155354 Pilot Officer Frank Rosher. DFM
149 (East India) Sqn, RAF
Compiled by Alan Fraser
Frank Rosher probably continued as a publican until his death in 1966, when he is recorded at The Cricketers Public House, 18 Northwold Road, London. Lilian, his first wife died on 30 July 1956. Frank remarried in July 1958 to Sarah E. Heddon, and she survived him in 1966.
In the first letter that Frank George wrote to his future wife, he referred to some brief but interesting details about his early service, and views about the RAF.
Letter Sgt Rosher, RAF Mildenhall, to Pat Mahn, 11 November 1941.
‘I was very lucky last Friday. I was taken off my usual crew and put onto another as front gunner. My skipper saw the C.O. and got me back. The machine I had been put on was the only one that didn’t come back. I have been down to fly every night. So far each time except one our kite has gone U/S. I have now got 2 ops to my credit so very soon I shall be quite an experienced flying. I have got with a very good crew so I shall be O.K. None of them have any ambition to win medals. They go in bomb the target and don’t believe in stooging around looking for trouble. All this suits me fine as I only want one medal and that is the Victory Medal as soon as possible
He may not have wanted to be, but he was a hero, as shown by the Distinguished Flying Medal awarded to him whilst a Flight Sergeant Instructor at 1651 HCU in 1943 as a Flight Sgt Gunnery Instructor after volunteering for several ‘Maximum Effort’ Operations.
In 1945 Flying Officer Rosher’s widow along with his daughter, his parents, and parents-in-law went to Buckingham Palace to receive the DFM that he had not been able to collect before his death.
Sadly, (my) grandmother lost contact with the Roshers so that one of the last photos we have is of my mother, Frank George Rosher’s daughter, with her grandparents, presumably at the Horse and Groom. More detailed Rosher biographical details presumably have remained with Joan Rosher, Frank George Rosher’s sister.
Frank’s initial Training would have been at an ITW (Initial Training Wing, where he would have been subject to the normal one or two days being kitted out, getting injections and being checked over by a doctor and dentist. This was followed by the usual five to eight weeks of Basic Training, which was more directed to making the airman into a soldier rather than an airman.
At the ITW aircrew cadets learned to march, did lots of PT and went to classes. They were accommodated in requisitioned boarding houses and hotels. ‘Permanent staff’ were billeted in boarding houses and the HQ was located in a local hotel.
This Basic Training was initially carried out by regular RAF discipline instructors, of Corporal or Sergeant Rank. It was a great source of unhappiness that the recruits these regulars were training would be the same, or higher rank than them in a relatively short time period. These Instructors were usually described by their trainees as, “... universally without Fathers….”
At the start of the war, most pilots and observers were commissioned officers or senior NCOs. The people who flew as gunners and radio operators were normally taken from the ranks of the 'Erks' on a squadron. Aircraftman 1st and 2nd class, manning the guns and/or turrets and the radios were the 'norm'. As the war progressed and aircrew were shot down and captured, the authorities decided that they should make all flight crew a minimum rank of Sergeant, ostensibly to ensure that they were correctly treated if captured. Even then, the two groups were often split on capture into officers and airmen camps.
After the basic (ITW) training was accomplished, the recruits were subjected to a 'streaming' process, where their qualifications and more importantly their aptitudes were measured and considered. Initially, these streams were either ‘Pilot/Observer’ or 'the rest', who made up the crew's gunners and radio operators. Later on in the war these streams were divided into ‘Pilot/Bomb Aimer/Navigator’ (PBN) and 'the rest', who made up the crew's flight engineers, gunners and radio operators. Frank was selected as a u/t (Under Training) Air Gunner with the rank of AC2 (Aircraftman Second Class). This route was often selected by those adventurous spirits who wanted to get into the war in the shortest possible time, as the Gunnery training was relatively short, at around six to twelve weeks.
Basic gunnery training
After ITW, it would have been off to an EAGS (Elementary Air Gunner School) at somewhere like RAF Bridgenorth for 6 weeks.
