Robert Clarence NAFFIN


NAFFIN, Robert Clarence

Service Number: 416601
Enlisted: 21 July 1941, Adelaide, South Australia
Last Rank: Flight Sergeant
Last Unit: No. 101 Squadron (RAF)
Born: North Adelaide, South Australia, 22 February 1920
Home Town: North Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia
Schooling: Pulteney Grammar School
Occupation: Not yet discovered
Died: Aircraft lost in action - shot down by German Night Fighter, Lanke, Germany, 24 August 1943, aged 23 years
Cemetery: Berlin 1939-45 War Cemetery
Originally buried near Lanke, Bob's remains were recovered to the Berlin War Cemetery, along with most other Commonwealth aircrew at war's end.
Memorials: Adelaide Pulteney Grammar School WW1 & WW2 Honour Board, Adelaide Pulteney Grammar School WW2 Honour Roll, Adelaide WW2 Wall of Remembrance
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World War 2 Service

21 Jul 1941: Involvement Leading Aircraftman, SN 416601, Aircrew Training Units, Empire Air Training Scheme
21 Jul 1941: Enlisted Adelaide, South Australia
24 Aug 1943: Involvement Flight Sergeant, SN 416601, No. 101 Squadron (RAF), Air War NW Europe 1939-45

"Schrage Musik"

The technology of air defence operations developed quickly in WWII. The British were the first to introduce airborne radar in the Blitz of late 1940 / 41, in specialist night fighters.

This necessitated a two seat aircraft; first the Boulton Paul Defiant and then the Bristol Beaufighter and the de havilland Mosquito.

The latter two were twin engined and very heavily armed with quadruple 20mm cannon in the nose making them a deadly counter to night bombers.

The Germans responded in kind when British night bombing of German y began in earnest in 1942.

The Messerschmidt Bf110 and the Junkers Ju 88 were their most prolific and effective night fighters although a particularly fearsome aircraft appeared in small numbers the Heinkel Hu 219 "Owl", but perhaps fortunately for the RAF it never managed to achieve volume production.

All of these aircraft were radar equipped and also featured the weapon that proved most effective against RAF night bombers. Two upward firing 20mm cannon were mounted in the upper fuselage behind the cockpit. This facilitated attack from underneath the target aircraft, making it very difficult for the target aircraft to detect until a hail of cannon fire ripped into the underside of the aircraft, often triggering catastrophic explosions in the bomb bay or fuel tanks.

This arrangement was nick-named "Schrage Musik" literally 'slanting' or 'jazz' music".


Air Crash Investigators - Germany

A small band of German historians from the Finowfurt Air Museum answered a plea in early 2013 from Welsh businessman Ian Hill, a nephew of one of the crew of ED 328.
They tracked down the plane’s fate, found a witness to the mid-air encounter with the Luftwaffe’s Major Werner Hussman and gathered pieces from the wreckage of the downed Lancaster, deep in a forest 15 miles from Berlin near a town called Lanke.
In another twist, the historians discovered Hussman – who was awarded the Iron Cross by Adolf Hitler – was still alive and living in a retirement home nearby.
He died only recently; in late March 2014, aged 94.
Along with Ian Hill, the historians started the long process of tracing relatives of the seven crew and compiled a book that detailed the discovery of ED328.
“We historians of the aviation museum Finowfurt found out that even 68 years after this terrible war people still look for their relatives,” their spokesman Christian Wengel wrote.
“There are many reasons for that – some want to visit the grave of their relatives – others want to know how their relative died or even don’t know where their father or children ended up in the chaos of war.
“We want to make a little contribution.
“Someone eventually dies, when people stop talking about him/her.”


Eye Witness Account

From a story by Kevin Naughton - 'IN DAILY' an Adelaide online Independent News service, 14 April 2014

".......Then, a breakthrough.

Another local pointed them to two books by a Dr Hans Richter – Episodes from Lobetal and Codename Koralle – that included military reports and the graphic recollection of an air crash.

Hans Richter was still alive and Wengel’s men sought him out.

When Wengel met with Dr Richter, he discovered that the then-14 year old Richter had also witnessed the crash of a Lancaster that night in 1943.

It had been shot down by decorated German pilot Major Werner Husseman.

The next day, locals had found five charred bodies and a crew member (Flt/Sgt Phillips) leaning on a tree.

Phillips had been able to parachute from the plane, but he died later on site.

Richter, 70 years later, would lead Wengel and Ian Hill to the same site.

