal.   This was a successful raid carried out at 14,000ft on a clear night with no cloud cover and the target area illuminated by Path Finder flares.

After this it was to be a raid on Cologne on the night of July 8th, followed four nights latter by a long, arduous, flight to bomb Turin.   Then on the 24th of that month it was back to Germany this time on an operational trip to bomb Hamburg, the crew leaving Binbrook at 2234hrs being back on the ground at 0314hrs having completed the mission.

Although Carl’s crew took part in another raid bombing Hamburg on the night of July 27th, Carl stood down in order that his aircraft, Lancaster ED985, could be piloted by the Station Commander, Group Captain Hughie Edwards VC.   This was an uneventful but highly successful raid with the aircraft arriving back at Binbrook at 0345hrs in the morning.

Binbrook had become the home of 460 Squadron on May 14th 1943, where Group Captain Edwards had been appointed the Station Commander three months earlier after concrete runways, capable of taking the weight of fully bombed-up Lancaster aircraft, had been completed.   Group Captain Edwards was proud of having been given command of this prestigious Australian squadron and he would frequently accompany crews on raids instilling in his men respect and confidence.    As a Commander it was his philosophy to lead by example.

Carl was to take his crew on their next raid on August 7th when the target was once more Turin, again another long, arduous, flight lasting from 2046hrs to 0533 the next morning and one which he described on his return to Binbrook as having been ‘a good attack’ and describing the role of the Master of Ceremonies as ‘very successful’.   The next operational mission for him and his crew was three nights later on the 10th when they returned to Germany bombing Nuremburg.   The target was attacked from 19,500ft at 0105hrs and on his return to Binbrook Carl described the raid as having been ‘very successful under the cloud conditions prevailing’.   Returning from this raid Carl gave everyone a scare by turning up late, he had landed at Tangmere for fuel and it was sometime before this was known at Binbrook.   The Parachute Section having already ‘written off’ the crew.

On the 12th August it was to be a switch of Italian targets for Carl.   That night’s operation was to bomb Milan, once again this proved to be a long and arduous journey.   Having left the airfield in Lincolnshire at 2106hrs the target was reached at 0120 and the crew did not land back at Binbrook until 0540hrs.   It was to be back raiding Italy again on the 15th but another switch of target, this time a return trip to bomb Milan.   Another clear night with the moonlight so bright that it was possible to read aircraft squadron letters from 300 yards distance.   Having left Binbrook at 2010hrs it was to be eight hours before returning to base following a successful mission.

On August 23rd, Carl was again to pilot Lancaster EE138 with his regular crew for a raid on the German capital.   The aircraft’s bomb load was dropped on target just after mid-night  on a cloudless night but with considerable smoke covering the target area.   Carl was to describe the trip as ‘successful but uneventful’ and the job of the Path Finders as ‘excellent’ and that of the Master of Ceremonies as ‘admirable’.   From the time of joining the squadron early in June 1943 until the end of August, Carl had carried out twelve operational missions each one with the same members of the crew.   These being:

  1. Flying Officer Robertson W.A.  (RAAF).
  2. Pilot Officer Raper W.   (RAAF)
  3. F/Sgt. Gynther L.   (RAAF)
  4. F/Sgt. Chadwick-Bates J.   (RAAF)
  5. F/Sgt. Gill L.F.   (RAF)
  6. Sgt. Rolfe A.   (RAF)

Carl was very proud of this crew and Group Captain Edwards, who had flown with them on July 27th, complimented them on their efficiency and excellent airmanship.

LANCASTER EE138

At the end of August a new crew had been transferred into 460 Squadron the captain and pilot of which was Flying Officer Sidney Forrester from Adelaide, South Australia.   This crew carried out air-test flights following their arrival before being assigned to take part in their first operational bombing raid on the night of September 3rd.   The target was to be Berlin and the aircraft allocated to them was Lancaster EE138 whose usual crew, under Flying Officer J. Oakeshott, had been stood down for this particular mission.   Carl who was the crew’s Flight Commander decided to accompany them on this raid.   As Flying Officer Forrester’s tail-gunner was unavailable for this mission, Carl brought in Sergeant A. Rolfe from his own crew as the replacement.    This was to be the final raid on the German capital before the onset of autumn, with three hundred Lancaster bombers taking part of which twenty-two would fail to return, three of these being from 460 Squadron including EE138 with the loss of all the crew.

The eight crew killed being:

  1. Squadron Leader Carl Richard Kelaher (RAAF) age 30, pilot.
  2. Flying Officer Sidney Milton Forrester (RAAF) age 22, 2nd pilot.
  3. Warrant Officer Ewin Garth Carthew (RAAF) age 21, navigator.
  4. Warrant Officer Cyril Augustine Walsh (RAAF) age 30, bomb aimer.
  5. Sergeant Herbert Freeman Jowett (RAF) age 20, engineer.
  6. Sergeant John Cresswell Coombes (RAF) age 23, wireless operator.
  7. Sergeant Ernest Albert Cecil Thirkettle (RAF) age 22, mid-upper gunner.
  8. Sergeant Arthur Rolfe (RAF) age 39, tail-gunner.

Their memorial is a granite stone erected at the crash site which the villagers of Stadil paid for and which was dedicated to the crew at a ceremony on the 5th May 1950.    Their names are also listed at the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede in England to the memory of the twenty thousand airmen who have no known graves, as well as in the Book of Remembrance at St. Mary’s Church in Binbrook dedicated to over a thousand aircrew of 460 Squadron who lost their lives during World War 2.

Victor R. Kelaher.

July 2005.

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