25/26.06.1942 22 OTU Wellington IC X9980 K WO2. Donald L. Torkelson
Operation: Bremen 1000 Bomber Raid
Date: 25/26th June 1942 (Thursday/Friday)
Unit: 22 Operational Training Unit (OTU)
Type: Wellington IC
Location: Unknown - lost without trace
Pilot: WO2. Donald Leroy Torkelson R80180 RCAF Age 21. Missing - believed killed (1)
Bomb Aimer: Flt.Sgt. William Hawksworth Gardner R67982 RCAF Age 23. Missing - believed killed
Obs: Flt.Sgt. Anthony Yankoski R80041 RCAF Age 26. Missing - believed killed (2)
WOp/Air Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Donald Albert Millard R90451 RCAF Age 22. Missing - believed killed
Air Gnr: Flt.Sgt. James Caldwell Hadley R97845 RCAF Age 26. Missing - believed killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
The attack on Bremen would be the third 1000 bomber raid conceived by Sir Arthur Harris. In order to assemble a force of this size Harris had to rely on using crews and aircraft from the various Operational Training Units and even then he fell short of that number under the control of Bomber Command by 40 aircraft. Eventually, however, Coastal Command and the Army Co-operation Command supplemented the force by 107 aircraft of varying types for a total of 1067.
Captain Torkelson and crew took off from RAF Wellesbourne, Mountford at 22.29 hours armed with 1 x 500 lb. general-purpose bomb and 48 x 30 lb. incendiary bombs. Nothing further was heard from the aircraft after taking off and it is recorded as being lost without trace.
Returning crews reported that they encountered considerable light to medium-heavy flak over Bremen. From German records, an unidentified Wellington was brought down by Flak of 6./M. Flak Abt. 246 Battery Terschelling-Ost, crashing into the sea off of Terschelling at 3.50 hours. While the actual aircraft is unknown it is thought to be one of three OTU Wellingtons lost without trace; X9980 of 22 OTU, T2717 of 18 OTU or X3179 of 21 OTU.
The total losses suffered by Bomber Command were 48 aircraft. But by far the heaviest casualties were from the OTU's who lost 28 Wellingtons, Whitleys and a lone Hampden with a combined total of 132 airmen killed, injured or taken prisoners of war. Several factors could account for the OTU losses, not the least being that the aircraft they were allocated were Wellingtons retired from operations and the obsolete Whitleys and Hampden. Together with the trainee crew's relative inexperience on operations and the time spent flying to and over the target made them more vulnerable to attack.
The Crew of Wellington X9980
Pilot: WO2 Donald Leroy Torkelson
After completing his schooling, Torkelson was employed by the Canadian Bank of Commerce for two years until he enlisted at Winnipeg on 5 November 1940. The eldest of two sons Donald was posted to the Initial Training School at Regina on 5 January 1941 and from there on 9 February to No.6 Elementary Flying Training School, Prince Rupert, Saskatchewan to begin training as a pilot. Following the completion of this course, he would spend ten days at the Manning Depot, Brandon, Manitoba before he was enrolled as a pupil pilot in Course 25 at No. 7 Service Flying Training School, Fort Macleod, Alberta on 9 April 1942. Graduating with his pilot's wings on 21 June and the rank of WO2 , he was posted to 'Y' Depot, Halifax on 7 July for posting overseas.
Taken on strength in the UK on 16 August 1941, he was posted to 19 OTU Kinloss for training on the Whitley bomber and then to 102 Squadron at RAF Dalton for flying duties on 23 December 1941. During his time at Dalton, the squadron converted to the Mk.II Halifax heavy bomber and just prior to his posting to 20 OTU on 12 May 1942, he got his first sortie experience flying as 2nd. pilot to P/O W.J. Welch in Halifax W7653 which was detailed to attack the Dunkirk docks on 24 April. However, unable to identify the target due to mist and cloud, Captain Welch abandoned the mission and returned to base with a full bomb load.
WO2 Torkelson was on his first operational sortie as a Captain when he was lost.
Bomb Aimer: Flt.Sgt. William Hawksworth Gardner
Born in Wakefield, Yorkshire William Gardner came to Canada at the age of four with his family in 1923. He completed his education at Walkerville Collegiate, Windsor, and then took a course at Windsor Vocational Night School learning the trade of a welder. Employed at an auto parts company for four years he went on to enlist in the RCAF on 11 November 1940.
