Ron Middleton dies saving his crew after Turin raid

Armourers wait for the conclusion of an engine test on Short Stirling Mark I, ‘OJ-N’, of No. 149 Squadron RAF, parked at the end of the south-east runway at Mildenhall, Suffolk, before loading her with 250-lb GP bombs for a night raid on Essen, Germany. Each bomb has been fitted with a shackle to enable it to be winched into position in the Stirling’s high bomb-bay.

Short Stirlings of No. 1651 HCU (Heavy Conversion Unit) in flight, 1942. W7427 ‘B’ is in the middle of the formation.

Portrait of Rawdon Hume Middleton RAF, awarded the Victoria Cross: Italy, 29 November 1942.

Bomber Command was now making the long haul across France and over the Alps to bomb targets in the industrial north of Italy. Such long trips made huge demands on the crews and aircraft – and that was before they had to deal with enemy fighters and flak. It was an especially difficult flight for the Stirling bomber with its low ceiling, which effectively meant they had to fly through the Alps rather than comfortably over them.

There was rarely a trip when there were not a few losses. One particular mission is remembered because most of the crew survived to tell the tale. Ron Middleton, from Waverley in Sydney, Australia, was on his 29th mission, one short of completing a ‘tour’ and being rested for a while. His Victoria Cross citation states:

402745 Pilot Officer Rawdon Hume MIDDLETON R.A.A.F.
Attached to 149 Squadron, R.A.F.
Night of 28th-29th November, 1942, in raid on Turin, Italy

Flight Sergeant Middleton was captain and first pilot of a Stirling aircraft detailed to attack the Fiat works at Turin in November 1942. Great difficulty was experienced on the way to the target and while over the target the aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire. Flight Sergeant Middleton was badly wounded and his right eye was destroyed. The second pilot was also badly wounded. The possibilities of abandoning the aircraft or landing in northern France were discussed but Flight Sergeant Middleton stated his intention to attempt to reach the English coast.

After crossing the Channel there was only sufficient fuel for five minutes flying. Flight Sergeant Middleton flew the aircraft parallel with the coast and ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft. Five of the crew left the aircraft and two remained to assist him. The aircraft crashed into the sea and all remaining onboard were killed.

“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”.

London Gazette: 15 January, 1943

The pilot and second pilot of a Short Stirling in the cockpit of their aircraft, October 1941. Probably No. 7 Squadron at Oakington.

Flight Sergeant Leslie Hyder of No 149 Squadron chats with a nurse while recovering from wounds received over Turin on the night of 28-29 November 1942. Hyder was second pilot in a Stirling which was hit by flak over the target. See comment below made in 2013.

Vertical night aerial photograph taken over Turin with the aid of a 4.5-inch Photoflash bomb, during a raid by aircraft of Bomber Command. The area illuminated is around the Piazza Adriano (right of centre), crossed by Corso Francesco Ferrucci and Corso Vittorio Emanuele II.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

yvette masters May 16, 2013 at 6:11 pm

Leslie Hyder is my uncle. He was married to my father’s sister Jean. Only discovered his heroic exploits on the internet a couple of years ago. Saw this photo today and realized just how young he was. Wonderful man. Today is the anniversary of the Dam busters successful mission. what heroes they all were and are. Would love to be able to speak to him. Please get in touch via my email yvettelangbridge@gmail.com xxx

valerie Gerst March 25, 2013 at 5:44 am

Leslie Hyder is my father. He still resides in Scotland today. I live in Hawaii, my sister is in the UK.

Keith McLennan November 30, 2012 at 11:17 am

Dear Martin,

Thank you for your commemoration of RH Middleton. When I was a boy, in the 1960s, he featured in Civics lessons in Australia. Today, he is pretty well forgotten in his own country.

Regards,

Keith McLennan

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