Group Captain John Raeburn BALMER OBE DFC

Commanding Officer, No. 467 Squadron

Service No: 68
Born: 3 July 1910, Location Unavailable
Enlisted in the RAAF: Date Unavailable
Unit: No. 467 Squadron, RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire
Awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE), 11 June 1942 (Citation Title: RAAF Second World War Honours List)
Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), 18 April 1944 (Citation Title: No. 467 Squadron)
Died: Air Operations: (No. 467 Squadron Lancaster aircraft LL 792), Belgium, 11 May 1944, Aged 33 Years
Buried: Heverlee War Cemetery, Leuven, Vlaams-Brabant, Belgium
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Sydney Raeburn Balmer and Catherine Haswell Balmer, of Maldon, Victoria, Australia.
Roll of Honour: Unknown
Remembered: Panel 110, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

On 11th-12th May, 193 Lancasters set out to attack a military camp at Bourg Leopold in Belgium, but this was cancelled by the master bomber before it was completed owing to difficulties in target marking. A little over half the force, including 11 crews from No. 463 and 14 from No. 467, had already bombed but few claims were made of real damage. This raid aroused only moderate fighter opposition, but the non-return of Group Captain Balmer was a great blow to No. 467, for this was his last trip on operations and he was to have passed on to a higher command . It was typical of Balmer that he should have flown on this occasion, for only the night before three crews, including that of Squadron Leader Smith (1), a particularly well loved veteran flight commander, had failed to return from a raid on Lille. Such losses inevitably affected the spirit of junior crews, and Balmer’s action in leading the next sortie was another, and unfortunately the last, act of his fine record of leadership. It was indeed fortunate for No. 467 that Wing Commander Brill (2), a very experienced officer then serving his second tour with No. 463, was available to assume command, and he proved a very worthy successor to Balmer both in administration and in the dashing type of leadership which had brought the Waddington squadrons to the fore in No. 5 Group.

(1) Squadron Leader Donald Philip Smeed Smith (400495) (Pilot) evaded capture and was discharged from the RAAF on 10 December 1945. (Crew member – Flight Sergeant Alastair Dale Johnson (425413) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
(2) Group Captain William Lloyd Brill DSO DFC & Bar (O21977) was discharged from the RAAF on 12 October 1964.

Extract from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Over Europe 1944-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1963 – Pages 37-8

Lancaster LL792 took off from RAF Waddington at 2225 hours on the night of 11/12th May 1944 to bomb military camps at Bourg Leopold, Belgium. Bomb load 1 x 4000 lb (pound) (1,800 kg), 6
x 1000 lb (450 kg) and 8 x 500 lb (225 kg) 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 one
of these LL792 failed to return. Post war it was established that the aircraft was set on fire by a night fighter on its bombing run, and crashed 3kms south east of Herenthout (Antwerpen), which is 7kms south west of Herentals. All the crew members were killed. Group Captain Balmer was the Commanding Officer of the Squadron and on his last trip before taking up a new appointment.

The crew members of LL792 were:

Group Captain John Raeburn Balmer OBE DFC (68) (Pilot)
Flight Sergeant Albert Roy Barber (1458414) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer)
Flight Sergeant Joseph Connelly (1370843) (RAFVR) (Air Gunner)
Flying Officer Peter John Hammond (414400) (Navigator)
Flight Lieutenant Walter Roy Hare DFC (132390) (RAFVR) (Air Gunner) (Squadron Gunnery Leader)
Sergeant Thomas Albert Stevens (1472482) (RAFVR) (Air Gunner)
Pilot Officer John Francis Ward (171453) (RAF) (Bomb Aimer)
Pilot Officer Leslie Thomas Watson (173304) (RAFVR) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)


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, 166/5/528


Grantham, S.R. (Sidney Richard) (6590) The 13 Squadron Story, S.R. Grantham, Dee Why NSW 2099, 1991

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