“He was just a 14-year-old schoolboy at the time but he is still living in the area and guided us to where the plane came down in dense forest,” Hill told InDaily.

“He said the Lancaster was attacked from underneath and its fuel tanks were hit – causing it to explode in mid-air.

“His memory is so vivid. It was an extremely traumatic experience as it took place over his head.

“He said he saw a chain of light going from the German night fighter to a large black four-engined plane.

“Next there were sparks and a huge red fireball and then the plane came down in parts after exploding.

“His father was the head of the local fire brigade which had to tend to the crash site and exhumed the bodies.

“It was wonderful to learn they were laid out in the village hall and buried in the local cemetery with full military honours by the Luftwaffe and treated with respect.”



From an article by Kevin Naughton in IN DAILY, an Independent News service in Adelaide  - 14 April 2014


Robert Naffin was born in North Adelaide in 1920, one of two sons (Glenn being the other).

He enlisted in the RAAF in July 1941 just after he turned 21.

Like many Australian airmen, he quickly found himself in joint operations out of England under the banner of the Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command.  By 1943, aircrews had just a one in four chance of surviving their first 30 missions.

Bob was posted to 101 Squadron which was and continues as one of the RAF's most prestigious squadrons. It was also destined to suffer the highest loss rate primarily because later in the war it was equipped with an active Electronic Warfare device that made its aircraft more easy to track by enemy detection systems than ordinary bombers.

In August 1943 Bomber Command’s target was the infamous Peenemünde secret rocket facility. The V-2 was a long range ballistic missile weapon that threatened to turn the war the way of the Germans. 101 Squadron took part in this raid and others as records indicated. 

The extent of this air war is shown in the notes on one of Bob Naffin’s unit’s files:

“COLOGNE: 28/29 June 1943. 608 aircraft left to attack this city. Cologne suffered its worst raid of the war; 43 industrial 6 military and 6368 other buildings were destroyed and nearly 15,000 others damaged. 4377 people were killed, 10,000 injured and 230,000 forced to leave their damaged homes. Robert and his crew took ED320, took off at 2325 and returned at 0425. 25 Aircraft were lost; none from 101 squadron.”

On the night of August 23 the target was "The Big City" - Berlin.  Crews were always assured of a fierce reception. The seven man crew of Lancaster ED 328 "S for Sugar" was made up of three British airmen of the RAF and four Australian members of the RAAF. Naffin was the pilot – it was the crew’s 15th mission and Robert’s 19th.

Waiting nearby at their base home, was Robert's new wife, Diana, and four month old daughter Bonny.

Naffin guided his Lancaster down the runway at 20.27 hrs on 23 August from Lincolnshire, heading to Berlin as part of a force of 727 aircraft consisting of 335 Lancasters, 251 Halifaxes, 124 Stirlings and 17 Mosquitoes.

It would be the largest day and night of bombing during the period: 727 went out – 671 returned – the greatest loss of aircraft in one night.

Official records show that Robert Naffin’s plane was lost after releasing their bombs over Berlin trying to return to the 101 Squadron base in Lincolnshire.

The RAF crash report during the war couldn’t pinpoint where the Lancaster came down.

In November 1943, Robert’s family received an official letter from the RAAF, notifying them that their son was “reported missing as a result of air operations on the night of 23rd August 1943″.

The letter also reported that a member of the crew is “believed to have lost his life”.

It cited information from the International Red Cross that “according to German information, this member lost his life on the 24th August”.

“No further information of your son is available but … any further information received will be conveyed to you immediately.”

Back in Australia, the RAAF personnel file notes show that the family made further contact with officials in 1946 seeking more information.

An investigation was conducted by the RAAF Missing Research and Inquiry Unit. It concluded that the aircraft had crashed two kilometres south of Lanke, near Berlin and all seven men had perished.

Remarkably, the crew had been buried by the locals with full military honours.

“Herr Kunne and Herr Kloss, the gravediggers, assured me that the bodies had been given a proper funeral,” the report’s author wrote.

“Superintendent Jaeger of the Evangelical Church held a service at the grave, after which a Luftwaffe detachment of eight men fired a volley.”

The Allied Forces investigation team exhumed the bodies.

“Grave 1091 contained the body of F/Sgt Naffin, identified as he was wearing a dark blue battle dress,” the report said. (Ed.  the RAF had a lighter coloured uniform than the Australians).

The RAAF moved the bodies of all seven crew to the official 1939-45 War Cemetery in Berlin where they remain today.

That year, the families were notified of their location.

“That was all we knew really,” Bob Naffin recalls.