Air Operations: (No. 467 Squadron Lancaster aircraft ED695), Netherlands, 26 May 1943

Date: 25-26 May 1943
Target: Dusseldorf
Total Force: Dispatched – 759, Attacking – 686
RAAF Force: No. 460 Dispatched – 19, Attacking – 19; No. 466 Dispatched – 18, Attacking – 15; No. 467 Dispatched – 20, Attacking – 18
Tons of Bombs Dropped: 1,959
Total Aircraft Lost: 27
RAAF Aircraft Lost: No. 467 – 2

During the first raid (May 25-26) heavy cloud towered to 20,000 feet over the target and bombing by the aid of sky markers was attempted, though most of the Australian crews reported that the raid was probably a failure. There was a marked absence of ground fire and no searchlight activity, which led captains to conjecture that the enemy realised that the aiming points were misplaced and was unwilling to reveal the true position of the target. Later photographic assessment showed that most of the bombs did miss the city, although a few fell in south-western suburbs. Heavy fighter opposition was offered, however, and many aircraft were shot down during their bombing runs.

Extracts from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Against Germany and Italy 1939-1943, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1954 – Pages 489-90

Lancaster ED695 took off from RAF Bottesford at 2336 hours on the night of 25/26th May 1943 to bomb Dusseldorf, Germany. The bomb load was 1 x 4000 lb (pound) (1,800 kg) bomb, 16 x 30 lb (14 kg), 835 x 4lb (2 kg) incendiaries. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it did not return to base. Twenty aircraft from the Squadron took part in the raid and two of these including ED695 failed to return. Post war it was established that two of the crew Sergeant Birbeck and Pilot Officer Langhorne were killed in the crash, and the remaining five crew members had become Prisoners of War.

The crew members of ED695 were:

Sergeant Robert John Avann (1335033) (RAFVR) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner) PoW
Sergeant Alburn Frederick Birkbeck (R/102142) (RCAF) (Mid Upper Gunner)
Pilot Officer Patrick Read Collins (133467) (RAFVR) (Navigator) PoW
Flying Officer Reginald Samuel Giddey (266157) (33425) (Pilot) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 29 October 1945
Sergeant Samuel Graham Keirs (9430) (Flight Engineer) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 29 April 1946
Pilot Officer Kenneth Robert Langhorne (134377) (RAFVR) (Rear Gunner)
Sergeant William Valeric Morris (1337961) (RAFVR) (Bomb Aimer) PoW

In a statement by the then Warrant Officer Keirs he reported “We were shot down by a fighter. Extensive damage to all motors and tanks. The Captain ordered ditching drill – drill carried out. All the crew acknowledged orders as far as I can remember. The aircraft was out of control for a few minutes only. Aircraft crashed in flames – it had burst into flames when hit. When I emerged from the aircraft I found only four others of the crew out. The mid upper gunner Sergeant Birbeck and the rear gunner whose name I have forgotten must have still been in the aircraft which was burning fiercely – we attempted to approach but could not get near aircraft because of heat – ammunition began to explode and became dangerous – we had to leave. As near as I can say the aircraft crashed about 10 miles south of Dan Holder in Holland. We crash landed on a beach. Captured 3 days later by a flak unit. Sgt Avann and Pilot Officer Collins captured nearby.”

The two crew members killed are buried in the Bergen General Cemetery.

No. 467 Squadron lost Lancaster ED768 (Flight Sergeant John Maxwell Parsons (409274) (Pilot)) on 26 May 1943.


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

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