Initially posted to 119 Bomber Reconnaissance Squadron, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, on 31 December 1940, he began his initial training at No.3 ITS, Victoriaville, Quebec on 23 April 1941 following which he was selected for pilot training at Goderich, Ontario that May. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful in his course and was reassigned to KTS Trenton for re-evaluation. William was then posted to No.9 Air Observer School, St.Jean, Quebec on 4 August 1941 and from there on 26 October to No.6 Bombing and Gunnery School, Mountain View, Ontario. Graduating with his Air Observers badge on 6 December he was then sent for operational training at No.2 Air Navigation School, Pennfield Ridge, New Brunswick, and then to 'Y'Depot Halifax, where he embarked for the UK on 9 February 1942.
Posted to No.2 Observers Advanced Flying Unit, (O) AFU, RAF Millom, on 28 March and finally to 22 OTU on 28 April 1942.
Flt. Sgt. Gardner was on his first operation when lost.
Observer: Flt.Sgt. Anthony Yankoski
Anthony Yankoski of Polish Austria heritage was born at the Canadian Pacific Railway Section House at Binscarth, Manitoba on 5 November 1915 where the family lived while their father worked as a Section Foreman for the railway. He came from a large family of seven brothers, five others of which were also serving their country, Murray, Julian and Stanley in the Navy and Frank and Ted in the Army. (3)
After leaving high school, Anthony found seasonal work as a mechanic and later up until his enlistment as a salesman for the Family Herald and Weekly Star out of Edmonton, Alberta.
Anthony initially applied to join the RCAF in 1938 and was finally accepted for enlistment in the Special Reserve in 1940 once war had been declared. Posted to No.2 Initial Training School, Regina, he completed Course 24 there on 26 February 1941. Although he originally enlisted to be trained as an Observer or Air Gunner, he was selected for pilot training and posted to No.16 Elementary Flying Training School at Edmonton, Alberta. During the course there he was deemed as an unsuitable candidate for further pilot training and was recommended as a gunner. Upon reassessment, he was next posted to No.7 Air Observers School, Portage La Prairie, Manitoba on 27 May 1941. Completing Course 27 at No 7 AOS on 15 September his next posting was to No.5 Bombing and Gunnery School, Dafoe, Saskatchewan finishing his armament training on 25 October 1941 and graduating with his Air Observers badge. Anthony's final course of training was a month-long course at No.1 Air Navigation School, Rivers, Manitoba, before embarkation to the UK on 8 January 1942.
Posted to No.2 Observers Advanced Flying Unit, (O) AFU, RAF Millom on 24 February until 28 April when he joined 22OTU.
Flt.Sgt. Yankoski was on his first operation when lost.
Wireless Air Gunner: Flt.Sgt. Donald Albert Millard
Born and raised in the small town of Aylmer, Ontario to a family of three brothers and three sisters. On completion of his schooling in 1937, Donald was employed as a Grocery Clerk for merchant E.B. Filby. He enjoyed participating in a number of team sports and was also a member of the local Boy Scouts Association. Enlisting at London, Ontario for flying duties to be trained as a Gunner on 17 March 1941, he was posted to No.1 Initial Training School, Toronto, Ontario on 28 April 1941. Upon completion of his initial training, he was posted to Course No.21 at No. 4 Wireless School at Guelph, Ontario on 6 July, earning his Wireless Operators badge on 21 November 1941. Donald's next posting was for four weeks of training as a Gunner at No.4 Bombing and Gunnery School, Fingal, Ontario, graduating with his Air Gunners badge on 22 December 1941.
Donald was taken on strength at No.3 PRC Bournemouth on 21 January 1942 and attached to No.3 Training Wing on 10 February 10. after which he was posted to No.2 Observers Advanced Flying Unit, (O) AFU, RAF Millom on 28 March arriving at 22 OTU one month later on 28 April.
Flt.Sgt. Millard was on his first operation when lost.
Air Gunner: Flt.Sgt. James Caldwell Hadley
Flt.Sgt. Hadley, an American serving in the RCAF, was the most experienced member of the crew having participated in the earlier 1000 bomber raids on Cologne and Essen.
Hadley was working as a cook and in theatrical advertising prior to enlisting at Vancouver on 1 April 1941. Although separated from his wife for some years he did leave behind a daughter, Carol Ann.
After completing his initial training at Regina, Saskatchewan he was posted to No. 19 Elementary Flying Training School at Virden, Manitoba on 15 July 1941. Found unsuitable for further training as a pilot he was posted to Composite Training School (KTS) Trenton for re-assessment on 18 August following which he was posted to No.6 Bombing and Gunnery School, Mountain View, Ontario on 1 September 1941. Graduating with his Air Gunner badge on 29 September he was posted to 'Y' Depot, Halifax to await embarkation to the UK on 23 October 1941 .
After arrival at Bournemouth, he was posted to No.1 Air Armament School at RAF Manby on 20 February and on completion of the course to 22 OTU on 28 April 1942.
Flt.Sgt. Hadley was on his third operation when lost.
