Air Gunner Sergeant Rodolfo Forte

© 2012 Paul Forte

On 21st January 1944, Rodolfo Forte lost his life serving his country in a Halifax bomber over Germany

Rodolfo Angelo Antonio Forte was born in 1923 in Hawick, Scotland.  His parents, Massimino and Pacetta Forte, were originally from Mortale before moving to Galashiels.  On 21st January 1944, Air Gunner Sgt. Rodolfo Forte set off from Yorkshire in an RAF Halifax on a bombing mission to attack factories near Magdeburg, Germany.  The bomber was shot down over Helmstedt.  Three of the seven crew survived and were taken prisoner.  Rodolfo was one of the four who lost their lives that evening and is buried in the Berlin War Cemetery.  The following report from the Aircrew Remembered website gives more details.

Grave of Rodolfo Forte

Thanks to the help of the AirCrew Remembered Society and Mr C. Freeman, click here to see the relevant two pages from the original 76 Sqdn Flight Diary showing the entry for 21st Jan 1944.

Rodolfo Forte as a boy in the early 1930s

Graves of the 4 deceased crew 
in Berlin War Cemetery

Sgt. Rodolfo Forte
(photo courtesy of his 1st cousin Olga Macari)

Mission Details
Mission: Magdeburg
Date: 21/22nd January 1944
Unit: No. 76 Squadron
Type: Halifax V
Serial: LK922
Code: MP-L
Base: Holme-On-Spalding-Moor, Yorkshire
Location: Helmstedt, Germany

Fl/Sgt. Henry Boyes 1078689 R.A.F.V.R. Age ? Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Reginald Sydney Western 1642409 R.A.F.V.R. Age 21. Killed
Nav: Sgt. T. Fraser P.O.W. Injured. Prisoner No: 929 Camp:Stalag Kopernikus
Air/Bmr: F/O. D.H. McVie R.A.A.F. P.O.W. Injured. Prisoner No: 3376 Camp:Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. C.M. Bennett P.O.W. Injured. Prisoner No: ? Camp:Stalag Luft Barth Vogelsang
Air/Gnr: Sgt. James McCurry 1301467 R.A.F.V.R. Age ? Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Rudolph Angelantonio Forte 1565064 R.A.F.V.R. Age 21. Killed

Reason for Loss:
Took off from R.A.F. Holme-On-Spalding-Moor, Yorkshire at 20.06 hrs. to make the first major attack of the war on the Magdeburg/Rothensee plant that produced synthetic oil from lignite coal.  Part of a force of 648 aircraft, made up from 421 Lancasters, 224 Halifax Bombers and 3 Mosquitoes.

Bomb load: 1 x 2000 HCM Inst, 2 x 500lb. Clusters, 32 x 30 Inc, 480 x 4 Inc, 60 x 4" K Type Inc.

The German night fighters were ready as the bomber stream had been followed by the German controllers. They were very slow though to identify the target but anyway the night fighters were in the area with the bomber stream.  During the raid a huge amount of losses were experienced by the attacking group with 35 Halifax and 22 Lancaster Bombers lost which were mainly due to the attacking night fighters.

This huge loss was not even rewarded with a successful attack as the strong winds brought the best part of the force into the target area before the pathfinders and as a result 27 bombers bombed before the pathfinders had marked the area. Most of the bombing fell outside the city.

It is reported that Halifax LK922 was shot down by a German night fighter and exploded in the air. The records of the Nachtjagd do not have any confirmed claims against this aircraft although a total of 19 Halifax bombers were not possible to be placed against a German pilot.

Report from Air Bomber, F/O. Mcvie:
Rear Gunner reported night fighter attack, evasive action, both our gunners opened fire, e/a (moving away?) Rear guns (u/s?) Nav.gave pilot new course and as he turned (another) gunner reported e/a's approach, evasive action, night fighter broke away mid upper gunner's guns (u/s?) All uninjured. Several ineffective attacks but eventually starboard outer engine on fire - (feathered?). Starboard wing then reported on fire - bale out ordered but again attacked. Bomb aimer hit by cannon shell above ... (word illegible) W/op, Nav and BA thrown (to floor?) as explosion (probably s/board wing). BA unconscious came to falling and pulled rip cord. Saw another member of crew (perhaps Flight Engineer) falling without chute. W/op sprained ankle baling out. Germans said 3 dead in a/c and one in field near village without parachute. BA (one word illegible) the survivors must have gone through perspex nose.

Report from Navigator, Sgt. T. Fraser:
Navigator lost boots during descent. Captured at 04.00hrs - "real danger came on two occasion - first quite avoided and during second gunners performed gallantly despite the hardships (illegible) displayed equal skill" Nav's right arm out of place and left thigh bruised. 4 killed instantly.

Fraser: Most of our journey was without incident but it was the later stages that two occasions of danger approached and during the first it was Jim's expert directions and our Captain's skilful ability by which it was overcome completely. On the next Jim performed gallantly for some time to repeat the achievement and it is partly due to them that David, Charlie and I owe our lives.

(1) Sgt. Fraser suffered his right arm out of place (dislocated?) and bruising.
(2) F/O. McVie - Unconscious from explosion - recovered during fall from aircraft.
(3) Sgt. Bennett suffered a sprained ankle. We are not convinced that we have his service number correct - it is as far as the loss card is concerned which is the best evidence we have, but not as far as other sources are concerned.

Burial details:
Fl/Sgt. Henry Boyes.
Berlin War Cemetery Collective grave 6.A. 13-16
No further details known as yet

Sgt. Reginald Sydney Western. Berlin War Cemetery Collective grave 6.A. 13-16
Son of Stanley and Rose Sarah Western, of Stanmore, Middlesex.

Sgt. James McCurry. Berlin War Cemetery Collective grave 6.A. 13-16
No further details known as yet

Sgt. Rudolph Angel Antonio Forte. Berlin War Cemetery Collective grave 6.A. 13-16
Son of Massimino and Maria Pace Forte, of Galashiels. Selkirkshire.

Rodolfo and his crew had only just trained at 1663 Conversion Unit, Rufforth, Yorkshire and then transferred to this Squadron on 7th Jan 1944.  It appears that this was their first mission from this new base.  Click on the following documents to enlarge.

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