No. 463 Squadron (RAAF) 5 Group RAF Bomber Command "Press on Regardless"

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About This Unit

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An Article XV Squadron raised under the Empire Air Training Scheme, and designated as an Australian Squadron, it spent the whole of its life in the UK as a heavy bomber unit.  Like many 'Australian' squadrons, the crew members came from all  over the Commonwealth although the proportion of Australians steadily increased towards the war's end.

Of course many Australians were filling aircrew positions in RAF and other Commonwealth squadrons as  well.

463 Squadron was raised on the 25th November 1942 from 'C' flight of 467 Squadron, and became part of 5 Group.  Based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, it was equipped with new Lancasters then coming off the production lines in numbers.  The squadron began flying operations the day after it was formed.

In 17 months of combat operations, 463 Squadron flew 2,525 sorties and dropped 11,430 imperial tons of bombs.  Its aircraft were credited with shooting down six enemy fighters.

The cost was daunting; 78 aircraft and 546 aircrew of whom 225 were Australians, earning the unenviable record of the highest loss rate among the Australian heavy bomber squadrons in England.

It was disbanded on 25 September 1945.

 

We would particularly like to encourage individual historians researchers or members of unit associations to contribute to the development of a more detailed history and photographs pertaining to this unit and its members.

Please contact admin@vwma.org.au (mailto:admin@vwma.org.au) for details on how to contribute.

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Stories

Bad night over Lille - 10/11 May 1944

Lille is a major rail hub in northern France close to the Belgian border and a major junction between Paris, to the south, Calais to the west and Brussels (Belgium) to the north. It was a key target in the run up to D Day in June 1944 when a major bombing offensive called the Transportation Plan, was directed at transport infrastructure, to impede the provision of reinforcements to the intended battlefront - the location of which was, of course, top secret at this point in time.

On the night of 10/11 May 1944 a large fleet of bombers were despatched to bomb a series of rail yards in northern France, at Lille, Lens (further south), Courtrai, Ghent (further north in Belgium) and Dieppe on the Atlantic coast. Over 500 aircraft were involved; the majority were Lancasters but also Halifaxes and some fast and nimble Mosquitos performing a Pathfinder and Target marking role.

Both 463 and 467 Squadrons RAAF were scheduled to take part in the Lille raid on the evening of 10/11 May. It was to be the worst night of the war for the two Waddington squadrons. Of 31 aircraft despatched between them, six failed to return. The total losses of the raid were 12 so the two RAAF squadrons represented 50% of the total losses. A total of 42 men were missing the next morning. This represented a loss rate of 20%. The impact of the empty seats at breakfast would have been devastating.

This was followed the next night by the loss of 467 Squadron's CO, decorated Pacific veteran GPCAPT John 'Sam' Balmer OBE DFC and his crew, leading another Transportation Plan raid.

There was only one survivor from the six Australian aircraft. Squadron Leader Phil Smith, DFC, flying B for Baker in 467 Squadron was thrown clear of his exploding aircraft, and managed to parachute to safety minus a flying boot and then spent four months evading the Germans. B for Baker exploded as it was dropping its bombs; it may have suffered a similar fate to JO-J in 463 Squadron - been destroyed by a German night fighter attacking from below (but unlikely given they were directly over the target where the risk from flak and falling bombs tended to discourage night fighter attack), been hit by flak or most likely, it may have collided with another aircraft

The story of JO-J's loss from 463 Squadron, provides an insight as to the fate that befell a number of aircraft that night and the cause of losses that was only identified the following month when a German nightfighter fitted with upward firing cannon, was captured after it landed at an occupied airfield by mistake. JOJ was shot down on its way home, by Lt Hans Schmitz flying a Messerschmitt Bf110G night fighter variant with upward firing cannon, nick-named 'Schrage Musik' by the Germans. The aircraft positioned itself in a blind spot under the Lancaster, before unleashing a hail of 20mm cannon fire into the underside of the bigger plane. The effect was often catastrophic as was the case with JOJ, which broke up in mid-air and rained wreckage in and around the Dumoulin quarry near Langemark in northern Belgium. There were no survivors.

LL881 - 22/03/44 to 10/05/44, Callsign JO-E: 11 Missions.
The first on 22/23-Mar-1944 to Frankfurt.
The 9th mission on 10/11-May-1944 to Lille when LL881 was listed as missing.

418915 FSGT John Henry BROWN RAAF WOP 31 HELLEMMES
427445 FSGT George Martin DANN RAAF RGNR 30 FOREST/MARQUE
430019 FSGT Colin Henry EASTGATE RAAF MUG 29 FOREST/MARQUE
410493 FLGOFF George Oswald JONES RAAF NAV 23 FOREST/MARQUE
10119 POFFR William John LEWIS RAAF FENG 32 FOREST/MARQUE
416443 WOFF Alan Richard MacKENZIE RAAF BAim 26 FOREST/MARQUE
420413 FLGOFF Dudley Francis WARD RAAF PILOT 24 FOREST/MARQUE
8 missions were flown by this crew.