We have been contacted by Flt.Sgt. Yankoski's nephew, John Yankoski, who provided us with a photograph believed to be of the crew with a Wellington bomber whilst at 22OTU.
John goes on to say,
"This picture, with Uncle Tony on the far left, was in my dad’s [Frank] collection. My uncle was filling in for a sick navigator that night and that his regular crew survived the war. My recollection is that my dad was on
leave, and went to see
Uncle Tony, who told him that he was filling in and that he didn’t think he’d be coming back that night. My sister recalls differently. My dad didn’t go to see him, but that Uncle Tony got a note through to him with the aforementioned story. Either way, I
don’t know if he had been assigned to a regular crew (this photo?)
(3) Stanley Yankoski (Uncle Stan) passed away on 9 December 2020 at the age of 98. Edward Yankoski (Uncle Ted) is the only remaining brother still with us at the grand age of 96. He served with the Canadian Scottish Regiment and participated in the D-Day landings. Uncle Julian survived the sinking of the HMCS Regina, 8 August 1944.
Above L-R: Flt.Sgt. Anthony Yankoski, then possibly - Gardner? Millard? Torkelson? Hadley?
As is so often the case, the names of crew members were not noted on photographs taken at the time. Any help identifying the crew would be greatly appreciated.
John also sent along these two excellent photographs of his Uncle Tony. On the left, it would appear to have been taken in 1941 in front of a Tiger Moth when he was stationed at No.16 EFTS Edmonton. Right, probably taken at No.7 AOS Portage La Prairie, Manitoba with a nice row of Avro Ansons in the background.
Shortly after we published this page JohnYankoski contacted us again to say, "My Uncle Ted passed away on February 25, 2021
thus concluding the story of six brothers gone to war. My cousin, Jim
Yankoski, Uncle Ted’s oldest son, came across this picture [below] of Uncle Tony while going through his Dad’s collection of pics for the obituary".
This photograph is believed to be the members of Air Observers Course 27, at No.7 Air Observers School Portage La Prairie, Manitoba. Anthony Yankoski (Uncle Tony) back row, 2nd. from right. The only other airman positively identifiable is Sgt. Oliver in centre with stripes. Can you help us put names to the faces of these other New Zealanders? Update: F/O N.A. Gardiner front centre with bombs and legs crossed; Sgt. W.H. Lip-Guey third from right back row.
Below is the reverse side of the photograph with the signatures of the men.
N.A. Gardiner possibly F/O Noble Andrew Gardiner 41579 RNZAF Died 28 July 1943. See CWGC
W.H. Lip-Guey probably Sgt. William Herbert Lip-Guey 411723 RNZAF Died 11 November 1942. See CWGC
R.E. Herbert probably Sgt. Robert Ernest Herbert 411721 RNZAF Died 25 May 1942. See CWGC
M.H. Elliott probably Sgt.Max Hilton Elliott 411720 RNZAF Died 30 September 1942. 149 Sqn. RAF Stirling I BF328 OJ-D. See CWGC
M.E. Carncross probably P/O Murray Ellis Carncross 411718 RNZAF Died 29 July 1942. 75 Sqn. RAF Wellington III BJ599. See CWGC
See also: The Wings Over New Zealand Aviation Forum
WO2. Donald Leroy Torkelson Runnymede Memorial, Panel: 102. Son of Gilman and Dena L. (Halls) Torkelson of Bengough, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Flt.Sgt. William Hawksworth Gardner Runnymede Memorial, Panel: 104. Son of Hammond Harvey and Lillian (née Hawksworth) Gardner of Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
Flt.Sgt. Anthony Yankoski Runnymede Memorial, Panel: 107. Son of Joseph and Caroline (née Woroniecki) Yankoski of Russell, Manitoba, Canada.
Flt.Sgt. Donald Albert Millard Runnymede Memorial, Panel: 105. Son of William Adolphus and Alice Gertrude (née Pope) Millard of Aylmer, Ontario, Canada.
Flt.Sgt. James Caldwell Hadley Runnymede Memorial, Panel: 104. Son to William and Ann (née Flynn) Hadley, who both predeceased him. Husband to Genevieve (née Campbell) Hadley of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, USA.
(1) Torkelson Lake in Saskatchewan is named after WO2 Torkelson
(2) Yankoski Lake in Manitoba is named after Flt.Sgt. Yankoski
Photo and additional credits:
Additional research by John Yankoski
Anthony Yankoski & crew photographs courtesy of John Yankoski
Anthony Yankoski original portrait courtesy Vicki Yankoski
Wing Leader Magazine Issue 10, "1000 Bombers Over Bremen", Theo Boiten
National Archives, Kew, UK
Library and Archives Canada