Ronald Irving CUMMINGS

CUMMINGS, Ronald Irving

Service Number: 417812
Enlisted: 18 July 1942
Last Rank: Flight Sergeant
Last Unit: No. 466 Squadron (RAAF)
Born: Alberton, South Australia , 8 March 1923
Home Town: Henley Beach , City of Charles Sturt / Henley and Grange, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Compositor
Died: Aircraft lost on Night Bombing Raid Berlin, Nordhausen, Germany, 25 March 1944, aged 21 years
Cemetery: Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany
Joint Grave. Plot I. Row C. Grave 6-7 Local Roll of- Adelaide South Australia , Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Kleve, Germany
Memorials: Adelaide WW2 Wall of Remembrance, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, International Bomber Command Centre Memorial
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World War 2 Service

18 Jul 1942: Involvement Flight Sergeant, 417812
18 Jul 1942: Enlisted Adelaide
18 Jul 1942: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman 2 (WW2), 417812, No. 4 Initial Training School Victor Harbor
18 Jul 1942: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Flight Sergeant, 417812
25 Mar 1944: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Flight Sergeant, 417812, No. 466 Squadron (RAAF), Air War NW Europe 1939-45
Date unknown: Involvement

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Biography contributed by Steve Larkins

417812 Flight Sergeant Ronald Irving CUMMINGS, RAAF (1923-1944)

We have not been able to complete the early part of Ronald's biography.


What we can do is present the final stages of his flying training and then operational service with No. 466 Squadron, and the circumstances of the raid on which he lost his life, thanks to the records of the Pilot, Flight Sergeant Ross Robertson.


Ronald and his crew mates were posted to No 27 Operational Training Unit (O.T.U.) on 17 June 1943 which is where he 'crewed up'  with the men whom he would be going to war. 

The OTU were units within the RAF whose role it was to teach pilots how to fly an aircraft employing techniques and tactics to best exploit the performance of their aircraft and its weapons.  Its instructors were generally battle-experienced and were considered the most qualified to provide instruction to the new pilots. Over the next three months the seven men learned how to operate cohesively as a crew; their training included dinghy and parachute drills and the use of oxygen, blind take-offs, single-engine flying, flapless landings, fuel starvation and bomb grouping.

On 20 October 1943, Ross (the pilot), Ronald and their crew-mates were posted to 1652 Heavy Conversion Unit (H.C.U.) at Marston Moor where they now trained on the four-engine Halifax bombers. This specialised training lasted until late December, and following some leave, the men were posted to 466 (RAAF) Squadron on 8 January 1944, which was based at RAF Leconfield located in East Riding, Yorkshire. The Squadron had converted to the Handley Halifax heavy bomber in September 1943, previously being equipped with the Vickers Wellington Mk X.

On 29 December 1943, the Squadron had made it first attack on Berlin; it formed part of the aerial armada of 712 aircraft consisting of 457 Lancasters, 252 Halifaxes and 3 Mosquitoes drawn from many Bombing Groups within RAF Bomber Command. January 1944 began with further raids on German cities.

Without access to crew members’ flying logbooks at this stage, we are unable to determine the number of sorties flown and their targets.

On the night of 24-25 March 1944, the Squadron contributed 14 aircraft to the armada of 811 aircraft that attacked Berlin. Ross, Ronald and their crew were flying in Halifax tail number LV900, call-sign HD-H, which took off from Leconfield at 1851 hours.  The crew comprised:

416706 FLTSGT Ross Lange ROBERTSON (pilot)

422321 FLT SGT Henry Francis SMITH (navigator),

426022 FLT SGT Victor William BATH (bomb aimer),

402599 Flying Officer Edwin IVESON (wireless operator air gunner),

417812 FLT SGT Ronald Irving CUMMINGS (rear gunner),

1893436 SGT Harold HUGHES RAF (mid-upper gunner) and

1051454 SGT James STRATHEARN RAF (flight engineer).

Five were Australians wheras the mid-upper gunner SGT Harold HUGHES and flight engineer, SGT James STRATHEARN, were both RAF.

The mission encountered great difficulties; page 484 of The Bomber Command War Diaries duly records:

This night became known in Bomber Command as ‘the night of the strong winds’. A powerful wind from the north carried the bombers south at every stage of the flight. Not only was this wind not forecast accurately but it was so strong that the various methods available to warn crews of wind changes during the flight failed to detect the full strength of it. The bomber stream became very scattered, particularly on the homeward flight and radar-predicted Flak batteries at many places were able to score successes. Part of the bomber force even strayed over the Ruhr defences on the return flight. It is believed that approximately 50 of the 72 aircraft lost were destroyed by Flak; most of the remainder were victims of night fighters. The Berlin report says that 14 bombers were shot down by fighters in the target area.

The strong winds caused difficulties in the marking at Berlin with, unusually, markers being carried beyond the target and well out to the south-west of the city. 126 small towns and villages outside of Berlin recorded bombs … This was the last major R.A.F. raid on Berlin during the war, although the city would be bombed many times by small forces of Mosquitoes.

The 72 aircraft lost represented 8.9 per cent of the force despatched, an unacceptable ratio in Bomber Command’s prediction of losses.

Ronald's  aircraft was the only one lost from 466 Squadron; post-war it was established that the aircraft had been shot down by a night fighter and crashed approximately 4 kilometres north of Werne, 11 kms NNW of Nordhausen. All the crew died.

It is most likely that Ronald's aircraft had dropped its bomb-load over the target area and was on the way home when a night fighter was vectored onto them, and subsequently shot down LV900; Nordhausen is approximately 250 kilometres south-west of Berlin.

Post-war Commonwealth War Graves Commission paperwork records that the men were buried at Verne (sic, Werne?) Neuer Friedhof (translated, new cemetery). The above is puzzling as it is difficult to pinpoint a town called WERNE north-north-west of Nordhausen.

On 30 October 1946, the airmen were were reburied in the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, a newly created Cemetery that consolidated casualties from the western part of Germany. Nordhausen was at that time under Soviet control and it proved more practical to create a cemetery in the Allied area of control in Germany.

Reichswald War Cemetery is the largest Commonwealth Cemetery in Germany; there are 7594 servicemen buried there. In 1949, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission commenced replacing the white wooden crosses with the stone tablets; the Commission allowed the next-of-kin of the casualties to compose a short message that would be inscribed on the tablet.

Post-war, his family were issued with the following medals:

1939-1945 Star,

Air Crew Europe Star,

Defence Medal

According to the Defence Medals website ( ), his family would also be entitled to claim the War Medal 1939-1945 and the Australia Service Medal  1939-1945.