LL-882 - 463 Sqn. 24/03/44 to 10/05/44, Callsign JO-J 'The Langemark Lancaster - see related story.
There were 15 missions recorded in the Operational Record with the first in March 25/26 1944 to Aulnoye.

407199 FLOFF Robert McKerlie CROFT RAAF MUG 27 WEVELGUM
407821 FLOFF David Payne CROSTON RAAF RGNR 32 WEVELGUM
1443752 FSGT Bertram FRASER RAF BAim 22 WEVELGUM
134697 FLOFF Ronald JACQUES RAF NAV ? WEVELGUM
1802369 SGT Harry Law MOLYNEUX RAF FENG 21 WEVELGUM
422817 SQNLDR Mervyn POWELL RAAF PILOT 29 WEVELGUM
406700 FLTLT William Neil READ RAAF WOP 22 WEVELGUM

HK535 - 463 Sqn.
20/12/43 to 10/05/44, Callsign JO-N 11 Missions.
First mission to Frankfurt 20/21-Dec-1943. This was their 11th Mission

24519 FSGT Richard William ASH RAAF MUG 20 HELLEMMES
1609134 SGT Raymond Herbert BOULTON RAF FENG 19 HELLEMMES
422414 FSGT Ivan CHAPPLE RAAF NAV 24 HELLEMMES
423878 POFF Walter Thomas PETERS RAAF BAim 24 HELLEMMES
1459044 SGT Leonard Edgard PRINGLE RAF WOP ? HELLEMMES
425226 FLTLT Eric Mc Laren SCOTT RAAF PILOT 22 FOREST/MARQUE
424888 WO William Allen SLADE RAF RGNR 23 MISSING

No. 467 Squadron RAAF

LM475 Callsign PO-B for 'Baker'. A very experienced crew. First mission Dec 1943 See blog link in Sidebar. This was their 20th Mission and the last for Phil Smith to complete his second Tour.

1352851 SGT Eric Reginald HILL RAF MUG 22 LEZENNES
425413 FSGT Alistair Dale JOHNSTON RAAF WOP 24 LEZENNES
658844 FSGT Jeremiah PARKER RAF BAim 30 LEZENNES
423311 FSGT Gilbert Firth PATE RAAF RGNR 27 LEZENNES
412686 WOFF Royston William PURCELL RAAF NAV 22 LEZENNES
400495 SQNLDR Donald Phillip Smeed SMITH RAAF PILOT EVADE the only survivor from 12 aircraft
1850279 SGT Kenneth Harold TABOR RAF FENG LEZENNES

LL788 Callsign PO-G
2221020 SGT Charles Arthur NASH RAF MUG 23 FOREST/MARQUE
424914 FSGT Herbert William Reid FERGUSON RAAF RGNR 28 HELLEMMES
417176 FSGT Brian Gordon GRASBY RAAF WOP 21 HELLEMMES
422506 FSGT William Stanley HANCOCK RAAF BAim 22 HELLEMMES
1431527 SGT Cyril DUTHOIT RAF FENG LEZENNES
420870 POFF William Eldred FELSTEAD RAAF PILOT 22 LEZENNES
1580333 SGT John MELLOR RAF NAV 30 LEZENNES

EE143 Callsign PO-J
427870 FSGT Bernard Francis CODY RAAF MUG 23 ANNAPPES
2220133 SGT George BENNETT RAF RGNR 27 HELLEMMES
419298 FLOFF Harry Ronald CROUT RAAF BAim 29 HELLEMMES
414997 POFF Douglas HISLOP RAAF PILOT 23 HELLEMMES
1891298 SGT Bertram Stephen LONGHURST RAF FENG 37 HELLEMMES
25243 FLOFF John Francis TUCKER RAAF WOP 25 HELLEMMES
424239 FSGT Kevin Campbell WAIGHT RAAF NAV 20 HELLEMMES

Three other Australians were lost in other aircraft on the raid;

414761 POFF Hugh DonaldD CAMPBELL RAAF PILOT 23 9 Sqn LM528 WS-D HELLEMMES
423359 FLOFF Albert Edward TYNE RAAF BAim 33 9 Sqn LM528 WS-D FOREST/MARQUE
425794 FSGT Walter James WHITE RAAF AG 23 9 Sqn LM520 WS-X FOREST/MARQUE

This remains a work in progress

We are tracking images of these men; if you can help, Register and join over 20,000 people who have contributed material to the site.

Thanks to ADF Serials website for this detail, and to the researchers of 'Aircrew Remembered' to which links have been posted.
Thanks also to Conrad Dumoulin, Belgium for providing assistance in the preparation of this article and that of the 'Langemark Lancaster' to which his father was a witness.

Thanks to Adam Purcell, his excellent blog @somethingverybig.com and the story of 'B for Baker' of No. 467 Squadron
CWGC websites and cemetery pages
WW2 Nominal Roll
AWM Roll of Honour

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Langemark Lancaster - read in conjunction with "Bad Night Over Lille" a result of subsequent research

This story was first related to me in 1998 when I met Conrad Dumoulin in Ieper.

