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The Airmen's Stories - AC1 G W Roberts


George William Roberts was born on 20th October 1915 at Queensbury, near Bradford, the son of a police officer in the West Riding Constabulary. He was educated at Thornton Grammar School, after leaving he went to work on the electrical staff at a local colliery, studying part-time at Doncaster Technical College.

In 1938 Roberts applied to join the West Riding Constabulary, was accepted and was due to report to Wakefield Police Training College after Christmas. He had second thoughts and enlisted in the RAF at Leeds on 18th October 1938 as an Aircrafthand.



He went to West Drayton, passed an electrical trade test and then reported to the Recruits Training Establishment at South Cerney. In January 1939 Roberts started a one year course at the Electrical Engineering College at RAF Henlow but at the outbreak of war he was posted to 7 Squadron at Upper Heyford, working on plant and aircraft maintenance.

Roberts applied for a Wireless and Electrical Mechanics course and was posted to Martlesham Heath. It was the first AI course for operator-mechanics.

The object was to train the eleven men on the course as operators for posting to night fighter squadrons, where they would maintain the sets during the day and operate them at night on operational patrols. On 19th January 1940 Roberts joined 601 Squadron at Tangmere but when its Blenheims were replaced by Hurricanes he moved to 600 Squadron at Manston on 3rd March. He was posted to 23 Squadron at Wittering on 10th June 1940.

Roberts flew his first operational sortie on 12th August 1940. He served with 23 throughout the Battle of Britain and when the squadron went over to night intruder duties at the end of 1940 he was posted to 85 Squadron at Debden.

Still an AC1, he applied for Sergeant rank. In the meantime he had applied for pilot or air gunnery training. On 20th May 1941 Roberts was sent to 2 School of Air Navigation at Cranage. After passing out he rejoined 85, then at Hunsdon.

He was posted to a gunnery course on 18th December 1941, went to 3 ITW Hastings and reached 2 ACS Dalcross on 6th June 1942, training with Defiants. When he passed out on 17th July Roberts was at last given the rank of Sergeant.

On the 23rd he went to 29 OTU North Luffenham, where he joined an all-officer crew in Wellingtons, as a rear gunner.

The crew was posted to 9 Conversion Unit and was augmented by a Flight Engineer and Mid-Upper Gunner. Roberts did further training at 485 Bombing and Gunnery Flight at Fulbeck, Lincolnshire. He returned to his crew on 6th December 1942. They converted from Manchesters to Lancasters and on 17th January 1943 took part in a raid on Berlin (170 Lancasters and 17 Halifaxes) with their captain, F/O Windsor, flying as second pilot.

On 4th February they joined 106 Squadron at Syerston. Windsor was obliged to fly two further trips as second pilot before he could take his own crew on a raid. He went on a raid to Nuremberg with a crew flying their 50th operation, the last trip of their second tour. They failed to return.

Roberts' crew was taken over by S/Ldr. P Ward-Hunt, who was on his second tour. Their first trip together was on 1st March 1943 to Berlin. When Ward-Hunt finished his tour, the crew acquired a new skipper, F/O Hartley, beginning his second tour.

Commissioned in May 1943, Roberts completed his tour on 27th August with a Nuremberg raid. The crew split up but the mid-upper gunner was asked to carry out one further operation, a low-level attack on the Dortmund-Ems Canal, with 617 Squadron. His aircraft was shot down.

Roberts was posted to RAF Balderton on 17th September 1943 to help form 5 Group Lancaster Finishing School, to convert Halifax, Stirling and Wellington crews on to Lancasters.

In November 5 LFS moved to Syerston and Roberts remained there until the school was disbanded in 1945.

On 5th November he went to Waddington to start up a Night Vision School but this was closed down in February 1946.

Roberts was released from the RAF in August 1946 as a Flight Lieutenant.

He received a Mention in Despatches (gazetted 18th June 1944).

Roberts died in September 1993 in Doncaster.



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