BELL Douglas Charles 406286

LEST WE FORGET 

Warrant Officer Douglas Charles BELL

Service No: 406286
Born: Perth WA, 18 June 1917
Enlisted in the RAAF: 7 October 1940
Unit: No. 38 Squadron (RAF), Detachment Gambut, Libya
Died: Air Operations:(No. 38 Squadron Wellington aircraft HX785), Greece, 23 January 1943, Aged 25 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of William Henry and Flora Bell; husband of Kathleen Hannah Bell, of Victoria Park, Western Australia.
Roll of Honour: Perth WA
Remembered: Column 277, Alamein Memorial, Egypt
Remembered: Panel 118, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Cenotaph Undercroft, State War Memorial, Kings Park WA

Wellington HX785 left Gambut at night on 22/23 January 1943, on a mine-laying operation off the coast of Greece. The aircraft was last heard from in the Gulf of Pentalion at 0310 hours when a message was received “hit by flak going down target area”.  It was assumed that the aircraft had ditched in approximately position 38.10N, 24.10E.

The crew members of HX 785 were:

Warrant Officer Douglas Charles Bell (406286) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Flying Officer J M De Villiers (80271) (RAFVR) (Second Pilot) PoW
Flight Lieutenant James Geddes Johnston (79813) (RAFVR) (Armament Officer, No. 235 Wing)
Sergeant Dudley St John Lidiard (RAFVR) (Wireless Operator)
Sergeant William Frederick O’Beirne (1365181) (RAFVR) (Navigator)
Pilot Officer Leonard Arthur West (108946) (RAFVR) (Pilot)
Sergeant Robert Wrigglesworth (945209) (RAFVR) (Air Gunner)

In a later statement Flying Officer De Villiers one of the survivors reported that “after coming down they all got out safely, but as they had no dinghy they all had to swim in their mae wests.  Land was visible some miles away. It was agreed that De Villiers the strongest swimmer should try and make land and try to get a boat. Some 6 or 7 hours later he hailed a boat just off shore. He was picked up and they set out to look for the others.  Three hours later they found the bodies of Sergeant Lidiard and Sergeant Wrigglesworth who had died from the cold.  They failed to find any of the others.   They were later stopped by an Italian gunboat and the 2 bodies were taken off.  They were later told that they 2 were buried by the Germans in Athens, to whom he was handed over.”  It was later recorded that the remaining four crew members unaccounted for had lost their lives at sea, while the grave of Sergeant Lidiard could not be located.

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, 166/5/24