463SQN 440625 LM587

LEST WE FORGET

Air Operations: (No. 463 Squadron Lancaster aircraft LM587), France, 25 June 1944

On the night of 24th-25th June, although No. 466 had a quiet trip to Le Grand Rossignol, Nos. 463 and 467 had an unhappy introduction to Noball targets when a force from No. 5 Group was sent against Prouville. Between them the two RAAF units supplied 34 Lancasters and eight other Australian pilots flew in the total force of 112 aircraft. At first all augured well because the weather was clear with only a slight haze and the initial illumination and marking was done punctually. Before the attack got under way, however, intense enemy searchlight activity in cooperation with guns and fighters threatened to disrupt the work of the pathfinder “backers-up”, so the master bomber ordered the main force to refrain from bombing and to circle the target until a deliberate attack could begin.

The 20-minutes delay caused by this zealous attempt to make the best possible attack gave enemy fighters and guns ample opportunity to take heavy toll of the bombers, 13 being destroyed. Wing Commander Donald Roy Donaldson (400631) who had taken over command of No. 463 as recently as 18th June was shot down by gunfire and two other Lancasters of his squadron captained by Pilot Officer Jeoffrey Maxwell Tilbrook (417248) and Pilot Officer John Francis Martin (16203) failed to return. No. 467 also lost two crews while the Lancaster captained by Pilot Officer Johns DFC (425021) was so heavily damaged by cannon fire from a night fighter that the rear turret was almost completely severed and the gunner blown out without his parachute. The aft end of the aircraft was set on fire and with the inter-communication set out of action the mid-upper gunner baled out. Nevertheless the fire was brought under control and, although the badly-damaged Lancaster was difficult to control and was virtually defenceless, Johns insisted on continuing his journey and bombed the target. … Flight Lieutenant Forrest (415635) of No. 61 Squadron (RAF) also failed to return from this raid.

Extract from Herington, J. (John) Air War Over Europe 1944-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1963 – Pages 176-7

Lancaster LM587 took off from RAF Waddington at 2229 hours on the night of 24/25th June 1944 to bomb a flying bomb site at Prouville, France. The bomb load was 14 x 500 lb (pound) (225 kg) bombs. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it did not return to base. Eighteen aircraft from the Squadron took part in the raid and three of these including LM 587 failed to return.

The crew members of LM587 were:

Sergeant L F Boness (1649548) (RAFVR) Evaded Capture
Flying Officer John Anglin Cullity (427302) Evaded Capture, Discharged from the RAAF: 1 July 1947
Wing Commander Donald Roy Donaldson DFC (400631) (Commanding Officer No. 463 Squadron) Evaded Capture, Discharged from the RAAF: 11 September 1946
Flying Officer Rupert Noel Hooper (425851) Evaded Capture, Discharged from the RAAF: 21 August 1945
Flight Sergeant John Edward Morrison (32691) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 29 October 1945)
Flight Sergeant Kennerly Collingwood Sheel (428801) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 19 November 1945)
Flying Officer Cyril Donald Grant Small (423559) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 6 June 1946

All the crew survived the crash. Wing Commander Donaldson, Pilot Officer Hooper and Sergeant Boness evaded capture, and the other four members of the crew became Prisoners of War.

In AWM 65 (1069) Wing Commander Donaldson reported “Target a V1 site north of Bethune. While on our second orbit (we were a bit early on target), I was hit at 12,000 feet by heavy flak underneath the port inner which caught fire. In feathering the port inner the Engineer feathered the port outer as well and owing to the failure of our accumulators we were unable to un-feather the port outer. The port inner was still burning. Our rudder controls must have been shot away as I had no control over the swing of the aircraft. Gave bale out order and heard replies from some of the crew. I saw the bombardier, engineer and navigator leave the aircraft but not certain about the WAG and Gunners. As I left through the forward hatch I noticed the rev counters reading ‘nil’. When descending by chute I noticed three crew members being engaged by searchlights and light flak. Searchlights wavered on me and some light flak fired doing no damage. Near the ground I heard voices and rifle bullets seemed very close. Left chute on site and hid Mae West in wood. Wood was bombed by allied aircraft. They were after the weapon site but missed it. Shortly after the attack a V1 was launched. Whole area was full of Germans and had several narrow escapes. During next 4 days made my way towards Amiens walking by day and keeping to the main road. Received food, civilian clothing from people but no further assistance. Reached Amiens where bomb damage severe and people upset. So went to next village of Douai. Contacted Cure who sent me to a man who spoke English. Made rendezvous for following day in Amiens. From this point my journey was arranged for me.”

No. 463 Squadron lost Lancaster LM574 (Pilot Officer Jeoffrey Maxwell Tilbrook (417248) (Pilot)) on 25 June 1944.

No. 463 Squadron lost Lancaster LM571 (Pilot Officer John Francis Martin (16203) (Pilot)) on 25 June 1944.

No. 467 Squadron lost Lancaster LM450 (Pilot Officer Arthur Albert William Berryman (415495) (Pilot)) on 25 June 1944.

No. 467 Squadron suffered a further operational casualty (Flight Sergeant John James Fallon, (414546) (Rear Gunner)) on 25 June 1944.

No. 467 Squadron lost Lancaster ND729 (Flight Lieutenant Roland Reginald Cowan DFC (425278) (Pilot)) on 25 June 1944.

References:

Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records (RAAF Casualty Information compiled by Alan Storr (409804))
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veteran’s Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll