BOB Cadman was only 24 years old when he was killed in action in the Second World War. 69 years later, his younger brother Frank still has pictures of the fresh-faced young airman hanging on his the walls of his Kingswinford home.
Bob and Frank were typical Black Country lads and grew up in Oak Street, Kingswinford, with their elder sister Ivy and parents Arthur and Kate. Bob was christened Arthur Robert but was known by his middle name and attended the Glynne School before going on to Stourbridge Grammar School.
When he left he got a job as a sorting clerk at the central post office in Dudley but he quickly became bored and in 1936, after only three months at the post office, he left and volunteered to join the RAF. He was initially sent to Glasgow and later was trained at the Marshall Flying School in Cambridge. This was a privately run flying school that trained pilots for the RAF Volunteer Reserve.
Once qualified as a navigator Bob was posted to RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire and 49 Squadron, flying Handley Page Hampden bombers. The squadron’s crest showed a greyhound and its motto was Cave Canem – Beware of the Dog.
With the outbreak of the war Bob was soon in the thick of the action, flying bombing raids over Germany. In October 1940 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal, his citation in the London Gazette read:
“On the night of the 12th June, 1940, Sergeant Cadman assisted his wireless operator/air gunner in shooting down a Heinkel 111 and a Junkers 87. He has also given valuable assistance in attacks on the Dortmund Ems Canal and the oil refinery at Leuna. He has taken part in 28 operational flights against the enemy and has displayed the utmost coolness and courage under fire. Sergeant Cadman’s work has been outstanding and his keenness and efficiency have been an excellent example to others in his squadron.”
Bob received his medal from George VI the following year. He wrote to his parents:
“Dear Mum and Dad, just a note to let you know everything is going OK here. I was decorated by the King on Monday at Waddington. The Queen was also there and they both came to lunch in the Mess afterwards. It isn’t everyday you can have lunch with the King and Queen.”
His brother’s gallantry medal is one of Frank’s most prized possessions.
Bob was fortunate enough to survive two tours of duty of 28 operations each. The Hampden bomber, nicknamed the “flying suitcase” because of its cramped conditions, was poorly suited to modern warfare and around half of the all the Hampdens built were lost on operations, with 1,077 crewmen killed and 739 missing. 108 Hampdens were shot down by German flak, 263 crashed, 214 were classed as missing, one was downed by a barrage balloon and 128 were shot down by the Luftwaffe before the plane was retired from Bomber Command service in 1942. Bob was exceptionally lucky.
With his tours of duty completed Bob was given a desk job and wrote to his parents that he was “doing a lot of instructional and lecturing work.” But Bob hated office work and, just as when he worked at the post office, he couldn’t wait to get away — the first opportunity he got he went back on operations. Flight Lieutenant Cadman joined 97 Squadron, pathfinders flying Avro Lancaster bombers.
The RAF’s Pathfinder Force was established in August 1942 after a report found that by the time RAF bombers reached the Ruhr, the industrial heartland of Germany, only 1 in 10 aircraft flew within five miles of the target and only 1% of bombs fell in the vicinity of the target. The pathfinders were kitted out with the latest in navigational equipment and flew in advance of the main bomber force. Their task was to locate the target and illuminate it with flares and incendiaries which the following bombers then homed in on.
Bob Cadman lost his life on the ill-fated raid on Nuremberg on the night of 30/31st March, 1944. A bomber force of 572 Lancasters, 214 Halifaxes and nine Mosquitoes attacked but the Germans quickly identified their target. Luftwaffe fighters attacked as the
bombers reached the Belgian frontier and over the next hour 82 bombers were lost before they even reached their objective. Many bombers missed their target and bombed Schweinfurt instead. As the British planes headed home, another 13 bombers were shot down and 10 more were written off after landing.
In all, the raid on Nuremberg was the costliest single night of aircraft losses suffered by RAF Bomber Command in the whole war.
Bob flew on Lancaster ND390S, commanded by Fl. Lt. Desmond Rowlands. His crewmates were Sgt. R.H. Lane, Fl. Lt. A.S. McFadden, F/O E.J. Currie, P/O F. Colville and Ft. Lt. R.D. Trevor-Roper, who had flown on the famous Dambuster mission. They were shot down by German ace Major Martin Drewes, flying a Messerschmitt Bf110. All the crew of the Lancaster were killed and were buried together at a local village church but after the war their bodies were transferred to Durnbach War Cemetery in Bavaria.
Frank vividly remembers the day his parents received the telegram that informed them Bob was missing in action. He remembers that the local Red Cross were very kind to them and they were visited several times by Lady Hicks-Walker. It was 12 months before they had confirmation that Bob was dead.
Frank was not called up in war because he had a reserved occupation. As a lorry driver he was seconded to the Ministry of War Transport and had to drive all over the country collecting military supplies and taking them to a US Army supply depot at Sudbury in Staffordshire. He was never informed of the nature of the war supplies he transported and it was not until June 1944 that he realised that they had been for the D-Day landings.
It was some comfort to his parents in their loss when they received the following message: “By the King’s Order the name of Flight Lieutenant Cadman, RAF, was published in the London Gazette on june 8, 1944, as mentioned in a Despatch for distinguished service. I am charged to record His Majesty’s high appreciation.”
Frank has many mementos of his gallant brother, with numerous photographs of him and his squadron colleagues and the drawing of aircraft Bob made to pass the idle hours between ops. “It was his life,” remembers Frank. “He loved it so much, he would never have come out the RAF.”