The height of Luxury! RAF Bridgnorth barracks hut
The EAGS instructors had all done a tour of Ops. (30 Ops, a full tour, was rewarded with a minimum of 6 months screened from Ops). In addition to lectures, real life incidents made the Instructors appear a grand example to the Trainees. Their schooling and comments on life in the RAF helped the trainees cope with the conditions and hardships of training. All aircrew were volunteers and could cease training before flying, without detriment to their record.
In Basic Gunnery the main thing they would have been taught was turret work. They learned how the turret lifted the guns up and down again, how to harmonise the guns - you've got four guns and so what you want to do is put the most bullets in the centre, so when you're looking down the sight you can see the dot in the middle - you want to put your bullets there. This was called harmonising the guns. They also learned about the 'bullet drop', calculating the curve of fire and learning how to aim at targets in the air, how to build and strip down the .303 guns (eventually assembling them blindfolded) and finding faults on those guns.
One gunnery instructor at Bridgenorth, W/O 'Jock’ Hunter, had done his Ops on Hampden aircraft and was famous with the trainees for his use of the word 'deflection'. In gunnery terms he regarded this as essential to being a good air gunner. 'Deflection is the distance travelled by the target during the time of the flight of the bullet', he said. He would pause in a lecture and snap at a trainee. ‘What IS deflection?’ The chap had to know it off pat. This could happen three or four times in the course of an hour's lecture. They soon knew what deflection was!
149 (East India) Squadron, Royal Air Force.
Sergeant Rosher’s Time with 149 (East India) Squadron
The first mention I found of Frank Rosher was as an Air gunner on Wellington X3201 OJ-J on 4/11/41. The crew was:
Sgt Brogan Captain (1st Pilot)
Target: Operation to Ostend. 10/10 clouds. Target not located. Bombs brought back.
These are the rest of the Operations Frank took part in, derived from the Squadron Operational Record Book.
Wellington OJ-J 9/11/41 Target Dunkirk.
1 stick (Bombs) at 130 degrees over No 8 Dock, Dunkirk. Bursts seen but no fires.
Wellington OJ-J 15/11/41 Target Emden
Wellington OJ-W X9880 26/11/41 Target Emden
A 149 Sqn Wellington being bombed up. Source – IWM.
The movement from the Wellingtons of the Squadron to the four engine Stirling would have required two further crew members – a Flight Engineer and another Gunner, making a full crew of seven men. The full crew would then have done a local ‘conversion’ course and undergone a series of flights and tasks to round off their training and fit them for Operational service as a full crew on the Stirling Bomber. The first crew Frank flew with was:
Stirling I W7462 OJ-T 22/1/42 Target Bremen
Bremen not reached. Port Inner engine overheating. Bombs jettisoned as height being lost. Damaged tailplane on landing.
Stirling I N3682 OJ-F 6/2/42 Target Brest
10/10 cloud whole way. Did not find target. Brought bombs back. Saw light Flak.
Stirling I N6127 OJ-N 3/3/42 Target Paris Renault Works.
Target clearly seen. No bombs dropped due to bomb doors jamming. Spent 50 Mins over target and saw Powerhouse on north side of island explode.
Stirling I N6127 OJ-N 25/3/42 Target Essen
Weather good, slight ground haze. Bombs dropped in one stick – no ground detail visible.
Stirling I N6068 OJ-T 9/4/42 Target Hamburg
Not reached and bombs jettisoned in enemy waters. Very severe icing conditions up to and over 20,000ft.
Stirling I N3682 OJ-U 12/4/42 Target Essen
Last resort – Ruhr area bombed. Unable to pinpoint owing to haze. None of our own bursts seen but many bursts from other aircraft. Large fire observed.
Stirling I N3682 OJ-U 16/4/42 Target Isle D’Cleran
Mines successfully laid.
Stirling I R3910 OJ-P 3/5/42
Minelaying off Langerland in the Baltic. Bombs brought back. Shell hit in port flap at fillets, wing root trailing edge.
Stirling I DJ972 OJ-T 7/5/42
Target Stuttgart. Not reached owing to being attacked by unidentified fighter – believed Me.110. All bombs jettisoned.
Stirling I N6082 OJ-Q 31/5/42
Target: Koln. All bombs dropped in built up area near centre of town. Fires observed covering large area, especially on west side of river.
