On the night of 13/14 February 1945, Bomber Command launched the infamous raid on Dresden. Two separate raids of 805 bombers led by RAF 7 Squadron as the Pathfinders, dropped more than 1,800 tons of bombs onto the target. US bombers attacked the marshalling yards and the city the following day. Civilian casualties exceeded 20,000, some figures claim 50,000 to 100,000, some even higher.
On 22 February 1945, it was the turn of the city of Worms, just north of Mannheim in Germany. A total of 349 aircraft attacked and dropped 1,116 tons of bombs on Worms and a further 177 aircraft attacked the Mittelland Canal near Hannover. The city of Worms was 39% destroyed, 239 were killed and 35,000 houses were destroyed. The population of Worms at the time was 58,000. The only German factory making sprocket wheels for tanks was destroyed in the raid.
RAF 7 Squadron, Pathfinder aircraft, Avro Lancaster PA978, call sign MG-O, flying from RAF Oakington, Cambridgeshire took off at 1713 hours. Its payload of bombs for this raid was most probably, 5 x 2000 lb H C (High Capacity) and 1 x 500 lb M C (Medium Capacity).
No more was heard of Avro Lancaster PA978 after it took off. It was subsequently declared missing – lost on the night of 21/22 February 1945. Two of the crew survived and became prisoners of war, those killed in action are buried at Dürnbach War Cemetery, south of München (Munich) in Germany:
Flight Lieutenant J B M Liddle, RAF, pilot, (POW)
Sergeant N H Clydesdale RAF, air gunner (mid-upper), (POW)
Sergeant William Edward Pickering RAFVR (112361) flight engineer, age 23 (KIA)
Flight Sergeant Gilbert Ferguson Sage, RAFVR (1566413) navigator, age 23 (KIA)
Flight Sergeant John Ronald Mears RAFVR (1395032) air bomber, age 23 (KIA)
Flight Sergeant Harold Munro Watson RAFVR (1555045) air bomber, age 21 (KIA)
Flying Officer Gordon Angus Robertson RAFVR (168782) wireless operator, age 19 (KIA)
Sergeant Peter Louis Wyndham Scott RAFVR (1804436), air gunner, age 22 (KIA)
Sage was the son of Robert and Isabella Ferguson Sage of 24 Gray Street, Perth. He married Isabella Smith of 4d Ruthven Place, Perth on 14 July 1944 at the York House, Perth.
At the age of 19, Robertson was one of the youngest officers to be killed on Bomber Command operations during 1945.
Perthshire Advertiser, 8 March 1947
INTIMATIONS – DEATHS
SAGE.-Missing since 21st February, 1945, now notified killed while on Pathfinding duties over Germany, Flt./Sgt. Gilbert F. Sage, navigator R.A.F., beloved husband of Isobel Smith, 4d Ruthven Place, and son of Mr and Mrs R. Sage, 24 Gray Street, aged 23.
Perthshire Advertiser, 12 March 1947
LOST OVER GERMANY
Flight-Sergt. Gilbert F. Sage, Perth airman, whose relatives – as reported in our last issue – have been informed that he lost his life when his’ plane crashed in flames near the German village of Horcheim in 1945, less than three months before the end of the European War. He had been listed as missing since then. His widow resides at 4 Ruthven Place, and his parents at 24 Gray Street, Perth.
AIRMAN’S FATE CONFIRMED AFTER TWO YEARS
Relatives of Flight-Sergeant Gilbert F. Sage, a 23-year-old Perth airman who was reported missing less than three months before the end of the European War, have now been informed that he lost his life when his plane crashed in flames near the German village of Horcheim.
Flt. Sgt. Sage was married in the summer of 1944 and his young widow resided at 4 Ruthven Place. His parents’ home is at 24 Gray Street. Sage had been in the R.A.F. for three years and had actually completed his series of operational flights when he met his death. He had volunteered for path-finder duties prior to the bombing of an important German canal and was navigating a Lancaster when it received a direct hit.
Six of the crew were killed when the plane crashed. Only the pilot and one of the gunners succeeded in bailing out. Sgt. Sage’s relatives were unaware that he was on ‘ops.’ until they received word that he was missing on February 22, 1945.
In a letter which Mrs Sage received on Wednesday, the Air Ministry state that officers of the R.A.F. Missing, Research and Enquiry Service have now visited the scene of the crash and identified the wreckage of the Lancaster. After enquiry, it was ascertained that the remains of the six crew members were recovered from the plane and buried in a cemetery at Weinsheim, near Worms, Western Germany.
‘It was observed that the graves were well kept.’ the letter states, ’and that each was marked with a cross indicating that it was the burial place of unknown English airmen killed on February 21, 1945.’ It is also explained in the letter that it has been decided that the Fallen in Germany will not remain in isolated graves but shall be transferred to special cemeteries where their graves will always be reverently attended by the staff of the Imperial War Graves Commission.
Prior to joining up Sgt. Sage was a travelling salesman for Lexicon Libraries.
The final resting place of the crew who died is roughly 400 km south west of their target.
Allied forces had breached the Siegfried Line, 200 km to the west and were entering Germany at that time.
Twelve RAF 7 Squadron Lancasters took part in the raid to Worms. All the others returned to RAF Oakington safely.
AVRO LANCASTER Mark III (CH 18683) Photographic negative Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205441856