Pilot Officer Ivan Tvrdeich - 15 Squadron  
 

 

Pilot Officer Ivan Tvrdeich  - RNZAF

 

 Pilot Officer Ivan Tvrdeich  was serving as an Air Gunner on board Lancaster Mk.III LM441 coded LS-T on  March 25, 1944 when it took off from Mildenhall at 1847hrs for an operation to Berlin. The aircraft was part of as part of a force of 557 Lancasters, 216 Halifax’s and 18 Mosquito’s. LM441 which had  already taken part in previous ops to Berlin and Leipzig  and with a  total of 83 hours on it’s airframe, was shot down by flak on its homebound journey, crashing 3 kms N of Bonn, Germany, the entire crew was killed.

 The crew consisted of:

Name Service Trade Hometown  Age
F/L William Grove  RAFVR Pilot Swansea, Wales 24
Sgt John Johnson  RAFVR Flight Engineer Harrogate, Yorkshire 28
Sgt Arthur Jackson  RAFVR Navigator Upper Tooting, London 22
F/Sgt Frank Holland  RAFVR Bomb Aimer Birmingham 29
P/O James Sills  RAFVR W/Op/AG Hull 24
F/Sgt Allan Thompson  RAFVR Air Gunner Batley, Yorkshire 24
P/O Ivan Tvrdeich  RNZAF Air Gunner Auckland, New Zealand 32

 Pilot Officer Ivan Tvrdeich RNZAF was born in Cara Korcula, Croatia on the 25th November 1911 and was the son of Ivan and Jaka Tvrdeich of Cara Korcula, Croatia. He emigrated to New Zealand in 1927, aged 15, becoming naturalised in 1939. Employed as a farm worker for a number of years, he eventually joined the restaurant trade and at the time of his enlistment worked as an occupational manager at the Silver Grill Restaurant in Auckland. Ivan was the first Croatian born man to be accepted into the RNZAF, he was engaged to be married at the time of his death.

 

Record of Service

Joined the RNZAF at Levin/ITW on 19th January 1941

26th May 1941 embarked for Canada

7 Air Observers School on 15th June 1941.

CTS on 25th July 1941

4M depot,19th August 1941

6AOS 23(31) in October 1941

CTS on 2nd January 1942

4 Air Observers School on 16th February 1942

KTS on 20th May 1942

Re-mustered as Air Gunner to 4 BGS on 5th July 1942

Received his air gunner badge and promoted to Sergeant on 14th August 1942.

34 OTU (Ventura) (did not fly-cancelled)

1Ydepot 15th September 1942

25th September 1942,embarked for the U.K. and the RAF

3 PRC on 10th October 1942

11 OTU (Wellingtons) on 28th October 1942

9th/10th January 1943 injured after baling out of iced up aircraft(11OTU) & Claimed 'Caterpillar Club Badge' for using an 'Irvin' Parachute.

1652 HCU(Halifax’s) on 8th March 1943

196 Squadron(Wellingtons)-8 ops. on 26th March 1943

SSQ/sick leave 19th May-1st June 1943

A/C badly damaged in collision on return from St.Nazaire (uninjured)14/15th June 1943

1657 HCU(Stirlings,15th July 1943

15 squadron(Stirling-2,Lancaster-4ops) 24th Sept.1943

Commissioned on 26th January 1944

 

Ivan's medals.

 

 In the Investigation report of 23rd August 1947 compiled by F/L Donner,the Investigation officer, the aircraft was seen at approximately 22.00 hrs approaching the village of Bergheim from the direction of Koln and Bonn. The aircraft was on fire and flying very low and finally crashed in flames at approximately 1 KM SSE of Bergheim. The crash scene was fenced off and guarded by the Military from Hangelar and the following day the remains were removed. There were three aircrew lying within 200 metres of their Lancaster, with their parachutes partly open, indicating that they were perhaps too low to bale out. P/O Tvrdeich was one to them, his body later identified by his named 'Caterpillar Club' Badge. Another three bodies were found in the wreckage. No trace of a seventh crew member was found and it was presumed that he had managed to bale out, fallen in the Rhine and drifted down the river and drowned.

 F/L Grove,F/Sgt Holland,F/Sgt Thompson and P/O Tvrdeich rest in the War Cemetery at Rheinberg while their fellow crew members are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

 

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