Flt Lt James Benjamin Tatnall

Flt Lt Tatnall (sixth from left) with the instructors and students of No. 3 Air Course, 20 ERFTS Gravesend, March 1939.

Tatnall was confirmed in rank as Pilot Officer 1930 abd was promoted to Flt Lt and posted to 8 FTS Montrose 1.1.36.
He was transferred to the Reserve 28.1.1937.

Tatnall was the CO of 20 ERFTS Gravesend and was one of Mike Lithgow's instructors, and, along with the other Gravesend instructors almost certainly flew N-5490.
By 1st March 1940 he was a Sqn Ldr.  By 1st March 1942 he was a Wg Cdr.  As acting Gp, Capt, he received the OBE in the New Year's Honours list 1944.

Six weeks later he was dead.

He was killed aboard 7 Sqn Pathfinder Lancaster III, JB414 MG-Y that took off at 1716 hrs 15.2.1944 from Oakington for Berlin.

The raid in question was the last-but-one of the so-called 'Battle of Berlin' (Winter 1943/44). This was the time of Bomber Command's worst losses.
The raid is covered in some detail in Martin Middlebrook's book 'The Berlin Raids' (Viking, 1988).

It was the heaviest raid of the entire war on Berlin; 891 aircraft were despatched and 2,643 tons of bombs were dropped which included 470 x 4,000lb 'Cookies'
and 15 x 8,000lb bombs.  Despite widespread damage including many industrial areas, very many of the bombs dropped in open countryside due to poor visibility.

The Nachtjagd were ready and prepared; Bomber Command lost forty-two bombers with another five crashed or abandoned over England.
Most losses that night were suffered by 7 Squadron (Pathfinder Force) which lost four Lancasters; the men lost included Tatnall and two Squadron Leaders
plus the following decorations: two DSOs, one CGM, eight DFCs, seven DFMs and Tatnall's OBE. These were highly experienced Pathfinder aircrew and could not be replaced easily.

Wg Cdr Tatnall had just joined 7 Sqn.  He was flying that night as a second pilot in the crew of Sqn Ldr John Alfred Hegman, a New Zealander and a highly experienced pilot.
Tatnall was on a so-called 'familiarization flight', to get to know the procedures within the squadron before he would fly with his own crew.

They were shot down over Germany while on the way to their target near Neustrelitz.  Only the tailgunner survived.  The wireless operator is still missing.

Tatnall and Hegman are buried in the Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery.  The site Cemetery was selected by the British Occupation Authorities and Commission officials jointly in 1945,
soon after hostilities ceased. Graves were brought to the cemetery from the Berlin area and from eastern Germany.  The great majority of those buried there
approximately 80 per cent of the total, were airmen who were lost in the air raids over Berlin and the towns in eastern Germany.  The remainder were men who died
as prisoners of war, some of them in the forced march into Germany from camps in Poland, in front of the advancing Russians.

Wg Cdr Tatnall is buried in the Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery.
The cemetery contains 3,595 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, 397 of them unidentified.

Return to the Pilots page

Click here to return to the top of the page