AIRY Andrew Basil 406634

LEST WE FORGET

Warrant Officer Andrew Basil Reginald AIRY

Service No: 406634
Born: Perth WA, 23 February 1917
Enlisted in the RAAF: 3 March 1941
Unit: No. 466 Squadron, RAF Leconfield, Yorkshire
Died: Air Operations: (No. 466 Squadron Wellington aircraft HF544), Netherlands, 26 June 1943, Aged 26 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of William John and Ettie Muriel Airy of Toorak VIC
Roll of Honour: Perth WA
Remembered: Panel 191, Runnymede Memorial, Surrey UK
Remembered: Panel 110, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Cenotaph Undercroft, State War Memorial, Kings Park WA

Date: 25-26 June 1943
Target: Gelsenkirchen
Total Force: Despatched – 473, Attacking – 424
RAAF Force: No. 460 Despatched – 15, Attacking – 14; No. 466 – 8, 8; No. 467 – 17, 14
Tons of Bombs Dropped: 1,291
Total Aircraft Lost: 30
RAAF Aircraft Lost: No. 466 – 1

The spring campaign against the Ruhr ended with a partial failure of two attacks on Gelsenkirchen, which, although credited with a population of over 300,000, was a sprawling network of townships engaged in the production of coke, gas, ammonia, benzol and other by-products of coal.

On 25th-26th June heavy cloud covered the whole area, and the actual winds which were encountered differed greatly from those forecast. Consequently the bomber stream became dispersed and ill-timed. Technical failures in Oboe Mosquitos resulted in few primary sky markers, and these were rapidly scattered by the wind. The already-disorganised main bomber force thus had no reliable aiming point and bombs were dropped over a very wide area. Australians for the most part bombed the glow of apparent fires beneath the clouds. The second raid began well with a good concentration of sky markers, but although one or two heavy explosions were seen by Australian crews, they expressed little hope of outstanding success.  The dispersed nature of the district saved it from the raging fires which were the chief agents of destruction in city areas. The Gelsenkirchen synthetic oil refineries were constantly listed for heavy attack by the Ministry of Economic Warfare, but this target was unpopular with crews and Bomber Command planners alike. The same risks had to be run with little certainty at this time that a worthwhile result would be obtained as against built-up areas.

Extracts from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Against Germany and Italy 1939-1943, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1954 – Page 487-8

Wellington HF544 took off from RAF Leconfield at 2349 hours on the night of 25/26th June 1943 to bomb Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it did not return to base. Eight aircraft from the Squadron took part in the raid and of these HD544 failed to return. Post war it was established that the aircraft was shot down by a night fighter and crashed in the vicinity of the Island of Urk in the Zuider Zee area, Holland.

The crew members of HF544 were:

Warrant Officer Andrew Basil Reginald Airy (406634) (Pilot)
Sergeant Thomas Martin Atkinson (1266030) (RAFVR) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Sergeant George Charles Green (1255176) (RAFVR) (Bomb Aimer)
Sergeant George Ronald Johnson (1435337) (RAFVR) (Rear Gunner)
Flying Officer William Eric Riley (414960) (Navigator)

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
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 166/3/73

Bibliography:

Gaston, Bruce DFC (406646), Harry Horner DFC OAM (406595), Raymond Storer (406666) (Editors), Aircrew for the Duration: of and by members of RAAF EATS Courses 10, 11, 12 & 13, Gaston Horner and Storer, Nedlands WA, 1990