On the night of November 28th/29th 1942, a Stirling Mk. I bomber took off from RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, England. Onboard, was Flight Sergeant Rawdon ‘Ron’ Hume Middleton. It was to be his final flight.
Early that evening, he took off in Stirling (BF372) code ‘OJ-H’ as part of the raid on the Fiat works in Torino, Italy, along with 227 other aircraft which included: 117 Avro Lancasters, 46 Short Stirlings, 45 Handley Page Halifaxes, and 19 Vickers Wellingtons.
The mission would take the aircraft over the Alps and the Stirling laden with bombs and fuel combined with having a notoriously poor ceiling, had to negotiate through the mountains rather than fly over them. A factor that often resulted in a high number of casualties.
A strong defensive attack met the aircraft over the target. Middleton was severely injured and bleeding badly. However, determined to get his crew back to England safely, he fought on and set a course for home.
Eventually, and against all the odds, they made the English coast, and once over land Middleton ordered the crew to bail out. Five crewmen left the stricken aircraft whilst the other two remained to help him control it. Turning for the Channel, Middleton ordered the two remaining crew members to bail out, whilst he stayed at the controls, steadying the aircraft.
Sadly, Middleton and his remaining crew never made it out alive.
Middleton’s citation read:
“Flight Sergeant Middleton was determined to attack the target regardless of the consequences and not to allow his crew to fall into enemy hands. While all the crew displayed heroism of a high order, the urge to do so came from Flight Sergeant Middleton, whose fortitude and strength of will made possible the completion of the mission. His devotion to duty in the face of overwhelming odds is unsurpassed in the annals of the Royal Air Force”.
Read the full story of Middelton’s journey here.