LAC. Wallace Jackson in North Africa and Italy with 70 Squadron, RAF, 1941-1944


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 The Loss of Wellington ME957

 FO Sandman, D A Captain (Pilot, RNZAF)

 FO Rolin, Y E E (Navigator, RAF)

 WO L G Robertson, (Air Bomber, RAAF)

 PO Palmer, G A (Wireless Operator Air, RAAF)

PO Stevens, N A (Rear Gunner, RAAF )

Contributed by Hubert Warsmann

I discovered the site while researching air crashes in Hungary and noticed two requests for information regarding Wellington ME 957 lost on 21.10 1944.  It happens that I have somewhat researched this loss and can share the following.

The operation that brought the loss of ME 957 and her crew targeted the airfield at Szombathely (Steinamanger in German), a town in SW Hungary, close to the border with Austria. The airfield was used by both the Hungarian and German air forces for operations on the eastern and western fronts. In addition, a night fighter unit was based there periodically as well as an air transport unit. The 20/21 October night mission was carried out by 74 aircraft from 205 Bombing Group, a RAF unit based around Foggia in southern Italy and operating under US command as part of the 15th USAAF. 37 Sq, 70 Sq, 104 Sq, 614 Sq, 31 SAAF Sq and 34 SAAF Sq took part in the mission. 

The flight from Foggia to Szombathely was an approximately 3-hour journey over the Adriatic, across Croatia through Zagreb and western Hungary. Conditions on that night were reported as good but hazy. A surviving pilot from 37 Sq reported many night fighters' red flares on the way to target from Zagreb onwards as well as the sighting of a night fighter. Several aircraft were missing over the target. Illumination was effective and on time but target markers were late by a few minutes forcing a number of planes to a second run over the target and creating problems for later crews as illumination faded. Flak activity on target was reported as light and not accurate. A 31 SAAF Sq crew reported heavy night fighter activity around the target. 

Known losses on the operation are six aircraft, including 2 Wellingtons from 37 and 70 Sq respectively, 1 Liberator from 34 SAAF Sq (18 crew members lost with these 3 aircrafts all buried in Budapest), 1 Wellington from 104 Sq (5 crew members lost and buried in Belgrade) as well as 1 Wellington from 104 Sq whose crew bailed out over Hungary and were captured. In addition, 1 Halifax from 614 Sq was also lost with 1 crew member buried in Budapest, 1 in Belgrade, 1 POW and 4 MIAs.

Wellington ME 957 from 70 Sq and based in Tortorella took part to the operation. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it failed to return to base. Interestingly, its crew included 1 RNZAF Pilot, 3 RAAF members and 1 Belgian national serving with the RAF. The complete crew list is as follows:
RNZAF FO Sandman, D A Captain (Pilot)
RAF FO Rolin, Y E E (Navigator)
RAAF WO L G Robertson, (Air Bomber)
RAAF PO Palmer, G A (Wireless Operator Air)
RAAF PO Stevens, N A (Rear Gunner)

A Missing Research and Enquiry Team concluded after the war that the aircraft was lost to a night fighter attack and crashed about 20 miles north east of Varazdin (in present day north western Croatia), in a place named "Gostola". I could not locate Gostola, however the indications of the MRE team point to a site very close to the present border between Hungary and Croatia. 

The German night fighter unit covering the Szombathely area claims four aircraft that night, 2 Wellingtons and 2 Liberators. It is quite possible that a 614 Sq Halifax lost that night was mistaken by the German crew for a Liberator. 

German data for the 2 lethal attacks on Wellingtons point to a location a few km to the SE of the target and a location close to the Hungary Croatia border, near Letenye to the NE of Varazdin. The first location and the time of attack point towards the 37 Sq aircraft reported missing on target. The second location appears to indicate ME 957 from 70 Sq although some sources claim it would be LP 501, the 104 Sq aircraft whose crew successfully bailed out. The site of the attack as reported by the night fighter however does not reconcile as well with the reported crash site as it does for ME 957. 

Finally, another German night fighter unit reports shooting down early that night a Wellington soon after it crossed the Croatian coast. The attack location and timing report are consistent with the other missing 104 Sq aircraft whose crew is buried in Belgrade. This also ties with reports of night fighter activity on the way to the target and of missing aircraft over the target. 

I have no information on crew members, except Yves Rolin, the Belgian navigator. He was born to a Belgian family with construction interests in Eastern Europe and the Middle East and lived with his family in Cairo until the war when he travelled to Britain to join the RAF in 1942, aged 21. He trained in Canada in 42/43, came back to England and moved to Italy in April 1944. Those who can read French will find out more on Yves Rolin at  (he is on the right of the family picture on p 2) and 

This information is based on research and analysis of available official data and other sources. The exercise is however never scientific and always subject to interpretation, in particular when attempting to reconcile RAF loss reports with Luftwaffe claims.

I hope this will help some of your members, kind regards,

Hubert Warsmann


Mark Gordon writes:

I was doing some research on my great uncle’s Wellington, ME957, lost on the night of October 20/21 1944, and came across the following page:

This is a blog on 104 Squadron, who also operated from Foggia, and discusses LP501, the aircraft from which the crew bailed out, and mentioned in Hubert Warsman’s article on ME957.

It appears that, if the German records are correct, that the aircraft was shot down by Oberleutnant Josef Kraft, who ended up surviving the war with 56 “kills” as a night fighter pilot.


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