World War 2
Norman Leslie Ginn was born in Mildura on 16 August 1923. His parents were English migrating from England in 1919 to assist family fruit growers in the Riverina. He went to primary and high school in Mildura but left school at the age of 15 and worked as a labourer and in a garage. He registered for service in the RAAF on 26 November 1941 and was finally enlisted on 31 January 1942 at No 1 Recruit Training Centre, Melbourne, as a trainee aircrew – he was only 18 years old.
As with most Word War 2 aircrew recruits in Australia, Ginn underwent aircrew training through the Empire Air Training Scheme. Ginn attended No 1 Initial Training School, RAAF Somers near Westernport Bay, from January to April 1942. He then attended No 2 Wireless Air Gunners School, Parkes, from April to October 1942 and receiving his Wireless Operator Air Gunner Badge on 14 October 1942. He then attended No 2 Bombing and Gunnery School at Port Pirie from October to November 1942.
Posted to England, he attended No 21 Advanced Flying Unit during May and June 1943 where he flew training aircraft becoming familiar with English flying conditions. He then completed heavy bomber conversion at No 27 Operational Training Unit where he was integrated with other Australians into a bomber crew training on Wellingtons. On 31 August 1943, more than 18 months after he joined the RAAF, he arrived at No 460 Squadron based at RAF Binbrook in Lincolnshire.
The squadron is regarded as having been the most efficient of the Australian bomber squadrons. It maintained consistently higher serviceability rates among its aircraft, set numerous operational records within Bomber Command, flew the most bombing raids of any Australian squadron (6,234 operations; 30,526 operational hours) and was credited with the greatest tonnage of bombs dropped – 24,856 tons. Members of 460 SQN were awarded nine DSOs, 228 DFCs (including 14 Bars), one GCM, 101 DFMs and one DCM. The unit was the most decorated Australian unit of the war.
The squadron, however, suffered heavily losing 181 aircraft on operations and suffering 1,018 fatal casualties (589 Australian) – the highest number of any of the Australian squadrons. In effect, the squadron lost its entire strength five times during the war. It suffered the highest casualty rate of any unit in the history of the RAAF.
After workup training, Ginn flew his first combat mission on 5 September 1943 – a bombing mission over Mannheim, Germany. With 460 SQN, Ginn flew 15 missions on Lancaster’s encountering and surviving enemy air defence many times through a combination of luck and aircrew airmanship.
Norm Ginn (3rd from left) and his fellow 460SQN Lancaster crew alongside their 460 SQN Lancaster P for Peter. The crew are FTSGT S. T. Mason (RAF), PLTOFF F. Howe-Browne (South Africa), FSGT N. Ginn (South Australia), FLGOFF T. Alford (NSW), FSGT A. Daley (Western Australia), FSGT L. Leask (New South Wales), SGT H. Folland (RAF).
On the night of the 2 December, Ginn was the Wireless Operator / Air Gunner on 460SQN Lancaster Mk III AR-J / JB608 flying in a mass raid against Berlin. It was the fifth attack on Berlin in ten days but one that would prove to be the blackest day in 460 SQN history. It was Ginn’s fourth mission over Berlin in two weeks. The bomber load on Ginn’s aircraft was one 4,000lb bomb, 56 x 30lb bombs and 1230 x 4lb incendiaries. Ginn’s aircraft was one of 24 460SQN Lancaster’s and one of 401 Bomber Command bombers that took off late in the afternoon on 2 December. Of those 400 aircraft, 40 did not return; five of which were 460 SQN.
While over Berlin with the bomb doors open, Ginn’s aircraft was attacked by two Ju 88 and one Me 110 night fighter aircraft. The ill timing was critical as it precluded the pilot from taking evasive action. The aircraft took substantial enemy fire along the fuselage and the starboard wing and was quickly in flames with the pilot ordering his crew to bail out. Five of the crew, including Norm Ginn successfully bailed out. It was the first time he had used a parachute. He later noted “I waited as long as I dared before I pulled the ripcord because I was afraid of getting shot up by the fighter planes.” Sadly, FLTLT Alford, the pilot, and PLTOFF Howe-Brown, the upper mid turret air gunner, perished in the aircraft.
Norm successfully parachuted through the flames to the ground suffering burns to his face. He remembered in a recent interview “My face was burnt on the side as I bailed out of the burning plane, but the air was so cool”. He landed in snow and was able to evade the Germans for three days until he was eventually captured. He was moved to Berlin and then to Frankfurt for detailed interrogation over three weeks. On two occasions he was taken out at night and placed against a wall and threatened to be shot in attempts to get him to reveal information about new allied radios installed on the aircraft. He later described he incident “I was placed against a brick wall by the officer. They gave me a chance to speak, but I just stood there, petrified, as you could imagine.” He never revealed anything.
Ginn survived the interrogation and eventually lived through the remainder of the war as a POW imprisoned in the 4B Stalag prisoner of war camp near Dresden. He attempted escapes on several occasions including working in tunnels.
In the final stages of the war, Ginn’s POW camp was freed by Russian forces only for the allied POWs to be largely released and fend for themselves for almost a month before being rounded up by the Russians and imprisoned again. Ginn, along with four others, escaped successfully making their way back through American lines to safety. Eventually returning to Australia, he was discharged in December 1945 as a Warrant Officer.
Retiring to Victor Harbour in 1979, Norm Ginn was an active member of the RSL Victor Harbour. For thirty-five years he was a volunteer at the South Coast District Hospital tending their gardens. He was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for support to the community in 2018 highlighting his continued service to the nation decades after World War 2. In recent years, he has attended our ceremonies in Adelaide where he could including the Bomber Command Commemorative Service and the Air Force Birthday Ceremonies and the Remembrance Day Service at West Terrace Cemetery. He was one of South Australia’s few remaining 460SQN veterans.
Vale Norm Ginn RAAF WOFF 460SQN WOAG
Air Force Association (SA)