Flight Sergeant Rupert William BERGELIN

Service No: 428900
Born: Glebe NSW, 22 January 1924
Enlisted in the RAAF: 22 October 1942
Unit: No. 460 Squadron, RAF Binbrook, Lincolnshire
Died: Air Operations (No. 460 Squadron Lancaster aircraft PB351), Norfolk, 23 October 1944, Aged 20 Years
Buried: Cambridge City Cemetery, Cambridgeshire UK
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Rupert Wilhelm and Gertrude Elsie Bergelin, of North Bondi, New South Wales, Australia.
Roll of Honour: Bondi NSW
Remembered: Panel 107, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

Date: 24-24 October 1944
Target: Essen
Total Force: Dispatched – 1,055, Attacking – 955
RAAF Force: No. 460 Dispatched – 26, Attacking – 24; No. 462 Dispatched – 16, Attacking – 12; No. 466 Dispatched – 16, Attacking – 15
Tons of Bombs Dropped: 4,538
Total Aircraft Lost: 8
RAAF Aircraft Lost: No. 462 – 1

The above Table does not include the loss of No. 460 Squadron Lancaster PB351.

After Duisburg came Essen, the home of Krupps, which had a symbolic significance to aircrew as the prime heavy industrial target. The first raid on 23rd-24th October was again in great strength, Nos. 460, 462 and 466 providing 58 bombers in a force of 1,055. Essen was covered in heavy cloud and, although “Wanganui” sky flares were well laid and maintained by the pathfinders, approximately 10 per cent of crews failed to attack. Those who bombed could give no precise assessment of their accuracy although they reported a strong glow from fires which increased as the attack progressed. Only eight bombers were lost against this notoriously difficult target but Flying Officer Hagstrom (1) of No. 466 and Flying Officer Bennett (2) of No. 78 did well to coax their badly-damaged Halifaxes back to base. Two Australians were fortunate to escape death. Flight Sergeant Cannon, a mid-upper gunner of No. 460, was knocked unconscious when his Lancaster was hit by flak during the run up to Essen, and when the aircraft crashed on return to England he was thrown clear and although seriously injured was the sole survivor.

(1) Flying Officer Harold Ronald Hagstrom DFC (420876) was discharged from the RAAF on 11 January 1946.
(2) Flying Officer John Bertram Bennett DFC (418911) was discharged from the RAAF on 11 September 1945.

Extract from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Over Europe 1944-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1963 – Pages 302-5

Lancaster PB351 took off from RAF Binbrook at 1615 hours on 23 October 1944 to bomb Essen, Germany. Bomb load 1 x 4000 lb (pound) (1800 kg), 5 x 1000 lb (450 kg), 6 x 500 lb (225 kg) bombs and assorted incendiaries. On the return journey from the target the aircraft crashed at approximately 2000 hours near Bircham Newton, North Wootton, Norfolk, about 4 miles North of Kings Lynn, UK.

The crew members of PB351 were:

Flight Sergeant Rupert William Bergelin (428900) (Rear Gunner)
Flight Sergeant John George Cannon (431006) (Mid Upper Gunner) Survived the crash, Discharged from the RAAF: 15 February 1946
Flight Sergeant Kenneth Thomas Frankish (427818) (Navigator)
Pilot Officer Denis Richard Garth Richins (422298) (Pilot)
Flight Sergeant Wren Stobo (421764) (Bomb Aimer)
Sergeant Eric Arthur Sunderland (1593402) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer)
Warrant Officer John Richings Treloar (421524) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)

A subsequent court of inquiry reported ‘The aircraft was returning from a sortie on the night of 23 October 1944 when it struck cloud up to 20,000 feet in which the icing index was high. The Pilot descended through the cloud on track and hit a tree 70 feet high in Houghton Hall Park. The aircraft was extensively damaged and burnt. The Rear Gunner Bergelin was alive and trapped in the rear turret seriously injured. He died in hospital the same night. The rest of the crew were killed with the exception of Cannon who was unconscious under a tree all night and went unaided to Houghton Hall the next morning. He was admitted to Sick Quarters and recovered. The main cause of the accident was the weather with contributory factors being loss of the ASI and the pilot’s altimeter if static vent frozen.’

No. 462 Squadron lost Halifax aircraft LL599 (Flying Officer Frank Edward Nelder (419561) (Pilot)) on 23 October 1944.


Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records (RAAF Casualty Information compiled by Alan Storr (409804))
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veteran’s Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 166/5/748


Firkins, P. C. (Peter Charles) (441386) Strike and Return, Westward Ho Publishing City Beach WA, 1985

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