Mine Laying Operations.
Morlaix – Upastree
Target: Essen. Visibility Fair. Bombs dropped in built up area of town. Many fires seen.
Stirling I R9334 OJ-P 17/6/42
Target: Essen. Unable to reach target owing to severe icing and all bombs jettisoned over sea to maintain height.
Stirling I R9334 OJ-P 20/6/42
Target: Emden. Visibility very poor and bombs dropped on TR fix and flares. No bursts or other results seen. A glow of fire seen through clouds.
Stirling I R9334 OJ-P 23/6/42
Target: Emden. Visibility good. TR not working satisfactorily. Bombs thought to have gone into town area. Fires were started and a big one seen when leaving area. All bombs dropped.
Stirling I R9334 OJ-P 26/6/42
Target: Bremen. Perfect vis above clouds. Excellent fix on TR for Bremen. Bombs thought to fall between two fires, bursts were seen below cloud – presumed to be our own. 20 Mins spent in area hoping for break in cloud. Fires were increasing in very large patches.
Stirling I R9334 OJ-P 28/6/42
Target: Bremen. Bombs dropped on fires already burning.
Stirling I R9334 OJ-P 2/7/42
Target: Bremen. Visibility good. Bombs dropped in New Town. Incendiaries seen to ignite and fires started. Nickels dropped.
Stirling I R9334 OJ-P 7/7/42
Target: Mining off Friesians. Mines laid as ordered.
Stirling I R9334 OJ-P 9/7/42
Target: Wilhelmshaven. Visibility good and Dock area clearly seen. Bombs dropped and seen to burst just to south of Bauhaven. Large fires seen with incendiaries burning along the north of Dock.
Examples of Propaganda leaflets.
Stirling I N3755 OJ-S 13/7/42
Target: Duisburg. Target not visually identified. One biggish fire seen in target area. TR unserviceable.
Stirling I R9329 OJ-V 25/7/42
Target: Duisburg. 8/10 cloud. Bombed by TR fix. Bursts seen – two large fires – one Amber and one ‘L’ shaped and white in colour. 6 bundles Nickels dropped 40M NW of Duisburg.
Stirling I R9329 OJ-V 26/7/42
Target: Hamburg. Good visibility. Visual pinpoints. Bombs dropped in built up area N of the Elbe. Bursts seen. Orange in colour. Whole area seemed on fire as aircraft left. Fires visible 60 miles away. 6 Bundles Nickels dropped SW Hamburg.
Stirling I R9143 OJ-O 29/7/42
Target: Saarbrucken. 10/10 cloud at 7K ft. with large break to south of town. Target identified by bend in river and wood SE of town. All incendiaries dropped in east part of town just north of river. Seen to ignite and large fire started. Photograph attempted.
Stirling I W7589 OJ-P 31/7/42
Target: Dusseldorf. Aircraft returned as Intercom U/S. 4 x 200 HC brought back.
This is the last Operation I can find with Frank in the crew. The crew was then ‘Rested’ and posted to various instructional duties.
Fg Off Rosher gained his DFM whilst serving at 1651 HCU in 1943 as a Flight Sgt Gunnery Instructor after volunteering for several ‘Maximum Effort’ Operations
Short Stirling of 149 (East India) Squadron, RAF. Source – IWM.
4-Jan-44 LL685 A2-G Brunswick Squadron Leader Ernest Sly, DFC, having worked hard to get 'C' Flight ready for the fray, was in LL685, A2-G. His Lancaster was intercepted on approach to the target at 1905 hrs by Hptm. Walter Barte of Stab III./NJG3 West of Bennebostel and shot down, crashing 800 metres W of Bennebostel, 5 km S of Celle, where all were buried on 15th Jan44. S/L Sly was the highest ranking officer to be lost by the squadron. They were subsequently reinterred in the Hannover War Cemetery. P/O Harvey had won an immediate DFM while serving with 149 Sqdn, the citation gazetted 16 Mar 43 paid tribute to his devotion to duty despite having been wounded in the head. The awards gained by P/O Thomas, F/O Sneddon and P/O Rosher, were gazetted 14May43, 9Jul43, and 11Jun43 respectively.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: