LEST WE FORGET

Flight Lieutenant John Napier BELL

Service No: 162
Born: Adelaide SA, 25 April 1916
Enlisted in the RAAF: 15 July 1935 (at RAAF Station Point Cook VIC)
Unit: No. 10 Squadron, RAF Mount Batten, Plymouth
Died: Air Operations (No. 10 Squadron Walrus aircraft L2312), France, 18 June 1940, Aged 24 Years
Buried: Ploudaniel Churchyard, Finistere, France
CWGC Additional Information: Son of John Henry and Eva Annie Bell, of Farina, South Australia
Roll of Honour: Farina SA
Remembered: Panel 99, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: World War II Honour Roll, National War Memorial of SA, North Terrace, Adelaide
Remembered: Rathmines Memorial Bowling Club, Rathmines NSW

An extensive narrative of L 2312’s mission is given at pages 46-50 in Maritime is Number Ten.

On the 18th June 1940, Walrus L2312 crashed in fog at Ploudaniel, France and all on board were killed.

The Admiralty ordered an aircraft for a secret mission to the north coast of Brittany. The mission was to collect the family of General De Gaulle and bring them to England. The time of return depended finding the family, and also on events on the Brittany coast. The Germans were expected to approach the vicinity about 1500 hours on the 18th, but the Walrus would quite likely not take off until dark on the 18th.

Walrus L2312 was detailed for the task. The aircraft was to be fully armed ready to keep a defensive watch at all times, especially when seaborne to and from Mount Batten. Nothing further was heard from the aircraft after take off, and it failed to return to base.

On the 19th June Motor Transport Boat No 29 after embarking an interpreter and a skiff, was despatched from England to the same locality, to arrive off the main channel to Morlaix at 0001 hours on the 20 June. The skiff was to be used to land the interpreter, who was to endeavour to find the General’s family and to convey them to the motor boat. The interpreter was also ordered to make enquiries re the crew of the Walrus. The Motor Transport boat returned to say the interpreter had landed but found the area already occupied by the Germans.

The crew members of L2312 were:

Flight Lieutenant John Napier Bell (162) (Pilot)
Sergeant Charles William Harris (1730) (Observer)
Captain Norman Edward Hope (141140) (British Army, Intelligence Corps) (Passenger)
Corporal Bernard Felix Nowell (565931) (RAF, No. 810 Squadron) (W E Mechanic)

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 A9300, BELL J N
Register of War Memorials in New South Wales On-Line

Bibliography:

Ashworth, N. (Norman) The ANZAC Squadron: A history of No. 461 Squadron RAAF 1942-5, Hesperian Press Victoria Park WA 6100, 1994
Baff, K.C (Kevin), Maritime is Number Ten, K.C. Baff Netley SA, 1983
Joubert, P.B. (Sir Phillip Bennet) Birds and Fishes: the story of Coastal Command, Hutchinson and Company London, 1960
Southall, I.F. (Ivan Francis) (418900) They Shall Not Pass Unseen, Angus and Robertson Sydney NSW, 1956
Wilson, S. (Stewart) Anson, Hudson and Sunderland in Australian Service, Aerospace Publications Weston Creek ACT 2611, 1992