He had a photo of a crashed Lancaster, on a property owned by his grandfather, near Langemark just north of Ieper. His own father Antoon, a young man at the time, was an eye-witness to the aftermath of the crash and the recovery of the wreckage and the bodies of the crew. His account is recorded on the 463 Squadron page.

The accident report describes the events; the following text has been augmented with additional information:

Lancaster LL882 callsign JO-J took off from RAF Waddington at 2200 hours on the night of 10/11th May 1944 to bomb the marshalling yards at Lille, France. Bomb load 1 x 4000lb and 16 x 500lb bombs. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it did not return to base. Fourteen aircraft from the Squadron took part in the raid and three of these including LL882 / JO-J failed to return.

Post war it was established that the aircraft was shot down by a night fighter, flown by Lt Hans J. Schmitz of Jagdscwhader 4N. JG1. It was attacked from below by Schmitz's Messerschmitt Bf 110G night fighter equipped with upward firing cannon, nicknamed 'schrage musik" by the Germans. This allowed the fighter to get into the Lancaster's blind spot and open fire with devastating effect. The Lancaster exploded mid-air and fell in pieces into a waterlogged clay pit at the Dumoulin brickworks some 2kms west of Langemark (West-Vlaanderen) and about 8kms north of Ieper (Ypres). Schmitz was later killed in action in September 1944.

The other losses on this night appear to have been similarly lethal with just one survivor from the total of 12 aircraft lost from No. 5 Group including the six RAAF aircraft.

All the crew of JO-J are buried in the Wevelgem Communal Cemetery which is located about 22kms east of Ieper a town centre on the Meenseweg NB connecting Ieper to Menin, Wevelgem and Kortrijk, Belgium. Exactly why they were buried so far away is unknown.

The crew of JO-J were:
RAAF 402817 Sqn Ldr M Powell, DFC Captain (Pilot);
RAF FO Jaques, R (Navigator);
RAF Flt Sgt B Fraser, (Bomb Aimer);
RAAF 406700 Flt Lt Read, W N (Wireless Operator Air Gunner);
RAF Sgt H L Molyneux, (Flight Engineer);
RAAF 407199 FO Croft, R McK (Air Gunner);
RAAF 407821 FO Croston, D P (Air Gunner).

Steve Larkins March 2019

A link to the Aircrew Remembered page for this incident is posted against the names of each of the crew.

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THIS STORY LINKS TO AN IMAGE IN THE GALLERY - The power of understatement - and a wonderful airframe

RAAF History - 17 September
David Lascelles

Against all the colourful and emotive language in use today, this lovely piece of understatement is from a different era.
I suggest it also speaks quiet volumes for the solid reliability of the dear old LANCASTER.

Enjoy. D

17 September 1944, No 463 Squadron Lancaster JO-T departed RAF Waddington for a bombing sortie again Bologne, France. The following is extracted from the pilot’s post-operation report.

"On our bombing run, immediately after "Bombs Gone" we were hit by heavy flak, causing a hole in our port wing approximately 11ft; X 6ft; and the ailerons severely damaged.

Aircraft went out of control in a diving turn; during this time No.3 tank blew out, and exploded behind aircraft. I ordered crew to abandon aircraft and moderate control of aircraft was maintained at 4,000 ft; during which time Wireless Operator, Mid Upper and Rear Gunners endeavoured to get out of rear door. This was jammed and the handle broke off, so had to come to the front hatch which partly jammed adding further difficulties for crew trying to bale out. Eventually all members of crew apart from Pilot squeezed themselves out.

During this time reasonable controlled descent was maintained with port engines fully opened; starboard engines half throttled; full aileron and rudder bias. It is estimated crew got out at 2,000 to 3,000 ft; and at 1,500 ft; I made an effort to bale out, unsuccessfully as the aircraft dived and was uncontrollable. I regained control of the aircraft at 800 ft; and having no alternative, had to make a forced landing in the quickest possible time. Landing eventually effected in a field that was obstructed with anti-invasion posts, with my starboard engine on fire; undercarriage and flaps serviceable and operated allowing me to make a successful landing. At the end of the landing run, to avoid further damage, swung aircraft to port, coming to rest in a wood. Made a quick get away as starboard outer wing and engine were on fire. Throughout these extremely difficult circumstances my crew behaved in an exemplary manner and showed calm and coolness throughout."

Navigator (F/Sgt. Dent) states: "Our pilot's captaincy and leadership displayed throughout those intense moments gave us confidence and inspiration. We considered aircraft impossible to fly, and how he effected a landing was, in the opinion of all of us, a miracle, and we never expected after we left that the aircraft would be landed".

Comment: So ‘ moderate control’ resulted from half of the left wing shot away, the right wing in shreds, a right side engine on fire, control surfaces severely damaged, fuel tanks blown away and the Lancaster falling out of the sky!!

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