Pilot Officer Joseph Sterling -  115 Squadron  

Pilot Officer Joseph Darcy Sterling   - RNZAF


 Pilot Officer Joseph Sterling was serving as Second Pilot on board Lancaster Mk.I NG332 coded IL-D during an operation to bomb the railway yards at Vohwinkel Ruhr, Germany on the night January 2, 1945. The aircraft left Witchford at 1610hrs but on the homebound journey, it was one of two Lancaster’s accidentally shot down by American flak near Namur. NG332 crashed and exploded on impact at 2010 in a field belonging to Monsieur Jean van Marsenille, all of the crew were killed.

The crew consisted of:

Name Service Hometown  Age
S/L Anthony Mills  RAF - -
P/O Joseph Sterling  RNZAF Matakohe, New Zealand 23
Sgt Charles Bassett  RAFVR Ilam, Staffordshire 19
P/O Gordon Long  RAAF Hawthorne, Queensland 19
F/O Joseph Booth  RAFVR Bristol 35
F/Sgt John Fenwick  RAFVR Gosport, Hampshire 20
F/Sgt Earl Mathison  RCAF Bounty, Saskatchewan 27
F/Sgt John McLeod  RCAF - -

 Pilot Officer Joseph Darcy Keith Sterling RNZAF(NZ421540) known as “Darcy”, was born at Matakohe, Northland, New Zealand on the 3rd April 1921.He was the son of Joseph and Jeannie Lamberton Sterling. He received his secondary education at Kings College, Otahuhu and Auckland Grammar school. His interest in sports included cricket, tennis and rugby. He worked on his father’s farm at Matakohe.

 After serving in the Cadet Corps he applied for War Service Training in the aircrew section of the RNZAF on the 3rd June 1941 and was then posted to Whenuapai for ground duties. In October he was remustered and posted to the Initial Training Wing, Rotorua to commence training as an airman pilot. In November he proceeded to No 1 Elementary Flying School,Taiere. After embarking for Canada on the “Matsonia” on the 12th February 1943 under the Empire Training Scheme., he was posted to No 12 Service Flying Training School at Brandon, Manitoba. On the 3rd September 1943, he was awarded his flying badge and promoted to Sergeant.

Joseph in training.

 On the 8th of November he left for New York before arriving in the U.K. on the 8th October 1943.After arrival at No12(RNZAF) Personnel Reception Centre, Brighton, P/O Sterling was posted to No 24 Elementary Flying School, Sealand, Cheshire and then, on the 14th March 1944 to NO 20 Advanced Flying Unit, Weston-on-the-Green, Oxfordshire. On March 3rd he was promoted to Flight Sergeant before posting to No 12 OTU at Chipping Warden, Oxfordshire in May on Wellingtons. On completion of the course he proceeded to No 1653 HCU at Chedburgh, Suffolk on Stirlings. After joining 115 squadron on 23rd November 1944 as Pilot he completed several operational flights over enemy territory, the targets including Cologne, Mereeburg, Osterfeld, Rhaydr and Vohwinkel in Germany. He was commissioned to Pilot Officer on the 24th December 1944. His  seventh, and sadly to be his final posting was as second pilot on Avro Lancaster 1NG332/IL-D “Dog” at RAF Witchford, Cambridgeshire.

The 21st Army group temporarily buried the eight crew  members at Fosse U.S .Temporary Military Cemetery. They were later laid to rest in Leopoldsburg War Cemetery. When the aircraft failed to return to base, the crew were reported missing. Later, information received from the Air Ministry revealed that the crew had been shot down In consequence to this,P/O Sterling was reclassified as missing, believed killed in action and his death officially presumed.

Commemorative Plaque.

Photos & information courtesy of Nick Krajancic, research by Linda Ibrom. Special thanls to Errol Martyn.